Meet the Sullivans: Favorite Toddler Outings in the Bay Area

November 13, 2014

Favorite Toddler Outings in the Bay Area

In the San Francisco Bay Area there is a never ending list of fun activities to do each weekend. There are tons of museums, festivals, in door play areas, zoos, aquariums and amusement parks geared toward children, and in the past 2 1/2 years we've had a lot of fun checking them off our list. We've taken Owen to many of these places -- Keith and I like to joke that he's probably been to more fun spots in our area than either of us visited in the first 18 years of our lives.

Here are links to past reviews (click on the title to see a full review), and recaps of some of our favorite places to visit in our area, as well as a list of places we want to try!

Petting Zoo at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

Zoos & Amusement Parks

CuriOdyssey, San Mateo We love this place and because we have a membership, we go 2-3 times a month. There are tons of neat hands-on exhibits as well as lots of cool animals (snakes, bobcats, a fox, turtles, river otters, etc.) to check out. If you live in the area, I highly recommend buying the $90 family membership to get the most for your money. 

San Francisco Zoo, San Francisco Be prepared for lots of walking, as the exhibits have ample space between them, and don't forget to bring your layers!

Children's Fairyland, Oakland Although it's a little dated (opened in 1948, before there was a Disneyland) this storybook themed park is tons of fun for kids. There is a pirate ship and lots of fun walk-up attractions for little ones to explore. A few fun facts about the park: Walt Disney visited and incorporated ideas from Fairyland in his “magic kingdom,” which opened in Anaheim in 1955 and he also hired Fairyland’s first executive director, Dorothy Manes, and one of their puppeteers, Bob Mills. There is also a "hidden mickey" inside the Alice in Wonderland attraction that was painted by Walt Disney himself on one of his visits to the park back in the 50's.

Happy Hallow Park & Zoo, San Jose A small zoo, petting zoo, giant wooden multi-level play structure and a variety of rides (including a children's roller coaster) make this an all day outing guaranteed to provide tons of fun and entertainment, and earn you a great nap from your kids. There is a cafe, but I recommend bringing your own lunch to enjoy at one of the many picnic tables.

AT&T Park, San Francisco The best ballpark in all of America (okay, we're a bit bias)! Not only is this park home to the 2010, 2012, 2014 World Series Champs, but it is also in a beautiful location. From any seat in the park you can see the gorgeous bay. The food is great too -- don't miss the garlic fries. For the little ones there is a cool Coca-Cola bottle slide and a pint-sized baseball field where they can practice their batting skills. 

The penguins and tide pool at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium


California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco There are so many fun animals and creatures to see here! O's favorites are the anaconda, albino crocodile and the lush, four-story rainforest that is home to all sorts of butterflies -- one may even land on your head! There is a great cafe with multicultural cuisine.

Monterrey Bay Aquarium, Monterrey A bit of a drive from our home, but worth every minute. The sights and animals are so much fun. We all love watching the sea otters play and are always mesmerized by the jelly fish.

Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkley We visited for the bug exhibit this year, but next time we'll make sure to allot extra time for the Touch, Climb and Crawl zone that is perfect for the young and lively!  

Children's Discovery Museum

Bay Area Discovery Museum This museum is all about kids, and it is located just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, so it's easy to get to. 50% or more of the fun at this museum is outdoors (although there are a lot of cool thing inside too), so go on a dry day. Bring a change of clothes too because there is some water / sand / paint play.

Children's Discovery Museum Part 1 & Part 2  Another great children's museum with a ton of exhibits to explore. This place is meant for toddler to elementary school aged children.

Hiller Aviation Museum, Redwood City A great space to check out airplanes and watch them take off! There is a life-size plane behind the museum where you can explore the cabin and cockpit of the plane.

Phipps Country Farm
The Great Outdoors, Sights & Attractions

Laurelwood Park, San Mateo This is one of our favorite parks to play at when we want to get out for some quick fun and fresh air. We love that the park is mostly enclosed (beware: there is an opening in the gazeebo that leads up to a steep hill) and that there is a huge grass area as well as some fun paths and a creak to explore. It is also semi-hidden, with no main streets neighboring it.

