Ideas for Trips with Teenagers

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,

    My husband would like to take a trip to either Alaska or the Grand Canyon with our son next summer (after he graduates from high school).  We would appreciate recommendations for tour operators (such as Oars, Sierra Club), etc.

    Also, any opinions on whether Alaska or the Grand Canyon would make a better father/son trip.

    Thank you.

    I went to the Grand Canyon last summer with my son who just graduated high school.  It was fun and not overwhelming.  It's really different from Northern California which is nice.  It's a crowded national park so it's not disorienting.  The Grand Canyon is awe inspiring.  I'm not too adventuresome, so we did short walks and hikes, had ice cream somedays.  All very innocent fun.  On the other hand, I would think now is the time to see Alaska, because of global warming. 

    Alaska, hands down. The Grand Canyon is way too hot in summer.

    Although there is a difference in generations between your proposed trip and what our family experienced, I can wholeheartedly recommend Road Scholar. My 82yo Dad took my 16yo son to Italy and my 11yo son to Safari West in Sonoma with Road Scholar this summer as part of their Grandparent/Grandchild(ren) trips, and both were extremely well organized and all family members had a really good time. Road Scholars also offers Family Trips, which would probably be perfect for your husband and son.

    I just came back from a charter trip down the colorado through the Grand Canyon. While it is hot there during the summer, you have the river to cool off - not a problem. Also, in August there are often afternoon showers that cool off the canyons wonderfully. We went with Canyon Explorations. I believe they only run non-motorized boats and that is a huge plus. You really get a feel for the canyon sounds and the water without motors. We camped for all 14 days on the river. the guides did all the set up, cooking, and boat guiding. they also took us on hikes (optional) and had a lot of knowledge of the geology, flora, fauna and human history. They had a "library" of books you could borrow to read on the trip. The company provides sleeping bags, pads, tarps and sleeping bag liners (most nights are too hot to zip up in a bag). they also provided tents to those who wanted them. it was gorgeous and amazing and so very worth it. depending on how much time and money you have, you can take shorter trips and hike in or out at about the halfway point at Phantom Ranch (I like the eastern stretch more the the scenery is amazing in any case).  Anyway, I would highly recommend GC with Can Ex for a post-highschool trip. 

    If you decide on Alaska, you might check out Cheena Hot Springs. Also, there is a ferry that you can take from Bellingham WA to Alaska (not sure where) and you can take your car on the ferry if you want to make it a road trip

  • Hello,

    I am looking for ideas for a 4-5 day family getaway in late December that would work for our two daughters (21 y/o and 18 y/o) and our son (14 y/o). Due to COVID-19, it seems most getaways are to national parks or other wilderness locations.   I was thinking of Bryce or Zion, but I am concerned the drive from the Bay Area might be too long for my family, and once we get there it might be too cold.  I thought a possible good idea would be a trip to Death Valley.  Would greatly appreciate some ideas that have worked well for other families.  Thank you!!!

    I suspect you'll hit some snow and adverse weather conditions on your journey to Bryce and Zion, but nevertheless I say Go for it!! We took a 2100 mile road trip through NV, UT, WY, MT and (back via) ID this summer, with 2 teens, and it actually was a ton of fun. Let me just add that the teens are terrible at long journeys - twitchy and high energy. They cannot typically sit still for long. We just prepared a LOT in advance, with podcasts, music, books on tape, loads of snacks. We asked them to help us plan the trip, down to takeout places we should try, etc. After about 9 days we met up with friends of theirs, and that was extra fun. But it was still a lovely adventure before then, and the drive through NV - via Great Basin Nat'l Park - was really cool and beautiful. I know 2 other families with teens who did similar adventures this summer, and all had a wonderful time.

    I have 3 kids the same ages.  At the end of December the weather could be great, or it could be really lousy.  I'd do something closer to cut down on driving in possible rain or snow, and, because... teenagers.  I'd do something closer, like an Air B & B (with a hot tub!) in Sea Ranch, or down by Monterey.  Then if the weather's bad, you can be inside an awesome vacation house, watching movies, playing games, cooking together...; if it's good, you can be outdoors and explore.  

    You might consider renting an RV. We have had many successful adventures this way. It gives the teens more room to stretch out during long drives and they can play games at the table if they want.
    Winter rentals are usually cheaper, which is a bonus.

