With spring upon us, there is no better time to get out and start exploring with your kids. Luckily, you don’t have to go far to find great adventure… it can be hiding in your own back yard! Here in the San Francisco Bay area, we have more than our share of amazing places for kids and families to explore. There are hidden gems that often get overlooked for the more obvious mega stops, though, so we thought we’d give a few of our favorites a shout-out.
Here are some of our favorite but hidden San Francisco Bay area adventures for kids!
1) Hidden Villa
Hidden Villa is a local gem that many bay area parents don’t even know about. It’s a non-profit organic farm that’s located between San Jose and San Francisco, at 26870 Moody Rd, Los Altos Hills. CA. No matter where you live, their farm tours, community programs, educational courses, summer camps and interactive farm is worth the drive. If you want to make it an overnight affair, Hidden Villa has several different rental and retreat options, from a family house to hostels.
We especially love their picnic sites and programs that teach kids how to milk cows or experience country trails and enjoy the stars with a guide at night. Your kids will love to find this on their list of hidden San Francisco Bay Area adventures!
Admission is free; Parking is $5
2) Happy Hollow
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a conservation minded zoo in South San Jose that offers families many great outdoor options. Take part in their petting zoo, picnic areas, playgrounds, park with rides, Puppet Theater, or stroll through their small but interesting zoo. If you check out their online calendar, you’ll find great activities like Game Day and Animal Meet & Greets. Of course, Happy Hollow is a great place to have a kiddie play date or host a birthday party. There are theme animals, carousals and rides, face painting and more… all for much more reasonable prices than you’ll find elsewhere.
Our favorite thing about Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is their effort towards conservation education. They teach and lead by example and have been awarded LEED® gold under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. They teach kids about ‘Going Green at Home’ with focus on water and food conservation. All these great features make this one of the best hidden San Francisco Bay Area adventures for kids.
Admission for 2 – 69 years: $12.95; Admission for 70+ years: $9.95; Under 2 is free, Parking is $10
3) Muir Woods National Monument
Whether you are a nature loving family or not, Muir Woods is a great way to escape the city noise for an afternoon of peace, adventure, and beauty. This beautiful patch of forest offers simple, paved walks that will transport your family back to what seems to be an almost prehistoric time. Giant ferns and redwood trees will parents and kids staring in wonder at thinking of their favorite dinosaur movies.
We really enjoy their Redwood Discovery Quest which sends your family off to discover the secrets of the forest with an educational rhyming and riddle game. Also keep in mind that Muir Woods isn’t just a forest, it is actually includes the amazing Muir Beach Overlook and nearby Stinson Beach. All of these inspiring sites makes Muir Woods one of the best hidden San Francisco Bay Area adventures for kids.
Muir Woods offers a weekend and holiday shuttle service from March 29th to October 26th and has an annual free weekend. Check their calendar for more information.
Admission is 7$ for people 16 years and older; 15 and under are free; parking is free
4) Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown
The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a small part of a bigger San Francisco Chinatown adventure. This tiny shop is hidden deep in a back alley and requires a little bit of navigating to find. Once you’re there though, you’re be surprised at the efficient system they’ve worked out and be happy to try one of their free samples, which are sometimes so fresh they’re still warm! Though you may have to wait in a small line to get inside and are required to tip a couple of dollars to take a pic, it’s a fun side trip in your Chinatown adventure.
Small though it may be, we consider the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and the amazing Chinatown shops that surround it to be one of the best hidden San Francisco Bay Area adventures for kids.
Admission is free, though you tip to take pics and will inevitably buy a bag of fortune cookies!
5) Concrete Slides
The unique natural landscaping and extreme hills in the San Francisco Bay area makes for some unique fun in the form of concrete slides. These hidden gems may not be for toddlers or the faint of heart but are certainly worth seeking out if you have kids who are a bit older and like a rush. Our favorite concrete slide destinations include:
- San Jose’s Brigadoon Park Slides at 3400 Brigadoon Way, San Jose, CA and
- The Seward Street Slides on Seward St & Douglass St in San Francisco
These slides are fast and you can make them faster by bringing a piece of cardboard to slide on. Most of the time, there are cardboard remnants left behind by other sliders but, it’s always best to come prepared. Beware at the Seward Street Slides… there’s a neighborhood nosey body who may sometimes try to give you grief (especially if you don’t have kids with you) but just smile and inform her that they slides are public property and you’re not leaving.
The epic coolness of the Bay Area concrete slides will make you a star to your kids. This ‘cool factor’ and their built-in rush is one of the reasons we consider them one of the top hidden San Francisco Bay Area adventures.
What are your favorite hidden San Francisco Bay Area Adventures for Kids? We’d love to hear more ideas in the comments below.