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Bay Area’s Itsy-Bitsy Museums

Looking for a new educational activity for the entire family? Well look no further because these small yet inviting museums are the answer! From food to art and city history, there’s a mini for everybody. So ditch the crowd and explore the Bay Area’s tiny instructive delights!

San Francisco

Boudin Bakery and Bread Museum
Learn the bakery’s history as you stroll through the collection of famous and interactive shows and observe the expert bakers in action. You can also scrutinize the bakers’ every move, as they make sourdough loafs like you’ve never seen before, right from the street through their 30-foot high glass wall. Ages 12 and up. Wed-Mon 11:30 am – 6:00 pm. Closed Tuesdays. $3.

Cable Car Museum
If you and the kids want to get a closer look without dealing with the line on Powell Street,
head over to the cable car museum, where you can check out three antique cable cars from the 1870′s. Open everyday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Free.

Randall Museum of San Francisco
Located right in the center of the city, this local favorite offers the little ones a large array of activities and exhibits including a scale model of a caboose, which children can climb on, and the urban rail exhibit, which lets you guide your train through models of San Francisco landmarks. Open Tue-Sat., 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Free/ donations.

San Francisco Fire Department Museum
Kids will be thrilled to see the heroes’ equipment (including helmets and badges), trucks and uniforms that make them so cool and hear detailed stories of major San Francisco fires. Thu-Sun, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Free.

Fortune Cookie Museum
Located in a hard to find alley in Chinatown, this small factory is the center of fortune cookie-making in California and is the location of the first of its kind! Grab a bag on your way out! Open daily. Free.

South Bay

Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia
See everything related to the 80 year-old small brick-shaped candy, from the world’s largest Pez dispenser to their wide collection of vintage Pez dispensers, which keeps growing. Tue-Sat, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. $3 adults, $1 kids 4-12, free for kids 3 and under.

Intel Museum
Set your kid’s inner programmer free! Write your name in binary code, follow chip fabrication or create a digital postcard. The museum will be closed for renovations from May 27- July 11.
Mon-Fri, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sat, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Free

Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies
More into music? Head over to the Beethoven museum on the San Jose State campus and check out historical partitions, various keyboards and a lock of the musician’s hair. Performances on Wednesdays. Mon-Fri, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Free.

Museum of American Heritage
In this museum of historic technologies, you can discover inventions that shaped America, displayed in a century-old home and garden. Fri-Sun, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Free.

NASA Exploration Center
Big and small will enjoy the over the top space experience at the Mountain View hotspot. Don’t miss the 40-foot tall Immersive Theatre which presents images of Mars and Saturn’s ring. Current exhibits: Immersive theatre, Mon Rock, Mars terrain globe, Mercury redstone. Tue-Fri, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Weekends noon – 4:00 pm. Free.

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo
A zoo and a museum together? What else can you ask for! At this venue, the kids won’t just walk around aimlessly thanks to their hands-on science exhibits, and a community of over 50 live animal species — including raccoons, snakes and a red tail hawk– to spark every kid’s curiosity. The museum is closing its exhibits from May 27 to June 7 but the zoo will still be open. Tues-Sat, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sun 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Admission is free but a $3 donation per person is appreciated.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
Come test your surfing knowledge at this jaw-dropping museum located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, which overlooks local surfing hotspot, Steamer Lane. Thu-Mon noon – 4:00 pm, now – July 4 ; Wed-Mon 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, July 4 – Labor Day. Free, donations appreciated.

Vasona Science and Nature Center
Run by the Youth Science Institute, this center teaches about animals found in the Guadalupe Watershed and local plants. Mon-Fri, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. Open all year. Free.

East Bay

African American Museum and Library
Located in the Oakland Library, this museum is devoted to every aspect of African American culture in California and the west through their collection of diaries, newspapers and oral documents such as interviews. The second floor hosts exhibitions of African American art, history and culture. Tue-Sat, noon – 5:30 pm. Free.

Habitot Children’s Discovery Museum
Designed for small hands and bodies, this award-winning museum offers a multitude of hands-on activities such as mural painting or clay programs. Mon-Thu, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, and Fri-Sat, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. General Admission $9/person, under 12 months free.

Junior Center of Arts & Science
The facility, which has been open since 1954, encourages children to learn about art and science through their natural urban environment. Workshops include interactive presentation of animal habitat, and building a launch rocket. Check out the “Art and Nature Celebration” June 4 & 5 for a fun-filled weekend of activities. Hours this summer: Mon-Thu, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm.

Lindsay Wildlife Museum
Both kids and adults alike will engage their curiosity in this wildlife museum where you can look at animals — from birds, to mammals and reptiles — closer than ever before. The museum also offers daily activities including a petting circle, live feedings and animal presentations (sometimes eagles!). Wed-Sun, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. $7 for adults, $6 for seniors 65+, $5 for children 2 -17, free for members and children under 2 years old.

MOCHA (Museum of Children’s Art)
Let your little one discover the artist inside! MOCHA teaches children how to express themselves using paint, papier-mâché, clay, fabrics, feathers and all kinds of unusual materials. They also offer other great programs such as Saturday Stories, every first Saturday of the month. You can also rent their studio for parties!

Rotary Nature Center
Established in 1870, this Oakland wildlife refuge is the oldest in the country and is perfect for kids in elementary school.  Come observe the different species of waterfowl and learn about the environment. Lakeside Park. Free.

- List compiled by Sabrina Blardone


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