With so many things to do in “The City,” as San Francisco locals call it, you may wonder why venturing out of the area is something you would ever consider. A short drive out of San Francisco in any direction takes you to some of the greatest beaches, mysterious caves, parks, and endless attractions perfect when you need a change of pace, some new scenery, and ideas to entertain the little ones who, by now, are bored out of their minds. Consider some of the destinations on this list if you are searching for adventurous, fun day trips close to home.
Sitting just across the bay, 25 minutes by car, the island of Alameda is kid-friendly and adult-approved for day trips. Beautiful beaches, shop-lined streets, parks, and fun entertainment help your family enjoy the day out of San Francisco to the fullest.
High Scores Arcade is an interactive museum filled with playable classic arcade games. If your kids aren't yet familiar with the classics like Pac-Man and Asteroids, this stop provides the perfect opportunity to get acquainted.
Crown Memorial State Beach is a two-and-one-half-mile-long beach that gives you a break from the busy beaches of San Francisco. The beach has a crab cove and a bird sanctuary, plus fantastic views of the area buildings.
Lincoln Park Playground helps little ones burn off energy with monkey bars, slides, and other cool equipment. The park has a BBQ and picnic area as well as a basketball court and pickleball courts.
The Pacific Pinball Museum allows adults and kids to test their skills and learn new ones as they play. Curated exhibitions provide interesting history and facts about pinball.
The Crab Cove Visitors Center has an awesome 800-gallon aquarium that you should not miss. These activities are some of the kid-friendly Alameda attractions perfect for your day out.
Another city worth your visit, Monterey has much to do for families with children. Visit the world-class Monterey Aquarium during your visit where you'll see a variety of marine life such as African penguins, jellyfish, sharks, and sea otters.
Head out to Monterey State Beach when you want to get wet or relax, or pay your way to Old Fisherman's Wharf. Beachgoers enjoy many activities like paragliding and surf fishing.
Kids love playing at the Dennis The Menace Playground, named after the beloved cartoon character. The creator, Hank Ketcham, was a local Monterey resident in the early 1950s. The 45-acre recreational area has slides, swings, a picnic and BBQ area, and an exercise course.
A tiny town full of surprises, Gilroy has many exciting adventures and unparalleled beauty in store for is visitors. Gilroy sits just an hour and a half from The City in Santa Clara County.
Make your way to the Gilroy Gardens Family Amusement Park. The beautifully landscaped grounds welcome visitors who soon enjoy fun rides for kids of all ages- like the Banana Split and Mushroom Swing- citrus trees, and a beautiful garden. This stop is especially exciting for younger kids.
Experience the discounted shopping experience awaiting you at the Premium Outlets in Gilroy. Stores include H&M, Levi's, Vans Outlet, and Under Armour. The Premium Outlets also has dining and entertainment options.
Roughly an hour from San Francisco is the fun Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose. This hands-on center makes education fun for kids and adults, who often say they enjoy visiting as much as the little ones.
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is another kid-favorite activity in San Jose that you should experience. The 16-acre park and zoo feature a puppet theater and an entertainment stage where you can see various acts perform magic, dance, sing, and more. Zoo animals include anteaters and lemurs, among others.
If you visit San Jose with older kids, the Winchester Mystery House will provide endless fun. The Victorian-style mansion features a collection of firearms inside the mansion. It's the former home of the Winchester family.
The capital of California, Sacramento is situated about an hour and a half east of San Francisco. It's one of the longer day trips with so much to see and do, you may want to consider making it a weekend adventure instead. Sacramento has endless things to see, do, and experience while in the city.
If you can spare only one day, make your way to the Sacramento Children's Museum. Innovative, impressive hands-on play sparks kids' imaginations. The museum also has various programs and exhibits for kids. Two science centers in Sacramento also offer hands-on fun and learning that adults enjoy just as much as kids.
The Sacramento History Museum is perfect for field trips and educational adventures. There is a lot of information and exhibits pertaining to the Gold Rush at the History Museum, but exhibits and programs cover other areas of history as well.
Drive 70 miles to Concord to explore Pixieland Amusement Park, an amusement park with rides, games, and lots of fun for kids of all ages. It is a great place to spend time together as a family.
Plan to spend the day at Six Flags Theme Park in Concord if water fun is on your mind. It is hands-down the best water park in the state and the largest in the area. Thrill seekers enjoy all of the rides at Six Flags, with great rides like the Break Point Plunge and Splashwater Island.
Drive 73 miles south to Santa Cruz for one of the most memorable day trips you can plan.
People visiting Santa Cruz stop by the Santa Cruz Boardwalk upon arrival. It's one of the most well-known attractions in Santa Cruz, an area filled with shopping, great restaurants, a theme park, and other fun for all ages. The views from the Boardwalk are among the best you'll see in the city.
The Santa Cruz Wharf is another favorite pastime, and you should not miss your chance to visit the Marine Discovery Center and Neptune's Kingdom for serious fun.
Stockton is a great place to travel to from San Francisco with kids. It's about an hour and a half drive so you arrive before the kids can complain about how long it's taking to get there. It's home to 66 fun parks, all filled with equipment and open space where the kids can run off some of their energy while mom and dad take a break.
The Kudos Children's Theater presents plays and kid-friendly presentations throughout the year. The theater has served the community with great family fun for over 20 years now.
Stockton is home to the Sky Zone, the largest indoor trampoline park. Kids of all ages can bounce around until their heart's content. Special attractions include the Freestyle Jump and the Sky Tower.
Known as “wine country,” Napa Valley is home to more than 400 fantastic wineries and vineyards, like Artesa Winery & Vineyard, an elegant spot often cited as one of the most beautiful in the city. Or, visit Tres Saboras, a beautiful, but small winery and vineyard. Although visiting wine country may not seem like the best kid-friendly day trip, quite the opposite is true. You can enjoy a tour of most wineries with the kids and can even enjoy a glass of wine while you are there if you wish.
Napa Valley has lots of excitement for the kids. Visit Bothe State Park while touring the city. The state park is popular for its hiking trails where you can find many surprises along the way. The state park has a swimming pool during the summer and a picnic area.
Connolly Ranch gives kids the chance to pet goats and get up close to chickens. The petting zoo has a real working farm that kids can explore and watch in action. This trip is loaded with fun for all ages -and kids go home with new information.
An easy drive across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Fran, Sausalito greets visitors with lush hillsides and scenic charm. Day trips to Sausalito with kids should include a stop at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. The museum is located at the foot of the bridge and gives kids the chance to let their imaginations run wild. Situated on 7.5 acres, the museum features a play area, a museum, and plenty of educational opportunities.
Head to the Sausalito Boardwalk where you can find great shops and restaurants and a beautiful garden area. The Boardwalk offers some of the most splendid views of the marina and ocean as well. The Marine Mammal Center is one of six centers in the area that rescue and rehabilitate sea lions and seals. Stop and view the mammals before leaving Sausalito.
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