While the Bay Area offers many destinations for young children, at times, nothing beats the cost and convenience of a local park or library. However, if you are looking for a different experience, here are some interesting places to visit.
- Mount Diablo State Park. If you can handle twisting mountain roads, a trek up to the Mount Diablo summit offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. The park also features campsites for those looking for an overnight, outdoor experience. Rock City is a wonderful hiking trail that meanders through large rocks with wind-carved tunnels.
- Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site (Tao House). The former home of Eugene O’Neill, a Nobel Prize winning playwright, features an eclectic mix of Chinese and Spanish flavor.
- Ardenwood Historic Farm. Features farm animals and exhibits.
- Mission Peak Regional Preserve. Challenging uphill hike that rewards those who reach the top with an expansive view of Silicon Valley.
- Helix by Exploratorium. Small science museum for young children. The interactive hand-on exhibits should keep young minds occupied for 1-2 hours.
- Fairyland. 10-acre playground with farm animals near Lake Merritt. Reasonably priced, but somewhat dated.
- Oakland Zoo. A wonderful, smaller zoo with a newer children’s zoo exhibit.
- Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. Small museum with educational activities for young children. Zoo has a variety of small animals. Good 1-2 hours of entertainment.
- Año Nuevo State Park. Great place to view elephant seals. Grab a bite from the rustic beach towns nearby and get some exercise as you hike out to the coast.
- San Mateo County History Museum. Delightful museum with hands-on exhibits for children. Learn about the history of the San Francisco Bay Area from the time of the Native Americans to 19th and 20th century life.
- Hiller Aviation Museum. Features a rich collection of aircraft, including planes, helicopters and experimental vehicles, which span from the days of the Wright Brothers to planes of more modern vintage.
- Asian Art Museum. Offers an educational experience that spans the different cultures of Asia.
- Eugene Friend Carousel. Merry-go-round at the San Francisco Zoo.
- Golden Gate Park – Koret Children’s Quarter. An expansive playground and a carousel. Older and more adventurous kids can ride cardboard boxes down the concrete slides.
- San Francisco Zoo. A wonderful place to spend a San Francisco morning watching animals.
- Children’s Discovery Museum. Lots of hand-on activities and hours of fun for small and big kids.
- Happy Hollow Park & Zoo. Re-opened in 2010, Happy Hollow offers rides, puppet shows and fun play structures for young children.
- Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Free museum featuring aquariums and other marine life exhibits.
- Bay Area Discovery Museum. Interactive exhibits and fun playground near the Golden Gate Bridge. Suitable for young children.