50 things to do with Bay Area kids when school is closed

50 things to do in the Bay Area with kids when school is closed

With so many vacation days on the horizon, we wanted put together a list of destinations for our fellow families with grade school children to explore the Bay Area during holidays. Enjoy!

Thanks to San Francisco Zoo for sponsoring this post (and providing the above photo of their playground). All of the content was created by 510 Families.

  1. Ping and pong at iTable Tennis Club with a stop at Casper’s for hot dogs after.
  2. Give your ankles a workout at Oakland Ice or Yerba Buena with a skating session.
  3. Visit the anteaters, penguins, and rhinos at the San Francisco Zoo. Ride the puffer train and carousel. Open every day.
  4. Go geocaching — this worldwide scavenger hunt is always open! More details on that.
  5. Let everyone stay up late for a drive-in movie. After all, it’s not a school night.
  6. Run, play, and paddle in Fremont’s Central Park.
  7. Hit a bucket of balls at the Wheelhouse Baseball Academy after 3 pm.
  8. Take your big girl out for a pedicure. (Try Femimacus in Glenview, Solemate’s in North Berkeley, or Amy’s Nails in Albany for a kid-friendly nail treatment.)
  9. Visit the Children’s Museum in San Jose and catch up with your Silicon Valley friends.
  10. Bring a huge tote bag and check out the maximum number of books and DVDs from the library.
  11. Cruise around the roller skating rink at Golden Skate in San Ramon. They’re open for extra sessions on the days surrounding the holidays (but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days) and open on MLK Day.
  12. Watch the knives and vegetables fly at Hana Japan when you go for an exciting lunchtime date at the Berkeley Marina.
  13. Tour the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield to see how candy is made.

San Francisco Zoo is open every day

  1. Pile on some layers and enjoy the Bay Trail bike path near Costco in Richmond. Head towards the gas station end of Costco and look for a parking lot.
  2. Admire the LEGO creations of nature through January 4th at the SF Zoo. Get sand in your shoes at Ocean Beach right after.
  3. Swing from the life-size hammocks and bounce on the trampolines at We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym.
  4. Pretend to be tourists and enjoy the East Bay like a visitor from out-of-town.
  5. Play for extra balls at the Pacific Pinball Museum.
  6. Pack a picnic to eat at Codornices Park and explore the creek, trees, and playground (with concrete slide!).
  7. Climb around on Indian Rock in North Berkeley. It’s free!
  8. Bring a football to Lake Temescal.
  9. Discover nature at Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward.
  10. Take BART to San Francisco’s Children’s Creativity Museum and make a stop-motion animation.
  11. Splurge on a visit to the Exploratorium.
  12. Bounce to the ceiling (not really!) at Sky High in Concord.
  13. Take a day trip to the Fitzgerald Tide Pools.
  14. Play on the Cal campus before getting yourselves epic ice CREAM sandwiches.
  15. Spend some quality time at the Discovery Museum in Sausalito. It’s different every time as kids age into new exhibits.
  16. Play miniature golf at SubPar mini golf in Alameda or GolfLand in Castro Valley.
  17. Fly kites in Berkeley Marina, perfect on a day when most places are closed, like Thanksgiving Day.
  18. Celebrate your child’s unbirthday with an indoor fun fest at Chuck E Cheese in Pinole. (Did I really just say that?)
  19. Bike the path on the Bay Bridge.

Black Rhino at the SF Zoo is huge

  1. Bring a laptop, a playmate for your kids, and spend a couple of hours at the Jungle in Concord.
  2. Peek in at the reptiles at the East Bay Vivarium and then walk over to Peet’s for hot cocoa.
  3. Ride an Amtrak train to Martinez and back again. Skater kids can bring their boards – a skate park is walking distance from the train station.
  4. Explore space and science at Chabot Space + Science Center (open Tuesday through Sunday).
  5. Check out the penguins at the Cal Academy of Sciences. This museum is pricey, so reserve Discover and Go passes before you go.
  6. Climb aboard the USS Hornet, forever-docked in Alameda.
  7. Dig through the bins at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse or Urban Ore for some treasures to upcycle.
  8. Discover your inner Katniss Everdeen with an afternoon at the archery range.
  9. Splash around Lake Merritt’s paddleboats; popcorn afterward!
  10. Go back in time at Ardenwood Farms.
  11. Take in the view and the interactive exhibitions at The Lawrence Hall of Science. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas, but open on the days surrounding, from 10 am to 5 pm.
  12. Hide among the caves in Rock City
  13. Save your quarters and pay a flat fee for all-you-can-play old school pinball games at Playland Not-At-The-Beach which tends to be open on school holidays such as MLK’s birthday. We’ve gone there on Christmas Eve.
  14. Play with art materials at the Sticky Art Lab in Berkeley.
  15. Touch stuff in the Castro District’s Randall Museum.
  16. LEGO-lovers, click it together at Brickspace in Benicia or Play-well in Pleasanton.
  17. Take advantage of San Francisco’s treasure: Golden Gate Park. Here are some tips.
  18. Paint pottery at Color Me Mine, Alameda or Brushstrokes in Berkeley

Where else do your grade school age kids love to go when school’s out?

Thanks again to our sponsor, the San Francisco Zoo, for helping us create this list for you. They are open every day. Visit them online to see hours and discounts. Have fun out there.

Get the {510} Families weekend planner in your inbox. It's free!

* indicates required

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Cara says

    Oh my gosh, we have to do them ALL!:)
    Brooklyn IS going to her first sewing lesson at Stitch this afternoon thanks to your blog post about them — she is obsessed with seeing and designing and cursed with a mom who knows very little about sewing machines, so I am outsourcing!

  2. says

    These are all so wonderful! So many ways to keeps kids engaged and thinking while having a ton of fun :). Don’t forget to bring lots of layers, especially for the outdoor activities! If people want to travel through the tunnel, the Lafayette Reservoir has a lot of fun family oriented activities as well!

  3. Susana says

    Don’t forget Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory in Petaluma! Find out how stickers are made & parents get a flashback seeing stickers they grew up with. So generous with the free stickers they give away to everyone.

  4. says

    Lots to try here, but I can personally recommend Sulphur Creek (for littler kids, like 2-5) and Playland (6 and up, for my family!). Both good times!