Places and spaces for enjoying some family fun during Spring Break.
750 Kearney Street
San Francisco, California
Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, explore the shops, and be part of the playground scene. There are lots of sights, sounds and loads of culture to explore in Chinatown!
San Francisco, California
reviewed on: September 21 2012
San Francisco is lucky to have this amazing gem of green space! Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 1994, this former military base has a lot to offer families including:
"There is A LOT for kids in the Presidio!"
- The House of Air: Trampoline Park near Crissy Field
-Crissy Field Center: Top notch and interesting environmental activities for kids.
- The Disney Family Museum
- The Julius Kahn Playground
- Robb Hill Campground: San Francisco's only campground
-LucasArts: The Yoda Fountain in front of the lobby is a favorite Kodak moment for many visitors. During the week the lobby is open and visitors can take pictures with a life sized Darth Vader and check out other memorabilia from George Lucas' movies.
One of my kids' favorite places is West Bluff Picnic Area. This place not only offers great grassy bluffs for kids to run up and roll down, there is great little beach adjacent to it that sits on a cove. On warm days, it is a great place to play in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and watch the activity in the bay's shipping lanes.
This is just some of the stuff available to families in the Presidio! We seem to discover something new every time we go!
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, California
The beautiful Golden Gate Park offers a variety of activities ranging from boating on Stow Lake and playing in the Children's Playground to biking around the park and visiting attractions such as the California Academy of Science, the De Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden.
Angel Island State Park
Accessible via ferry from either Tiburon or San Francisco, Angel Island State Park is a natural conservancy where you can rent bikes, hike, or even tour the historic grounds that have been the site of internment camps and other controversial military actions.
Still an active lighthouse, Point Bonita offers opportunities to discover the area’s wild landscape, geology, and fascinating history with a guided tour. Sights along the trail to the lighthouse include the ruins of an historic Coast Guard rescue station, wildflowers, and pillow basalt rock formations.
reviewed on: July 30 2016
Located in the Marin Headlands, the Point Bonita Lighthouse is charming, historic , and lovely --- just be prepared for the walk to it. There are so many components to this hike, it's like getting more than one type of hike in one swoop. The trail starts nicely paved and flat immediately treating visitors to sweeping views of the Golden Gate and San Francisco on the other side of the bay. It traverses into a step paved path. If you have bad knees, getting down this portion is a challenge (going up I would later learn, not so bad). This eventually lands in a flat area with stunning views of the rocky coastline on one side and another angle of the Golden Gate on the other. It is also possible to catch a first glimpse of the lighthouse jutting out from cliffs. From here you cross through a tunnel and onto a dirt path that is a bit more narrow than the path leading into the tunnel. The lighthouse comes into view around a curve.
"Beautiful and Charming "
Visitors cross a footbridge to reach the lighthouse. Only a few can cross the bridge at one time, the island area where the lighthouse sits has a capacity of 49. The space is tight. The bridge out to it is also old. Once you are there though, you are in for a treat! We saw whales spouting and my son was thrilled to get a good look at a cargo ship.
If you plan to go, here are some tips:
- Wear closed toe shoes, running shoes would be best
- It can get chilly out in the headlands. Take a sweatshirt that can be tied around your waist if the weather warms up.
- Carry water, this is a rigorous walk, stay hydrated!
- Be respectful of the natural setting, stay on the path and don't litter!
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, California
Walk the mile and a half boardwalk through one of the last old growth redwood forests on the west coast and take in the trees as well as the ferns, the wildlife and the crisp clear air! The forest can be chilly and damp, dress in layers!
reviewed on: July 15 2013
First of all, I would like to thank William and Elizabeth Kent for purchasing this forest of gorgeous Redwood trees in 1908 to protect it from destruction, then donating it to the Federal Government. If they hadn't done that, who knows if I would have had the opportunity to enjoy a walk with my children in this magical place .
It was a perfect sunny day when we embarked on our Muir Woods adventure. Unfortunately, it was the kind of day that gives others the same ideas about being out in nature. Muir Woods was packed!! Parking in the area can be a challenge on such days but if you can manage to persevere and find yourself a slot, you are in for quite a treat.
On our visit my kids and I enjoyed a casual walk from the park entrance, along the boardwalk through Pinchot Grove and out along the creek to Cathedral Grove. There's nothing that will give you perspective about your place in the world like walking among a forest of enormous trees!
The scenic hike left my children in awe. "I didn't know there were such big trees!" my son squealed. Along the path there were opportunities to experience the forest aside from walking under it. My son enjoyed crawling into a hollowed out log on its side before sitting on top of it. My daughter was blown away by the chance to pour over the timeline of a tree stump fashioned on a display by the walkway. "Wow! This thing has been around for a long, long time!" she mused.