    Death Valley is an incredible place and well worth visiting.  Not sure I would in the December because of the weather.  The Redwoods, Mt. Shasta, gold country, Jackson Grass Valley,, Sonora and Yosemite are all worth considering.  I would wait to see what happens with covid before making any definitive plans.

    Have you thought about Sea Ranch? it's only 3 hours away from the Bay Area and there are many beautiful houses to rent and bluff trails to walk on.  Our family of four is heading there for a few nights in late December. 

    You could fly to Las Vegas  and rent a campervan...or 2.

    The flight is short and most airlines are taking super good care of their flights.

    If camping is too much, stay in an airbnb or hotel with private  entance to you room...

    Airbnb in Palm Springs? day trip to Joshua Tree? heated pool, cute town

    Have fun

  • 2-Night Getaway w/ 3 TEENS!

    May 6, 2020

    Hi, I need recommendations for a hotel for a bonding/getaway trip with my 3 teens.  One's been away at college and the other two have been sheltering in place with their dad.  I (their mom) am hoping hotels will be up and running, (and safe!) this summer...  If they are, I'd like to go away for a weekend with all 3 kids to have some together-time.  They are indoorsy; no sand, not too much sun...  I'm thinking a nice, clean hotel with a great pool, exercise room, maybe a game room, food available.  We'll hunker down, play board games, talk, watch movies, and take a few driving trips for exploration (either city or country) nearby.  Otherwise, just chill in the hotel.  Any recommendations?  Sacramento area?  Auburn?  Closer?  Farther?  I'm open.  The right hotel and pool are essential.  Thank you.

    Squaw Valley is beautiful in the summer, and the Resort at Squaw Creek has a fantastic pool. There are fun restaurants in the village. You can also go into Tahoe City/Truckee for exploring, but not necessary...oh and could go to the top of the mountain on the tram and use their pool which is really fun on a nice day. There may be other squaw hotels that are less expensive as well that would work. Finally---if they did decide to get adventuresome there's the wild 'via ferreta' experience in squaw, or (less crazy) you can do a ropes course at granlibakken. All fun. 

    I think Squaw Valley Lodge (near Lake Tahoe) has everything you're looking for.  Plus it's in a gorgeous place, so if you can manage to lure your kids outside at all, you can go for an amazing hike or bike ride without even getting in the car.  It's not cheap, but the units have kitchens, so you wouldn't have to eat out all the time.  I hope you get to do this trip!

    Here are some places I've gone with my teens, two of whom are indoor-oriented. These have been fun and might work for you:  

    1. The Dream Inn in Santa Cruz is a quick drive from here and has most of what you're looking for - nice pool, food onsite and nearby, and the arcades at the boardwalk are just a brief walk away. If you spring for one of the bigger rooms there is plenty of room to spread out and play board games.  There are lovely walks along the shoreline where you can watch surfers and just look at the waves coming in. UCSC campus is gorgeous and nice to walk through the redwoods. Lots of beautiful coastline scenery and other sights just a short drive away - Monterey aquarium is still fun for teens, and Carmel ... 
    2. Sea Ranch in Sonoma/Mendocino county is about 3 hours away and has large homes for rent. Everyone can have their own room.  They are set up for lounging around in front of a fireplace playing board games, and all the ones we've stayed at have had loads of games, puzzles, movies, internet, and other entertainments. Some have a pool table or foosball. Go for a walk along the coastline together or alone, sit in the hot tub, and there are 2 or 3 pools on the premises you can use, as well as fitness facilities. There is a restaurant at Sea Ranch and nearby Gualala has a couple great places to eat including a good take-out pizza place, or shop at Surf grocery for excellent take-out or supplies for quick meals. 
    3. Reno - 3.5 hours away - is great for a getaway with teens believe it or not. We've enjoyed staying at the Whitney Peak hotel which does not have a pool but it does have a fitness center with steam room and an indoor/outdoor  climbing wall if your kids are into that. The rooms are really large and modern - check out the suites and double rooms - and it has a young hip clientele (many of whom bring their dogs!). It does not have a casino which is a plus.  Pretty good restaurant on site and it's right on the main drag for lots of additional food and entertainment possibilities. The other place we've stayed in Reno is the Grand Sierra. I haven't stayed there in a few years but they have everything - a pool, an indoor bowling alley, an arcade, a movie theater, an escape room, go-karts, and all the stuff a big casino hotel has - the bad and the good. For interesting car trips, there's the desert (Black Rock!), the mountains,  old mining towns like Virginia City and of course Tahoe/Truckee is 40 minutes away.

