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The Bay Area is chock-full of activities for kids aimed at getting them to explore the natural world. And even though fall—with its backpacks, lunch boxes and freshly sharpened pencils—is just around the corner, that doesn’t mean family time in the great outdoors has to end. Not all learning takes place in the classroom, and kids learn best when they are having fun!

Spending time in and around nature is one of the best things to do with kids throughout the year; it helps them learn about their world and develop an interest in science and the environment. To help you keep the outdoor fun going, we’ve gathered a list of some of our favorite activities for kids.

From whale skeletons and live sharks to tide pools and pond dwellers, each of the eight places below are sure to entertain kids and spark their interest in the natural world, while teaching them (shhh!) at the same time.

1. Curiodyssey

Location: 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Adults $13.50; students and seniors $8.50; children over 2 years $9.50
Parking: $6
Driving directions: Click here for directions
More info: Recreation area details and map

Curiodyssey, located in Coyote Point Recreation Area in San Mateo, provides engaging hands-on educational exhibits that encourage kids to get involved with all sorts of scientific phenomena. It also houses nearly 100 live animals, many of which are available for viewing daily. Bring a picnic to eat in the surrounding park, and top off your visit with a short hike on one of the paved trails or a trip to Magic Mountain Playground.

 

2. David C. Daniels Nature Center

Location: Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, Redwood City
Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 11am – 4pm
Driving directions: Click here for directions to parking lot
More info: Preserve details and map

The David C. Daniels Nature Center, operated by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space, is located inside the Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. Take your kids on a stroller-friendly half-mile loop around Alpine Pond for an easy walk, and then head inside the center, where children can explore exhibits focused on pond-dwellers and their food web, as well as touch animal skulls and skins and view a live gopher snake.

For easy access, park at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve lot, then walk through the tunnel under Alpine Road to the nature center.

 

3. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Location: 200 Nevada Ave, Moss Beach
Hours: Opens at 8am; closing time varies seasonally
Driving directions: Click here for directions
More info: Learn more about the reserve

The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, located about 15 miles north of Half Moon Bay, is one of the best places in California to go tide pooling. If you want to get close to some local marine wildlife, this is the place to do it. But be sure to check the tides before you head over, as you’ll want to arrive during low tide to see the most wildlife. On weekends and holidays, take advantage of the friendly volunteer naturalists who wander around the tide pools and happily answer questions. 

 

4. Deer Hollow Farm 

Location: 22500 Cristo Rey Drive, Cupertino
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 8am – 4pm; Wednesdays 8am – 1pm
Driving directions:
Click here for directions
More info: Preserve details and map

If your family loves animals, come to Deer Hollow Farm between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm when the animals are out and about. The farm is located in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, one mile from the main parking lot. Visitors can take a self-guided tour during any of the open hours; however, the Deer Hollow Farm Nature Center is open to the public on the third Saturday of the month. In the center, you’ll find hands-on exhibits that reflect the diversity of plant and animal life throughout the preserve, as well as knowledgeable docents ready to answer questions. You can also buy fresh eggs and seasonal orchard produce, for sale when available, to help support the farm.

 

5. McClellan Ranch Preserve

Location: 22221 McClellan Road, Cupertino
Hours: Museum and blacksmith open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 3pm; preserve open daily from dawn to dusk
Driving directions:
Click here for directions
More info: Learn more about the ranch

This former horse ranch from the 1940s still hosts the original ranch house, milk barn, livestock barn, a replica of Baer’s Blacksmith Shop, and the old water tower from Parish Ranch (now Memorial Park). It’s open daily for strolling along the Stevens Creek Trail, which runs the length of the preserve, and is also home to a community garden where neighbors grow their own fruits and vegetables. On the weekends, visit the Nature Museum to learn more about the resident animals and their environment. Staff and volunteers can introduce you to the animals and share information about them.

 

6. Youth Science Institute

Alum Rock Park Location

Location: 16260 Penitencia Creek Road, San Jose
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 12pm – 4pm; weekends 10:30am – 4:30pm
Parking: $6
Driving directions: Alum Rock location

Vasona Lake County Park Location

Location: 333 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos
Hours: Monday through Friday 9am – 4:30pm; weekends 10am – 2pm
Parking: $6
Driving directions: Vasona Park location

The Youth Science Institute, with nature centers nestled inside two beautiful parks in Santa Clara County, is a treat for kids of all ages. Both the Vasona Park and Alum Rock Park centers have a variety of artifacts and collections that connect children with science and nature. In addition, they are home to a number of live animals and are staffed with docents eager to teach and answer questions. 

 

7. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Location: 101 Big Trees Park Road, Felton
Hours: Visitor center open daily from 10am – 4pm; park open daily sunrise to sunset
Driving directions: Click here for driving directions
More info: Park details, maps and more

Henry Cowell State Park is known for its towering redwoods. The easy self-guided 0.8 mile loop trail takes you from the visitor center into a 40-acre old-growth coast redwood grove, containing a 1,500-year-old tree that is approximately 277 feet tall. Bring a flashlight and step into the Fremont Tree, where John Muir famously spent a night. After your walk, stop by the nature center, where children can learn about the local habitats and wildlife with hands-on activities and eye-catching displays.

 

8. Seymore Marine Discovery Center

Location: 100 McAllister Way, Santa Cruz
Hours: Monday through Sunday 10am – 5pm
Admission: Adults $9; students and seniors $7; children over 3 $7
Driving directions: Click here for directions
More info: Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Although the Seymour Marine Discovery Center is often overshadowed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it’s a very special spot and makes a nice, easy outing without the crowds and expense of its bigger cousin to the south. The free docent-led tours are worth signing up for, as they will teach you about the giant blue whale skeleton out front and give you a special behind-the-scenes view of the marine mammal pools—and their aquatic residents—at the Joseph M. Long Laboratory, where the UCSC marine research facility works closely with dolphins, seals and sea lions.

Summer Fun - POST

                                         

Looking for more things to do with kids this fall?

Check out our upcoming events and join us for more outdoor fun!

 

 

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 77,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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