Going on Vacation? Don’t Forget to Pack Art.

This week we are inspired by San Francisco. We recently visited this beautiful city and found art and inspiration virtually around every corner.  In this post, I lay out a framework for incorporating art into your family vacation in a fun and organic way. I hope that it proves useful as the summer vacation season nears.

Start at the library:  As with all of our adventures, we found ourselves back in the library, loading up on books about San Francisco and California. We found two fantastic children’s books as well as a big pile of travel guides to sort through. We focused on the most recent travel guides with lots of pictures (to make it more relevant for our trip and more accessible for Valentina) and came home with the following books:

We ended up packing Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco in our suitcase and read it at bed time. By the end of our visit, we have been to almost all of the locations mentioned in the book, which certainly made us feel very accomplished!

Make a plan (but build in some slack!):  Anticipation of a family trip is half the fun! Reading through the children’s books familiarized us with the landscape of the city and its major landmarks. For example, Valentina was very excited to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, China Town, Japan Town and the Japanese Tea Garden, with the later three inspired by our previous studies of the Chinese and Japanese arts. I also added Asian Art Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to our list as a follow up to our previous studies of Indian Arts and the works of Malevich and Mondrian.   I recommend this approach of building on something familiar while adding something new for your next family trip.

After getting a rough of idea of where we wanted to go, I followed up with the more detailed  travel guides, looking for nuances on how/when to visit our points of interest and the distances we would need to cover. Thus, we were able to draw up a basic plan for the few days that we were going to be in San Francisco but made sure to build in some slack just in case the weather or the mood wasn’t cooperating : ) We also made sure to mix the art destinations with other kid friendly activities in an effort not to overload our trip with too much education and not enough fun!  Here is how we planned our days:

Example: Day1

  • Walk to China Town
  • Explore and take pictures of all visible Art (a very broad definition)
  • Play at a playground
  • Window shop for arts, crafts and souvenirs
  • Sample Chinese Cuisine
  • Ride Cable Car to Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Eat outside at a family friendly restaurant

Example: Day 2

  • Explore Union Square
  • Walk to a playground
  • (not all the art that we found along the way was inspiring!)
  • Visit Children’s Creativity Museum
  • Lunch back at the hotel
  • Visit Asian Art Museum

Example: Day 3

  • Visit Japanese Tea Garden
  • Explore Golden Gate Park
  • Lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Catch a Ferry to Alcatraz
  • Explore the island and the views of the city

Check your plan when you get there:  While we had a detailed plan for each day of our visit we weren’t going to let it stress us out if for some reason we weren’t able to stick to it. In fact, one of the fist things that we did when we arrived at the hotel was to show our plan to the concierge, get their advice and ideas for child friendly activities.  We got a lot of great tips for where the best playgrounds were, when/where to ride the cable car, other modes of transportation to our points of interest, great place to dine etc. etc. etc.

Take stress out of the picture: While it  is s certainly great to have a plan, it is important to make sure it doesn’t make your vacation stressful. Things will inevitably happen that will disrupt even the most fail proof schedules.  For example, during our stay, San Francisco suffered a massive power outage that effected 14 neighborhoods during the day for about 7 hours. Of course, we had grand sight-seeing plans for that dat, which include a trip to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (our goal was to see Malevich as a follow up to our earlier study).  However, the traffic was impossible (the traffic lights were out) and electricity-powered public transportation stalled.  We quickly regrouped and made our way to the Golden Gate Park,  Japanese Tea Garden and then to Fisherman’s Wharf where the power was working and we were able to grab lunch and enjoy a relaxing walk before jumping on the ferry to Alcatraz. We might have missed seeing Malevich but we discovered a lot of natural beauty at the Golden Gate Park and in the island’s blossoming landscape, fascinating bird inhabitants and breathtaking views of San Francisco that contrasted the man-made austerity of the actual jail.

Think outside the museum walls: Our goal was also to find art beyond the obvious places. The streets of San Francisco host a unique collection of art all in its own right with original murals, sculptures, unexpected architecture, cultural fusion and this time a year, a myriad of blossoming flowers.  I told Valentina that we are going to play a scavenger hunt of sorts where we look for everything that she views as Art and capture it on film. I wanted to bring Valentina’s camera on our trip but was unable to buy the right film in time, so I let her use my phone to take pictures of anything she thought qualified as Art.  She really got into it and we ended up with close to a 100 images of everything from China Town streets to Alcatraz flowers.

Relive your vacation at home:  While I try to steer clear from purchasing too many souvenirs and toys while on vacation, I did make two purchases at the Asian Art Museum that were educational and fun, allowing us to keep learning  while reliving the memories from our trip.

When we returned home, our big follow up activity was to create a collage with all the pictures that Valentina took with my phone.  I printed out her top 30 at our local pharmacy and bought a poster board, which we used to make a two-sided collage.  Valentina ended up taking the finished poster to her school for show and tell, which was a big hit and made her feel very accomplished : ) 

Hope you have a wonderful, fun, relaxing and art-filled summer vacation! Next week we are exploring opera, musicals and voice art. Stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “Going on Vacation? Don’t Forget to Pack Art.”

  1. This is amazing. So many great ideas for future vacations. I am also impressed at how much you were able to do and see with a 4 year old. Great work Valentina!

  2. Ahh San Fran–an exciting fun-filled city with so many stimulating sights! Japanese garden a favorite! Great comments and ideas–well said and executed to fit a family’s agenda and dynamics! What a fabulous overview of how much you can (or want) to do! You’ve showed an itinerary that so many can use and adjust! Thanks for the leg work! Actually, I’ll be traveling back there very soon!
    Valentina’s own pictures and collage boards are the best souvenirs!!

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