May 14, 2013

family activities in the San Francisco bay area

Family Activities in the San Francisco Bay Area
– Last updated 12/28/2013

Poptism - Family Hiking

Bay Area hikes are great for the family

Here are a few great family activities to enjoy in the SF Bay Area. My family and I have personally been to all of these places and we highly recommend them.

By all means, this is not an all-inclusive list, my filter is based on places we have been to and enjoyed. As we head out to more venues, this will be updated.

Come back for discounts, special event pricing and even free tickets!
List of activities for SF Bay Area Families – in no particular order, do them all!

  • Super Franks
    Super Franks is the perfect adult/kid playground. Great food,  Starbucks right downstairs and TONS of rooms and excitement for your kids of all ages – for just $8! You and your kids will never tire of going here, trust me.
  • California Academy of Sciences
    I love this place. More importantly my kids do too. This may be one of the pricier destinations, however the experience can easily be enjoyed all day. Some highlights: Dinosaurs, an albino alligator, ridiculously awesome aquariums, coral reef, and a rain forest (just to name a few). It is very enriching and will keep your kids engaged all day. I recommend a family membership for year round value and fun, rotating exhibits keep it fresh and exciting, pays for itself with learning opportunity and smiles!
  • The Oakland Zoo
    The Oakland Zoo is one of the best values in the Bay Area. Easy parking, great open picnic grounds, a petting zoo, giraffes, elephants and tigers await you. Sometimes places can just be too big. Not the Oakland Zoo, it is perfect for a nice afternoon. To top it off – there is a cute little ride section and train ride that cuts through the park, even a ski lift style gondola for a birds eye view. This can’t be missed!
  • MOCHA – Museum of Childrens Art
    This is a parents dream – and perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the Bay Area. Bring your kids, and set them free to paint as they wear head to toe coveralls! Only $8 and adults are free – wow. I cannot tell you the joy my 2 year old experienced here. They even have art classes for your aspiring DaVinci. Highly recommended!
  • Fairyland
    This must be included in any list for kids activities. Fairyland is just that – a little dream land with just-the-right-size rides, an awesome cafe for parents, and pretty decent snacks! Story books come to life here, along with farm animals and just tons of fun. Again, I highly recommend an annual family pass – so worth it.
  • Pump it up!
    Pump it up is basically an indoor bounce house – perfect for rainy day blues! At $8 it is also a steal. It is very well staffed, and they have more than just bounce houses. Great venue for a birthday party too. It is not the easiest to get to, but it is right by the waterfront between Oakland and Alameda. Close to the Coast Guard Island. My boys had a blast here – the hard part will be leaving. They have some monstrous slides, and pretty awesome inflatable obstacle courses – big enough for adults. (You know you wanna go…)
  • Tilden Park
    This park is just unbelievable. Here is a quick run down of what awaits you: Steam Trains, Merry Go Round, Full Farm/Petting zoo with animals you can feed. Tons of open grass for picnics, free parking  and no fee for entrance (Bus routes bring you here too), hiking trails, nature center and botanical garden. Coming here to do everything will be a challenge. I recommend the following: Jewel Lake Trail is a pretty easy trail right behind the nature center and little farm. It is about 1 mile, very flat and easy loop with some fun moments of ducking under large branches, passing a turtle/duck pond and gorgeous scenery. The photo above is us on the trail. From there, bring some celery to feed the farm animals, then open a blanket and feed yourself. Alotted time – 2 hours or so, cost – free except for your fuel/food. Enjoy this gem! This was featured in SFGate back in 2010.
  • Picnic (anywhere!)
    The Easy Bay Parks are awesome, but any park or waterfront is great for a picnic. Alameda beach, Jack London Square, Golden Gate Park in SF, Tilden, or your neighborhood greenspace. Take advantage and get out!
  • Aquarium of the Bay
    I was pleasantly surprised with the fun stuff in this seemingly little aquarium. It features a great series of Walk through underwater tunnels that surround you with fish. Great little exhibits and the ever important tide pools where your kids can touch starfish and baby rays. It is a fun little spot – and don’t miss out on the movies, pretty cool and they even have 3D. My oldest and I had a blast in here, but the highlight was definitely petting the Rays!
  • Muir Woods/Muir Beach/Muir Overlook
    I love Muir Woods. The drive there, the photo opportunities, the history and even the drive out. There is a fee, but it is well worth the experience. The Redwoods are stunning, there is a wonderful sense of nature, peace and history as you walk the paths throughout the woods. Best thing ever: check out Muir Beach and the overlook where you can sit in WWII lookout bunkers and get AMAZING views of the pacific – great for sunsets!
  • Ardenwood Historic Farm
    What a fascinating place! Stroller friendly, very flat, and right off of the San Mateo bridge. It is easy to get to and costs $3 for adults and $2 for kids on normal days, with special event pricing. You must check the calendar for special events – some of them are awesome. This is a WORKING farm, so you’ll see it all, chickens, pigs, horses, goats, sheep, a blacksmith, people dressed in victorian age clothes, story reading, trails, peacocks, it is just a wonderful spot to spend an afternoon. Picnic there too! Bonus: They sell the produce from the farm right outside the gates.

There is definitely a lot more to write about and post. We have had a ton of adventures here in the SF Bay Area, and we are not done yet. This list doesn’t even capture them all. We will be updating again soon!

1st posted – May 15, 2013
Last Updated – December 28, 2013

7 thoughts on “family activities in the San Francisco bay area

  • Pingback: Family Fun Day
  • More to explore….

    Discovery Bay Center (SF)
    Curioddesy (Redwood City)
    Gilroy Gardens (Gilroy)
    Happy Hallow (SJ)
    Childrens Discovery Mesume (SJ)

    Those are a few I would add. I have not been to all of your list but will!! I love fairyland!

    -Isaac Zinn (2.5) -Noa Bell (.9)

  • Pixieland in Concord is awesome. Perfect for your little ones, PC! Also most people don’ t know there is a real life safari in Santa Rosa! It is incredible. Also you can stop by the Charles Schultz museum for a wonderful Peanuts experience.

    • Thanks tracey! If Bernard has been there tell him to write up a review for each – or you can! and I will add to the page 🙂 Great tips!

  • Ok I will get some time this week. We have been so many cool places! We have a book Great things to do with kids in Northern CA. I think we have made our way through most if it.

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