San Francisco Zoo - Places For Kids

Places Nearby: San Francisco Zoo

Check out these other attractions close to San Francisco Zoo

The Walt Disney Family Museum

104 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94104

This is definitely an eye-opening experience for children who love and constantly quote the Disney films. Many people enjoy all of the exhibits and 'behind the scenes' stories about Walt as a creator and as a business manager, from all of the creations that didn't get made into films (or ideas that were stolen), to the women involved in Disney creativity, to Walt's unionization battles with his workers. There are early sketches and displays of technological dinosaurs (Walt's camera equipment), which should fascinate kids who want to take up photography and don't know what creative life would be like without an iPad and a digital camera. This could be classed as a history lesson on the Disney empire, and requires a lot of reading ability. If the younger children get restless after seeing the short films and large Disneyland model, be sure to have a backup plan, like a picnic basket and blankets for the grassy field overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. If you forgot the picnic basket, or couldn't manage it and the kids on public transport, there is a good on-site cafe. You can even go inside the shop and the cafe without having to pay the entrance fee, so it might be a good rendevous point just for a lunch outing, but there is a wonderful view of the Bridge from inside the museum. The theatre is used for special events like the Film of the Month, which shows every day but Tuesday, and special exhibitions. The calendar gets filled with all sorts of filmmaking events, from screenwriters' workshops, to mosaic-making, to personal talks on what it was like to work with Walt. Many visitors have found that the greatest part of the museum centers around the months-long exhibits, which show the art and color of animation geniuses within and without the Disney corporation. You could see Heinrich Klay's Fantasia work, or Mary Blair's influence on Alice in Wonderland. Try Groupon or other sites for occasional one-time discounts.

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Play Haven

254 Laguna Honda Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94116

With over 4,000 square feet of space Play Haven was designed by an early childhood education specialist to encourage children to explore their world through sensory stimulation and play activities. The facility includes a large, open play area filled with an art studio, sensory activities, imagination games, reading area, dramatic play areas and a rock climbing wall. The owners wanted to provide a center that would promote early childhood learning, creativity, social and emotional development and give children a chance to increase fine motor skills all in a drop-in setting. Cozy couches and seating arrangements are perfect for relaxing while your children play or to sit and read with your children. Instead of messing up your home with arts and crafts activities, visit Play Haven where clean-up is a snap. Parents can utilize the space to participate in fun activities with their little ones or enroll them in one of the center’s enrichment classes and head off to the parent’s lounge for some quite time for work or leisure. By the way, the parent lounge comes equipped with work stations and free Wi-Fi. A handy kitchen is stocked with all the things you need to enjoy this time away from home with your children including: bottle warmers, microwave, refrigerator and single service coffee and tea maker. Additionally there is a relaxing nursing room and peaceful outdoor patio. Play Haven opened its doors in early October. On October 9 it offered the first of what it anticipates will be many enrichment classes to follow. The first class was JAMaROO Kids, a parent and tot music and movement class for ages 3 and under. The place is clean and everything is new. Nearby neighborhood parking is free (see Tips for Visiting below).

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California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse Dr., San Francisco, CA 94118

While kids may never get excited about the periodic table of the elements or fulcrum formulas, they will get excited about science at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. At a certain age, kids need to explore important questions about life on Earth. The Academy of Sciences is a hands-on place for parents and kids to figure out how things work – and why. Spread out over 400,000 square feet, the Academy's three major attractions (aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum) show great examples of the planet's natural resources, from the water reclamation system to the solar-powered 'Living Roof' with 2 acres of plant species. Animal-loving kids can see the past and the future, from the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, to the tropical rain forest with a bat cave and an overhead freshwater fish tank (the Flooded Forest). Technology-loving kids may be glued to the digital planetarium and galaxy exploration tour. Penguin-loving kids should see the colony of waddling African penguins in the 25,000-gallon exhibit, complete with a rocky shore and naturalistic temperatures. Don't miss the feeding times and FAQ sessions (twice daily at 10:30 am and 3 pm), if your kids are the questioning type. Former visitors will hardly recognize the new facility; open between 9:30 am and 5:00 pm. Pirahnas at the Steinhart Aquarium are close (not too close), while fish and sharks weave through the Philippine Coral Reef. Small and great sea creatures at the California Coast Gallery range from the tiny tidepool anemone to the giant octopus. Each membership allows you to feed penguins, and gain access to the RSVP-only Holiday Nights show with live reindeer. There's as much all-ages activity at the Academy as in the on-site cafe. (Adults enjoy Thursday Nightlife shows, with earthquakes and alligators - and alcohol.) One Academy sleepover (Penguins + Pajamas) is the best mix of a safe outdoor family vacation. After planetarium shows and animal demos, park the family sleeping bags next to the aquarium (or swamp), wake up to a continental breakfast, and keep on exploring.

