San Francisco: Play

Musuems

Most museums in San Francisco and the Bay Area are incredibly kid-friendly.  Always ask the front desk for kid kits when visiting more adult like museums as many museums have pre-packaged sketch kits, scavenger hunts or other kid-focused educational items.  Many traditionally adult museums have family friendly weekend events that cater to the young and old alike. What is most impressive about the Bay Area is how many museums are designed exclusively for children. 

Here are some of my favorites both kid focused and grown-up: 

  • Bay Area Children's Discovery Museum-Sausalito* 

  • Exploratorium-SF

  • Children's Creativity Museum (we still call it Zeum)-SF*

  • California Academy of Sciences-SF

  • de Young Museum of Fine Arts-SF

  • Asian Art Museum-SF 

  • San Francisco MoMA-SF

  • San Francisco Maritime Museum-SF

  • Cable Car Museum-SF

  • Contemporary Jewish Museum-SF 

  • Randall Museum-SF*

  • Hiller Aviation Museum-San Carlos

  • Cantor Arts Center-Stanford 

  • Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo- Palo Alto* 

  • Children's Discovery Museum-San Jose* 

  • Tech Museum-San Jose 

  • Lawrence Hall of Science-Berkeley 

  • Chabot-Space and Science Center-Oakland

  • CuriOdyssey-Coyote Point*

*Indicates exclusively for kids. Chances are, you can have fun at these places too. For a more in-depth list see Bay Area Kid Fun, another resource I frequently use when planning our themed weeks.  I only write about and recommend places we have actually visited.

Bay Area Children's Discovery Museum

Website: Bay Area Children's Discovery Museum

Ages: toddler to tween

Hours:  Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: 557 McReynolds Road    Sausalito, CA 94965

Highlights: I have been visiting this museum for 9 years now and it never gets old. It's nestled on Marin side of the former Presidio bungalows. They have a dedicated area for exclusive toddler play, an art lab with special events (see their calendar of events), rotating exhibits like Magic Treehouse Stories to Curious George in the Discovery Hall, willow hide-and-seek sculptures created by artist Patrick Dougherty, a ship wreck, Golden Gate Bridge and tide pool replicas.  It's a bit chilly as the museum is right by the bay with a stunning view of the Golden Gate bridge.  They do have a cute little cafe with healthy food options.

Activities:  There are lots of hands on activities for toddlers to tweens, that's the whole point of this place.  Recently my six-year-old twins and my nine and eleven-year-old created miniature furniture in the Art section the museum. 

Exploratorium

Website: Exploratorium

Ages: 5-99

Hours: Saturday-Thursday, 10 a.m.to 5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  (summer house) 

Location: Pier 15, Embarcadero and Green Street (park across from the museum but beware of parking summers) 

Highlights: This science museum is AMAZING! There is something fun for everyone here, although I can't say having toddlers inside the museum is a lot of fun as it's darker inside with lots of places to run (read get lost).  Having said that, there are tons of buttons to push and images that enchant.  Exhibits are organized by topics that range from astronomy to waves.  Chances are you will learn even more than your kids as each station has interesting explanations and prompts that make you think about the world around you.  

Children's Creativity Museum

Website: Children's Creativity Museum

Ages: toddler to adult 

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: 221 Fourth Street, San Francisco

Highlights: If you like hands on creating, from clay animation to robotics, consider this museum your mecca.  The staff is knowledgeable and friendly. The have an Imagination Lab, a Tech Lab, Animation Studio, Innovation Lab, and Play Patio.   Music Studio I often find myself creating clay sculptures or coloring a template to be added to digital city projected on a curved screen wall.  My favorite carousal sits outside the museum and there is also a playground in the same complex.   

California Academy of Sciences

Website: California Academy of Sciences

Ages: toddler to 99

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m.to 5 p.m.

