Tiny techies, unite! With Silicon Valley in our backyard, Bay Area familes live in the perfect spot to learn to code, play with robots and build your own computer. There are opportunities to step up your STEM game around every corner, from museums and science centers dedicated to just that and libraries offering free programs galore. Scroll through to see some of our faves all over the Bay Area.
photo: Kate Loweth
With a prime location right on the Embarcadero at Pier 15, the Exploratorium is a STEM hot spot for locals and visitors alike. Experiment with social behaviors like sharing, work together to create a tornado and build an arch that supports itself. Check out what’s new in the tinkering studio and grab lunch at the bay-side cafe when you need a brain break.
Embarcadero at Green Stree
San Francisco, CA
California Academy of Sciences
This combination aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum offers science exploration for all ages. Walk through the four-story rainforest and marvel at the birds, fish and insects that make their homes there. Explore science’s major discoveries in the natural history exhibits and learn how we can protect our world for the future. Make sure your visit includes a stop at the Morrison Planetarium where you can view a rotating selection of visually-stunning shows on a 75-foot diameter screen.
Golden Gate Park
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Libraries
With free activities like designing bridges, making items with duct tape and learning about Braille, there’s something for every age at the San Francisco libraries. Learn what properties make slime the gooey substance that all kids love. Construct, design and tinker, all while making new friends!
photo: Steve Jurvetson
Lawrence Hall of Science
Part of UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Hall of Science is dedicated to fostering a love of science and math, especially for those with limited access to science. Meet the animal ambassadors in the Animal Discovery Room or design and test your air-powered rocket in the Rocket Launch. Tiny tots can head to the Young Explorers Experience for hands-on exploration of water, structures and all sorts of materials. Before you leave, climb on the double helix DNA Sculpture in the Hall’s plaza.
One Centennial Drive
Chabot Space and Science Center
The Chabot’s mission is to be a place for students of all ages to learn and be inspired about the Universe and our Planet Earth. Favorite exhibits include the Sky Portal where you can see what the sky looked like at the time and place of your birth, and Beyond Blastoff where you can learn all about life on the International Space Station.
10000 Skyline Blvd.
Learn about naval aviation, the Apollo program and space exploration at this national landmark that is docked in Alameda. Explore the aircraft on the hangar and flight decks and take a tour of the Captain’s Bridge and Sickbay. You can even sleep overnight in the original enlisted sleeping quarters when you participate in their STEM Night Ops Overnight program.
707 W. Hornet Ave, Pier 3
photo: Anton Chiang via Flickr
Computer History Museum
Show the kids what life was like before you could wear a computer on your wrist with a visit to Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum. Learn about how hardware and software has developed over the years and make a stop in the 1960s at the IBM 1401 Demo Lab. Kids will love the autonomous car exhibit, especially when they hear that these self-driving vehicles have been in the works since the 1930s!
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA
At this science center and zoo, kids can observe wild animals, experiment with scientific phenomena and let the natural world answer their questions. Explore science that you could do in your own backyard and discover how sounds echo off walls. See river otter swim in the habitat and watch their feeding at noon each day. At 1 p.m. watch bobcats chow down and learn how they like to sleep in hidden dens and hollow trees.
1651 Coyote Point Dr.
San Mateo, CA
Hiller Aviation Museum
For almost 20 years, the Hiller Aviation Museum has been teaching kids about this history of aviation. Sit in the cockpit of a Boeing 747 and simulate what it was like for the Wright brothers to fly the Wright Model B aircraft. The Hiller has tons of special events like the Drone Day Build-a-thon and Engineers Week in February.
601 Skyway Road
San Carlos, CA
NASA Ames Visitor Center
This free public visitor center offers a glimpse at what life is like beyond our atmosphere. Learn what it’s like for astronauts to live and work in space. See what a real moon rock looks like. View models of previous and recent spacecraft missions from NASA Ames.
Mountain View, CA
photo: The Tech Museum
The Tech Museum of Innovation
Downtown San Jose is home to this interactive science and technology center. Your visit to The Tech will include interaction with robots, problem solving in The Tech Studio and even the chance to navigate weightlessness. Their new Body Worlds: Decoded exhibit will give you a glimpse inside the human body like you’ve never seen before.
201 S. Market Street
San Jose, CA
Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
This 52,000 sq. ft. purple building brings hands-on discovery to the youngest learners. Get elbow-deep in some bubble exploration, use innovative materials to make art in the Art Loft and dig for mammoth bones. Then, head outside to the brand-new exhibit Bill’s Backyard where you can climb in the treetops and build some forts.
180 Woz Way
San Jose, CA
Youth Science Institute
With three South Bay locations, the Youth Science Institute is bringing science discovery to kids throughout the year. In addition to their expansive summer camp program, you can learn about bats, owls and other native inhabitants of our local parks at their weekend programs.
16055 Sanborn Road
333 Blossom Hill Road
Los Gatos, CA
Alum Rock Park
16260 Penitencia Creek Road
San Jose, CA
The Intel Museum let’s us see what it’s like inside an ultra-clean, highly automated silicon chip factory and connect with technologies that give us new ways to work, learn, play and communicate.
2200 Mission College Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA
photo: Marine Mammal Center/Adam Ratner
Marine Mammal Center
When seals and sea lions need to be nursed back to health they are brought to the Marine Mammal Center. Here, scientists and volunteers provide them with the medicine, nutrition and skills needed to release them back into their natural environment. Visitors can learn all about these efforts on one of the guided tours, or you can tour the facility for free on your own.
2000 Bunker Road
Bay Area Discovery Museum
Specially designed for kids 10 and under, the Bay Area Discovery Museum sits just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Here kids learn how to put their creativity to use in art projects that change with the seasons. The Bay Hall provides a small-scale simulation of the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland. Outside, an Imagination Playground brings giant foam blocks that are perfect for building.
557 McReynolds Road
Bay Model Visitor Center
This center hosts a massive working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System. Learn all about the tides, currents and how traffic moves through these waterways. Admission is free.
What’s your favorite spot to explore STEM in the Bay Area? Give us the 411 below!
Featured image courtesy of The Tech Museum