Ideas

We haven’t been to 100% of these places (yet!), but we wanted to share our brainstorm list with you anyway. This list is a compilation of years of online searches, brochures we’ve picked up, word-of-mouth referrals, and our own experiences. When the question, “What do you want to do today?” comes up, this is the first place we look for year-round opportunities. (We also check out the event calendars listed on the Links & Resources page to see if any one-time events are happening this weekend.)

You’ll see a wide variety in this list, but no, it’s not 100% of what’s available in the Bay Area. We are interested in arts, animals, aviation, books, children/education, science, shopping, space, special needs/inclusion, technology, historical/cultural/social topics, and many other things. If you’re interested in sports, hiking, big roller coasters, modern/contemporary art, or museums related to any one specific culture/ethnicity, you’ll have to do your own Google search.

These are designed to be day trips from Silicon Valley. Some will take all day to explore while others might only take an hour or two. Geographically, these ideas stretch from San Francisco, Berkeley, and Concord up north to Monterey and Salinas in the south. They’re nearly all within a one-hour radius of San Jose.

We will continue visiting and reviewing these sites here in the blog, but we don’t want to keep you all waiting. Think of this list as a starting point. If you visit one of these places before we do, feel free to reach out with your experience or advice for our next trip. Hopefully something here will help your family find a new adventure this weekend!

Aquariums, Museums, Parks, Science Centers, and Zoos

  • Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum in San Jose (website)
  • American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • Año Nuevo State Park’s elephant seal walks in Pescadero (website)
  • Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 in San Francisco (website)
  • Beethoven Center at SJSU in San Jose (website)
  • Blackhawk Museum in Danville (website)
  • Butano State Park’s redwoods in Pescadero (website)
  • Cable Car Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco (website)
  • California Historical Society in San Francisco (website)
  • Camera Obscura & Holograph Collection in San Francisco (website)
  • Campbell Historical Museum (website) and Ainsley House in Campbell (website)
  • Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University (website)
  • Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • Casa de Fruta in Hollister (website)
  • Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland (website)
  • Chitactac Adams Heritage County Park in Gilroy (website)
  • Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco (website)
  • Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose (website)
  • Children’s Fairyland in Lakeside Park in Oakland (website)
  • Children’s Natural History Museum in Fremont (website)
  • Classic Film Hall of Fame in Moraga (website)
  • Color Factory in San Francisco (website)
  • Computer History Museum in Mountain View (website)
  • CuriOdyssey at Coyote Point in San Mateo (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University (website)
  • de Young Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • The Duck Pond indoor/outdoor playspace in San Jose (website)
  • Edward Peterman Museum of Railroad History in Santa Clara (website)
  • Exploratorium in San Francisco (website)
  • Filoli in Woodside (website)
  • Gilroy Gardens (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • Gilroy Museum (website)
  • GLBT History Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • Habitot Children’s Museum in Berkeley (website)
  • Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in Kelley Park in San Jose (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos (website)
  • History Park (formerly the San Jose Historical Museum) at Kelley Park in San Jose (website)
  • Intel Museum in Santa Clara (website)
  • International Art Museum of America in San Francisco (website)
  • Japanese Friendship Garden in Kelley Park in San Jose (website)
  • Jungle Island (formerly Bamboola) in San Jose (website)
  • Junior Center of Art and Science in Lakeside Park in Oakland (website)
  • Lace Museum in Sunnyvale (website)
  • Lake Merritt & various gardens Lakeside Park in Oakland (website)
  • Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley (website)
  • Legion of Honor in San Francisco (website)
  • Letterform Archive in San Francisco (website)
  • Levi Strauss Museum in Levi’s Plaza in San Francisco (website)
  • Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, east of San Jose (website)
  • Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek (website)
  • Los Altos History Museum (website)
  • Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto (website)
  • McElroy Octagon House in San Francisco (website)
  • Moffett Field Historical Society Museum (website) and NASA’s Ames Visitor Center (website) at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium (website)
  • Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco (website)
  • Museum of Vision from the American Academy of Opthalmology in San Francisco (website)
  • Natural Bridges State Park (website) – especially in Oct/Nov to see monarch butterflies
  • New Museum “NUMU” in Los Gatos (website)
  • Niles Canyon Railway in Fremont (website)
  • Oakland Aviation Museum (website)
  • Oakland Museum of California (website)
  • Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History (website)
  • Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo (website)
  • Peralta Adobe & Fallon House in San Jose (website)
  • Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley (website)
  • Pier 24 Photography Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • Pioneer Hall Museum in the Presidio in San Francisco (website)
  • Randall Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton/Santa Cruz (website)
  • Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose (website)
  • San Francisco Center for the Book (website)
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers (website)
  • San Francisco Fire Department Museum (website)
  • San Francisco Maritime Museum (website)
  • San Francisco Railway Museum (website)
  • San Francisco Zoo (website)
  • San Jose Museum of Art (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles (website)
  • Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery (website)
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (website)
  • Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum (website)
  • Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz (website)
  • Stanford Classic Movie Theater in Palo Alto (website)
  • Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum (website)
  • Tatum’s Garden in Salinas (website)
  • The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley (website)
  • Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara (website)
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio in San Francisco (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • Villa Montalvo in Saratoga (website)
  • We Rock the Spectrum Kids’ Gym in San Jose (website)
  • Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco (website)
  • Whimsy in Saratoga (website)
  • Winchester Mystery House in San Jose (website)
  • Wings of History Air Museum in San Martin (website)
  • Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco (website)

Malls & Shopping Centers

Indoor Malls

  • Bayfair Center in San Leandro (website)
  • Eastridge Mall in San Jose (website)
  • The Great Mall in Milpitas (website) (Saturday Smiles review)
  • Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo (website– a personal favorite
  • The Metreon in San Francisco (website)
  • NewPark Mall in Newark (website)
  • Oakridge Mall in San Jose (website)
  • Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton (website) – a personal favorite
  • Serramonte Center in Daly City (website)
  • Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco (website)
  • Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord (website)
  • Valley Fair on the border of San Jose & Santa Clara (website)
  • Westfield San Francisco Centre (website)
  • Westgate Center in San Jose (website)

Open-Air Centers

  • Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek (website)
  • Cannery Row in Monterey (website)
  • Del Monte Center in Monterey (website)
  • Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey (website)
  • Fisherman’s Wharf (website), Ghirardelli Square (website), and Pier 39 (website) in San Francisco
  • Gilroy Premium Outlets (website)
  • Hacienda Crossings in Dublin (website)
  • San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore (website)
  • Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto (website)
  • Union Square in San Francisco (website)

Specialty Shopping

  • Capitol Flea Market (website)
  • Downtown Campbell (website)
  • Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show (website)
  • Independent bookstores (here’s one list)
  • Independent thrift stores (Yelp those closest you)
  • San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa (website)

Art Studios

  • Color Me Mine – multiple locations (website)
  • Laurel Street Arts in San Mateo (website)
  • MOCHA: Museum of Children’s Arts in Oakland (website)
  • Petroglyph Ceramic Lounge in Willow Glen, Los Gatos, or Santa Cruz (website)
  • Young Art Lessons – multiple locations, usually in malls (website)