Location: 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco (in Golden Gate Park) 

Highlights: Everything is a highlight here-from the stars to the earth to the oceans.  This Renzo Piano designed building is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world, housing over 26 million specimens!  There is a lot to do and see here, it's worth packing lunches getting there when it opens and leaving when it closes (not to mention it is not cheap to visit). We love the aquarium downstairs and the rainforest dome the best and we always say 'hi' to Claude, the albino alligator.  There is also a planetarium (I believe tickets are timed), rotating exhibits on either end of the museum, African wildlife dioramas, and a living roof.  The Naturalist Center is tucked away upstairs and offers hands-on exploration and cool discovery nature boxes.  If you have a toddler, there is a play area in the back left side of the museum called "Early Explorers' Cove." You can also ask the coast check  for a Explorer Pack containing tools and an activity sheet.  Also, check the Academy's website for kid focused tour and events.    

de Young Museum of Fine Arts

Website: de Young Museum of Fine Arts 

Ages: 6-99

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., open late until 8:30 on Fridays until August 18th 

Location: Golden Gate Park, 50 

Highlights:  I love both permanent collection as well as the special exhibits at the de Young.  While, I can't say it is the most kid friendly museum (they have different sketching rules for various exhibits), most the of docents do a pretty nice job of tolerating the elementary set.  My kids always marvel at the Ruth Awasa sculptures before making their way to Hamom Observation Tower.  We all love the floor to ceiling windows and 360 views-you can see the living roof on the California Academy of Sciences from here.  

Asian Art Museum

Website: Asian Art Museum

Ages: 6-99

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday evening until 10 p.m.

Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco

HighlightsConsider what Asia is and isn't and be prepared to be challenged. Asia in effect, is a land mass, rather a lump sum of a culture. While there are certainly some connecting themes to this museum, i.e. various religious artifacts, you'll find a little bit of everything from the roughly forty eight countries considered to be part of this giant landmass.   While it's fairly easy to get lost on the various levels of this museum, my kids were surprisingly enthralled by rich historical artifacts spanning from China 221B.C.E to contemporary exhibits celebrating the richness of various Asian cultures.

Activity: My plan next time is to take a photocopy of Asia outlined and have my kids outline the country an object of interest comes from  

San Francisco MoMA

Website: SFMoMA

Ages: 5-99

Hours: Friday-Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Wednesdays 

Location: 151 Third Street 

Highlights: As far as I can tell, the SFMoMA got a makeover invert department expect the education one.  Perhaps they can call their friends at the original location to remind them of their public duty.  Having said that, with some negotiations, they allowed my children to quietly sketch in the Calder mobile room.  This place is stunning as it un child friendly, from the earth wall, the sculptures on the roof top to the bendy metal Stellas. I resentfully love this place, even if it doesn't appreciate my littles. 

Activity: Sketching a mobile, the have your kiddo try to make one out of floral wire or pipe cleaners at home.You get an idea of just how challenging it is.

San Francisco Maritime Museum

Website: San Francisco Maritime Museum:A California Historic Park 

Ages: toddler to adult

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: 499Jefferson Street (Fisherman's Wharf area) for tickets and the museum. Cross the street to explore the vessels.    

Highlights: Stop first at the museum to learn more about the historical importance of the port of San Francisco. Inside are also some pretty interesting naval artifacts. Cross the street to explore the  seven different historic vessels. 

  • 1886 square-rigger Balclutha 

  • 1895 schooner C. A. Thayer

  • 1890 steam ferryboat Eureka

  • 1891 scow schooner Alma

  • 1907 steam tug Hercules

  • 1914 paddlewheel tug Eppleton Hall

  • 1890 (circa) San Francisco Bay Ark 

Activity: Pretend! Play "what would it be like if..." making up various scenarios about the life aboard the various ships.Ask kids prompts like, "Where would you to the bathroom?" "Where do you get more food?""How do you steer the vessel"

Cable Car Museum

Website: Cable Car Museum

Ages: 5- adult

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (April through October) 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (November to March)  

Location: 1201 Mason Street, San Francisco

Highlights: For some reason I'm really enchanted with this little working museum.  It's like a factory tour in that you see the actual working wheelhouse, engines, cables and other gear running the cable cars. The mechanization fascinates me and the kids a like. Plus, there are a lot of great but easy to understand displays of how the cable cars work and are repaired.  Kids can pull model grips, tough the cable wire and crawl in and out of cable cars.  

Activity: Rank it!   Have kids brainstorm as many modes transportation as they can and then try to put them in various categories or orders. Which ones move the most people in the least amount of time? Which ones are the oldest (try putting their list in invention order)?  Which ones are the most comfortable to ride?  

