25 Spring Break Ideas in the Bay Area

Cal Academy

Nothing beats the comfort of home, right? And what better way to enjoy Spring Break than doing so right in your own backyard. There’s so much to do in this short amount of time and we’ve compiled a list of fun locations and adventures that are sure to provide the ultimate Bay Area staycation. 

Museums and Aquariums

Erin Feher

SFMOMA 
Channel your inner artist with a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the U.S. There are over seven floors, packed with diverse collections of immersive art and more. Check out our insider's guide for everything you’d want to know about visiting the SFMOMA.

California Academy of Sciences
Up for an adventure? Kids can investigate, splash, create and explore in the California Academy of Sciences’ newest outdoor nature play and exploration space Wander Woods! From March 26 through April 17, the Wander Woods Spring Festival will celebrate the arrival of spring with fun festivities  including water play with Riveropolis, art practice with a community artist, a food talk and tasting with Cafe Ohlone, plus beehive and insect investigation, puppet shows, nature story time, and more! Learn more.

Children’s Discovery Museum
Exploratory fun and more await at the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose.  With new exhibits like Alegre Mente l Happy Brain: Celebrating Early Connections, families can go through a whimsical forest to play and learn about how simple, loving interactions build brain health for a lifetime. Other new exhibits include Children of the Dragon, a special Vietnamese Heritage Program and the Amazing AirMaze!, a new two-story exhibit exploring the power of air. 

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay
Aquariums can provide such colorful learning experiences. From the beautiful ocean water to seeing aquatic life up close, the experience is one to be captured and cherished. Families can discover the beauty and diversity of Northern California aquatic life at the Aquarium of the Bay and see the home of more than 20,000 marine animals (Bring on the jellyfish!).  The best part? It’s located on the historic San Francisco waterfront at PIER 39. COVID-19 Update: Masks are required for unvaccinated guests.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Pack up the car and journey to seaside Monterey to enjoy and explore the wonders of sea life. Monterey Bay Aquarium will feature a new exhibit that descends into the depths of the ocean called Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean. From football-sized giant isopods to transparent jellies that glow, the deep sea is brimming with life. Meet the mysterious and wonderful animals that thrive in the unexplored world of the deep sea. Exhibit opens April 9. COVID-Update: Proof of full vaccination or negative COVID test is no longer required for entry. Masks are encouraged. 

 

Outdoor Fun

San Francisco

Golden Gate Park
Pack a picnic lunch and trek through scenic Golden Gate Park. Explore this iconic park’s 1,017 acres, from bucolic lakes and meadows to vibrant activity destinations. Golden Gate Park has something for everyone and the scenic views are something to remember.

Fisherman’s Wharf
As the outside world continues to open, restaurants and businesses are ready to welcome back visitors and locals. Plan your visit to Fisherman's Wharf and enjoy indoor and outdoor dining, unique shopping, bay cruises, family attractions and more. Plan your visit today!

National Park Fun
How cool is it that there are two National Parks in our backyard? Very. Try visiting Point Reyes National Seashore to experience this peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean offering a wide variety of activities, habitats, and wildlife to explore. You might see whales, seals, sea lions, and even discover new sea creatures. There's also Pinnacles National Park, a scenic place to visit in the springtime and cooler months when the grass is green and a variety of wildflowers beautifully line your hiking or rock climbing experience. Don't forget your camera!

Visit a State Park
Did you know there are approximately 50 state parks around the San Francisco Bay Area? Makes for great family fun. Check these out:

Castle Rock State Park
Not your traditional park, this feast of nature boasts a fascinating mix of trees and show-stopping rocks. A little different from the usual hiking trails in the area, most visitors to the park are rock climbers, boulders and waterfall enthusiasts.

Angel Island State Park
Visit the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay Area with 12 miles of biking and hiking routes and salt-water fishing. Click here for more details about Angel Island.

Mount Diablo State Park
Experiencing the views from the summit of Mount Diablo is a worthwhile activity during the springtime. You can see miles in each direction of unique panoramic views of this part of Northern California. You can drive or hike or bike to the summit. 

Pixabay

Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Did you know California’s oldest state park is covered in Redwoods? Big Basin Redwoods State Park is sprinkled with waterfalls, inhabited by banana slugs and offers great hiking options for the entire family. Added Bonus: It’s stroller friendly too!

