We have a thing for pottery in our house and we like to visit pottery and ceramics factories. When the kids started kindergarten, I took a senior’s pottery course at the local community center but soon realized that I’m better at buying than making pottery. One of my favorite places to buy pottery is at London Plane in Seattle. I also started learning about the history of pottery when I visited an exhibit about indigo at the Seattle Art Museum. Over the years we have been to the Delft Factory to learn about the famous Delft Blue, the Wedgwood factory where the kids made their own pottery and the Denby factory in England that has the most perfect lunch. When we visited the Ferry Building in San Francisco a few years ago, I learned about Heath Ceramics and decided that I would head to Sausalito to see the actual Heath Pottery factory one day. And finally that dream came true.
Before you head to the Heath Ceramics factory I would suggest signing up for their email list. This is how I found out about their factory tours-you might also be able to find out how to sign up for a tour by searching in Eventbrite for the dates you are visiting. On the weekday tour, the whole factory is working and on the weekend tour I think you still tour the factory but it is not working at that time. When we arrived at the factory for our tour we learned that you need closed toe shoes (just like at Great Wolf Lodge for the Ropes Course) and yes, we were wearing them this time, so we did not have to panic about where to find closed toe shoes last minute.
I brought my 10 year old boys on our Heath Ceramics Tour. I don’t know if I would bring much younger kids even though I think the website recommends the tour for ages 5 years old and up. There is a lot of standing and learning and it is not a huge factory like some of the other factories we’ve visited with kids and the tour is not a self-guided tour so you need to stay with the group. My guys were pretty fascinated though to see where some of my favorite pottery dishes and vases come from. They liked watching the glazing and seeing the pottery being shaped. And I let them play their Nintendo DS’s (thanks Auntie P!) while I shopped for souvenirs in the store after the tour.
We actually followed up our tour of the Heath Ceramics factory with a lunch at the Chez Panisse cafe, a San Francisco restaurant that uses their pottery. I did not know what a San Francisco institution this restaurant was until I tried to make a reservation. The boys and I used to cook with a book called Fanny at Chez Panisse when they were small that Alice Waters wrote about the restaurant. (We also loved the Silver Spoon Italian Cookbook for kids.). I booked our reservation almost a month out and nearly didn’t get a table. I’m so glad though that we visited because it was one of our best family meals-the kids were on their best behavior and enjoyed the simple, delicious dishes and were thrilled when we ordered a whole bunch of desserts because we couldn’t decide on what to order.
Eating together is one of our favorite things so it really touched my heart to think that a book we read together when they were small inspired this meal and then eating on Heath Ceramics Pottery after being on the tour just made it the most perfect San Francisco day. (We also walked by the original Peet’s Coffee on our way to where we parked near Chez Panisse-do you find it cool when you see the history of places that you know from your every day life?)
(PS. For this trip we stayed outside of San Francisco at the Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Larkspur Landing/ Marin County. It was a great home base for us to visit Sausalito and Marin County because we have been to San Francisco before and wanted to see a little more than just the city this time. We also had a car so we could drive everywhere we wanted to. There was a little outdoor mall within walking distance of the hotel and we ate Three Twins Ice Cream there every evening. The cool thing we didn’t try was the Sausalito ferry nearby that could take you right to the Ferry Building in San Francisco so I think this actually makes a really perfect family hotel for a San Francisco visit. If you are heading to San Francisco with kids, this is a post from our first trip and I would also recommend a visit to Safari West just outside of San Francisco if you have kids that want to go on a safari one day too.)
(PPS. this post includes some affiliate links for books on Amazon where I might get a small commission.)