We are extremely fortunate in the Bay Area to have a wide variety of kid-friendly activities for the entire family to enjoy. Whether you feel like exploring the great outdoors, learning something new at an educational museum, or riding fast rides, your options are bountiful. Here are some ideas for each Bay Area region:
When in San Francisco, you really must take in the city by cable car. The Powell-Hyde cars run through the neighborhood of Russian Hill, stopping at Lombard Street so passengers can take in the “Crookedest Street in the World.”
The San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo is awesome as far as zoos go. The 100-acre property is beautifully landscaped, with a steam train to help you get around. There are more than 1,000 animals to see, a wide variety of educational exhibits, and even a petting zoo.
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 in San Francisco is a hands-on learning laboratory that offers hours of educational fun. With hundreds of “experiments” for your children to perform, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this interactive museum. Don’t miss the Tactile Dome, where a crawl through a tunnel in total darkness awakens your senses.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is not to be missed. With art museums, a fabulous aquarium, planetarium, arboretum, Japanese tea garden, multiple play grounds, and paddle boat rentals on Stow Lake, you’ll need more than one trip to fully appreciate all that this majestic park has to offer. On Sundays, the main roads are closed to auto traffic, so patrons can enjoy the park on bicycles and skates.
Children’s Creativity Museum
Children’s Creativity Museum, located at Yerba Buena Gardens, is definitely worth a visit. With its focus on multimedia arts and technology, there is lot for the whole family to learn. Hands-on exhibits encourage imagination and innovation, and show how favorite movies, music, and cartoons are made. Don’t miss the carousel and playground area.
Tilden Park in Berkeley is a place you will want to come back to time and time again. With multiple picnic areas, playgrounds, pony rides, a classic carousel, steam train, botanical garden, and hiking trails, you’ll be sure to stay busy. And be sure to go swimming at Lake Anza on a hot summer day. Year round, you can feed celery and lettuce to cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, and pigs at the Little Farm at Tilden Park.
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden
The UC Berkeley Botantical Garden is a great place to learn about plants. With multiple plant “zones” ranging from tropical to desert climates, you’ll see a wide variety of species, including many that are rare and endangered. The greenhouse of carnivorous plants is sure to be a hit.
Fairyland in Oakland is perfect for younger children. All of the classic fairytales are represented here, with sweet exhibits and small rides, play structures, magic shows, and a puppet theater to delight any prince or princess. They have special events each month and holiday-themed exhibits, so be sure to check their website for the best time to visit.
Chabot Space and Science Center
The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland is the place to learn about space. With a planetarium and three powerful telescopes, you can get a good look into the heavens. Interactive exhibits, historical space artifacts, and a nice theater make this a fun experience for any budding astronaut.
The Oakland Zoo
The Oakland Zoo is smaller than the San Francisco Zoo, and is often uncrowded. The animals have ample space and seem happy and active. Admission price is reasonable, and there are also rides available for an additional fee.
Bay Area Discovery Museum
The Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito could not be in a more striking location. With multiple exhibits spread throughout a series of buildings on the San Francisco Bay, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge while you check out all that this fabulous children’s museum has to offer.
The whole family will enjoy getting out on the Bay on one of San Francisco’s multiple ferries. Take a ferry ride from the city to Sausalito for a stroll and excellent shopping. Bring a picnic on the Angel Island Ferry that departs from Tiburon and enjoy lunch on this island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Beautiful views and fresh air await you.
Take a drive to Muir Woods, a National Monument on Mount Tamalpais, and you will be glad you did. There is nothing like a stroll through a massive redwood grove to make you feel awe-inspired by the beauty of nature. Wide, flat paths and stroller rental make it easy to enjoy this stunning park with kids of all ages.
Stinson Beach is a great beach to enjoy on a hot day, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Bring a picnic or dine at one of the town’s cute cafes. There’s a fun playground near the beach and a lifeguard on duty in the summer.
Safari West in Santa Rosa will give you a taste of Africa right here in the Bay Area. Take a safari jeep ride through a 400-acre wildlife preserve, with native African animals including giraffes, rhinoceros, cheetahs, zebras, and numerous species of birds.
Great America in Santa Clara is everything you want in an amusement park—fast rides, big roller coasters, great shows, and even a water park. Little ones one be left out—there is a special area with rides and shows for younger children called KidZville.
The Tech Musem of Innovation
In the heart of Silicon Valley, The Tech Museum in San Jose is a fitting place to explore science and technology. Interactive exhibits and an IMAX theater provide endless learning opportunities in this spacious and inspiring facility.
Roaring Camp Railroad
A ride on The Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad in Felton (near Santa Cruz) is a wonderful way to explore the Santa Cruz area. Take a ride on a classic old steam train through the redwood forest down to the Beach Boardwalk. Be sure to check out the many holiday-themed train rides they have throughout the year.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an oceanfront amusement park founded in 1907. With rides, games, an indoor arcade, mini golf, laser tag, a bowling alley, and plenty of food options, there is something for everyone. And it’s all right on the beach. Don’t miss their free Friday night concerts during the summer.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the world. The exhibits are incredible, especially the glow-in-the-dark jellyfish and the 28-foot-tall kelp forest. Located on the Monterey Bay, be prepared to have your breath taken away. Kids will love the 40-foot-long touch pool, where they can get close and personal with sea creatures.
With so much to do in the Bay Area, no matter where you live, there’s never a reason to be bored!