9 family-friendly destinations for Winter Break

Many of us are in the middle of a stretch of structure-free days. It’s the perfect opportunity to do some of those outings that seem too time-consuming during the regular school day. Family visiting? Why there’s no better motivation to get everyone out of the house. Here are nine places to go:

1. Lawrence Hall of Science – an excellent outing for any age of child, LHS is one of the best choices for families with grandparents in tow. Located in the Berkeley Hills, the view of the Bay is spectacular and there are exhibits to interest every age. Bundle up, cause it’s chilly up there. If you’re bringing seniors who don’t get around easily, drop them off closer to the museum entrance before parking in the lot.

2. Steam Trains in Tilden Park – If you notice the sun is shining extra-bright for December, that’s your sign to head to Tilden Park. The price is right – $8.00 for 5 rides – and the train runs from 11 to 6 on weekends including Christmas Eve day (but excluding Christmas Day)!

3. Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco – For school-aged kids, this is a superfun place to go be creative with technology. Oh, and ride on a carousel. (Read my whole review of it, but note that the name changed from “Zeum”.) CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY!

4. Super Franks – Head through the tunnel to Pleasanton to find this mecca for preschoolers to explore, bounce, and go crazy. Best for ages 2-4. Awesome for dads who like to roll around on the floor with their kids. Order coffee onsite! Open til 3 pm on Christmas Eve.

5. Christmas Tree Lane – Although this magical street in Alameda truly comes to life in the evening, little kids might enjoy walking through it in daylight and seeing the characters on the front lawns. Make it an after-dinner outing and you won’t be sorry.

6. Pump It Up – Typically a birthday party venue, Pump it Up also has “Pop-In Playtime” (meaning drop in) for elementary and preschool kids. Separately, thank god. You can jump on over there (I’m hilarious!) to see the times and days for the Oakland location. The cost is $8.

7. Lindsay Wildlife Museum – Another through the tunnel destination (What? It’s vacation! You’ve got the whole day!), this is a drive-worthy outing in Walnut Creek. Open on Christmas Eve as well as most of the Winter Break, Lindsay Wildlife Museum brings hawks, foxes, and eagles down to eye level for kids. Perhaps half the family can enjoy the museum while the other half shops in Walnut Creek?

8. Fairyland – Currently presenting a Fairy Winterland, the hours of Fairyland have been extended to include weekdays for just the week of the 15th to the 23rd. Hours are noon to 7 pm. A festival of lights parade is at 6.30 pm each evening, but even in daylight hours, you can enjoy the unlimited rides that come with admission, holiday-themed arts and crafts, and, if he doesn’t freak you out, a visit with Santa.

Fairyland Oakland 2010

9. Habitot – An indoor destination best for kids 12-36 months old, Habitot Children’s Museum is located in downtown Berkeley, so if you have a train-loving tot, you could make a whole morning of taking the BART there and home. Habitot is full of opportunities for hands-on imaginative play, exploration with art materials, and toddling around like a maniac. Did the kid outgrow Habitot? See # 4 above. Another good place to bring grandparents who like to sit and watch. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.



photo credit: lawrence hall of science: jackie kersh; fairyland: hmdavid; habitot: dolanh

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