Outdoor Activities

The Bay Area has many great outdoor opportunities for family. Here are just some. Please confirm dates, times and locations before attending, as events change.



Wild Care Family Adventures – This urban wildlife rehabilitation center offers free guided hikes in English and Spanish for families one Sat. per month at 10am. Locations vary. 76 Albert Park Lane, San Rafael. 415-453-1000. wildcarebayarea.org.


San Francisco

San Francisco Botanical Garden – Offers a free family storytime and guided walk. Ages 4-8. First and third Sat. of every month at 10:30am. Ninth Avenue at Lincoln Way. 415-661-1316. sfbotanicalgarden.org.


San Francisco City Guides – Gives free walking tours in the city, by neighborhood and theme. 100 Larkin St. 415-557-4266. sfcityguides.org.


San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park – Visit the historic vessels on Hyde Street Pier. Adults are free the first Sun. of the month (otherwise $5) and children under age 16 are always free. 2905 Hyde St. 415-447-5000. nps.gov/safr.


Sunday Streets – Streets in Golden Gate Park and select city neighborhoods are closed to traffic several Sundays each year for lots of free fun, from bike rentals to skating lessons to yoga classes. sundaystreetssf.com.



Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District Preserves – Offers numerous free activities, including guided hikes and bike rides. Some activities require reservations. Various preserves from San Carlos to Los Gatos. 650-691-1200. openspace.org.


Contra Costa County

Old Borges Ranch – Learn what it was like to live and work on a family ranch in the late 19th century during a ranger-guided tour. Fourth Sat. of each month at 2pm. 1035 Castle Rock Road, Walnut Creek. 925-943-5899, ext. 2162. walnut-creek.org.


Alameda County

Adventure Playground – Build your own playground structures or ride the zip line. Sat. and Sun. (Daily during the summer.) Berkeley Marina, Berkeley. 510-981-6700. ci.berkeley.ca.us.


Cal Sailing Club – From March through Nov., the Cal Sailing Club offers free sailing on the bay at several Sunday Open Houses. Children must be at least 5 years old and with an adult. 124 University Ave., Berkeley. cal-sailing.org.


Chabot Space and Science Center – Free viewing from Chabot’s telescopes, among the largest in the country, are regularly opened to the public. Fri. and Sat., 7:30-10:30pm, weather permitting. 1000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. 510-336-7300. chabotspace.org.


Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center – Offers free guided hikes, leopard shark feeding and more. Open Fri.-Sun., 10am-5pm. 4901 Breakwater Ave. 510-670-7270. haywardrec.org/hayshore.html.


Little Farm – Visiting and feeding the animals at Tilden Park’s Little Farm is always FREE. Lettuce and celery only, please. Daily, 8:30am-4pm. North end of Central Park Drive, Berkeley. 510-544-2233. ebparks.org/parks/tilden.


Silicon Valley

Strollerhikes.com – Hike, bike, and run with your children in tow on these guided events at spots ranging from Redwood City to Watsonville. strollerhikes.com.


Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Preserve – Free guided activities take place year-round at this 30,000-acre preserve that consists of open bay, salt pond and marsh. Programs open to kids include bird drawing, photography and walks, salt marsh exploration, bike rides and night sky parties. Registration often required. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center, 1751 Grand Blvd., Alviso. 408-262-5513; also Thornton Avenue, Fremont. 510-792-0222. fws.gov/desfbay.


Santa Clara County Parks – Outdoor activities ranging from guided family hikes to history festivals to fishing derbies take place in the county’s 28 regional parks, ranging from Cupertino to Gilroy. $6 parking fees sometimes apply. 408-355-2200 parkhere.org.


South / Coast

Santa Cruz State Parks – These 20 state parks often feature free events, including guided hikes and wildlife, harvest and storytelling festivals. Parking fees apply. 831-429-2850. santacruzstateparks.org.


Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Preserve –  The largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of the San Francisco Bay, it is home to more than 400 species of plants and 340 species of birds. Features docent tours at 10am and 1pm Saturday-Sunday and bird walks every 1st Saturday. Open Wednesday-Sunday. Visitor Center, 1700 Elkhorn Rd., Watsonville. 831-728-2822. elkhornslough.org.

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