Get out of San Fran with Kids and Grandparents
June 4, 2019 12:36 PM   Subscribe

2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 grandparents are celebrating grandparents 50th in San Francisco this weekend. For one of the days we would like to rent a car and get out of the city. I don't mind driving a few hours. I don't mind spending money. Tell me about cool locales / day trips that a 7 and 70 year old could both enjoy together.
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Safari West in Santa Rosa might be a good option. It's not cheap and you need reservations but all age ranges could enjoy a visit.
posted by rdnnyc at 12:49 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Big Sur! The drive down and back on Highway 1 is amazing and there are many beaches and restaurants along the way for breaks. Just be cautious if someone in the cohort gets carsick.

If the drive ultimately seems too long, you can always stop at Monterey and see the aquarium.

If even *that's* too long, you can stop at Santa Cruz and wander around the beach and the boardwalk.
posted by jasper411 at 1:11 PM on June 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

Childrens Fairyland in Oakland was the inspiration for Disneyland and is well worth a trip.

If you like easy hiking, the Samuel P Taylor park in Lagunitas is about an hour away. Use the Camp Taylor parking lot. The Cross Marin trail is flat and runs along Lagunitas Creek through the redwoods. Very beautiful!

You can rent little go carts and drive around the city with a guided audio tour from GoCar Tours. You also get to go down Lombard Street, which is the famous super curvy road in the Presidio.

There's a Dr. Seuss art museum with sculptures and originals, very cute and in Union Square not far from the cable car stop.

Go see the buffalo in Golden Gate, or watch hang gliders practice on the beach bluffs at Fort Funston.

There are whale spotting tours you can book in Moss Landing, and the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium is justly famous.

Don't forget warm layers, summer in SF can be quite chilly, especially near the beach!
posted by ananci at 1:14 PM on June 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Monterey Bay Aquarium/ Cannery Row is a bit over 2 hours. Maybe read some Steinbeck 1st. Just beyond that is Big Sur, which is a stunning drive.

Muir Woods is a pleasant excursion and easy hiking. Point Reyes Nat. Seashore

Even going to Golden Gate Park is a great way to spend a day or 2.
posted by theora55 at 1:17 PM on June 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

Santa Cruz is a fun little amusement park. Not huge, not expensive, fun rides, fun games. I love going there.
posted by bleep at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can/will folks hike? The Steep Ravine trail from the Pan-Toll ranger station to Stinson Beach is really lovely.
posted by vunder at 2:50 PM on June 4, 2019

how outdoorsy is your senior? The kayak excursions out of Moss Landing are a fun and exotic way to spend an afternoon, and the drive down from SF is very beautiful, a worthwhile excursion in itself.

Further down the coast, Pt Lobos is a famously beautiful, and easy hike.

Check the tide tables and see if you can hit a low tide at Fitzgerald State Reserve in Pescadero for tidepooling.

In general, Hwy 1 is much curvier going north out of the city than south. South is straight. North is gorgeous but not for the tender-tummied.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:59 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Muir Woods
posted by at at 3:21 PM on June 4, 2019

Santa Cruz Boardwalk or maybe shucking oysters in Pt Reyes?
posted by stillmoving at 3:27 PM on June 4, 2019

Roaring Camp Railroad -- A train ride through the redwoods down by Big Sur, next to a nice, short, flat walk through the trees, a 2 hour drive south of the Ferry Building. You're then 20 minutes from Santa Cruz for lunch and/or boardwalk walking. (I'm not a huge Santa Cruz proponent as I've never ended up somewhere I really enjoyed, but maybe someone else can provide some recommendations. If you just need a nice lunch, I like Capitola! But there aren't a lot of choices or window shopping there -- just a good restaurant or two.)