The moment we reached Cathedral Grove, all three of us felt the sacredness air of the place. We didn't need the multiple signs positioned along the trail to tell us to enter the grove quietly, we needed signage that warned us to pick our dropped jaws up off the dirt! It was the same for other visitors too. Many in Cathedral Grove could be seen lovingly running a hand over the massive trunks of the trees there or standing at their large roots looking up into their heights as if they were acknowledging a visitation by one of nature's miracles.
Be sure your kids see this place! The hike is easy, even for young kids and we saw many, many families hoofing it out the forest.
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, California
Good old fashioned amusement park fun at the beach! Throw gold rings into a clown's mouth from your horse on park's historic carousel, ride the century old wooden rollercoaster, win a stuffed animal for your little one in the arcade, play a round of miniature golf and much more! There's so much fun to be had at the Boardwalk!
reviewed on: August 10 2013
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has enjoyed a century by the sea. The rich history of the place is hinted at everywhere you look. It's in the ornate touches on its 100 year old carousel, the memories of the fancy parties at the Cocoanut Grove Ballroom and the photographic history on display in Neptune's Kingdom. This place was a magnet for glamour and celebrity --- pageants, bands, and all sorts of other activities have taken place here over the years.
"Good Old Fashioned Beachy Fun"
FUN IN THE SUN
Glamour and celebrity are fleeting though. Today the Boardwalk embraces the casual laid back beach lifestyle of Santa Cruz. The free admission to the beach side amusement park makes it so affordable for families to visit. On sunny days the beach is packed with families picnicking, tossing Frisbees, and running in and out of the waves. They then come up to the Boardwalk to enjoy a few rides and partake in classic carnival fare like fried Twinkees, Funnel Cakes, and ice cream cones dipped in chocolate.
RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS
The rides range in age and ability with little kid rides --- like boats to sail and cars to drive as well as magical dragons to fly -- at the far end of the park and attractions for all levels of cautiousness to daring in between.
The Giant Dipper is a classic attraction drawing many to the park. The fifth oldest rollercoaster in the United States, this wooden thrill ride has made appearances in movies and commercials. Patrons will wait extra time in line just to get the front car on this ride!
From corndogs and garlic fries to pizza and funnel cakes, the Boardwalk offers plenty of the classic amusement park fare. If you'd like to partake in a well rounded sit down meal that also offers a break from arcades and cartoon-style music, there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance of the park including a row of them on the Santa Cruz Wharf.
During the summer months, free live entertainment brings throngs of families and music lovers to the beach side stage set up for those warm summer nights. Acts like the Tubes and Gin Blossoms have families rocking out in the evening hours over a picnic while Chinese acrobats and other entertainer perform feats of strength and balance by day.
The entertainment calendar here culminates with a showing of the 80's teen vampire cult classic of, "The Lost Boys." Shot in Santa Cruz, it is shown on the beach each year.
From mini golf and a max arcade to exhilarating thrill rides and low key rides for the little ones, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers something for every age and will have you coming back again and again.
2531 West Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, California
Named for its famous natural bridge, this beach provides a great vantage point for bird watching, catching glimpses of whale migrations as well as spotting seals and otters playing offshore. There are also tidepools that reveal sea stars, crabs and other wonderful creatures at low tide. Natural Bridges is also known as a great spot to see the Monarch Butterfly migration.
5800 Knoxville Road
The largest lake in Napa County, Lake Berryessa provides terrific camping, fishing and water skiing opportunities for families!
New Years Creek Road
The elephant seals arrive here each year to breed and give birth to their babies. The Reserve also has great hiking trails and a rather interesting visitors center. After you've taken in the scene, head over to charming nearby village of Pescadero for lunch!
Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, California
Whether your family takes to the water slides and pools at Boomerang Bay or prefers wild rollercoasters inside the park, adventure is to be had everywhere at Great America!
reviewed on: July 08 2013
Before I get into my review I just want to state that I am a fan of Great America! I have been visiting since I was a child. I have enjoyed visiting with my kids, even participating in the Mission City Fun Run with them ( a 5k run/walk with the park as its course) and having fun in the park afterwards. I have memories of this park that span a couple of decades.
THE NEW FAST LANE PROGRAM
Great America recently started a new program called Fast Lane. Patrons can purchase Fast Lane wristbands in addition to their park tickets and jump to the head of the line on rides all over the park. My family had an opportunity to try out the Fast Lane program on a recent visit to Great America and while we loved being able to get right on the park's most popular rides, I really had to wonder if Fast Lane will wind up being truly embraced by the park's wider clientele.
Great America was packed on the day we stopped by. While a majority of the masses were in Boomerang Bay, there were still plenty lines for rides in the rest of the park. Yet we never encountered other Fast Lane participants. We got right on the new Gold Striker rollercoaster (a MUST ride) which had a long line of potential riders snaking through its turnstiles but none of them flashing what I think should be a coveted band. We also rode the Psycho Mouse twice before some patrons in the regular line rode once.