    I hope things open soon so all of us can have a fun trip with the kids!

  • Seeking suggestions for smart, nice teens (2 or 3 boys, 14/15 + 2 adults) for a birthday weekend getaway.  I was thinking train from Emeryville to Sacramento Train Museum and old-town, stay in hotel with plenty of time for swimming and lounging around, then train back.  Other suggestions?  Within 2 hours of Bay Area please.  No camping.   Driving is an option too.  

    Your idea sounds fun. I would also suggest Santa Cruz, stay walking distance to the boardwalk and get the teens all day passes (buy one membership and get two free day passes along with it, I think?). They can alternate between rides and beach as they wish; set some geographic boundaries and then let them be free range. At both Santa Cruz and Old Sacramento, bike rental would also be fun.

    If you teens are more adventure-seeking, you could try river rafting or cave exploring. There are beginning trips for an afternoon on the South Fork of the American River that are more like floating. My thrill-seeker recently went on the daylong raft trip on the Middle Fork of the American and he rated it an 8 out of 10! Another outdoor adventure activity he likes is cave exploring at Moaning Caverns or California Caverns. Both activities are with a few hours of the Bay Area. 

    I like the train to Sacramento idea.  Poking around Old Town and hanging at the pool will be fun for them.  And going by train rather than car would be nice.   But you might want to reconsider the Train Museum.  It is actually quite interesting, but I think some teens would dismiss it as a little kid thing.  Many of them will have gone there during their Thomas / Chuggington years and will associate it with that. It will be packed with preschoolers making their pilgrimage, along with elderly train buffs.  What if you substituted that part with an Escape Room?   Sacramento is full of them, and that would be really fun for smart teens. Also, maybe one of “haunted house” tours — it might be fun in a kitschy, silly way.   If it’s not too hot out, I agree that bike rentals are a great idea.

    We recently took our now 30-year-old son to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We rented an airb&b which included 2-day passes, and some hotels offer two-day passes as well. You can also get a family yearly pass which may be cheaper than separate admissions. It is a long drive, but if you leave early enough, you can get a full day in at the aquarium or two shorter stays. If you buy tickets ahead of time, you can avoid the lines.

    Can you get a one night rental at Stinson beach? Some places may only rent entire weekend - not sure. Long beach good for walks. Hiking nearby. You can being half baked pizza and make salad for dinner. Let kids make their own pancake breakfast? There is grocery store and bookstore and art gallery in town. Have fun. 

  • Guided hike with Teens

    Sep 10, 2017

    Does anyone have recommendations for expert led hikes in Northern California or the Pacific Northwest?

    We have always done a lot of day hiking locally but this summer had a MAGICAL experience with our two teenage daughters, hiking in Utah Canyon Country with a husband and wife team of guides (Utah Slickrock Guides). They were able to take us places we couldn't get to own our own and got the girls really interested in the history and geography of the area. It was fantastic to find something we could ALL enjoy together during these sometimes challenging years.

    We'd love to repeat the experience in a new area. Any suggestions?


    In the Spring of 2016, my family and I had a guided rock climbing day with an outfit in Joshua Tree.  Our guide, Roddy McCalley was exceptional.  He has since started his own business leading guided wilderness trips in the High Sierra and beyond.  Roddy is calm, knowledgeable, and patient.  He reads his clients very well, knowing when to challenge and when to support.  Check out his website:

  •  I'm seeking recommendations for what to do when my 14 year old grandson, and then when his 18 year old brother, are here .  Each will visit only 5 days.

    The 14 year old arrives first. He's whip smart, loves math, excels in school in all subjects, and enjoys computer gaming too much.( He used to read like a fiend but gaming is sucking out his soul I feel :((.   Poker playing has my eldest grandson, age 18.  However, 18 year old also plays guitar regularly, composes (and has a little musical group he performs with) and he's interested in art, poetry, philosophy. 

      What have the teens in your life enjoyed?  

      Thanks for your time.

    Well, the 18 year old could take some guitar lessons while he's here. My teacher is a wizard at any acoustic style.

