Discover San Francisco's Randall Museum - 510 Families
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Discover San Francisco’s Randall Museum

The Randall Museum in San Francisco is a hidden treasure for families and little kids. It’s a FREE wildlife museum (yes, you read that right, FREE) where you can see native Californian animals like raccoons, snakes, and crows, or interact with a railroad-themed exhibit with moving miniature trains. Add on to your visit with an art or science class, or a hike up to the hill next door for some epic views of the city. It’s a surprising find and one worth checking out if you haven’t been yet.

How to Get in FREE to Dozens of Bay Area Museums, Science Centers, + Gardens >>

children looking at animals in display tanks
There are snakes, lizards, and even a tarantula to find at the Randall Museum in San Francisco | Photo: Julie Herson

The Animals at the Randall Museum

Like the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, the Randall Museum’s animal exhibits reflect the native species you’d find in the different habitats in California. So you’ll find snakes and lizards in the Desert area, crows and raccoons in the Urban habitat, and even sea stars and urchins in the Ocean habitat downstairs. All the animals are rescues that would no longer be able to live in the wild. The animal keepers seem happy to answer questions from inquisitive toddlers and parents alike, and if you’re lucky, they’ll even let you pet and interact with some of the creatures (we got to pet a gopher snake while we were there!). Downstairs there are several aquariums where you can see fish, sea stars, and other native sea creatures, though truth be told that part of the museum is slightly underwhelming.

15 Places in the Bay Area Where Kids Can See Animals >>

boy touching turtle
The turtles are super cute, but you’re not supposed to touch them (oops!) | Photo: Julie Herson

The Trains at the Randall Museum

If you have a train crazy toddler, you’ll want to head straight downstairs. They have moving trains and intricate models of Bay Area landmarks and neighborhoods that’ll entertain both kids and adults. There’s also a life-sized caboose to climb around in and several train tracks and trains to play with (though due to Covid-19 the train toys were put away for now).

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Best East Bay Destinations & Tips for Train Lovers >>

child looking at miniature train display
The miniature train exhibit is a hit with little kids who can’t get enough trains | Photo: Julie Herson

Bonus: Art and Science Classes at the Randall Museum

There are drop-in art classes for kids ages 5 to 7 on Saturdays from 1 pm – 4 pm. They cost $10 per adult/child combo and $5 additional person. Just register at the desk when you arrive. Projects include works of art like a Pool Noodle Monster, Valentine’s Day Cards, Plantable Seed Paper, and Nature Suncatchers. Check their Instagram for more information on drop-in classes. They also have multi-week seasonal classes, such as Art and Animals, Woodworking, Ceramics, 3-D Printed Robots, Robotics, and more. You’ll need to pre-register for these classes through the San Francisco Rec and Parks, and they cost from $110-$355 for the series. More info here >

Classes for Toddlers & Babies in the East Bay>>

child walking on grass with view of city
The view of San Francisco from the Randall Museum. If you’re game, hike up Corona Heights Trail for an even better view (my kids weren’t game).  | Photo: Julie Herson

The Bottom Line on San Francisco’s Randall Museum

The Randall Museum is a great destination for families who like to see animals up close and enjoy a low-key museum experience, and you cannot beat the price. This is not the Cal Academy or the Discovery Museum, and it’s not trying to be. It’s a small museum where you can take your time and enjoy a leisurely morning or afternoon with little kids, take in the views at lunch, and then head home for nap time. What’s great about the Randal Museum is that there’s no pressure since it’s free, and the vibe is more relaxed. If you keep all that in mind, you and your kiddos will have a lovely, laid-back day.

children dusting away sand from fossils
There are some interactive displays like this one where kids can act like a paleontologist and dust away sand from fossils | Photo: Julie Herson

The Randal Museum Details

Location: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114

Sponsor

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Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, Open 10 am to 5 pm, Closed Sunday and Monday

Cost: FREE. Classes are extra $$

Parking: FREE. There’s a small parking lot in front of the museum

Covid-19:Masks for ages 2+ & Proof of Vaccine Required for ages 12+

Food: There’s a nice little cafe with outdoor seating, with coffee, pastries and sandwiches. You can also bring your own and enjoy lunch on a blanket on the grass outside.

Hike for a view > (Though it is a bit steep terrain with loose gravel at points)

Website>>

Classes >>

Instagram >>

Contact:  (415) 554-9600 info@randallmuseum.org

Have you been to the Randall Museum? Do you have any other tips?

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2 thoughts on “Discover San Francisco’s Randall Museum”

  1. Pingback: 50 things to do with Bay Area kids when school is closed

  2. We love the Randall! A clarification on the train area: even pre-COVID there were not trains out and available for play on the wooden track setup. You either bring your own from home (and you can still do that now) or you have to “rent” from the front desk for a fee. They are not doing the rentals right now. There is also a playground within the park, down the hill from the museum. Nothing fancy, but something else to do if you are there.

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