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Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page P05

The Real San Francisco . . .

I REALLY enjoyed Gayle Keck's "Second Time Around: San Francisco" [Feb. 13]. A suggestion for first-, second- or anytime visitors: San Francisco City Guides (www.sfcityguides.org). Affiliated with the San Francisco Public Library, they conduct about 70 different walking tours in neighborhoods all over the city. And they're all free. I've done a few and they're fun and informative, even for Bay Area natives like myself.

Art Stern

Arlington

I HIGHLY recommend a walking tour called Victorian Home Walk (www.victorianwalk.com, $20). The guide was knowledgeable and it's an easy walk -- no hills. It's an outdoor tour, with one stop inside a historic B&B.

Nancy Jerden

Springfield

AS AN OLD-TIME San Francisco activist, let me add these tips:

• In Chinatown/Manilatown, catch the high-rise for low-income seniors going up at the corner of Kearny and Jackson. It's a replacement for the International Hotel, whose demolition in 1978 saw 400 police and sheriff's deputies battling 2,000 protesters. One of the great urban battles, with at last a just and happy ending.

• And South of Market -- in addition to the Moscone Convention Center and the Yerba Buena urban renewal project development -- see the four wonderfully designed, affordable housing developments built via settlement of the displaced tenants' lawsuit. In particular, see Mendelsohn House at Fourth and Howard -- smack up against Parc Museum, an upper-income condo. Architecturally, you can't distinguish who lives in which.

Chester Hartman

Washington

. . . And S.F. for Families

THIS SITE seems to cover it all for parents: www.gocitykids.com/browse/subcat.jsp?area=199&category=5.

Other useful sites for parents include those for Jelly Belly (www.jellybelly.com), the Winchester Mystery House (www.winchestermysteryhouse.com), San Francisco Fire Engine Tours & Adventures (www.fireenginetours.com) and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/attractions/ggfortunecookie.html).

Lisa Valentine

Reston

HERE ARE some things I have enjoyed with my children in the San Francisco Bay Area:

• The Lawrence Hall of Science, a great interactive kids' museum in Berkeley with a giant whale statue to climb on outside (lawrence.science.museum).

• The NASA Ames Exploration Center (www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/home/home-explorationcenter.html) in Mountain View. Visiting a NASA site: How cool is that for kids?

• The Tech Museum of Innovation (www.thetech.org) in San Jose. Techie stuff in the heart of Silicon Valley.

• The Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose (www.cdm.org/index.asp?f=1), with sculpture to climb on or try on (giant shoes).

• The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum (www.egyptianmuseum.org), with a Rosetta stone, papyrus-making demonstrations and a cool gift shop.

• Over the Golden Gate: the Marin Headlands (gorgeous). And speaking of the bridge: Walk it! There are drop-off and pick-up sites at either end, so one member of the party has to be the designated driver.

• The Monterey Bay Aquarium (www.mbayaq.org). Okay, this is a pretty good car ride, but it's worth every minute.

Yvonne Stam

Fort Wayne

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