Go Play! 101 Must-Try Family Adventures in the San Francisco Bay Area
Turn off the televisions and ipads, because armed with this list of 101 must-try family adventures in the Bay Area you’ll be the talk of the playground as the coolest parent with all of the insider info. Some of our favorite Bay Area activities on our Must-Try list are oldies but goodies (think the Academy of Sciences and Angel Island), but many of our picks are hidden gems, which we’ve decided to share with you at the expense of incurring the wrath of parents who want to keep these spots well, secret (you can thank us later). And, when someone asks you where you got this sweet list, we won’t blame you if you take full credit. Sharing is caring, right?
1. Feed your family’s appetite for the avant garde at the Bay Area’s most amazing outdoor art displays for kids.
2. Check out an old school wooden playground with a stunning backdrop just 20 minutes from San Francisco.
3. Your kids will be delighted to visit a farm right in the heart of San Francisco.
4. If your kid loves pinball (who doesn’t?) then you have to visit this sweet interactive museum dedicated to all things pinball.
5. Instead of just playing with plastic ships, get up close and personal with a real life legendary warship right in our own backyard.
8. Kids love exploration and we found a great day trip complete with a hand-carved tunnel, a suspension bridge, and scenic coastal trails.
9. Sometimes the big museums can be too overwhelming for little ones, which is why we love these itsy bitsy museums perfect for our pint-sized kiddos.
10. Even if your family lives in the concrete jungle, you can still experience life on a farm. Get down and dirty at this ranch, which will even serve up a tasty dinner after your hard work.
11. Bored of your tried and true indoor play space? Check out this one, which is one of the Bay Area’s newest play space for kids.
12. Let your kids’ imaginations run wild as they count how many shapes they can see in these mystifying rock formations.
13. Go on a turtle scavenger hunt at this lake, which is located just North of the city.
14. If you’re unsure about taking your kids to the movies for the first time, try out one of these family-friendly theaters, which offer special screenings and movie nights.
15. Triathlons for kids is the new rage. All races focus on finishing the race and not the competition so get outside and get moving!
16. Thanks to the bevy of indoor pools in the Bay Area, your kids can enjoy a dip year round.
17. We think this park is a must-see for Bay Area families because it has it all — an animal farm, vintage merry-go-round, picnic areas, and so much more.
18. Whether your kid’s bike is a two-wheeler or one with training wheels, we’ve got the low-down on some of the coolest, kid-friendly bike paths the Bay Area has to offer. Don’t forget your helmets!
19. It’s no secret that the Bay Area has some amazing views. Thanks to these family-friendly restaurants you can dine while enjoying some jaw-dropping scenery.
20. Visit an aquarium where your kids can explore tunnels while sharks and other marine life swim overhead.
21. Kids love boats so why not take advantage of our Bayside location and take a fun ferry ride to a family-friendly Island.
22. Don your fishing gear, grab your fishing pole and head to a regional park chock full of meandering streams.
23. Get up close and personal with some barn yard animals — from goats to sheep to chickens your kids will be singing Old Macdonald in no time.
24. Take the family for a day trip to a quiet haven complete with oysters, picnic tables, kayaks and awesome water views.
25. Your kids will love all of the groovy sights and sounds in this eclectic San Francisco neighborhood.
26. and 27. Get those little feet moving at one of our favorite family-friendly hikes in the Bay Area. If you’re looking for a spectacular flower-filled jaunt then opt for a wildflower hike, ideal from March through June.
28. Tired of our go-to cafe? Check out our favorite buzz-worthy coffee shops that are all perfect spots to relax on a rainy day.
29. Forget the healthy meals for a minute and let your kids indulge in waffles, fried chicken, po’ boys and everything in between at these favorite soul food restaurants.
30. Forty miles North of San Francisco is an ultimate coastal day trip, which is full of shops, eats, and family-friendly trails.
31. Nosh on some ice cream, milk shakes and phosphates (you’ll have to visit to see what those are) at this retro soda fountain and ice cream shop.
32. Your kids will experience some fun culture, food, and fun (not to mention lots of bite-sized eats and knick knacks) at this cool cultural neighborhood.
33. Take your kids to uncover one of San Francisco’s most popular concerts. We’ve uncovered a bunch of tips to make this music festival fun with your little ones in-tow.
34. Hawks, snakes, and bats, oh my! Treat your kids to a day of wildlife where they’ll get to interact with some unique wild creatures.
35. Get out on the water and paddle your way around one of San Francisco’s most beloved lakes. And, don’t forget to look out for the turtles!
37. Experience the city in a different light from a little-known stairway walk. As your little ones scurry up the stairs, just be prepared to feel that thigh-burn!
38. If your kids love colorful murals, sun-drenched parks, and baked goods, you have to take an afternoon to explore this vibrant San Francisco neighborhood.
39. Need a cool-down but tired of the beach? Don’t forget about the bevy of kid-friendly water parks in the Bay Area.
40. We’re hard-pressed to find any kid who doesn’t love ice cream. Indulge their sweet tooth at one of the local ice cream parlors we love.