    If the kid is a rocker, never mind. Otherwise, call Greg Pratt at 510 708 2536.

    Greg is reasonable, flexible, and wildly talented.

    Get them OUTSIDE! You don't say when they're coming, where you live, or what you can afford, but I'd go for a memorable experience that they can brag to their friends about. They're too old for classics like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but what about taking a kayak down Elkhorn Slough? A hike through Pinnacles National Monument with caves and falcon sightings or gold panning in the Sierras would be worth an overnight. In the Bay Area, check the GGNRA for tours of forts, shipwrecks, the Nike missle site. In Alameda, there's the USSHornet, and lots of sailing options. There are also many indoor rock climbing gyms, which may be the easiest of all if you yourself want to just sit down.

    Feed them well and get them outside! Even if their personal interests are more sedentary, let them do at least one activity they can brag to their friends about. Rent a double kayak (very stable) at Jack London Square, take a sailing lesson, or go rock climbing (no experience necessary) at a local gym. Do Fishermans Wharf starting with sea lions and ending with a walk over the bridge. The Exploritorium. USSHornet in Alameda.  Chabot Space & Science (check night hours and bring your own food,theirs is awful). MoMa in SF a walk thru China Town. Do some evening activities. Everything is "cooler" after dark.

    For food, at least one nice restaurant with a good view. Try sushi, BBQ, or other ethnic experience. (My nerdy 14YO grandson asked for sushi ingredients for his BD and spent all day making them. We also visited the bakery museum above Boudins in Fishermans Wharf, and the next day we made bread in the shape of tortoises and alligators.) Find a hamburger place that offers buffalo burgers, or look for cheese tasting or cheese making boutiques. 

    Those are great ages. Have fun!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Local Places Farther away

Structured activities for visiting 16-year-old?

Aug 2012

A friends has her 16-year-old nephew in town through early September and is looking for some good structured activities for him during the day--either camps that are winding down, but still have space or, perhaps, after-school activities. Interests include music, cars, and golf. Thanks for any insights you can share. Valerie

The Tilden golf course has very inexpensive youth lessons. While taking lessons he can use the course for $1 per round. My son loved his class and only had 2 kids in it. Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. Stinson Beach. Russian River. Lessons or full moon paddle at cal adventures at the marina. cocosar

Seeking for Mother/daughter things to do

Oct 2011

My daughter just turn 11 this month. I have been looking for some group activities to do with her together, but haven't had much luck. In the past, I have seen or heard some libraries offer mother-daughter book club, hospitals offering puberty classes, but I have not found any around Berkeley/Oakland area. We are also interested in any singing or dance group. It can be an ongoing thing or a one time thing. Thanks for everyone's input in advance. Sherry

We've taken a cooking class, a sewing class, started a mother/daughter book club, manicure/pedicures, movies, dance class, yoga class. tween mom

You mentioned you might be interested in a singing group. ''SingThing'' is a weekly family singing activity which I did with my daughter for 3 years. It's led by Sandi Morey, who is really knowledgeable about folk songs as well as a fun song leader. Very good quality music experience. There are weekly get-togethers in Albany and Oakland. See

If you decide to start your own mother-daughter book club, I highly recommend the book, Deconstructing Penguins, written by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, a couple of writers who have successfully led a parent-child book club for years. It's really great for helping such a group learn how to look beyond plot and story and know how to talk about a book.

You could also look ''outside the box'' for opportunities. For example - volunteering at a regional or state park together. My daughter and I went through docent training at a state park together when she was 10, to become co-docents who gave tidepool tours. Organizations are often willing to work with a younger person if the parent will do the program or activity along with her.

Have fun! Jennifer

One of our favorite mother-daughter activities was to go to Brushstrokes in Berkeley and paint pottery together. We would pick a night in the middle of the week, go get Mexican at Picante first, and then paint for a couple of hours. Best of all, I still have lots of nice cups and plates to commemorate those happy times with my now-20 year-old daughter. It Goes By Fast - Enjoy!

