5 great day trips in the Bay Area

I loved this post from our friends at Savvy Source: five awesome destinations for your family day trip. Each of these places is within a 90 minute drive of the East Bay and offers a terrific day (I summarized the list and added my own spin):

Safari West I soooo want to go to this African-inspired wildlife adventure. With up-close-and-personal access to various safari animals, being 8 months pregnant as I will be in August may be the wrong time to try it. Safari West also offers (very expensive) luxury tent accommodations. Best for ages 3 and up. $$$

Roaring Camp Railroad A few minutes from Santa Cruz, this train winds through the shady redwood trees on a pleasant route in Felton. The conductor will entertain you with trivia along the way. We did this journey with a multi-generational bunch (3YO, 5YO, a few parents, and a grandpa) and we all had a good time. There are a few features to explore before and after (old fashioned buildings and wooden cutouts were the biggest hit with my kids). The concession food is pure evil, so bring your own picnic lunch if you can. Roaring Camp hosts thematic trains for Halloween, Christmas, Easter and the ever-popular Day Out With Thomas. $

Jelly Belly Factory Factory tours at the Fairfield plant are 40 minutes long and leave every 10-15 minutes. During peak visiting times, expect to wait up to an hour. Tours are FREE — yippee! But, you’ll certainly spend your money in the gift shop; a bargain can be found on the not-so-perfect beans called “belly flops”. Kids and adults will like watching robot arms move boxes of jelly beans onto conveyor belts. Whitney and I went here in the late nineties (pre-kid) and had a blast. (FREE)

Monterey Bay Aquarium The famous Monterey Bay Aquarium boasts over 623 marine species featured in over 200 award-winning exhibits. Since almost two million people visit the aquarium every year, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve never been. Savvy Source suggests you “get your hand stamped and take a lunch break just outside the aquarium at Cannery Row, where you can enjoy clam chowder or fish and chips. Then head back inside and let your little ones run around the aquarium’s Splash Zone, where they can touch sea stars and splash around in the water play area.” I’m sold. When do we go? $$

Año Nuevo State Park Just like Po Bronson said, this place is awesome. Año Nuevo State Park is one of the best places around for hiking and spotting wildlife. Elephant seals are perhaps the most famous residents, but many animals can be found. Guided tours are offered from Dec 15 to Mar 31, when the elephant seals are onshore to mate and care for their pups. Other times of year, visitors can take the rugged three mile hike on your own.  Sounds amazing, but I think I’ll wait until after this baby to tackle a rough three mile hike.

Which of these trips have you taken? Do you have any other favorites? C’mon, I know you do!

[photos: safari west from thomaspix, roaring camp by simon davison,  jelly belly factory from jellybelly.com, monterey aquarium by jim g, elephant seals by steve jurvetsen]