41. Check out this off-the-beaten path museum, which is all about the people who first called the Bay Area home.
42. There’s nothing like a spin on the carousel. Hop on and enjoy a ride even grown-ups will delight in.
44. If you want to teach your kids all about history but not through a boring text book, you have to visit this museum where history meets art.
45. Banana pancakes? Need we say more about this family-friendly street?
46. While you many of you may drive by this neighborhood on a daily basis, we bet you didn’t know that it has a bevy of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and even a farm that will keep you and the kiddos busy all day long.
47. and 48. If packing up the car for an overnight trip seems like too much of a hassle, take the day to explore this small town, which is a perfect day trip for those with short attention spans. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a spin on the town’s family-friendly bike paths.
49. We’re hard-pressed to find a kid that doesn’t like to nosh on these bite-sized treats.
50. and 51. The cool thing about the Bay Area is that camping is almost always on the agenda. Try camping in Anderson Valley (can you say wine tasting?). No reservation? Try one of these last minute camping spots.
52. Explore all of the Bay Area’s finest flora and fauna.
53. New York isn’t the only city with a Central Park worth exploring. At this one you can even watch the koi being fed in the Spring and Summer.
54. Dress you and your family in your finest duds and dine like a king or queen.
56. Get up close and personal with a Bay Area town that totally rocks.
58. Feed your kids need for everything plane, train, and automobile at a memorable transportation museum.
59. We suspect many of you have never even heard of this lake, a hidden gem for Marin locals.
60. Sniff the blossoms at this Bay Area Garden (did you know it’s also a mini amusement park perfect for the under 5 set?).
61. Part museum, part zoo makes this destination a favorite for Bay Area kids.
64. Skip the Boardwalk (and the crowds) and build a sandcastle at one of Santa Cruz’s quieter kid-friendly beaches.
65. Head north and wander through the grapevines in Napa, then take the little ones to a cool hands-on kids museum where imagination abounds.
66. Let your kids partake in the food cart craze at the East Bay’s newest food cart festival open during the summer from June 10 through October 21.
67. The turbo slide, swings, spiderweb climber, and tricycle track are guaranteed kid-pleasers at this sweet park for kids.
68. Count the birds during a stroll along the shore of Lake Merced.
69. Visit one of these U-Pick Farms and let the kids work for their supper.
70. Libraries aren’t the only destinations where story times abound. Get your kiddos reading at one of our favorite story time spots in the Bay Area.
71. Bay Area families sure are spoiled with our picturesque views but arguably, none are so scenic as this destination, only a hop, skip and a jump away from the city.
72. Head North for a beachy family weekend — just remember to pack the sunscreen!
73. Let the rich history of San Francisco’s famous restaurants keep you and the kiddos entertained and satisfied.
75. Put away the sippy cups for the afternoon and indulge in a some tea for your tots.
76. Visit a new playground with water features, an awesome play structure or scenic backdrop.
79. Tired of the fog? Head to one of these indoor play spaces to beat your kids’ cabin fever.
80. Slow down and check out this sleepy town that’s full of public artwork, parks, and family restaurants.
81. Your kids will love the bite-sized food that comes around in carts. Bonus: those with ants in their pants will enjoy that the wait for food is always short.
82. Let your kids pretend they’re back in the olden days, an experience complete with rafting, panning for gold, and horseback riding.
83. If your kids are animal lovers, let them see animal rescue in action at this famous rescue center.
84. Discover the ins and outs of Jack London Square’s trains and boats.
85. Got kiddos who don’t like their greens? We think they’ll be veggie-ful after a visit to one of these kid-friendly vegetarian restaurants.
86. If you want to enroll your kid in a sport that’s not basketball, soccer, or tennis, let them hone their flexibility and strike a pose with a yoga class.
87. Head to this town just North of the City for a fun and mellow getaway with the whole family.
88. Break out your tents and sleeping bags and head to a National Park that people from all over America flock to see.
91. We love this San Francisco destination because you can enjoy it year round — plus, there’s a park, hands-on museum, and plenty of places to picnic, which will entertain your family all day long.
92. You’ll want to remember to pack binoculars and a camera to capture all of the family fun when you visit this beloved Arboretum.
93. A visit to our state capitol is a must for any Californian. Plus, you won’t want to miss out on the historic Old Town and the Train Museum.
94. Your kids will love this crown jewel of Golden Gate Park.
95. Grab your bucket and shovel (and maybe some take out from the neighboring Le Garage restaurant) and spend the day at Kayak Beach.
96. Got a ham at home (and no, we’re not talking about the kind you can eat)? Let your ham-tastic kiddos and their knack for performance thrive in a fun drama class.
97. Only thirty minutes from San Francisco is a garden with colorful flowers your kids will love.
98. If it’s apple season don’t forget to take a weekend day trip to a local u-pick apple farm.
99. Invest in new duds for yourself and your kids at this San Francisco street, which is any shopping mama’s paradise.
100. Explore a waterfront city right in our own backyard. Your little ones will love walking along the promenade.
101. Tide pools, horse stables, and stunning ocean views, makes this beach a favorite of Bay Area families.
– Erin Lem