Mothers and daughters who enjoy cooking can do sort of a ''Julie and Julia'' using the book ''Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T.'' Shopping for recipe ingredients and making a meal together is great mommy-me time... learning the words is the bonus. jennie

Family outings with teens

May 2010

The other day, I was reminiscing about an outing I'd taken with the kids, and then I began to think about the many places we used to go when they were younger, this camping trip and that ski trip and that long hike down to the ocean, etc., and the fact that we really no longer do these sorts of day/weekend trips. Now, filled with great nostalgia, I've come to realize that the kids (now 16 and 14) have other things going on and other interests. I'm not planning things like I used to, but maybe I'm not planning things because they don't really seem to want to go. So I'm wondering, are there other parents out there whose kids have ''outgrown'' your family outings? And if so, what are you doing about it? Is this another lesson in letting go? A little forlorn here

I'm afraid it's normal, and probably healthy as well, for this age group to start pulling away from their families, especially when it comes to public life. (I vividly remember imagining that people would stare at me and wonder, ''Can't this girl find someone to hang out with besides her--ewwww!--MOTHER? Has she no friends? What a loser.'')

Possible ideas: Have them bring a friend along to the park or beach or wherever. And be prepared to jump at last-minute opportunities: e.g., one of your kids wishes aloud to go someplace the family used to enjoy together. Breakfast/brunch out as a family can also work, and is another opportunity to sneak in some activity, especially if you are clever and go to a restaurant near a regional park or beach. Family vacations do become difficult; again, consider inviting a friend for a long weekend trip.

Last, one of the most introverted teenagers I know became very excited about the Obama campaign and asked his parents to take him to Nevada for a weekend rally, volunteer training, and neighborhood canvassing. He still talks about it, and according to his mother, he was in a great, loving mood all three days. So keep in mind what they're enthusiastic about, and see if you can build on it.

(It also helps to redefine and maybe downsize your idea of an outing. My girl, who had been laughed at by her friends for being so close to me when she was 12, pulled away as well, but around 16, she started saying that Berkeley was ''not safe,'' and asking me to walk with her to the drugstore or library at twilight. Now I think it was just an excuse to have my company; we used to have very good talks then, and would sometimes stop for a smoothie or coffee--kind of a mini-outing.)

Good luck! This age group can make you feel pretty forlorn and lonely now, but they'll want your company again when they get over themselves a bit. Melanie

Hi, the key to family outings with teens is to let them bring a friend each. And another thing to think about is making some outings optional and some required. And let them pick sometimes. Like my 15 yr old wants to go to Alcatraz and last year asked us to take her and her friend to the Greek Festival in Monterey (which was not very fun, but it was her choice...)

My older teen who no longer lives at home was a real downer on family outings and I realized I stopped planning them for that reason. But now we do it again and it is a lot of fun. Recent things we have enjoyed--kayaking in Monterey Bay, hiking, King Tut, Cartier exhibit, Santa Cruz boardwalk. She would like to go camping but I don't have the energy to plan it! have fun!

Answer to your question - yes and no. Both of my kids are adults now,18 and 21, and we still end up doing outings, though they are not as well planned as they were when they were little. When they were younger teens, we would ask them to invite their friends on day trips. Many times, their friends had never ventured to the places we had, so it was new to them. Last year our youngest daughter invited a friend from school to have dim sum with us in the city. We ended up at Golden Gate park and Ocean Beach, then shopping in the Haight.

Now my oldest daughter lives in Sacto. We go to have brunch with her and end up in a new part of town she wants to show us, or shopping! Your kids will have a nostalgic feeling for the places they went as little kids, and they will want to show their friends. You can be a part of that. Jenny

Activities on a budget with teens

Sept 2009

We've recently returned to the Bay Area after an extended absence - our kids are now teens and have yet to either reconnect with old friends or develop networks of new friendships - therefore, they are looking to us parents to help them spend a good deal of their free time. This is fine with us and we love spending time with them, but I need to develop new activities that don't cost us $25- 50+ every time we leave the house. Movies, the mall, restaurants, bowling, baseball games, it all just adds up and I feel the dollars draining from my wallet on a constant basis. And, being teens, they are not all that into walks/bike rides/frisbee tossing. I would therefore really appreciate new ideas of how to spend quality time without spending the big bucks. My daughter loves drama and music, my son loves history; both kids enjoy museums, theater,and travel. They both enjoy the outdoors on a limited basis, but are not into, say, hanging out at the beach. I'm hoping to get them into biking, but that hasn't happened yet. Thanks so much for your ideas and suggestions. On a budget

What about volunteering somewhere? Or getting a part time job? You didn't say which high school they are going to but many schools have clubs where the kids would meet like-minded friends. There are also sports teams to join outside of school. Good Luck! anon

The Bay Area IS expensive. I also feel the drain when I'm out and about. Just a quick Jamba Juice or Starbucks visit can easily set one back $20.

