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Free Things To Do Guide Mountain View California

Free Things in Mountain View, California

A guide to free things to do in the city of Mountain View

THE TEMPERATURE outside may be 84 degrees. But scientific imagination, now that's hot, hot, hot. Visitors and residents can check out what wacky space ideas are cooking at Ames Research Center. Or for fans of the earth, Mountain View includes opportunities for wild-animal viewing. Alternatively, as a sort of compromise, one can plant oneself on the ground at Shoreline Park, while at the same time, eyes cast upward, fly a kite. Priceless summer fun in Mountain thusly blurs universal limitations, as is clear from the following to-do list.

1. Get Spacey

NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Federal Airfield, off Highway 101, Mountain View; visitor Center, Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm; 650.604.6497
The National Aeronautics Space Administration, which transforms math, science and geeky technology into excellent robots and space stuff, is constantly trying to pursued the next generation to do the moon walk. With all the free tours (which just restarted after a hiatus) and the robot-helper design challenges, it's easy to take advantage of NASA's whoring itself around. Luckily, NASA's 64-year-old Ames Research Center is open for tours. Possible stops along the two-hour visit include the world's biggest wind tunnel (for making fake wind to check if planes can fly), research aircraft (for example, to study the ozone), a centrifuge (for spinning people, not to test blood for anemia, and no spinning on tour) and flight simulation facilities (where you feel like you're flying, but you're not getting anywhere). Tours include a two-mile outdoor walk and are canceled when it rains. Call the tour office at least two weeks in advance to schedule a visit and at least three weeks ahead of time if it's for a large group. Xenophobically, non-U.S. citizens have to give the tour office their full names and display visas or green cards before attending. Ames is working on setting up a kids' space camp where youngsters can design and try out simulated craft. "It's going to be very cool," says guy-in-charge Mike Reeves, community relationship specialist.

2. Get Wild

Shoreline Wildlife Refuge Area and Trail
In Shoreline Park at the end of Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View; 650.903.6392, shoreline@ci.mtnview.ca.us
Surprisingly, the jackrabbits, the terns, the egrets, the ibis and the killdeer aren't just band names. They're also animals that people sometime glimpse in Mountain View's regional wildlife area. The refuge, which includes about seven miles of paved pathways with interpretive signs explaining ecosystems and birds, is closed to domesticated beasts--all except for people, who can leave their change purses at home and head on over for a chance to see the rare eight-to-10-inch burrowing owl (a "species of special concern" under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means no hunting or egg stealing. But given that males burrowing owls like to "decorate" their women-owls' nests with other animals' poo, egg stealing may not seem tempting anyway). Migratory birds enjoy passing through Shoreline (a stop along the feathered friends' Pacific Flyway) between October and February. Meanwhile, "quietude and serenity of open space" are yearlong perks provided by this hilly, sloughy, marshy refuge, according to proud parent the city of Mountain View.

3. Dance, Drink and Be Merry

Chamber of Commerce Mountain View 32nd Annual Art & Wine Festival
Castro Street from El Camino Real to Evelyn Avenue; Sep 6-7 (always the weekend after Labor Day) 10am-6pm; 650.968.8378
Pork on a stick is just one of the meat-based items one can smell for free at this yearly megaevent. Organizers at the Chamber expect 200,000 people to show up. Mountain View has put on its festival since the Chamber first unleashed it as a fundraiser ploy in 1971. Fundraising occurs as visitors purchase for cash such items as microbrews, wine, art, fried zucchini and, of course, Armenian kebobs. It does not, however, occur when people spend no dollars to listen to scheduled entertainment from entities like Gypsy Soul (Celtic folk), Dreamroad (woodwind-keyboard duo) or the Cool Jerks (R&B and rock).

4. Use Your Head

Books Inc. Author Events
301 Castro St., Mountain View; 650.428.1234, www.booksinc.net
Books Inc. brings authors in for free public readings. On July 25 at 7:30pm, music journalist Jeff Tamarkin, author of Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane, presents his case for what Jefferson Airplane was all about at 7:30pm.

5. Mocha With the Mayor

Mocha With the Mayor
This is the actual name of these events periodically thrown throughout the year. The next one occurs on Aug. 2, 9am-11am at the Crossings Cafe, 2101 Showers Dr., Mountain View; call Deputy City Manager Linda Forsberg for further scheduling information, 650.903.6301
Part-time Mountain View Mayor Michael Kasperzak invites those who care to meet him for coffee and conversation dates throughout the year. Not only is this an opportunity to whine and/or chat pleasantly with an elected official, but it's free (if you don't buy the mocha). It's not too often that politicians lend their ears at no cost. Just check the latest campaign financing data. Kasperzak "was very pleased with the turnout at the first event in March," so he scheduled more.

6. Teen Diversions

Mountain View Teen Center
298 Escuela Ave.; Fri-Sat year-round (Thu during the summer) 6:30pm-9:30pm; call the Teen Center Hotline at 650.903.6417
Everything's boring when you're a teenager. That is, everything but playing pool or foosball, breakdancing or watching a big-screen TV. These are some of the things one can do at the Mountain View Teen Center on the weekends.

7. Great Skates

Rengstorff Skatepark
201 S. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View; for info, call city of Mountain View Community Services Department, Recreation Division, at 650.903.6331
It's a nonsupervised skatepark--an excellent place to blow off steam in the comfort of no adults. But sadly, there are rules. The skatepark is open from 6am until the juvenile evening hour of just past sunset. No skaters over 12 are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays between 9:30 and 11:30am. Helmets, kneepads and elbow pads are required. Bikes are banned.

8. Highest Heights

Kite Flying
Shoreline Park at Mountain View, 3070 N. Shoreline Blvd.; shoreline@ci.mtnview.ca.us
The wind in Mountain View is free!

9. Better Than the Drive-in

Free Family Concert Summer Sounds Series
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.; Thu 6:30-8:30pm
Hear the band City Rocks make luv to Bay Area classic hippie rock on July 31 and catch the comic horn stylings of the Blow Kings on Aug. 14.

10. Kids on Stage

Children's Theatre in the Park
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Fri 6:30pm, through Aug. 15; 650.903.6000
The center puts on outdoor summer performances of kid-targeting fairy tales and other stories.

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