Bay Area Kid Fun: Zeum and Yerba Buena Gardens zeum_ext001

Right in the heart of downtown, just a hop, skip, and jump from the shopping meccas of Market St. and Union Square, you’ll find sprawling gardens in which to rejuvenate, museums and cafes for reflection, and plenty of kid-focused Bay Area attractions, from a carousel to a skating rink to a bowling alley. If you haven’t already guessed, we’re talking Zeum childrens’ museum and the world-class Yerba Buena Gardens.

If you haven’t dipped into Zeum already, what are you waiting for? Kids can make their own claymation production with stop-motion film equipment, build a paper robot, dress up in awesome costumes, write, produce, and film their own commercial or video (then burn a DVD to bring them home) and much more. If that’s not enough, there’s also a theater on site (where American Conservatory Theatre’s youth programs put on shows), and kids can hitch a $1.50 ride on the hand-carved carousel.From there, maybe you’ll take the tots to the rooftop play area, with its labyrinth of hedges and 25-foot slide, or hit up the ice-skating rink or bowling alley. Phew!

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There are dozens of possibilities in the two city blocks between Mission, Folsom, Third and Fourth streets that make up Yerba Buena Gardens and Zeum. After your adventures, head to the Esplanade to watch the kids run through the meadow while you spend a reflective moment by the MLK Jr. memorial fountain, coffee in hand. Or perhaps you’ll take off to the latest exhibition at the Jewish Museum. Events are also blooming here year round; catch the last event of the year on December 12. No matter when you’re able to stop by, take a break from downtown’s bustling chaos with a dip into the garden.

–Renee M. Rutledge