After a three-year wait — both because of construction and COVID-19 — families can finally flock to the revamped Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, which opened to the public Friday at Rinconada Park.

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It really is a delightful place to visit, especially for younger kids who get to be on eye-level with many of the zoo’s 50-plus species, including meerkats, rabbits, raccoons and flamingoes — or get a bird’s-eye view from the centerpiece Treehouse that has rope bridges and areas to climb through. And the zoo’s opening also means a welcome home for Edward, the 21-year-old African tortoise who has been a fan favorite for years.

The $33 million project, which nearly doubled the size of the facility, was funded by $25 million raised by Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, including a $15 million matching grant from the Peery family and $10 million in private donations. The city of Palo Alto kicked in the remaining $8 million.

Revamped Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo opens to the
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PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 7: Lauren Bullock (8), of San Jose, and her sister Jessica Bullock (6) look at a fish tank at the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo in Palo Alto, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

There are some really great features right from the get-go, including “Sway,” a public art installation by Charles Sowers at the museum entrance that lets visitors push and ride on giant pendulums that resemble giant — but safe — scissors when in motion. Inside, kids can experience the natural world in the hands-on museum. They can explore a geodesic dome, make designs with magnetic sand or learn about gravity and air pressure from a number of ball exhibits.

“Kids are naturally scientists,” Executive Director John Aikin said. “They’re curious by nature.”

Revamped Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo opens to the
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PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 7: A Rainbow Lorikeet sits in the sun at the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo in Palo Alto, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

The original museum dates back to 1934 — the zoo was added a couple decades later — and the new facility is a top-to-bottom improvement that even includes two “calming nooks” for kids who may become over-sensitized and an elevator to make the treehouse accessible for people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues. And while the old museum and zoo were free, there is a $10 admission charge for anyone over a year old for the new facility, although that was knocked down from $18 after the Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo and others pushed back feeling a higher admission charge would limit access.

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Get more information, including hours, at

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Crowds gathered for the opening of “Sonic Runway” at San Jose City Hall on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

‘SONIC’ UPGRADE: Hundreds of people showed up last Friday night at San Jose City Hall for the official opening of “Sonic Runway,” the art installation created by a team of artists led by Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant, with design by Stockhausen. The piece — featuring 25 sound-activated, illuminated arches that stretch for 432 feet along East Santa Clara Street — was originally created for Burning Man but has been reworked for its long-term stay in San Jose, through 2027.

Last weekend’s opening featured Diva Marisa, an opera singer who has performed on trapeze at Burning Man and also sang during Sonic Runway’s original run in San Jose. Following her amazing rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” the Bloco do Sol percussion group kept the crowd cheering as their music pulsed through the arches.

BACK ON STAGE: After a year of live-streaming shows to audiences, San Jose State’s Film and Theatre Department has opened its first in-person production at downtown’s Hammer Theatre Center since the start of the pandemic. “Marisol,” a play by Jose Rivera that won an Obie award in 1993, tackles issues of climate change, mental health and systemic racism through the story of its title character, a copy editor for a Manhattan publisher.

Kirsten Brandt, an assistant professor in theatre arts at SJSU who has a long list of stage credits to her name, said Rivera’s “absurdist apocalyptic tale” remains relevant today. “It’s a call-to-action play told in the guise of a surreal Armageddon,” she said. It runs through Nov. 20, and you can check it out at