I left my heart in Northern Cal, but just for the month of July
July 4, 2011 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Northern California filter: I'm going to be spending the next 2-4 weeks in the San Francisco bay area with my 8-year-old son. We'll be free every Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and I need ideas for places to take him and adventures to have together.

He wants to go to Alcatraz, see that science museum in Golden Gate park and go to the crazy cool trampoline place we heard about. But what else?

In particular, any ideas for nature activities that we can do together? I'm not super-athletic, but he's got tons of kid-style energy. Where can we hike together that won't be too much for me? Maybe a great playground or two?

We're in the Stinson Beach area, so anything there, in Bolinas, Olema or Pt. Reyes would be great, but we're also willing to drive into Marin and/or get to the ferry (or drive) into the city. Would also love to hear about any specific activities happening in the next 2-4 weeks. We just heard about a starwalk on Mt. Tam this Saturday night -- we'll go to that, and other things like that would be great. Thanks!
posted by BlahLaLa to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturday morning
posted by goalyeehah at 9:02 PM on July 4, 2011

Slide ranch is pretty cool. You should check out the Marine Mammal rescue center too, lots of cute seals!
posted by JimmyJames at 9:05 PM on July 4, 2011

Love those suggestions so far -- and as a matter of fact we already have an appointment at Slide Ranch this week! Keep 'em coming!
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:07 PM on July 4, 2011

I would have loved Musée Mécanique as an 8-year-old. And do love it as an adult.
posted by Paragon at 9:08 PM on July 4, 2011

The Exploratorium!!! Oh, and the CA Academy of Sciences. (on preview, that science place in the park) They had weekend classes early Saturday mornings when I was a kid that were ten kinds of awesome (learn Egyptian hieroglyphs! create your own wildlife diorama!) After the Academy, walk through GGP, take him to the awesome playground and carousel. Lots of good eats around 9th Avenue.
posted by smirkette at 9:13 PM on July 4, 2011

Oh, and for hiking, check out the Land's End trail in SF. It's easy on you, but might seem on the long-side for him.
posted by smirkette at 9:14 PM on July 4, 2011

Many of the hikes/walks in the Point Reyes National Seashore are fairly flat; stop at the visitors center at Bear Valley for maps and helpful tips from the rangers. I bet they do kid-specific programs as well. There's a short and not-strenuous trail leaving the visitors center that traces the effects of the 1906 earthquake, which is very cool.

In San Francisco itself, the Exploratorium was basically made for 8-year-olds.
posted by rtha at 9:14 PM on July 4, 2011

The Exploratorium may be made for 8-year-olds but it is fun for adults too. (Unless I'm not an adult, which is totally possible.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:30 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Absolutely the Exploratorium -- for 8-year-olds of all ages! Note that it features free admission the first Wednesday of every month, and the California Academy of Sciences is free on the third Wednesday of each month.

This page has a bunch of other good tips on museum fun for kids, and that site in general seems to have a lot of good info.

Enjoy your stay!
posted by trip and a half at 9:47 PM on July 4, 2011

Muir Woods is an experience of a lifetime, even for a little kid. Living in that place are the largest living beings on this planet (the redwoods). I can spend all day there, but I suspect an 8 year old would get bored in about an hour, though.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:50 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could rent kayaks in Sausalito (or maybe just a double kayak).
There's an old aircraft carrier in Alameda that you can go tour. It's not very nature-y, but I would have loved it as a kid.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:01 PM on July 4, 2011

Point Reyes Bird Observatory has a neat little interpretive center - you can stop there on your way from Bolinas to the Palomarin Beach trailhead. I love that spot because it's not very heavily traveled (few miles down a dirt road, which does deter the less intrepid). Also - way on the other side of Point Reyes there are some great hikes that go down to Tomales Bay from the road to Pierce Point - not too long for little kids and they end at beaches, which is always popular. I recommend the Tom Harrison map of the Point Reyes area for guidance - bet you can get the map at a number of places in the area.
posted by zomg at 10:48 PM on July 4, 2011

"They tell me it's all happenin' at the zoo...."
posted by Lynsey at 11:02 PM on July 4, 2011

Get yourself a tide table and check out Fitzgerald Marine Reserve's tidepools.

Also, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is pretty cool.
posted by elmay at 11:03 PM on July 4, 2011

Check out the buffalo in Golden gate park !
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:16 PM on July 4, 2011

I was just in the city last week, and checking out a Giants game was definitely a highlight.
posted by auto-correct at 11:39 PM on July 4, 2011

Sutro Baths is one of my favorite places in San Francisco. It's ruins of an old public swimming pool, right on the water. You can climb around on some wrecked structures, which is pretty fun. (There's also a lot of old batteries where they used to point guns at the ocean, just in case. They're also neat old ruins now, but I like Sutro Baths better)

The Pirate Store is pretty darn fun. (The pirate thing is just a front, it's secrently... a children's writing workshop thing, but whatever, I just like it because it's so piratey) It's probably only like 45 minutes worth of fun, so probably not worth a whole trip into the city for, but definitely worth stopping in if you're already sort of nearby.

Oh, and when you go to Alcatraz, in the cell block area there's some volunteers hanging around answering questions and stuff. If they have time, and you ask them nicely, they can show you around some areas you wouldn't normally have access to, like the hospital ward and the "dungeon" (which is really the moat and old fort, that they built a prison on top of).
posted by aubilenon at 1:24 AM on July 5, 2011

Do you like arcade games or pinball? Playland Not At The Beach.
posted by expialidocious at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2011

Love all the ideas. Thanks so much, and I"ll update the thread as we visit places.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:40 PM on July 5, 2011

The Bay Area Discovery Museum is pretty cool and not too far away.

Also Nthing Exploratoreum and California Academy. I also liked Strybing Arboretum as a kid which is now called the Botanical Gardens.

In Golden Gate Park there is this awesome playground with very oversized playstructures. There is a huge cement slide (you either bring cardboard or use ones people have left) and it's so fun. My friends and I used to go in high school!

Take the ferry to the City to a Giants game. Your kid will get a kick out of the ferry as well as the game.

In San Rafael there is a weekly farmers market but that might not fit your schedule.
posted by radioamy at 10:22 AM on July 6, 2011

Our month in Northern Cal is drawing to an end. In summary: we were utterly seduced by the natural delights of West Marin and found it very hard to travel far away.

(We did go into the city twice to go to House of Air, the world's greatest trampoline place.)

But our more local highlights:
Muir Beach
The ranger-led Earthquake Trail walk at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
Riding bikes at Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Generally goofing off in Stinson and Bolinas
Having lots of clam chowder at the Coast Cafe
Scootering and bike-riding at Bolinas's skate park and just generally enjoying Mesa Park (hint: bring a windbreaker)
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:40 PM on July 29, 2011

Oh, also Slide Ranch.

We missed Alcatraz, sadly. Turns out you need to make reservations way in advance in the summer. I thought one week would be enough, but that's not true, at least in July.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2011

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