  • All of the museums have a ''Free'' day/eve once a month. Take advantage of those.
  • Some performing centers (Mountain View Center for Performing Arts) and/or universities (Cal, Stanford) offer free concerts by lesser known artists, often on weekdays or Sundays. You need to be keep an eagle eye out for such freebies.
  • Bookstores or schools host readings by authors, often to promote a new book. We stood in line one Friday evening at a local high school for free reading by Neil Gaiman. Have also heard Amy Tan and David Sedaris read at various community readings. Very entertaining!
  • Volunteer as an usher at a local performing arts center or at a museum. Means free admission and a chance to meet new people or usher with friends!
  • Volunteer at a local shelter (animal or human) or soup kitchen.
  • There are still a few museums that are free, like Cantor Museum, Stanford. Beautiful campus. Bring a picnic lunch to complete the outing.
  • Cook in the kitchen.
  • Radio. Love NPR. KQED offers some excellent listening adventures.
  • Start an edible garden.
  • Library. Read. Our local library is a GREAT resource for dvds, books and even some video games. Check it out!
  • Join a club. Find an interest or a hobby or sport and there's a club waiting for you to join.

Just a few ideas. Thinking lean can help you find resources you didn't know existed. You are not alone. Another Frugal mom with teens

Many museums have a ''free day'' once a month. Check their websites.

Goldstar online is a great source for lower cost theater tickets. You & your daughter might enjoy ushering at various theater venues. Then you would get to see shows for free. Depending on her own taste & skills, she might also want to try out for various shows-- Alameda Civic Light Opera, Contra Costa Civic Theater, Pinole Valley Players are East Bay, and there are many other theaters in the Tri-Valley area. Go to websites to get notice of tryouts. Note: Several other local youth musical theater opportunities charge the participants!

Check the SF Folk Music Club website (or folknik newsletter), or BASCD website, for weekly and low-cost events involving music or dance. Monday nights there's Irish group dancing taught at the Starry Plough on Shattuck in South Berkeley, which I think is free. They also serve food, and you can play darts or just listen to the music.

Things that cost money: If I want some time with my teens, I invite them out for ice cream or lunch, like at Fenton's on Piedmont Avenue or Rolling Rock on Shattuck, or a bakery on Solano. The Freight & Salvage coffeeshop(now in downtown Berkeley) charges half price for people under 18, so less than $10 each. Also, check the City of Berkeley recreation webpage. For instance, they have the inexpensive West Campus pool just off University near Bonar. I was charmed to see you can rent kayaks for $15 an hour at Jack London Square. You can also rent wind-surfing equipment at the Berkeley Marina, I hear. another parent

Travel for Grandparents and Teens

Sept 2008

My mom would like to take my 12-yr-old twin daughters on a trip. She's in her early 70s, active and healthy. This would probably be next summer, so we are just starting to plan. Has anyone had any experience with something like this? Does anyone have any ideas or leads on cruises, resorts, tours or other programs that would work? I'd also love to hear any advice on what worked well and what didn't. Thanks! Iris

My mother has taken my son and her other grandchildren on Elder Hostel inter-generational trips: Everyrone had a great time. She has also come with us to family camp. Good luck. Deborah

Check out alumni trips from your university. Berkeley, for example, offers family trips through Cal Discoveries Travel Program using reputable tour groups that are enjoyable and educational. Also consider an ''off-time'' travel schedule, because the rates are considerably lower, the pace is less frantic, and the kids could arrange to ''get ahead'' on homework if that is an issue (usually not a problem for middle school), plus it's educational. The key is ''be flexible''. There's a neat trip to the Ashland Shakespeare festival in September 2009, which fits right in with reading 9th grade ''Romeo and Juliet'' or 10th grade ''Hamlet''. The cruise along the Rhine, visiting castles and the Lorelei rock, and then going by rail to the Alps in June sounds pretty neat too. All tours have academic escorts. Good luck! Lynne

Activities for visiting 13-year-old nephew

March 2008

My 13 year old nephew is going to be visiting next week, and I want to plan a lot of fun activities for him. I'd like to find some kind of performance or theater/interactive show to take him to, but I haven't found anything. I'm new to the area and could use some help. Any suggestions? Thanks. lynn

Good things to do with 13 year olds: Alcatraz, Exploratorium (thought he may be a little old for that), Tech musuem in San Jose, Cable Car, Telegraph Ave, Haight Street in San Francisco, Metreon, Muir Woods, Pt Reyes, if he likes being in nature at all. m

Summer Abroad w/ 16 year old Couch Potato?

