30 Outdoor Things to Do With Bay Area Kids - 510 Families

30 Outdoor Things to Do With Bay Area Kids

Big thanks to Sarah’s Science for sponsoring today’s list of 30 great places to venture outside with East Bay kids. Sarah’s Science is now registering for summer camp in Berkeley and Oakland, where kids play and explore outside all day.

So many fun outdoor adventures await you and your children. Big kid? Bring it on! Here’s a round-up of great outdoor adventures so you can play outside with your family (many are also great for little kids, but we have a separate list for best places to play outside with littles!).

kids in a shelter of sticks

  1. Learn from the naturalist. Attend one of the many free, kid-friendly plant hikes, tracking walks, or other guided events at China Camp State Park in San Rafael.
  2. Easy hike. Go for a mostly flat walk on Bear Valley visitor center loop trail at the Point Reyes visitor center and learn about the San Andreas Fault Line. If you’re ready to dip into easy backpacking with kids, try a walk-in campsite at Point Reyes National Seashore. Note that advance reservations are required.
  3. Climb around the wind-hollowed caves and giant rocks at Rock City on Mt. Diablo. Be sure to bring water, as the faucets in the park are not always in operation. Don’t miss Tarantula breeding season (!) at the end of the summer, also at Mt. Diablo.
  4. Fly a kite (especially this super easy-to-fly kind of kite) on the Berkeley Marina or favorite windy spot.
  5. Take the ferry to Pier 41 in San Francisco and let the wind blow through your hair.
  6. Hug a redwood tree at Roberts Regional Park in Oakland. You can also find a fantastic “barrier-free” children’s play area.
  7. Meander and slide. Meet your buddies at Codornices Park for the cement slides or wandering along the creek.
  8. Putt putt. Improve your miniature golf skills and sportsmanship at GolfLand in Castro Valley.
  9. Sail for free. Take a free ride on a sailboat at the Cal Sailing Club during one of their open house dates at the Berkeley Marina.
  10. Grab a walking stick and trek the UC Berkeley fire trails. Just behind the Strawberry Canyon Rec Area, this seven mile (roundtrip) trail twists its way UP through Strawberry Canyon, offering views of the Campanile, the Golden Gate Bridge and Mt. Tamalpais.
Hands and salamanders
Explore the unique plants and animals who call California’s streams home. Outdoor educator Sarah Shaffer will lead hands-on science projects and a field trip for kids during the Oakland and Berkeley Spring Break. | Photo: Sarah’s Science
  1. Get your hands dirty at Alameda’s Crab Cove. Squeeze in a naturalist program like a storytime or Hikes for Tykes. Phone ahead to make sure no field trips will get in your way.
  2. Climb up and around on Indian Rock in North Berkeley.  See if you can find John Hinkel Park if you’re really feeling curious.
  3. Eat out and play. Pack a portable lunch to Lake Lagunitas in Fairfax. Hike around the lake or play in the shady redwood grove.
  4. Discover something new at Sunol Regional Wilderness. There are rocks to toss, birds to watch, and a creek to enjoy. Each season brings renewed magic.
  5. Go back in time at Ardenwood Farms. Since it is a working farm, the daily activities change from season to season so no two visits will be exactly alike.
  6. Fore! Hit some golf balls at the Tilden Park driving range. No one’s watching you, promise.
  7. Frolic at Cal. Take the elevator to top of the Campanile at UC Berkeley then scooter around the paths or run around the lawns at Cal.
lake anza
Visit Lake Anza in the Berkeley hills and spend the day building sandcastles on the beach or catching crawdads around the East side of the lake. Campers at Sarah’s Science Summer Camp in Berkeley enjoy a day at the lake each week during the summer. | Photo: Sarah’s Science
  1. Get sand in your toes. Admire the Richmond Bridge from the little-used Point Molate shoreline beach in Richmond. Or dig your toes into the sand at another Bay Area beach like Lake Anza (pictured above).
  2. Visit the critters at Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward. [More places to play in Hayward with kids]
  3. Hike for berries. Once Summer hits, climb the hill and pick blackberries at the top of the Wildcat Canyon Regional Park’s Belgium trailhead.
  4. Camp out. Play in the beautiful redwood trees and hollowed stumps at Samuel P. Taylor State Park eating areas in Marin. Or, reserve a campground and stay overnight! {more inspiration for family camping with little kids over here}
  5. Wander secret paths. Plot a path up and down the hill on some of the Berkeley Paths and Stairways, or go on a guided walk with the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association {we also like the related guidebook Secret Stairs: East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland}
  6. Visit Big Basin Redwoods, California’s oldest state park. Each season has its own flavor; curious kids and adults can take free guided walks or explore on their own. Or go beyond Big Basin Redwoods and explore the forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains: Castle Rock State Park or Portola Redwoods.
  7. Pedal or paddle across Lake Merritt when you rent a boat from the boathouse. Make it a kayaking party!
  8. Planet walk. Journey to the outer rim of the solar system on Sonoma’s Sugarloaf Ridge State Park planet walk. Time your visit around a free event at the on site observatory!
Outdoor fun for East Bay Kids | child at swimming pool
Spend an active day on the play structure, the volleyball court, or the baseball diamond at Roberts park then cool off at the swimming pool. Campers at Sarah’s Science Summer Camp in Oakland spend the day outdoors discovering the natural beauty in this great park. | Photo: Sarah’s Science
  1. Tour the Black Diamond Mines for an afternoon adventure not to be missed, for kids 7 and up. Make reservations or try for a walk-in tour.
  2. Borrow a bow and arrow from FatShafts in Benicia and then head out to the Briones Archery Range to try your hand at aiming.
  3. Enjoy the waterfront access and fantastic facilities at San Leandro’s Marina Park. [More stuff to do in San Leandro with kids]
  4. Play in the rain. No need to stay indoors on a rainy day when you can hunt for salamanders and splash in the puddles! [5 great spots to play in the rain with kids]
  5. Spend the afternoon in Tilden Park and catch a nostalgic ride on the carousel or steam trains or enjoy a hike through the beautiful trails and botanical gardens. Love Tilden Park? Children can spend their summer days there, exploring and learning at Sarah’s Science.

