Arrests in Baltimore for illegal guns often lead to dropped charges or little jail time

San Francisco the perfect playground

San Francisco is that rare vacation spot that offers urban exploits with a taste of woodsy outdoors nearby. We took our daughter, a few months shy of 3 at the time, for a four-day trip and met a new side of the city we fell in love with years prior. The highlights:

Golden Gate Park: This place could eat up your entire vacation, what with the aquarium, planetarium, zoo and more. But we only devoted a day, so we stuck to the Koret Children's Quarter, home to a huge playground — the nation's first, in fact, built in 1887 — and a gorgeous carousel where kids under 5 ride free. Take a map (go to for a good one).

Fisherman's Wharf: Tourist trap, yes. But the street performers, the sea lions, Pier 39 (with a double-decker carousel) and the Boudin Bakery — where you can watch the bakers craft their famous sourdough — make the crowds and the T-shirt hawkers tolerable. We ended each day with an evening trip to the Wharf, usually capped off with ice cream from one of countless vendors.

Cable cars: Head to the turntable at Powell and Market streets, the starting point for two of the city's three cable car lines. Hop on either line (Powell-Mason or Powell-Hyde) for a seatbelt-free ride up and down those famously steep hills, a real treat for kids used to being locked and loaded into strollers and car seats and bike seats and anything else that moves their little bodies.

Muir Woods: Across the Golden Gate Bridge, less than an hour's drive from downtown, this majestic national monument offers a peaceful respite from the din of the city. Giant, centuries-old redwood trees (some as tall as 200-plus feet) tower above, and the walking paths are paved and level — perfect for budding nature lovers.

A final note: Plan on the weather stinking, no matter what time of year you go. Take a cue from the locals: Ignore the cold, fog and rain, and love the place anyway. But do pack warm clothes.

— Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers

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