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Website: Contemporary Jewish Museum

Ages: 6 to adult, depending on the exhibit

Hours: Thursday-Tuesday, 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thursday open until 8:00 pm.  Closed Wednesdays

Location: 736 Mission Street, San Francisco 

Highlights: This museum mostly showcases temporary exhibits, which I always find interesting. Some of course cater to more to the adults but other kids find interesting as well.  We recently went to the New Yorker cartoonist, Roz Chast,

exhibit and my kids were amused.  The museum also had a fun scavenger hunt of Roz Chast themes and upon completion the kids picked a cute prize.  

Activities: Ask the front desk as they have been incredibly kid friendly in the past.  

Randall Museum

Website: Randall Museum

Ages: kids! caters to a younger set.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Closed Sundays and Mondays 

Location: Temporary location, 745 Treat Avenue

Highlights: I have long held this sweet SF Parks and Rec. Department run nature  museum near and dear to my heart. Maybe it's because it was the first place I took my older girls to play when they were two years and 6 months old. Maybe it's because everything was on a smaller but interesting scale, making wrangling a baby and toddler easy. Perhaps it was the easy parking and beautiful views. And while I loved that it wasn't a fancy venue-the place looked as if it was slightly frozen in time from the 1970s-it's currently undergoing renovations.  I hope they preserve the scale and sweetness of the place as kids got to touch bunnies, watch hawk feeding close-up and climb in and out of a model caboose.   

Activities: Play! Don't forget the hike up around the museum for amazing views! It's steep but most littles can do it.  

Hiller Aviation Museum

Website: Hiller Aviation Museum

Ages: 3 to adult 

Hours: Every day, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: 601 Skyway Rd., San Carlos, CA (just off 101)

Highlights: This place truly has it all in terms of aviation fun. Of course there is the classic hall of airplanes chronicling flight from prototypes built in 1869 to Space Ship One in 2004. They also have a Boeing 747-100 cockpit and first class section where kids can climb, explore and learn more about large aircrafts.  My favorite feature of this museum though is all the exciting special exhibits.  I can't say I'm that interested in flight in general, in fact, I have a pretty big anxiety about flying in general, but this place really gets kids and adults fired up about aviation.  I recommend checking the website for special events as the museum frequently features engaging activities or speakers like a drone-build-a-thon or world record paper airplane holder-John Collins (we went and it was awesome!).

Activities: They have a Imagination Playground, where you can build structures out of foam blocks.  There is also a Flight Simulation lab, Invention Lab and  Flight Sim Zone, most of these activities are available on the weekend only.   

Cantor Arts Center

Website: Cantor Arts Center

Ages: 5 to adult 

Hours: Wednesday-Monday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Location: 328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford Campus 

Highlights: This is a pretty diverse collection of art-from antiquities to modern works.  A few of our favorites: The first photographic image of a horse running with all four legs off the ground (a long debated inquiry) by Eadweard Muybridge, the immense Oceania Collection featuring amazing masks and head dresses, the modern art upstairs featuring northern California artist (and therefore light) like  Wayne Thiebaund and Richard Diebenkorn, and the outside sculpture garden.  Across the street from the museum, you can also find a undulating dirt wall by one of my favorite artists Andy Goldsworthy.  

Activities: Ask for sketch packets when you enter the museum.  They are strict about the rules but very kid friendly. At the end your visit, docents will give kids Cantor Frames to frame their artwork.  Check the website for kid friendly weekend events, where kids can craft and go on exhibit themed tours aimed for kids.  

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

Website: Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

Ages: toddler to elementary 

HoursTuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Closed Mondays. 

Location: 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto 

Highlights: This place is small and sweet.  Inside there are a few rooms dedicated to hands on exploration of the natural sciences like a spider web climber and a magnified bug collection.  Plus there is a fun ball machine.   Outside you will find roughly 50 different species of animals from hedgehogs to a bobcat with a variety of reptiles, fish and birds in between.     

Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose

Website: Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose 

Ages: toddler (and adults have fun here too)

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

            Open Mondays Labor Day though Memorial Day.    

Location: 180 Woz Way, San Jose 

Highlights: This place is AMAZING!  For a long time it ranked at my all time favorite children's museum-and then Denver's got a big time makeover (and I'm pretty sure they were inspired by San Jose as I see similar themes).  Okay....her we go: There is an art room, a building room, a super cool water room, a bubble room, a play market, a street play scene (where you can learn about safety),  a play theater, a 'circle' room, where you unlock the secrets of the circle, oh yeah,and  play archeologist with in the mammoth room.  Those are some of the highlights but basically, get there early, stay all day.

