Family Field Trips During the Pandemic

There are many new residents to see at the Oakland Zoo, including Kijiji the giraffe.

As most Bay Area students head back to class in distance learning mode, school field trips seem unlikely for the foreseeable future. Luckily, there are lots of Bay Area venues for family outings that are educational and fun – and a good opportunity to get outdoors and escape your home classroom or office. At press time, most of these places had opened outdoor areas and instituted new requirements for reservations, reduced capacity, social distancing and masks.

Editor's Note: Check before heading out to understand the new rules and make sure your destination is still open.

Zoos and Animal Encounters

CuriOdyssey Science Playground & Zoo in San Mateo reopened outdoor areas to the public on July 1. Advance online reservations are required for both members and non-members for entry Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. and 12, 2 and 4 p.m. Admission includes the zoo and a new outdoor exhibit called "Illusions" on optical illusions and visual perception. Admission is limited to 100 guests per session, and everyone age 5 and over is expected to wear a face mask and remain at least 6 feet from other guests.

Oakland Zoo reopened on July 29 to the general public. Since the closure on March 17, there are many new residents for visitors to see including Kijiji the giraffe, Aluna, a newborn Hamadryas baboon, and seven newborn American buffalo calves. Guests can enjoy a majority of the zoo with specific areas closed for health and safety precautions. The zoo is limiting the number of guests at any given time through a new online reservation-based ticketing system for all visitors. There are also limited dining and shopping opportunities, frequent cleaning and sanitization of high-touch areas, sanitizing stations throughout the zoo, face covering requirement for guests 3 and up, and social distancing.

The San Francisco Zoo reopened to the public on July 15. All guests, including members, must reserve a date and time online, and parking must also be purchased in advance. Reservations are limited, and social distancing and masks (for anyone over 2) are required. Outdoor areas are open and visitors must follow one-way "pathways." Food is available for takeout with outdoor seating. The zoo is also not accepting cash.

Safari West in Santa Rosa reopened June 20. The 400-acre wild animal park has safety measures in place to protect visitors such as plastic or plexiglass dividers where appropriate, additional cleaning practices and social distancing. Visitors are asked to bring a face mask and not go to the park if they are feeling sick.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo reopened July 4. While rides remain closed until a later date, visitors can view the animals in the Marine World Experience. Guests must wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash and sanitize often and cover their mouth when coughing. At press time, tickets were available Friday-Sunday through mid- August.

 Parks and Gardens

Angel Island State Park is now open. Visitors can enjoy trails, tram tours and to-go meals from the cafe. The boat docks and vessel mooring area are open, as well as restrooms. The Angel Island Tiburon Ferry is providing transportation to the island. All buildings, Immigration Station tours and camping are closed.

The gardens and Estate Trail are open at Filoli Garden in Woodside. Admission must be purchased in advance, and masks and social distancing are required. The house remains closed until indoor spaces are allowed to reopen.

History San Jose is offering historical walking tours of History Park every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. A museum guide will lead a group of visitors through History Park discussing the historical and architectural background of each building. Tours will be limited to 10 people and will last one hour. Masks are required and social distancing will be enforced. Tickets are $12 for ages 16 and up, $6 for ages 6-15, and free for ages 5 and under. Tours are by reservation only and tickets may be purchased at You must either bring your confirmation or show your confirmation on your phone.

Muir Woods National Monument has reopened. While the visitor center remains closed, the restrooms, cafe, trails and gift shop are open. Reservations are required. Park hours are 9 a.m. to 6 pm.

San Francisco Botanical Garden is now open with certain restrictions. Visitors can enjoy more than 9,000 kinds of plants from across the globe at the botanical garden in Golden Gate Park. Face coverings are required for visitors and staff. The Helen Crocker Russel Library of Horticulture, Garden Bookshop, Plant Arbor and Children's Garden are still closed. Advanced ticket reservations are highly recommended to reduce wait times, monitor crowd size and ensure enough space for social distancing. It's open 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Winchester Mystery House is offering outdoor audio tours that are a completely touchless experience. Visitors can choose between the Sarah Winchester Tour, with 20 stops throughout four acres of Winchester’s Victorian Gardens, or the Walk With the Spirits Tour, which explores the supernatural lore of the legendary estate.


Bay Area Discovery Museum reopened its outdoor spaces at reduced capacity on Aug. 8. The initial reopening was for members only, with a public reopening date expected Aug. 22. The museum is implementing a timed ticketing system for admission so that staff can monitor site capacity throughout the day. All visitors are encouraged to reserve their ticket online in advance. Member tickets will be reserved free of charge. Exhibits that will be open include "Lookout Cove" and the fishing boat Faith. There will also be new programs like "Mystery Items," which sends families on scavenger hunts throughout the museum, and "Family Building Challenge" which brings to life the most popular elements of BADM's programs – creativity, collaboration and design thinking.

Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent. Associate Editor Janine DeFao contributed to this story.