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

30 Outdoor Things to Do With Bay Area Kids

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 little ones!).

Wondering where to get outside, locally? We gotcha covered! Read on for specific locations and general ways to make your quick walk around the block a little more interesting.

Flying-Kites
Flying kites at Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley

Favorite Outdoor Activities that Are Not Hikes (FREE!)

  1. Bike around. You can get a little further than on foot, and your kid will have their hands too full to touch stuff. Pick a part of the Bay Trail or Ohlone Greenway nearest your house, then ride there. If your little one is still learning to ride a bike, here are a few more paths and places to build skills on two wheels.
  2. Splash in the creeks. Bring a change of clothes and a positive attitude and the rest will take care of itself. Here are five East Bay creeks to stomp in.
  3. Spend time at Lake Temescal. Water play or swimming is seasonal and depends on water quality, but big yes to fishing, hiking, and lunching on blankets in the grass. You will also see many dogs and young kids biking/scootering, kicking a soccer ball, and playing at the beach area.
  4. Fly a kite (especially this super easy-to-fly kind of kite) on the Berkeley Marina or one of our other favorite windy spots with room to run.
  5. Go fishing. The East Bay has lots of great spots for anglers just learning how to fish.
  6. 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]
  7. Smell the roses in Oakland. The Morcom Municipal Rose Garden is a hidden gem with walkways and water features. Roses bloom from Mother’s Day through Halloween. Aim your GPS to 700 Jean St. Oakland. (website)
  8. Play tennis. Most, if not all, municipal tennis courts are open for tennis and pickleball. Where to play tennis with kids >
  9. Bike up and over. Check out the Richmond’s Dirt World or the epic bike park, Stafford Lake.
  10. Go for a fairy village walk. Take your pick in Alameda or Point Richmond. Make a family fairy door and covertly hang it up in your own neighborhood.
  11. Hunt for small gnomes in Oakland. Paint a few gnomes with your kiddo and get in on the act.
  12. Frolic at Cal. Run around the lawns, check out the creek, then scooter around the paths or run around the lawns at Cal.

Favorite Outdoor Museums & Activities (not free!)

Outdoor museums and outdoor spaces at indoor/outdoor museums have amazing features for kids that can be worth the price of admission or membership depending on the family.

  1. Stand-up Paddle Board. There are some pretty lovely places to learn the art of balancing on a board on your knees or feet. What’s SUP and where in the Bay Area >
  2. Farms, orchards, and patches (various). Get your hands dirty on a farm. Families have been loving the proximity to fresh fruit picking: cherriespeachesapplesstrawberries, and pumpkins.
  3. Oakland Zoo. The outside spaces have lots of animals and room to run. Find out more about our visit to the Oakland Zoo. Reservations required.
  4. Mini golf (various). Mini golf is book ahead if you want, but walk-ins are welcome, too at Scandia and GoldenTee.
  5. Kayak in the Bay. The East Bay is the perfect place for kayaking with all ages of kid.  Kayaking in the Bay Area >
  6. Big golf (various). Par 3 courses are wonderful for kids getting started with golf.
  7. San Francisco Zoo. Get your ticket in advance and wander the San Francisco Zoo.
  8. Safari West, Santa Rosa. Spend the morning on a safari vehicle tour through a wildlife nature preserve.
Hike or Climb
  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. 3 great places to fly a kite nearby >
  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. 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.
  9. 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.

Ten mostly free outings for mixed ages >

three children walking by beach
 Crab Cove Beach in Alameda has so much to explore | Photo: Julie Herson
  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 the renovated nature-based 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.

Five ideas to get your teens to play outside >

Sunol Regional Wilderness
 Sunol Regional Wilderness discovery | Photo: Annie Burke
  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.
  2. Visit the critters at Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward. [More places to play in Hayward with kids]
  3. Hike for berries. During the summertime, 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!
Exploring the Black Diamond Mines, photo by Annie Burke
 Exploring the Black Diamond Mines | Photo: Annie Burke
  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.

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.

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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.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-picnic-origin-lynchings/fact-check-the-word-picnic-does-not-originate-from-racist-lynchings-idUSKCN24E21V

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