On Sun, 5 Jun 2016, 7:17pm PDT
Insider's scoop on the Bay Area,
Indiana Jones said:
Turtledove: I am going to start from the South and go North. My focus is on kid-friendly places, so not mentioning all the Napa and Sonoma county wine tours and such. Some of these places are well known and some a little off the beaten path.
Monterey Bay Aquarium -- one of the best Aquariums in the country.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is super fun in the summer. It's been around over 100 years and has some history to enjoy as well as plain fun. You can do beach/boardwalk or just do the boardwalk. We do at least one trip there a year and I still love it after many years. The weather is better in Santa Cruz (slightly less foggy and warmer temperatures than in the BA). There will be crowds.
Also, Big Sur and Carmel are beautiful. But doing the Central Coast may be a whole trip in itself.
Tech museum in San Jose fits perfectly within Silicon Valley. It has a bunch of interactive displays and can def. spend a few hours there and check out downtown San Jose (nothing spectacular there) or try the Winchester Mystery House.
If you go up the coast on Highway one, after Half Moon Bay you will get to Moss Beach and its haunted restaurant. You can sit on their outside deck and they will supply you with warm blankets as you sip hot chocolate or tea or whatever suits your fancy from the bar. BTW - the coast line from Santa Cruz (Highway 1) to SF is beautiful with lots of rugged and beautiful beaches to stop and explore and beautiful photo ops.
It sounds like your kids like a bit of intrigue, and the uss hornet is a haunted ship or so they say.
Berkeley - has a lot to do if you want to explore the east bay. Besides beautiful Tildon Park, there is the botanical gardens (much better than the botanical garden at GG park) the Berkeley Rose Garden and a quintessentially Berkeley park for kids called Adventure Playground near the Berkeley Pier. If you want to get a good "Bezerkley"/hippy vibe, take a walk down Telegraph Avenue near UC Berkeley.
There is a ton to do in SF -- some highlights are:
SF MOMA just reopened after a 3 year remodel and addition.
A must stop - if you are checking out Fisherman's wharf (and it's free) -- Musee Mecanique:
"We will take you on a journey from turn of the century hand cranked music boxes to modern video arcade games. This is a trip down memory lane. It is a chance to show your children or grandchildren what you did for fun when you were their age. Before video games at home, perhaps before television, perhaps what you remember sitting in your grandparent's parlor
For those of you who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is a chance to remember Playland at the Beach, Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. There is our own "Laffing Sal", "Susie the Can-Can Dancer" and the fascinating "Carnival." Other things have been brought in from around the world for your amusement."
Also from Fisherman's wharf you can do the Bay Cruise or visit Alcatraz.
The Exploratorium is great for kids and all ages. Can do at least a 1/2 day here.
There there is a ton of fun to be had at Golden Gate park- the Academy of Sciences and Aquarium, the De Young museum, Japanese Tea garden and Stowe Lake where you can rent paddle boats or canoes.
China town and Japan town are fun to visit.
For a nice hike in the city, I'd recommend Land's End. A beautiful walk on the beach can be had at Baker Beach - nice view of the GG bridge.
There is also a drive to the top of Twin Peaks lookout for an amazing view of the city and Bay Area.
Going North over the GG bridge is Muir Woods which has fairly easy hikes among amazing redwoods - highly recommend this and so close to SF. Parking can be a big issue and you may have to take the Muir Woods shuttle. I'd try to go on a weekday.
Close to Muir woods is Mt. Tam - going to top of Mt. Tamalpais gives you stunning views and there is a nice level loop-hike around the peak.
Other post have already talked about coastline in this area -- beautiful. Two more kid-friendly beaches are Muir beach and especially Stinson Beach both in West Marin.
Close to these areas are the towns of Marin which many have quaint downtown areas with local shops and restaurants. Recommend Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Anselmo, and Fairfax (for a hippy vibe). You can take a ferry from SF to Sausalito's cute downtown area.
Further north but inland from the coast is Russian river/Guerneville which is a big vacation area and home to another amazing forest - Armstrong Woods.
Other misc. idea is visiting the California Missions for some history -- I can think of a few - Missions Carmel (near Monterey), San Francisco, San Jose (in Fremont), San Rafael and Sonoma.
There is also Mt. Diablo in the East Bay - on very clear days from the summit it is said you can see Half Dome in Yosemite Valley and Mt. Lassen to the north. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Diablo
And finally, a few tips: if you are in the Bay Area, especially in SF, locals don't like San Francisco to be called "Frisco". Instead use "SF" or "The City". If you are in SF or near the coast, always bring a jacket/layers with you, just in case, no matter how warm the day may seem to be.
This is all I can think of for now.