Mind you, Fast Laners are paying a premium for this line jumping privilege --- $40.00 for the wristband, which again is in addition to the $45.99 entry ticket price if you purchase online and $62.99 if you buy your ticket at the gate. Pricey!! While as I have already stated, I enjoy Great America and I've been visiting the park since I was a child, I would be more likely to make such a large splurge at Disneyland (sorry GA!)
It was bleeping HOT the day we visited so naturally Boomerang Bay, Great America's water park was PACKED and I mean crazy packed! The wave pool alone had so many people in it that I noticed while sitting in it myself there wasn't much depth to the water around me.
It was difficult to find chairs to lounge on but perseverance eventually revealed four for us to use. The Lazy River was a mess of hot bodies wrangling for a limited amount of tubes which was chaotic to say the least!
Mind you, none of this is criticism is leveled at park management. These are observations that I think visitors should know before launching a plan to beat the heat here. I don't think that management really has much control over some of the stuff I observed anyway.
One thing I do think could be better managed is the cabanas. If you are coming here on a hot day, I HIGHLY recommend that you rent one for your family. I am unsure how many groups know that when they finish with their cabanas they must check out. We arrived at Boomerang Bay around 3PM and thought we'd lucked out when we spotted an empty one. There was NOTHING in this tent that suggested it was still occupied and the water park was only open for about two more hours. We pleaded with the staff to let us rent it. They were forced to turn us down because the previous occupants had not checked out. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that the cabana remained unoccupied for the entire time we were at Boomerang Bay. We sat directly across from this little nirvana in the crazy mess of a hot sweaty crowd looking longingly as no one ever came back to enjoy it. I'm not sure how to address such a situation except to make sure renters know that you MUST check out so that someone else can use it. Perhaps time limits during high demand days are another option Great America management may want to mull over.
GOOD CLEAN FUN
Nevertheless, Great America still does a great job in providing good clean family fun just was it did when I was a child. I do love bringing my kids here. There's a wide assortment of food choices. The rides run the gamut of ages and levels of daring. Little kids, big kids, everyone in the family will find something to enjoy. There's also a new emphasis of stage shows including Pop Fusion, a showcase of today's hottest hits, performed on the outdoor stage adjacent to the park's trademark double decker carousel. We happened to be in the vicinity during two performances of Pop Fusion and couldn't help but notice that the show was infectious --- many in the area were singing and dancing along.
Disclosure: Thank you to Team San Jose for hosting my family at Great America. My reviews are always my own opinions and are not influenced by staff or its affiliates.
5355 Graham Hill Road
reviewed on: August 19 2010
If you've only ever frequented Roaring Camp during the organized chaos that is "Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine", you really need to get yourself to this place during a different time of year!
"Railroad Adventures at Roaring Camp"
It is so different without throngs of toddlers, preschoolers and their caregivers! It was wonderful and peaceful to not have to deal with the Thomas soundtrack and the accompanying merchandise spilling out of every corner of the place. We simply enjoyed the beautiful and charming venue we have only vaguely noticed on previous visits.
We hopped aboard the Dixiana, a narrow gauge steam train, and enjoyed a scenic 1-hour and 15-minute journey to Bear Mountain. During the ride, our conductor brought us up to speed on train trivia and pointed out amazing wonders in the natural habitat we were coursing through including the exposed root of a Redwood tree, a grandma tree who had fallen over and wound up supported by daughter trees (these younger trees are a couple hundred years old) and the remnants of a labyrinth of train trestle destroyed by fire many years ago.
The train stops for about 15-minutes at Bear Mountain where our crew made a suggestion we may try in the future --- bring a picnic lunch, hang out up at Bear Mountain and catch the later train back a few hours later. It's gorgeous and secluded. If that doesn't fit your family style though and you simply want to ride, I suggest you bring plenty of water and snacks. We didn't and wound up quite thirsty before we made it back to the depot.
It is amazing how the crew navigates this workhorse of a train up and down the thin corkscrew of tracks on this trip! The whistling and steam of the train was a pretty cool soundtrack too!
Another thing to note about Roaring Camp, the place is dog-friendly. Your four-legged friends must be on a leash though! Leashed dogs are also allowed on the train! We were happy that our golden retriever enjoyed a day on the rails with us!
Located just one mile south of the Plaza in Sonoma, TrainTown features a quarter scale railroad on 4 miles of track. Each train trip lasts 20-minutes and goes through tunnels, over bridges and makes a stop in Lakeview- a miniature town and petting zoo.
This is a great place to spend the afternoon with the family after a leisurely lunch in Sonoma!
699 Bellevue Avenue
Quirky, cheesy and loads of fun, Children's Fairyland allows visitor to step into classic stories like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and more!
201 Doran Beach Rd
Bodega Bay, California
You can camp year round at Doran Beach. On a nice day, this is also a terrific place to fly kites and build sand castles. Boating and fishing are also widely enjoyed activities here.