April 2008

Looking to plan ahead for a potential summer abroad (2009) with RN mom and 16 year old couch potato/video game loving son. Mom is super adventurous, son would rather stay in the house. Best possible scenario: no tv, lots of kids/animals, TOTAL cultural immersion. Best if mom can work as an RN (highly unlikely), volunteerism a possiblily too. We welcome all ideas/input/advice. Help me show my kid that there is more to life than Wii! susan

Though summer is not the optimal time (it's rainy season), Costa Rica is a wonderful active place to go. It's relaxing, beautiful, lots of wild animals and fun activities. With our six-year-old son I traveled there and went on a river-raft float to view animals, a ''rainforest zipline tour'' (where you fly between trees in a harness attached to a zipline some 100 or more feet off the ground), a tour of a butterfly reserve, a hot springs spa warmed by an active volcano (the lava flow visible from the pool), a dolphin viewing outing, etc etc. People were friendly, it was safe and clean, English was spoken by most people, and the tourist industry is low- key and often locally owned and run. I would get the book Key to Costa Rica and have your son help you plan. Rainy season means essentially that most days will be beautiful, but the rain will start to pour at around three or so every day. If you get in much of your activity before then, you're fine.

Another option might be a walking tour in Europe. If you are of European origin you might select the country of your family's origin, but really good walking countries are Ireland, England, France, and Germany. This is because they are densely populated, and you can walk between villages at a leisurely place, with only six to ten miles between them in many areas, sometimes less. Carrying backpacks and walking on small byways you will see a lot of small details and be able to stop when something interests you. You and your son could sit down and map out a couple of areas that interest you.

Just a couple of notions... good luck with getting him off the Wii! fellow traveling mom

I've taken my video-addicted couch potato teen sons on a few trips and here's my recommendation for you and your son: Ask him where he'd like to go and what he'd like to do. Make a deal that you two will spend half the time on activities of his choosing, and half on yours, and you both will do this without complaining, and agree to stick to the agreement! My family is not very outdoorsy - my idea of a good time is all day at the museum and dinner and theater in the evening. Teen boys tend not to like this! But I have found they will go along with me if they get to do what they want, too. So, when we had a trip to Germany planned, my sons wanted to go to Amsterdam. We agreed that they'd have wandering-around time there without me, but they'd go with me to the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum. We found other fun stuff to do that we all liked - a canal cruise, sitting in a cafe and watching people. They politely tolerated boring all-day visits with German friends, and I politely tolerated them skipping out on a Rhine boat trip halfway through to take the train back to the city by themselves. In London, my 18-year-old couldn't get going till noon, which ordinarily would make me crazy, but I figured out I could do fun stuff by myself in the morning, then we'd go together to my choice of theater or etc. in the afternoon/evening, and then he could go out at night after I went to bed. We both enjoyed the flea markets, a walking tour of spooky London locales, and just walking around looking at stuff. A work trip to Tokyo with a 14-year-old boy was fun for everybody (electronics, manja, video games, bullet train, sushi). We spent a day wandering the Akihabara district trying out weird new video games, and then he came with me to the (boring for him, not for me) farmer's market. He went along on temple and castle tours and even worked up a little enthusiasm for this!

One thing - when I ask my sons ''what would you like to do?'' they can not think of anything. But if I ask them more specific questions like ''would you like to visit the Tower in London?'' or ''Do you want to stay at this hostel in Amsterdam?'' then we start making progress. Have fun! Loves to travel


From: Dawn
Subject: Re: Suggestions for 11 yr old birthday?