Hallmark Park, Belmont This is actually where some of the local high school cross country runners practice and have meets, but it is a great outdoor space for exploring and looking for some wildlife. we generally only visit here when it's not too hot or not too wet outside. There is also a small toddler park with swings and a small structure for extra playtime.

Phipps Country Farm, Pescadero A great place to visit some animals and pick berries. Don't forget to stop by Arcangeli Grocery Co. for some Artichoke Garlic Herb bread. 

Redondo Beach, Half Moon Bay There are a handful of great beaches in Half Moon Bay, but some of them have a steep cliff leading down to them, which makes things difficult for parents of young children. Last Spring Redondo beach was pretty easy to get to and the views were gorgeous!

Pier 39, San Francisco There are so many sights to see at Pier 39, but when you're with kids don't miss the carousel and the sea lions (located at Doc K).

Crissy Field & The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco These two spots are great space to just get out, enjoy the beautiful sights of San Francisco and play. Crissy Field is a gigantic field that was formerly used as a runway and landing space for aircraft coming and going to The Presidio. It's not a great spot for a picnic, playing chase and checking out the Golden Gate Bridge. It's close to a great walking path the will lead you all the way up to the bridge. There aren't many places to eat within walking distance, so bring your own lunch and/or snacks.

Ball pit at UME
Indoor Play Spaces

UME, Menlo Park Great indoor space with lots of room to run and jump! They also host a variety of  fun and educational classes for parents and children. There is a cafe too that overlooks the large play area where you can have lunch together or, if you have older/independent children, watch your kids play.

La Petite Playhouse, Redwood City By far our favorite place to play on a rainy day! This indoor play space just opened at the beginning of 2014 and is HUGE! There are child size soccer and basketball courts, a two-story / multi-level play structure with slides and all sorts of fun. Don't forget to bring your socks! There is a toddling area for smaller toddlers too.

Safari Run, San Mateo Another fantastic indoor play area! It's on a smaller scale, so it is easier to watch more children at once.

Picnic in the Presidio
Local Festivals and Faires

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, Half Moon Bay Held annually every October. We go to this festival each year and always start the morning with the pumpkin pancake breakfast and end the afternoon with a stop at Pastorino's Pumpkin Farm to buy our pumpkins and see all the attractions.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, San Francisco So much fun for the whole family! Next year we'll remember to buy just one tasting ticket between the three of us. 

Picnic in the Presidio, San Francisco A great way to spend a Sunday in San Francisco. Bring a picnic blanket, an outdoor game, friends and some waters (maybe even your own beers or champagne), but skip the snacks, because there are TONS of options for great food. The food trucks are not to be missed!

Places we can't wait to visit...

There are so many more places in our area that we just cannot wait to try!

Tour of AT&T Park I think our whole family would LOVE to see a behind the scenes look at our favorite ballpark.

Roaring Camp Railroad

Exploratorium, San Francisco 

Movie Theater  Follow the link for a list of family-friendly theaters in the Bay Area. 

Muir Woods, Mill Valley

Family-Friendly Beer Gardens 

Junior Museum & Zoo, Palo Alto

Disney Family Museum, San Francisco

Gilroy Gardens, Gilroy

Many of the places on this list from Red Tricycle

What are your favorite local outings to take with your family? If you're local, please share any I've missed in the comments section below!

Also, please check out the other mama's blogs for their ideas And be sure to link up with us below if you also have a post on this topic.
The Not Quite Military Wife// Like a Morning Cup of Coffee// Meet the Sullivan's  
From Here to Eternity// Pig and Dac// Everyday Love
A Cowboy's Life// Life of Faith// Foxy's Domestic Side// My Delicious Adventure


Jess Scott said...

What a great list!! This makes me want to visit, just so Cam can have something fun to do every day!! :)

Sarah said...

Waoh what a great list! I don't think I realized that you lived in the Bay Area...such a great place to be with so much to do! Love that you guys get out and do everything with him, such great pictures!

the girl in the red shoes said...

You are such a fun mommy Colleen! I totally want to move to the Bay Area just to do all this fun stuff!