Muir Woods National Monument
Get ready to soak in nature. Muir Woods National Monument is home to not only the redwoods but over 50 species of birds, flora and fauna. A visit to this park provides a scenic staycation with a number of paved walking trails where visitors can get a close look at the giant trees that stand over 250 feet and are over 600 years old.

East Bay

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
From camping to simply hiking a trail, the great outdoors can provide such great memories for families. Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwoods Regional Park is a hidden gem of redwood forest off Redwood Road, just a few miles over the ridge from downtown Oakland. The forest's peaceful groves give little evidence of the park's bustling past. History Fact: in the mid-1800s the area was the scene of extensive logging to supply building materials for the San Francisco Bay Area. The logging era has long since passed, and a stately forest of 150-foot coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) has replaced those cut down.

Children’s Fairyland
Weekend fun awaits with close to 60 storybook sets, friendly animals, and eight acres of gardens at Children's Fairyland. Open Friday-Sunday, the theme park is designed to delight visitors of all ages, but especially those under age eight years old. Come and stroll through the many gates — or run through if you’re a child — and discover all that Fairyland has to offer.

South Bay

Casa de Fruta
An oasis of fun awaits at Casa de Fruta in Hollister. Not your average fruit stand, this destination has something for all ages. From dining and shopping to a carousel, choo-choo train and playground, there is something for the whole family. Pro Tip: Don’t forget to try their garlic ice cream—a real treat!

Mini Golf: Emerald Hills Golfland
Dust off those golf shoes and take in a round of mini-golf. Emerald Hills Golfland in San Jose offers visitors two unique golf courses to choose from. It also has an arcade and wait for it...waterslides! Yep, if you want to take a break from your golf swing, you can make a splash riding down a spiraling slide of fun. Pro Tip: Don’t forget to stop by the snack bar for a delectable treat.

Visit Santa Cruz

Egor Shitikov via Pixabay

Families have so many options for fun in coastal Santa Cruz. From the Boardwalk and exploring the tide pools at Natural Bridges State Beach to strolling through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, or biking along the coast in Wilder Ranch State Park, there is something for all ages. Plan a beach day or if you’re really feeling adventurous, take in a surfing or zip lining lesson.

Beach Fun and More
California is home to some of this country’s best beaches and is definitely the ultimate Spring Break indulgence. Some of my favorite sandy retreats include:

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Full of natural marine wildlife splashing in the Pacific Ocean, it’s an ideal spot for your little marine biologist. Check out our tidepool guide for more seaside fun.

Natural Bridges State Beach with Monarch Butterfly Refuge
A great beach with several outdoor options such as beachcombing, swimming, surfing, hiking, tide pools and marshland exploring. A great place to view more than 100,000 migrating Monarch butterflies in the fall and winter months

 

Animal Fun

Safari West

San Francisco Zoo
Nestled against the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo is an urban oasis serving as the home of  over 2,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals. The location has more than 250 species and lovely peaceful gardens full of native and foreign plants. Advance reservations are required. Plan your visit today and don’t forget to say hello to the giraffes and zebras!

Oakland Zoo
Celebrating 100 years of service to the Oakland community, the Oakland Zoo is in festive mode. From African elephants and lions to black bears and camels, visitors can take a trip to places including an African Savanna, Flamingo Plaza or a tropical rainforest. SO many choices and so much fun! Learn more about their upcoming centennial events here.

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo
Happiness is not just a word implied in the name at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in San Jose. Families can have loads of fun and connect with nature through play at this 16-acre facility with over 60 animal species, family-friendly rides and attractions and more. Pro Tip: Grab a bite at the Picnic Basket for lunch or even a sweet treat!

Gilroy Ostrich Farm

Gilroy Ostrich Farm
Ostriches, goats, alpacas, Oh My! All are waiting to be fed or pet at the Gilroy Ostrich Farm. Pack up the family and take a self-guided tour of the farm and meet the animals. They love making new friends. Check their website for daily schedules and special events. 

Safari West
Wine Country might sound like a place just for parents but it also has a lot to offer for families too. Sign up for a safari and stay the night at Safari West and meet Deebo the baby giraffe, then grab a delectable treat at Boon Fly Café in Napa. 

For more kid-friendly winery options and other must-do activities, read here.

—TaLeiza Calloway-Appleton and Holly Motaghi

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