5 Top Family Attractions in San Francisco

Jocelyn Murray October 18, 2012 No Comments


Tots and Travel Recommended

The City by the Bay is also home to many wonderful attractions that are perfect for families with kids. Below are five top picks to keep even the youngest in your clan happily entertained. These attractions are listed alphabetically, and provide for wonderful learning opportunities about the amazing and diverse world in which we live. Make sure to visit them next time you are in the great metropolitan city of San Francisco.


Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay - Bat Ray

A bat ray glides through the water at the Aquarium of the Bay

Located at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf at Pier 39 by the San Francisco Bay, Aquarium of the Bay is home to more than 20,000 aquatic animals native to the bay and surrounding waters. The 50,000-square-foot aquarium is divided into three exhibit galleries: Discover the Bay, Under the Bay and Touch the Bay. Some of its impressive collections feature a variety of sharks, rays, skates, rock fish, sea stars, eels, jellies and more. A successful breeding program includes pipefish, moon jellies and skates, many of which are donated to educational facilities and public aquariums throughout the country. The aquarium’s water supply comes from the San Francisco Bay itself, where it is filtered and maintained a constant 55 degrees.

Guests can walk through two tunnel tanks for an up-close experience with the aquatic life gliding through their watery world. Several touch pools allow visitors to meet the amazing animals that live there, and include such creatures as leopard sharks, juvenile bat rays, skates, urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars and anemones. This is an exciting opportunity for children especially to discover what the creatures look like and how they feel — from smooth, slippery textures, to rougher exteriors.

Aquarium of the Bay features daily feeding presentations, an interactive bay lab station with animal encounters including terrestrial critters like tarantulas, hedgehogs and skinks, and hands-on activities like games and puzzles for children to pique their curiosities and further enhance their learning experiences. A theater offers families a chance to see 3D films that immerse one in the mysterious and captivating world of the animals there.

For more information visit their website at www.aquariumofthebay.org


California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences Entrance

California Academy of Sciences Entrance

The California Academy of Sciences features a planetarium, a four-story rainforest, an aquarium with 38,000 live animals, and a natural history museum with beautiful dioramas including the African Hall, and exhibits that explore the wildlife of Madagascar and the Galapagos, as well as skeletons of a T-Rex and blue whale. The stunning exhibits are also home to many live plants and animals including a popular 17-year-old albino alligator named Claude.

Guests can watch fascinating shows in the planetarium, observe the educational penguin feedings and coral reef dives, meander through a 90-foot diameter glass-domed rainforest with a lush variety of tropical plants and animals representative of different habitats in our world and  including such creatures as free-flying birds, butterflies, frogs, spiders, snakes, tropical fresh-water fish and more. Programs for adults and kids include a variety of tours, presentations, academy sleepovers, and a plethora of fun in the Naturalist Center with crafts, games and stories, as well as lots of hands-on activities for toddlers in the Early Explorers Cove.

The California Academy of Sciences building is a spectacular sight in itself, with its domed grassy roof with sloping hills and lush vegetation. The Academy also features two delicious dining options, shops and gardens for strolling. This is a must-see while visiting San Francisco.

The California Academy of Sciences in located at 55 Music Concourse Dr. in Golden Gate Park. For more information check out our more detailed article called The California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.



New Exploratorium at Pier 15 and Observatory Building - View from the East

As its name implies, Exploratorium in San Francisco is a wonderful place for children and adults to explore its fascinating exhibits while learning about the world in which we live. Established in 1969, this museum of human perception, art and science has hundreds of interactive exhibits that pique our natural human curiosity. The hands-on exhibits allow guests to learn more about things like physics, biology, cognition, listening, and visual perception through the exploration of intriguing subjects like living things, the human body, the mind, astronomy and space, the earth, and the everyday science of things around us.

Exploratorium will be moving to a new location at Pier 15 in spring 2013. This waterfront venue will feature 150 new exhibits, a Bay Observatory, an outdoor gallery and free civic space, and will be an improvement on this already fantastic museum.

With so many things to see and touch, families with kids can have a great time discovering all the artwork, displays and exhibits that have been built on-site. Programs at Exploratorium include film screenings, original plays, lectures, craft demonstrations, and more. For more information visit their website at www.exploratorium.edu


Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is home to the world’s tallest trees. Soaring over 250 feet into the sky, one feels an absolute sense of awe for these towering spires of nature. These coastal redwoods range from 500-800 years in age, with the oldest trees living over 1,000 years. Their long lifespans are a marvel. Just imagine historical events like the California Gold Rush, the American Revolution, or Christopher Columbus’s sailing to America. Then looking around at the trees, it can be rather mind-boggling to realize that many of the trees in this primeval wood existed at the time of those significant moments in history.

A short, comfortable drive from San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument makes for a lovely family getaway any time of the year. The clearly-marked trails are lush with ferns and fragrant mosses that peek out among the stately trunks of these majestic trees. Being close to the San Francisco Bay, fog and mists rest above the canopy, or creep with haunting beauty through the evergreen branches. Sunlight filters below, illuminating the landscape with a hazy light that seems to transport one to a time of mythical beauty and enchantment.

A visit to Muir Woods National Monument is perfect for families with children of all ages, though will be most appreciated by school-aged children who can roam about on their own feet. Parents with infants and toddlers can carry their little ones in front or backpack carriers for hands-free versatility. Jogger strollers are best for negotiating the trails. For more information visit their official website at www.nps.gov/muwo

Muir Woods National Monument was also featured in a Tots & Travel article titled by the same name Muir Woods National Monument.


San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo

Kangaroo at the San Francisco Zoo

Nestled along the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo is one of the top 10 zoos on the West Coast, and was featured in a Tots & Travel article in 2011. This 100-acre oasis has everything from feathered friends, ravenous reptiles, magnificent mammals, adaptable amphibians, to intriguing insects and more. Its fabulous exhibits invite guests to roam through the lush grounds and learn about the 700 animals representative of North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Some of the amazing animals living at the zoo are lions, tigers, kangaroos, bears, monkeys, gorillas, alligators, snakes, frogs, birds and a host of creepy crawly critters.

The zoo also features rides on a miniature steam train, a historic carousel, and a children’s zoo with petting farm, exhibits, insect zoo, and delightful activities for little ones. An interactive storybook with storybook sites spread throughout the park allows visitors to listen and learn about the animals at the zoo. The storybook recordings are activated by keys that can be purchased at the entrance. The San Francisco Zoo makes for a memorable visit that the whole family will enjoy. For more information visit their website at www.sfzoo.org

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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