What to do and where to go in Northern California in January

Sunset

SAN FRANCISCO

Do Martians exist? Are they thirsty? This month, San Francisco's Exploratorium is dedicated to the mission ofSpirit, a Mars Exploration Rover (MER) that's scheduled toland on Mars January 4 in search of life and water. The exhibitfeatures the first Spirit images webcast live, a full-scale model of a MER, andinteractive robots navigating simulated Mars yards. Closed Mon; $12 (discounts available). Palace of Fine Arts, 3601Lyon St.; www.exploratorium.edu/marsroveror (415) 561-0360.

PALO ALTO

While you won't find Boardwalk or Park Place, you will find BondStreet, Fleet Street, and Trafalgar Square in the British versionof Monopoly, one of the many games on display through January 25 aspart of the Vintage Board Games and Puzzles exhibit at the Museum ofAmerican Heritage. Also on view is a Victorian version of Chutesand Ladders, antique chess sets, and Parcheesi, which can be tracedto 4th-century India, when the emperor played on marble courts. 351 Homer Ave.; (650) 321-1004.

SANTA CRUZ

Can't tell the difference between a toadstool and a truffle?Partly educational, partly interactive, and all fun, the Santa CruzMuseum of Natural History's Santa Cruz Fungus Fair celebrates these multipurpose ―and sometimes mind-bending ― molds. Learn the names andmedicinal properties of various fungi, and cook and eat some withlocal celebrity chefs. Your appreciation of mushrooms will, well,mushroom. Jan 10-11; $7. Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center St. atLaurel St.; www.santacruzmuseums.orgor (831) 420-6115.

SAN FRANCISCO

The views from the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco'sTop of the Mark lounge have been wowing celebrants for more than 60years. Newly spiffed up as the finale of the hotel's more than $50million renovation, the Top of the Mark offers a New Year's Eve gala with dinner and dancing ($285 perperson) and a New Year's Day buffet ($79 per person). Got other NewYear's plans? The 19-stories-above-Nob-Hill-vistas will be just asspectacular on any other clear January night or day. Reservations recommended. 999 California St.; (415)616-6940.― Kristine M. Carber, Jess Chamberlain, Peter Fish, JimGothers

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