Activities: My favorite activity at this museum is the art room, aka, the art loft.  My kids could stay here and craft all day long. Sometimes there is museum staff led art projects like printmaking, check the front desk as you enter. 

 

Tech Museum of San Jose 

Website: Tech Museum of San Jose 

Hours: Every day, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

Location: 201 S. Market Street, San Jose

Highlights: This is my husband and oldest daughter's favorite museum (along with the Exploratorium) because of all the cool hands on tech exhibits.  You can design a robot, become a cyber detective while learning about internet security, experiment with various materials to keep a baby warm, experience a earthquake to consider building material's importance.  

Activities: Get a Tech Tag when you enter and collect your experiences as you various the varies exhibits. You can later  log in online to reflect on your experiences.   

Lawrence Hall of Science

​​Website: Lawrence Hall of Science

Ages: toddler to adult 

Hours: Every day in the summer, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley 

Highlights: This University of California Berkeley museum has some of the most impressive hands-on exhibits in the zBay that cater to the elementary set. While at first glance, the museum seems a bit frozen in time decor wise, don't be fooled. When you first walk up, you'll notice two things: the view of San Francisco and the Bay is jaw dropping and the large DNA sculpture where kids can climb. The exhibits are modern, interactive and engaging.  

Activities: For toddlers, you can build balls runs and Keva towers. They also have a chinchilla roost and an animal discovery lab downstairs.  My favorite space in the Ingenuity Lab on the main floor where kids are given various design engineering challenges, like designing a turbine or windmill or creating moving toys.  Check hours before you go to ensure availability.   

Chabot-Space and Science Center

Website: Cabot-Space and Science Center

Ages: 5 to adult 

Hours:  Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Closed Monday and Tuesday

Location: 1000 Skyline Blvd, Oakland

HighlightsMuseum entrance includes tickets to the planetarium show and it will not disappoint.  The museum left all of wondering more about our universe as the exhibits are both informative and interactive. Ask the front desk about being an astronaut activities in the lab. All four of my kids had a a lot of fun participating in space labs like measuring liquids, grabbing objects in the oversized gloves and learning about mass on the earth versus space.  

ActivitiesDownload the free movie app to get a up close and real time images of the sun.   

 

CuriOdyssey-Coyote Point

Website: CuriOdyssey

Ages: toddler to tween

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays 

Location: 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 

Highlights: This little gem of a children's museum is tucked away off 101 and next to some dreamy views of the bay. Before you go, stop off at Coyote Point and enjoy the chilly beach and dip your toes in the calm waters.  The CuriOdyssey focus on nature and features a small animal conversation exhibit with bobcats, a fox, river otter and skunk, but there also amphibians, reptiles and birds.   Inside you can find exhibits featuring curved mirrors, kaleidoscopes, patterns in nature and natural forces.  

Site Title

San Francisco
Bay Area

Playgrounds and Carousals

San Francisco is the land of the playground and carousal.  I love the amount of thought and energy the San Francisco Parks Department dedicates to some of the best playground we have ever explored. If you are into the turn of the century merry-go-rounds, you are have arrived.  Here are my favorites: 

 

Playgrounds 

Golden Gate Park Playgrounds

  • Koret Children's Corner

    • Location: Just off Cezar Drive on the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park ​

    • Enclosed: No

    • Restrooms: Yes  

    • Ages: toddler to adult 

    • Features: Pretty much everything.  This large playground has a massive rope structure we call the Eiffel Tower, a wave wall climbing structure, two large concrete slides (cardboard makes them more effective), balancing planks and large climbing tubes.  

  • 45th Street "Boat" Playground

    • Location: ​Head for the end of the walking path that leads into the park after entering 45th Avenue and Lincoln Way. You can also access the playground from the south side of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – west of 41st Avenue. There are no signs (or bathrooms) near this playground to indicate where you are headed.  It's often pretty quiet.  

    • Enclosed: No, but it's a secluded area

    • Restrooms: No

    • Ages: toddler to adult

    • Features: This playground is a bit challenging to find, but once you are there you will find a sea themed park.  There is a sandy area for kids to dig and explore as well as boat. The playground also has a swing set and slide.  It's a pretty shady as it's surrounded by cypress trees.  While parents like to picnic hear, note no alcoholic beverages are allowed. 