Now, if your group has the kind of people who would enjoy some kayaking, then I'd hit up Elkhorn Slough. (Oh, on preview I see someone mentioned Moss Landing -- basically the same place.) You kayak near seals, sea lions, otters, and lots of birds. It is suitably tame -- I've gone 5 times and nobody has ever fallen in, and since there are two people to a boat, you can pair the 7-year-old with an adult. Splash jackets (etc.) come with the boat rental. The catch here would be the tides. I'd call ahead and ask if the timing of the tides will work well with your trip. (You don't want to have to be rowing against them, basically.)

Also, a classic that might be too obvious to mention is something like Muir Woods (late morning), Stinson Beach (lunch + afternoon on beach), and then have a glass of wine or early dinner in Sausalito or one of the little towns in Marin that you pass on the way back. Have fun!
posted by salvia at 3:56 PM on June 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Come to Sonoma County! Jack London State Park is wonderful and has something for everyone. A great museum with interactive displays about Jack and Charmian, beautiful hikes of all lengths and difficulties, picnic areas, etc. On Sunday June 9, they’re having a family nature walk That would be perfect. The naturalists and docents are the best. Then, lunch in Glen Ellen, Kenwood, or Sonoma would be perfect. Or pick up picnic supplies before the walk at the Glen Ellen Market. The bakery across the street, Les Pascals, is absolutely incredible, but be prepared for a line out the door.
posted by Gusaroo at 4:57 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

A caution about kayaking at Moss Landing & Elkhorn Slough: it can be fun and lovely, with loads of sea otters and other wildlife, but can be truly horrid if the tide and wind are against you. You really have to work very hard, too hard, to return to the dock if they are! Take salvia's advice to heart about that. For most people I've taken there (after checking tides) a couple of hours is plenty, for novice kayakers more than that is exhausting.
posted by anadem at 8:05 PM on June 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Jelly Belly Factory? Followed by a swim at Aquatics Complex at Allan Witt Park (it will be hot in Fairfield) or maybe hit one of the family-friendly wineries in Napa?

A heads up about Muir Woods, you need a reservation now to park there.
posted by Toddles at 8:21 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh man, this question is my childhood. I second basically all of the recommendations here.

I’m not sure that it fully meets the requirements of “getting out of the city” but ... I loved visiting the Berkeley Rose Garden as a kid. At 7 years old, there’s something especially magical about going through that little tunnel and emerging into the park next door. It feels like finding a secret.

Maybe pair it with a cool picnic and a visit to the nearby museum of smells?
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 11:51 PM on June 4, 2019

17 mile drive is beautiful, which ends at Pebble Beach and your ticket allows access to view the 18th hole. I don’t even like golf that much and I thought it was pretty cool. You can stop in many picturesque points so as not to get too carsick.

Watch the sunset in Carmel and have a lovely dinner after a stroll through town.

Nth Monterey Bay aquarium. I loved it as a kid and I still love it as an adult.

Having done Hwy 1 north and south in subsequent years I would say just go south and not bother with north.
posted by like_neon at 2:13 AM on June 5, 2019

As a kid, I especially liked Natural Bridges beach in Santa Cruz, Carmel Beach, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park (possibly less crowded than Muir Woods). Monterey Aquarium is great but I think it will be very crowded on a summer weekend, if that matters. I think you might run into more traffic if you go north into Marin rather than south from the city, but just over the Golden Gate Bridge, you can drive down the stunningly beautiful, slightly scary Conzelman Road to Rodeo Beach and then you could visit the Marine Mammal Center and have lunch in Sausalito. If you wanted to stay in SF, Golden Gate Park seems like a good idea. You could go to the botanical garden or the science museum (or rent paddleboats at the lake, etc) and then ride the N-Judah down to Ocean Beach, where the train turns around in front of the sand. It's not really safe to swim there, but fun to walk on the beach.
posted by pinochiette at 5:40 AM on June 5, 2019

I just realized that downtown Carmel is only two hours from San Fran! It is super cute; has a really fun beach with these tall sand hills to slide down if you're 7; and has amazing restaurants (my luck there has been FAR better than in Santa Cruz). Also, the Monterey Aquarium is everything it's cracked up to be -- very fun.
posted by salvia at 1:06 PM on June 5, 2019

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