44 Things to Do in the San Francisco Bay Area

Published Feb 12, 2019 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

There are so many fun and free activities to do with your kids right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. How many on our list can you check off?

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most beautiful places to live in the country. I am always amazed by the rich variety of things to do around the Bay, and I'm always trying to find something new for my daughters and I to explore in this beautiful city.

It's not hard to be overwhelmed at all of the activities and things to do that you can find that expand your knowledge of culture and the arts, and history (and sports and nature and anything else you can imagine). In fact, you may wake up overwhelmed every day. But that's just the beauty of living here.

Here's a list I compiled of 44 things you can do with your kids around this wondrous city. See if you can think of any more.

1. Take your kids to a local park and have a picnic. There are dozens of well-maintained neighborhood parks around with playground favorites like slides, climbing ropes and swings.

2. More adventurous? Combine your playground visit with a number of other activities at Golden Gate Park, a playground, nature preserve, picnic spot and cultural attraction all rolled into one. 

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3. Go Geocaching. Many area parks allow visitors to search for and place geocaches without a permit, including Tilden Regional Park.

4. Located in the Golden Gate Park, Sharon Art Studio offers kids classes in drawing, painting, ceramics and other forms of art.

5. Hike the hills and get a view of the city from a thousand feet up. The Twin Peaks is only one of many hiking trails around the city, with the availability of an easy .7 mile trek for the little ones.

6. Bowl the night away at a local alley or try a new spot. Some bowling alleys have midnight bowling that features glow-in-the-dark bowling.

7. Visit a kid-friendly museum. The Exploratorium, located on Pier 15 of the Embarcadero is an interactive science museum of indoor and outdoor exhibits for all ages. They also have special events and an on-site eatery, the SeaGlass Restaurant.

8. Catch a show at a family-friendly movie theater or watch a performance in person at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre. Children can also learn the art of the theater with hands-on learning opportunities.

9. Put your kids to work and visit a U-Pick farm in the bay area. The little ones will like the feeling of accomplishment and you'll love the fresh fruits on the table at dinner. Most farms are open from March-September.

10. If you want the kiddies to see how a real farm from the 1800's was run, stop by Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont and ride the train back in time.

11. If you don't mind a little drive, Muir Woods National Park is a great place to enthrall and amaze your kids with the sheer size of the world. The park has paved hiking trails with educational plaques explaining the history of the giant Redwoods.

12. Visit the exotic animals housed at the San Francisco Zoo and watch trainers feed the giraffes and penguins.

13. Spend the day at the California Academy of Sciences, which has everything from a planetarium to an aquarium and a four-story rainforest for kids who are interested in the sciences.

14. Spend an evening stargazing on your front porch. Bring a blanket and pillow and make it an event. You'll be surprised how much you enjoy the quiet time to reflect.

15. Cater to your children's opposing interests at the Randall Museum. Visit animal exhibits, view a working model railroad, take art or technology classes or let them try their hand at woodworking in the museum's wood-shop.

16. See what it was like to live in America in the early 20th century with a trip to the Museum of American Heritage.

17. If your kids are Disney fans (and who isn't!), take them to the Walt Disney Family Museum. They can watch classic Disney films and learn about the life and accomplishments of Walt Disney, as well as take classes in art and animation.

18. Find out what festivals are going on around the San Francisco peninsula. Most are free to enter and have live music, food, arts/crafts and entertainment.

19. No summer is complete without a trip to the area water parks. The San Francisco peninsula doesn't have a huge selection of traditional water parks, but Aqua Adventure Waterpark in Fremont and Raging Waters in San Jose usually fit the bill for most.

20. Brave the roller coasters at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. This means a day of perpetual rides, food and bathroom breaks, but it is well worth it.

21. Walk the Fisherman's Wharf for an afternoon of food, markets and souvenir shops. Don't forget to visit the Musee Mecanique, an old-fashioned arcade that shows kids how they played games before electronics.

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22. Visit Chinatown and explore the wonders of the Far East.

23. Visit the state capital of Sacramento for a glimpse into California's past and how the government runs.

24. Nurture your children's innate creativity by visiting the Children's Creativity Museum.

25. Take a tour of the bay in a water taxi. If your little ones have never been on a boat this is a good introduction.

26. Spend the afternoon at your local library. This will give you a chance to unwind in a quiet environment, and many libraries have special programs for kids.

27. Specifically designed for kids under ten, the Bay Area Discovery Museum is a perfect afternoon spot. Different programs daily along with permanent exhibits offer plenty of fun and things to do.

28. Empower your kids' artistic vision by taking them to the Museum of Children's Arts, where all the exhibits are produced by the under-18 crowd.

29. Camp out in your backyard. Weather-permitting you can teach them survival skills and enjoy a night without technology.

30. Take a ride on an historic streetcar trolley. The kids will enjoy the view and you can sprinkle some knowledge along the way.

31.Let your little one fly a plane, build a bridge or invent a new aircraft, at least vicariously, with a visit to the Hiller Aviation Museum.

32. Catch a sporting event in town. If professional sports prove too expensive, look at college or minor league sports. The kids will still have fun.

33. Get IN the water. There are plenty of swimming pools scattered across the peninsula.

34. Get ON the water. Fishing and boating can be both exciting and relaxing for kids who like the outdoors.

35. Give Karaoke a try. What kid doesn't like to sing along to the latest hits? Look for a family-friendly restaurant with food that your kids like and you'll have a great night.

36. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge with your kids.

37. Catch a kid-friendly music concert through the San Francisco Symphony's Concerts for Kids Program.

38. Climb the highest mountains at an indoor climbing facility or find your thrill at a local ropes course or zip-line.

39. Take the family roller or ice skating. There's nothing more fun for your kids than watching you slip and slide across the floor on in-line skates/ice skates.

40. Visit a San Francisco peninsula beach and cool off on a hot afternoon. Half Moon Bay is only miles south of San Francisco, offering picnic and camping areas.

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41. Visit House of Air or other local trampoline park. The kids will jump until they drop and you can try your hand at some acrobatics or simply sit back and watch everyone else.

42. Kids into art will enjoy the de Young Museum, where they can walk among the giant sculptures outside or see beautiful views of the city.

43. If your kid is a space nut, a trip to NASA's Ames Visitor Center is a must. There are some interactive exhibits and interesting models, and it will only take a couple hours to see everything.

44. Let your kids find beauty in a marine tidal pool at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, located south of the city.

Looking for more awesome activities and events? Feel free to check out ChatterBlock's Community Events Page.

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