Head on down to Fort Mason, which is one of the National Parks right within the city of San Francisco. Even if you’ve been lured down recently for a big expo or event going on in one of the pavilions, you probably haven’t fully explored this 1,200 acre park with your kids. Since being transformed from a working military base to part of Golden Gate Parks and Recreation in the 1970s, the fort’s historical buildings have become home to some bedrocks of Bay Area arts and culture (3 dozen nonprofits, including three museums and six theaters), as well as a youth hostel, and homes to some fortunate local renters (who enjoy fabulous views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands). And the completion last month of a bandshell (made from reclaimed materials like car hoods, wood, and circuit boards) down near the pavilions means that for the next few weeks, there will be free performances and activities happening on Saturdays.

This weekend, the day’s fun kicks off with an 11 a.m. performance from the Little Bear School of Music, getting kids and their parents moving and grooving. Then, BATS Improv will pull together one of their famously entertaining performances at 12:30 p.m., followed by the New Pickle Circus, performing “Pi” at 1:30 p.m. Also, the San Francisco Children’s Art Center will hold a free drop-in class called “Fantastic Trash,” and S.C.R.A.P will be bringing their philosophy of re-use to the Fort for a family art class, where you’ll be encouraged and coached on how to make pinwheels or birdhouses, or whatever else they dream up that day.

As if that isn’t enough, kids can scope out sea birds by the piers, or climb the steps to the meadow, where there’s plenty of space to run, throw a Frisbee, or spread out a blanket for a picnic. Thank Senator Philip Burton (or the larger-than-life bronze statue of him, anyway – he watches over parkgoers in the meadow), for helping to transform this stretch of waterfront into one of our best parks.
If you can’t make it this weekend, head on down next weekend, or any between now and September 12, to check out the free happenings at the fort!

More to Explore (with kiddies in tow):


Marin Organic and U-Pick


Farrallon Islands

Downtown San Rafael

Mission Bay

El Cerrito


Point Reyes

North Beach

The Mountain Play, Mt. Tam

Gourmet Ghetto

Yerba Buena Gardens and Union Square

Pier 39

Ring Mountain


Jack London Square


Kayak Beach

Fillmore Street

Tennesee Valley Trail


Union Street

Tilden Park

Westfield Center

Solano Ave Part 2

Solano, Part 1

Hyde Street Pier and Aquatic Park

the Presidio and Crissy Field

Farmer’s Market & China Camp State Park

Marin Organic, U-Pick


Presidio Heights


Larkspur’s Magnolia Street

Mt Tam and the West Point Inn

San Francisco’s Bernal Heights

Berkeley’s Fourth Street