7 Perfect Places to Take Preschoolers

Thankfully, the Bay Area is full of wonderful places for little ones to touch, feel, learn and have fun. Here are some of our favorites.


Silicon Valley

Children’s Discovery Museum. With more than 28,000 square feet of semi-permanent and traveling exhibits for children, this museum is a favorite for many parents. The museum focuses on children’s need to learn by touching, exploring, manipulating and experimenting. Kids can do everything from experiment with water and bubbles to create art to build with blocks to play inside a real fire engine. Your family can even find activities related to the exhibits on the museum’s website to do either before or after your visit. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 12-5 p.m. Sun. $11-12, under 1 FREE. 180 Woz Way, San Jose. 408-298-5437. www.cdm.org.



CuriOdyssey. This science and wildlife center has exhibits and activities that help children of all ages understand the changing world. Kids can get an up-close view of native California animals and enjoy wildlife shows. The museum’s exciting hands-on science exhibits allow kids to learn how nature’s complex systems work together to create our environment. They can create a vortex, make objects fly and spin gears and gadgets. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 12-5 p.m. Sun. $6-9, 23 months and under FREE. 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo. 650-342-7755. www.curiodyssey.org.


San Francisco

Randall Museum. Owned and operated by San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department, this is a fantastic place for preschoolers to explore arts, crafts, science and natural history in a very hands-on way. Kids can check out a full-size replica of an earthquake refugee shack, visit native California wild animals and enjoy the museum’s scale model of a caboose. The museum also offers a variety of great arts and crafts workshops, including some fun ones for families on Saturdays and a new Tuesday morning art class for kids ages 14 months to 2-1/2 years old and their parents. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. Admission FREE (check website for cost of workshops). 199 Museum Way. 415-554-9600. www.randallmuseum.org.


Exploratorium. In a spectacular new location at Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, this science-focused museum has exhibits for all ages. With the move came 150 new exhibits for a total of 600, indoors and out, including a Bay Observatory, a bigger focus on tinkering and social science and more. Many of the exhibits are interactive and allow kids to touch and feel. While some are best appreciated by adults, other exhibits are very popular with little ones, especially those involving color, bubbles, light and shadow. It is recommended that visitors use public transportation to get to the Exploratorium, but there are parking garages around the museum. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Bay Area residents receive discounted admission: $20 adults, $15 ages 4-17, college students, seniors, teachers and people with disabilities, 3 and under FREE. Pier 15 at Embarcadero and Green Street. 415-528-4444. www.exploratorium.edu.


Click next for Marin and East Bay&pagebreaking&Bay Area Discovery Museum. Framed by the majestic backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, this favorite for parents is designed to ignite creative thinking in children. Kids can navigate winding tunnels to develop physical and intellectual risk-taking skills. They can feel the rush of cold-water tide pools. They can create incredible structures with giant foam blocks at the Imagination Playground. Or your little one can pretend she’s a sea captain on a fishing boat at Lookout Cove. There are also art studios, concerts and performances for families, and so much more. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. $11, under 6 months FREE. 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito. 415-339-3900. www.baykidsmuseum.org.


East Bay

Habitot Children’s Museum.
This museum’s small-scale exhibits and themed play areas are designed for infants, toddlers and young children. Kids can learn about nature’s most interesting liquid at the Waterworks exhibit where there’s a water pumping station, a river ramp and water table. There’s a Little Town Grocery and Café where kids can shop for fruits and vegetables, bread and dry goods in this small-scale grocery store with pint-sized metal shopping baskets just like the ones Mom and Dad use. The Wind Tunnel exhibit allows children to feel the power and sensation of wind. There are also the Multicultural Reading Tent, Wiggle Wall, Train Table and much more. Fall-winter: Open 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun. Spring-summer: Same hours, except museum is closed on Sun. $8 adults, $10 children, under 12 months FREE. 2065 Kittredge St., Berkeley. 510-647-1111. www.habitot.org.


Lawrence Hall of Science. This science center has many experiences designed for children in kindergarten and under (in addition to those for older kids). They are set up so young kids can use their natural curiosity to explore cause and effect, interact with hands-on exhibits and investigate interesting objects and materials. There’s a KidsLab where little ones can discover geometry by building with blocks and shapes, design raceways, explore acceleration on the gravity wall and enjoy science books for younger children. The museum also includes special exhibits (“Xtreme Bugs” runs through Sept. 1), a planetarium, Animal Discovery Room, workshops and more. Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $5-17. One Centennial Drive, Berkeley. 510-642-5132. www.lawrencehallofscience.org.


Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.

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