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A room of their own: Young readers at Copperfield's Books in Petaluma can enjoy a good book in the store's special kids' section.
Photo by Janet Orsi
'Best of' kids' stuff--Sonoma County:
a great place to be young
Those of us raising children in Sonoma County know that this is a pretty wonderful place to be a kid. Indeed, some of us adults should have been so lucky to have been raised amid the beaches, parks, highland, lowlands, and diversity of this area. Distinct as each town is, all Sonoma County towns seem to share the distinction of being firmly concerned about their youngest residents, providing spectacular parks, after-school activities, recreational programs, and safe streets. Whether you're enduring the multimedia shock of a birthday party for 25 6-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese's (best diffused with a pitcher of beer), sliding through the dragon's mouth at the Sebastopol Super Playground, or tromping through the seaside fields of Ocean Song Farm, this county--your home--is one of the happiest you could provide for the next generation. Once they're done hating you (around age 24, give or take a decade), they're sure to thank you for it.
Best Place to Buy "What the Heck Is It, Anyway?" Gifts for Kids
Look, kids are weird. We all know it. Even they know it. It follows that because they are weird, they like weird things. So where can you find the greatest volume of weirdness per square inch of store space? At HearthSong (156 North Main St., Sebastopol) you can pick up a Tinkle-Crinkle or a Squish. Is that weird enough? Actually, those are two great toys for babies, weird or otherwise. Check out the "Giant Balls," the Scent Making kit (a do-it-yourself perfume factory), or the plastic bugs and snakes and things. Glow-in-the-dark stuff is very big at HearthSong, with glow-in-the-dark chalk, paint, plastic stick-ons, even some claylike glop called Glow Dough. And don't forget the famous Rolling Dwarves . . . or are they called Tumbling Gnomes? Whatever. They're very cool, and probably weird enough for even the healthiest of youngsters.--D.T.
Best Place to Wish Your Kids
Were Not Lapsed Catholics
Open to the cynical and the faithful alike, the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma off the Sonoma Plaza hosts a drenchingly rich Christmastime tradition of candlelight and harmonies when people from all walks may gather with their children in the darkened shadows of the old mission, sing carols, and hear short passages of Scripture about faith, love, mankind, and all of those other mushy things that we sadly seem to consider only at Yuletide. Free to the public and always jam-packed, these late afternoon and evening concerts of goodwill are some of the nicest traditions this side of the Golden Rule. There is no cost for tickets, but you must remember to call ahead (938-1519) and reserve them.--G.G.
Best Place to Drop Your Kids at the Show
Tucked unassumingly at the corner of Highway 116 and the Bohemian Highway in Monte Rio, the Rio Theater (865-0913) does more than just show second-run films. Owners Don and Suzi Schaffert run a wonderful ad hoc community center from their converted quonset. Citing the lack of available activities during Monte Rio's spectacularly rainy winter season, Don and Suzi have a closet stocked full of games for kids to play before the show or to squabble happily over while mom and dad are having a grown-up date. Holding raffles as fundraisers for the local school, the Schafferts have also donated wood to build a skateboard ramp adjacent to their theater and have used their own funds to erect a basketball court for restless youth to dribble around.--G.G.
Best Children's Clothing Store
Children's clothing stores don't come much more local than Biobottoms Children's Clothing (620 North Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma), the retail outlet of the insanely successful Petaluma-based catalog company. Founded in 1982 by two Petaluma mothers (and former college roommates), the company began by marketing a special wool diaper covering (hence the name) to eco-conscious parents, but quickly diversified into a full line of all-cotton children's clothing. Known for its bright, casual, comfortable designs, Biobottoms prides itself for not simply manufacturing scaled-down versions of adult clothes, but instead making items designed especially for the rough-and-tumble world of childhood. Double knees sewn into the trousers and growth room built into all the items go a long way toward ensuring that children clad in Biobottoms don't return from the playground looking like tattered Seattle grunge musicians. Recently Wall Street picked up on what Sonoma County parents have known all along, resulting in Biobottoms being sold to the New York-based Diplomat Corp. Let's hope that the new owners will know enough not to mess with a good thing, and that this jump to the big leagues won't spoil Biobottoms.--Z.S.
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From the March 28-April 3, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent
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