Museums for Kids

Train Rides and Railroad Adventures for Kids in the Bay Area and Northern California

April 3, 2017

It's hard to resist the romantic notion of riding the rails in a car pulled by an old-fashioned steam locomotive. It's something that captivates most kids—and many adults, too. Fortunately for railroad-obsessed kids and their parents, we have plenty of opportunities to take a real train ride in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, even if it is on a working scale-model! Many of these train rides are a short distance away, and some are great excuses for a day trip or weekend getaway. All of them are a lot of fun! Whether it's a miniature scale railroad or the full-size real deal, the sights and sounds of a train ride are unforgettable.

Keep in mind that many of these railroads keep to seasonal schedules, and rides are often weather permitting. Some offer train rides on weekends only. Make sure you check their websites or give them a call before you plan your visit.

Visit a Museum for Free in April

March 28, 2017

Did you know you can visit most of the Bay Area's major museums and cultural attractions for free every month? Just about all museums have one day a month set aside as a free day. They all aren't on the same day, too, so if you plan it right you can take in several museum outings without having to pay a thing.

Note that most museums charge for admission to special exhibitions and usually only the special exhibition fee is charged on free days; see details with each museum listing below.

Also, groups are generally not admitted on free days; check with each museum for their free day group policy.

Bank of America Museums on Us—April 1 & 2

Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holders get free general admission on the first full weekend of every month. Present your card and a photo ID for admission (one free general admission per cardholder). Get full details here. Participating museums include:

The Insider's Guide to Visiting Tiburon for Families

March 5, 2017

Tiburon

Tiburon, that "nearly perfect" Marin town on the end of its namesake peninsula, is a fantastic place for families to visit. Tiburon has long been a favorite of locals and tourists, and boasts amazing views of San Francisco, plenty of boutiques, shops, and restaurants, and lots for everyone to see and do. So pack up the kiddos this summer and head out to Tiburon for a day of fun!

You'll probably want to head straight for downtown Tiburon. We love to walk along the path in Shoreline park and watch the sailboats as they glide by on San Francisco Bay. Along the way, you'll find a fun and interesting museum that's perfect for kids, as well as grassy areas that are ideal for a picnic or just relaxing.

Amazing Family Sleepovers in the Bay Area and Beyond

February 20, 2017

Monterey Bay Aquarium Overnight
Photo courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you're looking for a fun and unique overnight experience for the family, try camping out at a museum, aquarium zoo, or wildlife center! Popular family destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California like the California Academy of Sciences, the Marine Mammal Center, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the San Francisco Zoo, the USS Hornet Museum, and Safari West all offer exciting programs where families can spend the night. It's be kind of like the movie Night at the Museum, except that the dinosaurs and dioramas won't come alive after hours (we hope)!

Needless to say, all of these events require advance reservations and have limited space, so register for your awesome overnight adventure soon! Many of these venues also offer overnight programs for scouts, schools, and other youth groups. All information is correct at time of posting; check each location’s website for complete information, pricing updates, and a schedule of events.

Family Fun at the de Youngsters Art Party this Friday

January 5, 2017

de Youngsters Art Party Photo courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Come help put the "art" in "party" at the fourth annual de Youngsters Art Party, taking place this Friday, January 6, 2017, from 6 to 9 pm at the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This one-of-a-kind, after-hours festive family outing raises $50,000 annually for the museum's education department, helping to support educational initiatives like free youth programs and summer camp scholarships for children in low-income families.

This year's Art Party theme is inspired by the special exhibition Frank Stella: A Retrospective. Partygoers can explore the exhibition, experience live performances by Velocity Circus, experience an "activation station" created by Adobe, enjoy mocktails in the Tween Glow Lounge, make flipbooks, and much more. We attended the de Youngsters Art Party last year, and had a blast!

Hands-on Museums for Kids and Families in Marin and the Bay Area

January 3, 2017

Exploratorium hands-on fun museum

Museum visitors are often told not to touch anything, but not at the museums listed here! These seven local Marin County and San Francisco Bay Area museums offer lots of fun hands-on activities for kids and families. They're perfect for rainy-day outings or any time, really.

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Families with kids up to age 8 love Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum for its combination of hands-on fun, exciting programs and performances, rotating special exhibitions (currently it's Curious George: Let's Get Curious), and a great play area overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. It's a fantastic place to play away the day and take in the amazing views. Location: Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, 94965. Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 9 am–5 pm. More info: www.baykidsmuseum.org or (415) 339-3900.

Children's Museum of Sonoma County

Recently opened in its new home adjacent to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, the Children's Museum of Sonoma County offers hands-on art-, nature-, and science-focused exhibits and experiences for children 10 and younger. "Shop" at the Farmers' Market, play in Mary's Garden, and get creative in Ella's Art Studio. Additional exhibitions are under construction and due to open at the museum this spring. Location: 1835 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 95403. Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 am–4 pm; Sunday, noon–4 pm. More info: www.cmosc.org or (707) 546-4069.

Holiday Family Fun at Bay Area Museums

December 13, 2016

Exploratorium hands-on fun museumHave fun at the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s iceless skating rink this holiday season. Photo: Bay Area Discovery Museum

The holidays are a perfect time for a family visit to a museum, where you can both have fun and learn something indoors. Many local San Francisco Bay Area museums offer fun holiday-themed programs, including hands-on activities, special exhibits, and more. You'll even find ice skating and real live reindeer! Here are six of our favorite local museums worth visiting with the kiddos this holiday season.

Bay Area Discovery Museum

During the holiday season, family favorite the Bay Area Discovery Museum offers a synthetic "iceless" skating rink for all the fun of ice skating without the cold and icy falls. They'll also hold a Noon Year's Eve party from 9 am–2 pm on December 31 with a noontime ball drop, music by DJ ManCub, and more. Location: Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, 94965. www.bayareadiscoverymuseum.org

Visit a Museum for Free in November

November 1, 2016

Visit a Bay Area Museum for freeDid you know you can visit most of the Bay Area's major museums and cultural attractions for free every month? Just about all museums have one day a month set aside as a free day. They all aren't on the same day, too, so if you plan it right you can take in several museum outings without having to pay a thing.

Note that most museums charge for admission to special exhibitions and usually only the special exhibition fee is charged on free days; see details with each museum listing below.

Also, groups are generally not admitted on free days; check with each museum for their free day group policy.

First Tuesday of the Month—November 1

Get Ready for the Goblin Jamboree at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

September 5, 2016

Goblin JamboreeCome get a jump on Halloween at the 30th annual Goblin Jamboree fundraiser at the Bay Area Discovery Museum! Bring your little goblins to this year’s spooky family event on Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16 from 10 am to 4 pm. Come in costume and explore the Bay Area Discovery Museum transformed into a haunted Halloween wonderland complete with games, attractions and live entertainment.

Ride a train or real ponies, try your hand at Boo Bowling, make your way through a hay maze, play with glow-in-the-dark trains in the Bay Hall, and and enjoy a full brew of games, activities and live entertainment. This year's event will feature live musical performances from the Hipwaders, Jelly Jame Time, and Asheba. New this year is a spooky haunted house in the Fab Lab. This event is the perfect Halloween party for kids ages 6 months to 10 years.

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