San Francisco is a playground for adults and children. From cable car rides to walks in Crissy Field, it's easy to amuse yourself and your kids without ever setting foot in a zoo or a museum.
But sometimes, you want a destination that will keep everyone occupied with hands-on exhibits, interactive displays, or lots of animals. Here are some city favorites, and a few places just outside the realm of San Francisco.
Tilden Park - Berkeley
Little Farm is an interactive farm where kids can pet and feed animals ranging from goats to chickens and rabbits. The animals are enclosed in pens and barns, but if you bring celery and lettuce, you can entice them to the fence for a snack and a pat on the head.
The setting of Little Farm couldn't be more pretty, with the surrounding hills and trees of Tilden Park's Nature Area. The Jewel Lake trail nearby provides an additional way to burn off energy, in a relatively easy, one-mile hike around the lake.
12. Oakland Zoo
Oakland - Golf Links Road off I-580
Oakland Zoo has moved toward a more habitat-conscious facility since it's earlier days in the Oakland Hills. Although a small zoo, most of the animal enclosures have natural appointments, trees, and terrain that seems conducive to the animals' well-being, as opposed to just serving as "exhibit space."
The Children's Zoo is a broad expanse of greenery, with an enclosed farm area, as well as fascinating fruit bat house, and playful Ring-tailed Lemurs housed just above the gardens.
9777 Golf Links Road
Oakland, CA 94605
Tel: (510) 632-9525
Oakland Zoo Website
The Chabot Space and Science Center offers education of the planetary kind. Kids can learn about our solar system through interactive quizes and hand-on displays. There's a planetarium with a full-dome digital projection system, a Megadome Theater showing rotating films, and free telescope viewings on Friday and Saturday nights, from dusk until closing (weather permitting).
The views from Chabot are panoramic, situated as it is, high in the hills of Oakland. Older kids might enjoy a hike on some of the surrounding trails, as part of a day's excursion.
10000 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
Telephone: (510) 336-7300
Two Bay Area Wildlife facilities where children can see firsthand the importance of helping wild animals. Both are working hospitals and rehabilitation centers, but the medical portions are not open to the public.
Lindsay Wildlife is set in the rolling hills of Walnut Creek, with a variety of educational programs, docents, non-releasable wild animal ambassadors, as well as hands-on science exhibits.
Wildcare in Marin has an outdoor pool for pelicans, cormorants and egrets -- and large enclosures for its non-releasable raptors, ducks and other birds and animals. It offers a variety of nature education programs.
Lindsay Wildlife Museum: 1931 First Ave, Walnut Creek, (925) 935-1978
Wildcare: 76 Albert Park Lane, San Rafael
Ardenwood Historic Farm is a 19th century estate as well as a working farm. (It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.)
Activities at the farm include:
- Close encounters with various farm animals (sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, goats, and cows
- Arden Station and Deer Park Station - Horse-drawn train takes kids on a ride into the park with docents dressed in period costumes
- Ardenwood Forge with blacksmith demonstrations
- Visit the 19th century Patterson House (home of estate owner George Washington Patterson)
- Special holiday and seasonal events: pumpkin patch and corn maize (Halloween), Ardenwood Victorian Christmas celebration
34600 Ardenwood Blvd
Fremont, CA 94555
Telephone: (510) 796-0199
Just south of SFO in San Mateo, the highlight of a trip to the Coyote Point Museum is the animal feedings. Like Lindsay, Coyote Point has live animals that could not be released to the wild. As a result, you can be there for river otter feedings, fox feedings and other wildlife presentations. The permanent displays outdoors house the resident animals, including golden eagles and a coyote.
Indoors, the Coyote Point Museum has an beautiful exhibit hall, divided into sections about habitat, earth science, and environmental issues.
1651 Coyote Point Drive
San Mateo, CA USA 94401
Directions to Coyote Point
This San Jose museum for kids has more than 28,000 square feet of semi-permanent and travelling exhibits. Exhibits and creative areas include the Art Loft (with art and craft activities), the Kids' Garden, Waterways (including a special area for toddlers), and Bubbalogna (exploring the world of bubbles). There are additional creative spaces and traveling exhibits, as well as regularly schedule performances and events throughout the month.
180 Woz Way
San Jose, CA 95110