Last year for my daughter's 11th birthday we held an overnight, with the main attraction being a trip to the 10 pm Laserium show in SF (the particular one was LaserRage, but I don't think they show that any more). We provided the usual cake, ice cream etc (and had a contest to see who could eat their cake most neatly with NO HANDS), as well as breakfast for the kids. We asked the parents to pay for the show itself ($5 each for the kids; $7 for any adults who wanted to go). The kids agreed that this was one of the best birthday parties they'd ever been to.

Laser Tag

From: Susan (10/98)

I just recently had my 11 year old son's birthday at QSAR Lazer tag in Vacaville. There is one in Concord but it was under remodel. There is also one in Pleasanton. It was a great party for active boys of that age.

From: Deborah (10/98)

Planet Lazer, 24089 Watkins St, Hayward, 888-1738 Don't know anything about the place, but they donated tickets for a school auction!

Birthday Party Sites

Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 08:03:41 -0700
From: Ginger

Popular birthday sites for young teens I know (the only young teens I know are boys, but girls might like these too)

1. LazerX (in downtown Berkeley off Shattuck - just reopened) Have you been to one of these laser gun things? They are really fun, even for moms. Gets your adrenalin going.

2. Grand Slam USA - baseball batting range 5892 Christie Av, Emeryville

3. Raging Waters in San Jose: I like the parties that my child is invited to, not the ones I host!

4. The Underground (video arcade on campus under ASUC building) A couple years ago we had a successful b'day party for 6 boys - we walked to campus, gave them each a handful of tokens, and went to LaVal's after for pizza. They had a great time. (Kids seem to like LaVal's better than adults do.) I think now you'll need to show campus ID to get in - not sure what the policy is for kids.

Shopping & Expensive burgers in San Francisco

Here's a fun thing to do with teens and preteens - I've done this several times with my boys and you can even do it on a workday if you can get to the BART station by 3pm or so. It's called ....

\t!!! Shopping and expensive hamburgers !!!

Take the BART to SF and get off at Powell Street. It costs about $5 to go roundtrip from Berkeley to SF on BART nowadays. The Powell Street station has an entrance directly into this vertical mall that contains Nordstrom's, a couple of sports shops and lots of other places to spend money. The top floor of Nordstrom's seems to be devoted entirely to Jr high and high school aged kids' stuff and they often have good sales. But the cool thing about this mall is the circular escalator that goes up about 6 stories, so even if you aren't buying, it's fun to ride up and down the escalator.

Next, walk about 2 blocks and you're at Union Square, which has Macy's and Niketown: ridiculous overkill on the current Nike craze but boys seem to really dig it and - hey Mom - it has some interesting architectural features. Closer to Market St there is also the HUGE Virgin records store - fun for parents too, with listening stations & a huge selection of disks and videos. Nearby is a giant Ross store; this is where we do most of our buying - compare Nike socks from Ross to the ones at NikeTown!

On Stockton up from Virgin there is FAO Schwartz, the biggest toy store ever. Kids of all ages like FAO Schwartz, even jaded 14.5 year old boys. When we were there last week, they had a display of Men in Black toys and propaganda which was thought to be cool, and even the Legos and toy race cars still are interesting. Of course you can't beat it for Star Wars paraphenalia, and the stuffed animal and Barbie selections are supurb.

Just a few doors down from FAO Schwartz is the capper to the day's entertainment: expensive hamburgers at Planet Hollywood. This is a place I would never step foot into unless I wanted to impress teenagers. And boy are they impressed. Let them bring a friend, too, if you want a REALLY good reputation. It's a glitzy touristy place owned by a bunch of movie stars like Stallone, Bruce Willis, I think Arnold, and a few others. It's packed with movie memorabilia like costumes from the Terminator movies and so forth, and there are giant TV screens everywhere playing movie clips as well as ads for the Planet Hollywood chain. Rock music blares from loud speakers. The decor is high Hollywood moderne with fake animal prints, purple, gold bricabrac, etc. Burgers are about $10. There are fancy kids' drinks and also unlimited refills on giant sodas. My kids can't get over this - they think they are really getting a deal. They also can't get over the fancy bathrooms, with colognes arrayed next to the sinks and an attendant who hands you a towel after you wash your hands. Adults should probably stay away from the fancier dishes on the menu like Blackened Prawns with Mango Salsa but the burgers aren't bad and the barfood (pizza, buffalo wings) is OK. This is a good time to explain about paying for atmosphere as opposed to paying for food. Have fun!