  • Fulton Playground

    • Location: 855 27th Street

    • Enclosed: Yes, with a toddler area

    • Restrooms: Yes

    • Features: There are lots of climbing structures, slides and swing sets at this recently remodeled playground. They has have a tennis and basketball court and comfortable places for parents to watch their kiddos play. 

 

Hayes Valley Playground 

Location: Hayes and Buchanan Street 

Enclosed: Yes

Parking: Challenging but doable.  

Ages: toddler to adult 

Features: A tennis and basketball court. Adult workout equipment. A ninja ring, climber and little enclosed space for the toddlers with springy seesaw.   

 

Upper Noe Valley

Location: 295 Day Street, San Francisco

Enclosed: Yes 

Restrooms: Yes

Parking: Challenging but doable.  

Ages: toddler to adult 

Features: I love the play structures here- two large merry-go-round pyramid climbers, a smaller enclosed play area for toddlers, and monkey bars.  There are two tennis courts, baseball field, enclosed dog run and outdoor basketball courts as well as an inside basketball court.  

Portsmouth Square in Chinatown

Location: Washington and Walter Lum Place, San Francisco

Enclosed: Yes

Restrooms: Yes 

Parking: Underground parking garage I have never used.   

Ages: toddler to adult  

Features: Known as "The Heart of Chinatown" as the one block square hosts Thai Chi, mahjong, chess, and checkers. There are two playgrounds constructed in a Chinese style with climbers, slides, monkey bars and swings. Interestingly this square is of historical experience as the American Flag was first raised here in 1846 when Captain John Montgomery first claimed 'Yerba Buena' for the United States (the city was renamed San Francisco a year later). Several other 'firsts' went down here took including the opening of the first California public school, the first cable car in the world installment, and the discovery of gold in the Sierras announcement. 

 

Julius Kahn in Presidio 

Location: 3571-3599 W Pacific Ave, San Francisco

Enclosed: Yes 

Restrooms: Yes 

Parking: Across a not too busy street, fairly easy. 

Ages: toddler-adult 

Features: This playground has some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and is midway point in our favorite hike. Not only is there my favorite pyramid merry-go-round but wide open fields, lots of play structures, clean restrooms and tennis courts.

Eureka Valley Harvey Milk Rec. Center 

Location: 100 Collingwood Street 

Enclosed: Yes 

Restrooms: Yes

Parking: Yikes! 

Ages: toddler to adult 

Features: This Castro rec. center enchants. It was completely remodeled a few years ago with a charming Wizard of Oz surface design and a lovely playground with swings, climbing structure and a cool dome.  There is also baseball diamond, tennis court and enclosed dog run. Inside the rec. center there is a gym and a basketball court and a bathroom open until 8 p.m. 

Dolores Park "Helen Diller" Playground

Location: Mission Dolores Park 

Enclosed: No

Restrooms: Yes, finally

Parking: Challenging but doable. 

Ages: kinda toddler to tween 

Features: For toddlers there is a sand garden and dedicated play structures.  Older kids can loose their minds on the following: play mound, shipwrecked boat, natural climbing stone, play mound, pyramid net climber, swing sets and slides. Alert: Parking can be challenging! Remember, anything goes at Dolores Park, so play accordingly.   

Yerba Buena Playground 

Location: 750 Howard Street 

Enclosed: Sorta, gotta keep an eye out.  

Restrooms: Inside the Children's Creativity Museum

Parking: I recommend Mission Garage Pay Parking, but you can do a metered parking on the street.  

Ages: toddler to tween 

Features:  Two large slides, a super cool tower climber, multiple tier climbing sections (read escape routes), sand box and a place for kids to get unnecessarily wet.  

Alamo Square Children's Playground

Location: Alamo Square, facing Steiner Street, between Hayes and Fulton 

Enclosed: No, but on a hill with some gates  

Restrooms: No

Parking: Try the side streets, good luck.  

Ages: toddler-tween 

Features: A few swings, slides, cute painted lady replicas in the climber/drawbridge section and an even better view.   

Seward Street 'Secret' Slides 

Location: 30 Seward Street 

Enclosed: No 

Restrooms: No

Parking: Yikes! and beard of cranky neighbors

Ages: 5 to adult 

Features: Bring a cardboard box, if you want speed and want to keep your clothing intact, bring a box with printed ink/ads on one side to go even faster. 

