The Tech Museum of Innovation
Courtesy LucasFilm
The tour of the home and grounds has us yearning to wind down, so we drive across Winchester Boulevard to Santana Row, an upscale shopping complex that includes casual to gourmet restaurants and an ­indie-film house. We check into the swank Hotel Valencia and pass time sipping ­cocktails and people-watching from the balcony of the hotel’s Vbar before grabbing a bite to eat and calling it a day.

The next morning, as we walk up to The Tech Museum of Innovation — awash in bright, can’t-miss orange and blue — school kids jostle each other at the entrance. “No devices today,” says their teacher, eyeing their smartphones. We slide past them and through the doors, hoping to get a few minutes of calm before the museum becomes a playground.

For more information, visit

The hands-on technology and science museum brings back memories of your favorite moments in school, when play and education melded so effortlessly that you didn’t realize you were learning. The displays are more experience than exhibit — take the Social ­Robots area, where visitors can build, design and program their own robots, or the Tech Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery, which illustrates the range of the region’s creativity and innovation through interactive experiences.

We needn’t have worried about getting a chance to play. Soon enough, I’m running around with kids on a floor illuminated by blinking lights reminiscent of the game Dance Dance Revolution. I find Nancy playing in the Reactable exhibit, where cubes create sound and light depending on where you place them, and remind her that we need to leave if we’re going to spend any time in San Francisco.

“Just 20 more minutes?” she asks, glancing from the blocks in her hands and looking a little like a preschooler pretending to be a disc jockey. I remind her that she was the one who wanted to see San Francisco. “Forget that,” she says. “I’m having too much fun.”

JILL K. ROBINSON is a freelance journalist who lives in the tiny California beach town of El Granada. She would have no problem spending the night all alone in the Winchester Mystery House.