Fall is here and local museums around the Bay Area have started rolling out their lineup of exciting exhibits for the whole family. Immerse yourself in the world of Burning Man, take a trip to Japan and then learn all about your cells at these exhibits that kids will love. Scroll through our picks, then open up your calendars to block out some time to check them out!

Wild Child — Junior Center of Art & Science

Erin Lem

For an experience especially tailored to the littles (crawling through five years old), head to the Wild Child pop up exhibit at Junior Center of Art & Science in Oakland. This interactive exhibit encourages young minds to touch, climb, tinker and create.

The outdoor area features an immersive sculpture full of sensory surprises, while indoors you'll find two play rooms. One boasts a sweet portal tunnel (mom and dad, be prepared to crouch to enter!), ball pit, sticker wall and Hygge nook. Next door find a creative space (toward the back there's a separate shoe-free area just for babies and crawlers) with sensory, creative art projects led by staff, "artifacts" like typewriters and calculators, and a huge wire cage our own toddler was especially fond of exploring. Beyond free play, Wild Child also features baby and toddler classes on their calendar here

Good to know:

  • Depending on your child's attention span (and how crowded the place is) expect to spend anywhere from 2-3 hours exploring. 
  • Beyond the pop up, you can check out the other rooms in the Junior Center of Art & Science like the play house room, replete with a play kitchen, stuffed animals and trains, and the reptile room where your kiddo can peek at snakes and other creepy crawlies. 
  • Ample parking is available. The Center is located in the same area as Children's Fairyland. Sat & Sun. parking costs $5/day and Mon.-Fri. parking costs $2/first two hours or $10/day. 

Junior Center of Art & Science
Now through Feb, 23, 2020
558 Bellevue Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
Online: wildchildplay.com

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man – Oakland Museum of California

FoldHaus, Shrumen Lumen, 2016. Photo by Ron B

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will bring cutting-edge artwork, sculpture, and interactive installations from Burning Man, one of the most widely-celebrated and influential cultural events, to its galleries this fall. No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man will illuminate the event’s origins and its culture of experimentation, collaboration and creativity, which draws over 70,000 people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each year.

An adaptation of the original exhibition organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in collaboration with Burning Man Project, No Spectators will take over OMCA’s Great Hall and beyond, going outside of the walls of the gallery with outdoor sculpture throughout the Museum’s public spaces, including an OMCA-commissioned 40-foot-tall outdoor temple by internationally-acclaimed sculptor David Best. A companion exhibition within the gallery, City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, will trace Burning Man's origins from its countercultural roots in the San Francisco Bay Area to the world-famous city in the desert it is today.

Oakland Museum of California 
On exhibit October 12, 2019-February 16, 2020

Cells to Self - The Exploratorium

© Exploratorium, http://www.exploratorium.edu

The Exploratorium has just opened a new permanent exhibit collection entitled Cells to Self: Exploring the Life Inside You. Through more than 20 new experiences, this collection reveals the wondrous variety of human cells and the amazing things they’re doing in your body. See live heart cells beating in time with your own pulse, or find out which bacteria are living on your skin. Through living tissues, microscopes and digital models, you’ll discover how cells move and communicate. 

The Exploratorium
Opens October 3 (part of the permanent collection)
Online: exploratorium.edu

Hello from Japan! – Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

Children's Museum of San Jose

Come visit Tokyo right here in San Jose and get an authentic peek into Japanese culture. Featuring a bustling modern city street inspired by Tokyo’s Harajuku district that bridges to a tranquil Shinto shrine, you’ll see the incredible contrast between modern kawaii aesthetics and traditional motifs and customs. The transition between the two show how the Japanese culture values history, a society where the past, present and future harmoniously coexist.

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose 
On exhibit through Feb. 5, 2020

Science + You - Bay Area Discovery Museum

Science You

All children are scientists and at the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) they can look and act the part! In BADM's new traveling exhibit, Science + You, visitors get hands-on with the machinery, processes and technology used in real laboratories every day. Upon entering the exhibit, children wash their hands, wipe their feet and even walk through a pretend shower before donning their white lab coat, 

Bay Area Discovery Museum 
When: On exhibit through January 5

Abracadabra! Magic in Peanuts - Charles Schulz Museum

Charles Schulz Museum

Charles Schulz loved sleight of hand and stage magic of all kinds. Learn firsthand how the cartoonist dabbled in magic and, like all things in his life, brought magic into the panels of Peanuts. See original comic strip art, animation cels, and a selection of the magic items that belonged to Schulz—no hocus pocus required.

Charles Schulz Museum
On exhibit through Jan. 19, 2020
Online: schulzmuseum.org


Tanya Lukin Linklater with Liz Lott, The treaty is in the body, 2017; courtesy the artist and Winnipeg Art Gallery; © Tanya Lukin Linklater

The exhibition SOFT POWER is about the ways in which artists deploy art to explore their roles as citizens and social actors. Appropriated from the Reagan-era term used to describe how a country’s “soft” assets such as culture, political values, and foreign policies can be more influential than coercive or violent expressions of power, the title contemplates the potential of art and offers a provocation to the public to exert their own influence on the world. Presented on two floors of the museum, the exhibition features new commissions and recent works by twenty international artists. 

On exhibit Oct. 26, 2019-Feb. 17, 2020

Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience - Museum of Craft and Design

Museum of Craft and Design

This winter, the Museum of Craft and Design (MCD) will present two new, dynamic exhibitions exploring the ways that creative individuals are addressing issues of climate change. Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience is a timely exhibition showcasing visionary architects and artists who have created artistically interpretive solutions and prototypes for emergency shelters in a climate-constrained world. Concurrently, the exhibition Linda Gass: and then this happened… will examine the human-made and natural water infrastructure affecting the greater Bay Area, considering present and future challenges with respect to climate change.

Museum of Craft and Design
Both exhibits will be available Dec. 19, 2019-May 3, 2020
Online: sfmcd.org

A Powerful Force: Working to End Homelessness Through Art - Walt Disney Family Museum

Untitled Pastel, Marker and Pencil on Newsprint Courtesy of Youth Spirit Artworks

The Walt Disney Family Museum's 2019 community access exhibition will be A Powerful Force: Working to End Homelessness Through Art. Featuring original artwork created by young people experiencing homelessness, the exhibition’s title was inspired by Walt Disney himself: “There is great comfort and inspiration in this feeling of close human relationships and its bearing on our mutual fortunes—a powerful force to overcome the tough breaks which are certain to come for most of us from time to time.”

A Powerful Force will feature artworks created by homeless youth with three greater San Francisco Bay Area partner organizations: Raphael House, Larkin Street Youth Services, and Youth Spirit Artworks. These nonprofit organizations help at-risk youth and their families achieve independence by providing career-building skills, educational programs and safe housing.

Walt Disney Family Museum 
On exhibit through Jan. 6, 2020

Cointraptions: Classic Coin-Operated Machines - Museum of American Heritage

Dominic Alves via flickr

Travel back in time to the early 1900s to the 1950s when pennies, nickels and dimes were dropped into slots across the nation. Coin-operated machines were widely used in places of businesses such as general stores, toy stores, parlors, restaurants, bars, casinos and gas stops. See how businesses across America operated before the era of the credit card.

Museum of American Heritage
On exhibit through Feb. 16, 2020
Online: moah.org

—Kate Loweth


Insider’s Guide to the Exploratorium

20 Totally-Free Museums in the Bay

The Ultimate Free Museum Days Guide


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