Mission Playgrounds

Location: 19th and Linda

Enclosed: Yes

Restrooms: Yes 

Parking: I hate parking in the mission. Take a Lyft. 

Ages: toddler to tween 

Features: There are two playgrounds in the mission rec. center complex.  There are also two tennis courts, a basketball court, and soccer field AND the city's only outdoor pool. The playground has climbers, a splash pad, swings and super cool inverted pyramid merry-go-round climber. 

Carousals 

Golden Gate Park Herschel-Spillman Carousal 

Cost: $2 for adults, $1 for kids, 5 and under are free 

Location: Koret Children's Playground 

Features: This carousal made its rounds in Los Angeles and Portland before it landed at the entrance of the Koret Playground. It was restored in 1987 and recently survived a fire nearby the Koret Playground.  There are scenes of San Francisco in the inside panels and features 62 colorfully painted animals from dragons to roosters.  

 

The Carousal at the Children's Creativity Museum 

Cost: $3 for two rides 

Location: 221 Fourth Street, San Francisco 

Features: This is my all time favorite carousal. It was carved entirely by hand back in 1906 and is stunning to ride.

Pier 39 Carousal

Cost: $3 a ride 

Location: First level towards the Bay at the end of Pier 39 

Features: This bad boy was made in Italy and includes hand painted San Francisco landmarks like Lombard Street, Chinatown and Golden Gate Bridge. 

Eugene Friend Carousal at San Francisco Zoo

Cost: $2 and adults can stand for free 

Location: San Francisco Zoo

Features: Created in 1921 and features lots of cool animals. But you have to go to the zoo to ride it. 

Attractions

Golden Gate Park: 

  • San Francisco Botanical Gardens 

  • Japanese Tea Garden

  • Conservatory of Flowers 

  • Stow Lake Paddle Boats and Canoes 

  • California Academy of Sciences (see Museums section) 

  • de Young Art Museum (see Museums section)

Spin on a Cable Car

Marine Mammal Center ​

Angel Island and Immigration Center 

San Francisco Zoo

Oakland Zoo

Lemos Farms 

Hidden Villa

Harley Farms Goast Dairy

Ardenwood Historic Farm

Hidden Villa

ReThinkWaste Recycling Center

Landmarks 

Mission Dolores 

Coit Tower 

Lombard Street 

Ghirardelli Square 

The Mission Street Murals (two alleys, plus tour) 

Presidio (see hike for Andy Goldsworthy art) 

City Hall 

Chinatown

  • Fortune Cookie Factory  

Golden Gate Bridge 

Ferry Building/Pier 39  

Alamo Square: The Painted Lady View  

Further Afield 

Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes

Website: Cowgirl Creamey

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. 

Highlights:  You can book a cheese tasting online, but I only recommend this for kids 12 and up. For younger kids is pretty fun to watch them make cheese through the window and there is a lovely green space int he back where you can picnic.  

Ms. Grossman's Sticker Factory in Petaluma

Website: Ms. Grossman's Sticker Factory 

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Highlights: I love a factory tour and this one is super fun because it's stickers and not just any stickers- THE stickers of the 1980s...remember the ones on a roll where you cut your desired sticker with scissors?  Reservations are required in advance, but I'm telling you, if you like factory tours, this will will enchant.  You will learn about the designing, printing, rewinding, finishing, packaging, laser cutting, distributing and recycling process of the sticker.  I particularly liked how intimate the tour was as the guides clearly care about their product  and you get a free stickers on each stop. Plus you get to make a sticker project at the end of tour.  

Jelly Belly Factory 

Website: Jelly Belly Factory Tours 

Hours: Open every day (except holidays)

            Factory Tours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Visitor Center: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

Highlights: While the Jelly Belly Factory is still family run and operated, the tour is self-guided and lot less intimate than Ms. Grossman's as you can't walk the factory floor. Visitors are invited to walk along enclosed catwalks above the factory floor with various stations explaining the jelly bean making process.  It is still really interesting and I liked the self paced process even if they seem to take their jelly bean mosaic art very seriously.  

Teacher, traveler, mom of four, friend and Team Tvartin captain navigating this messy, joyful life. 

 

Photo credit: Bonnie Berry .

 

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