We hope you’re inspired to take your kids to a new place to play. We also have a list of the best outdoor places to play with little kids.

Thanks again to Sarah’s Science for sponsoring this list of 30 great places to play outside. Visit the one and only Mantis Mania Workshop this May and bring home your own praying mantis. Mantids make the perfect pet for your kids but you can also release them in your garden to eat aphids and other nasty pests.

Pin this image so you can come back to this list over and over!

Outdoor Adventures in the east bay

[Photos courtesy Sarah’s Science; All rights reserved]

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3 thoughts on “30 Outdoor Things to Do With Bay Area Kids”

  1. Dear 510.org,

    I noticed the use of the word picnic used on your site. As an Oakland Native and Bay Area resident I find it very racially offensive to use such a word. Picnic’s are traditional celebrations of lynchings of Black People throughout the U.S.particularly the rural south. I am requesting that you remove all use of the word “picnic” and throughout your site.

    Thank You

  2. Not to quibble about a word, but Picnic is not necessarily a racist word. It derives from the French and does not appear to be associated with lynchings directly. Appears (according to Reuters) that some lynchings were “picnic-like” and that is totally abhorrent. However, I cannot agree that we should remove the word because if has been used in some occasions in a bad way. I am sensitive and respectful to the linkage and the connotations which can be assigned, but not in agreement that the word in and of itself is the source of that. It’s the lynchings which were the offensive act, and the people involved and their actions that caused it. I just hate to waste a good word because of a couple references. If that were the case, we would remove war, lynching, and murder from the dictionary also. Used with respect, it should not be in any way insensitive in my opinion.


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