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City Clues Adventures

1111 Gough St.
San Francisco, CA 94164

If you need a reason to go wandering through San Francisco's historic districts on a treasure hunt, City Clues Adventures would be it. Maybe you'll want to bring the kids on a Family Adventure, maybe not. Some groups have decided to explore the city as bachelorettes, which may mean pub crawls and coctails. Others have used City Clues Adventures as a means of company team-building, without having to do a lot of prep work. The customizable group tours can add in other locations, like Union Square and the Financial District, which also has some amazing places to eat. Schools often book tours as a field trip, since skits and poetry can be worked in along with the treasure hunt problem-solving skills. It really just depends on what you want to do. There's a healthy mix of educational, historical, and competition-driven places to visit. If you want to find out about the Chinese Temple, tea shops, and also see the sights at Fisherman's Wharf, this tour can't be beat. If you'd like to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory but are afraid that you won't be able to find it in the maze of Chinatown alleys, this is one of the first stops along the tour. Also, the tour guides are very knowledgeable about restroom locations, which is a definite plus. If you have any energy left as the tour ends, check out some of the freebie areas of Pier 39. There are the walkable Musical Stairs, the street performers, and views of the Marina. You can even make notes for future trips, to the Aquarium of the Bay or the Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze (these are fascinating but not free). If you just can't stand any more walking, there's always the options of plopping into comfortable Bay Theatre seats for $5 each, though you can save some money by buying tickets online.

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Gymboree Play & Music

1501 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132

Foam tunnels. The 10 Little Bubbles Song. Slides and ladders. Building blocks. Puppets and parachutes. These are a few of Gymboree's kids' favorite things. Parents get to let their kids roam within grabbing distance, and talk to other adults. Kids aged 5 and under get to wear themselves out with all the toys and activities, and also learn some pre-school socialization skills along with the activities: song and dance, art and multimedia, sports and team-building. Age-appropriate classes greatly vary, since they're based on child development stages and include more as the kids grow. Most of the available classes are Play and Learn. Toddlers can build some early Sudoku solving abilities by going through patterns and sequences, or language development in a level 5 class. School skills add on some science and group cooperation concepts, which can be a real advantage when the kids are old enough to go to school. Art classes go beyond just finger painting and songs; there may be clay, there may be murals. Prepare to hang Gymboree art on the fridge, or display it on curio cabinets. There have been some negative reviews about parents not watching their children properly, which is outlined in the membership agreement under 'within a hug's reach'. There are available teachers, but parental involvement is necessary. At the same time, the kids will be intrigued by the mixture of consistency and variety, since classes and themes are changed every few weeks. Parents may be reassured that if they move across states or cities, there are many Gymborees to be accessed. This location is great, with a Lucky Supermarket and a Chipotle nearby. There shouldn't be any trouble with finding last-minute snacks or lunch if you've forgotten the goldfish crackers and dried apples. There's a current promotion on the Gymboree website for a first month's membership ($59) without a new members' fee, with a free class added on. Also, some parents have found Groupon deals that make the low cost even better. All in all, Gymboree is an affordable and clean place to go to get the young kids out of the rain, out of the house, and with other kids to work out their energy.

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House of Air

926 Old Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94129

Just hearing the words “Trampoline Park” and “Bounce House” may make your kids start – literally – bouncing off the walls. Why not dress them up in Lycra and bring them to the House of Air so they can get all that energy out without damaging the house? This isn't just one of those places with one trampoline and one bounce house, and a bunch of bored kids asking when they can go home. First, you have to find the right place in Presidio near Crissy Field Avenue, and NOT get distracted by going to Mason and California street (GPS can get confused). Second, you don't want to show up on a weekend without a reservation, because even though it's not a black tie affair and people can jump barefooted, most weekends and holidays fill up fast. You've got to plan ahead to take advantage of the Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year extended jump times. Third, as an adult, don't get confused and try to take over the tots' trampoline park and dodgeball – you have your own grown-up area. If you're over 16, you can even schedule an 'air conditioning' workout session or a training class after 7 on weeknights, and find out all those muscles that the gym doesn't get to. If you're an early bird type, try the 8 am Saturday class. Those in skiing and snowboarding training can perfect their moves on Wednesdays. The GoPro cameras can be rented. For $4 or $12, you can come home with an SD card with all of your cool moves ready to be laughed at by posterity. (If not, try the private sessions.) If you're dying to be part of the team, Tuesdays from 7 to 9 pm are the Trampoline Dodgeball League championships. It costs $800 for a team of 8. For $12.50 per week per person, it's almost guaranteed that you'll attend more often than if you paid for a gym membership. If your office needs a little more air and a lot fewer board meetings, think about getting a team together for corporate bonding. Alternatively, come as a group and get challenged by birthday kids.

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Randall Museum

199 Museum Way
San Francisco, CA 94114

* The Randall Museum is under renovation and has temporarily reopened the Live Animal exhibit at Mission Art Center at 745 Treat Avenue, as well as the Art, Ceramics and Science studios. Read more on their official website. The Randall Museum is the jack-of-all trades of entertainment and education for younger kids and pre-teens. It's something between a zoo, a science fair, a theatre, and an all-around field trip extravaganza – and it's free! The rescued animals and pets, such as the monkey-faced eel and the legless lizard, are odd but not lethal – and the petting area is always a favorite. (There are also birds and bees, which can provide much educational opportunity.) The Middle School Science Fair in February is quite famous, and allows entries by public, private, and homeschooled kids alike. The models and replicas, from 'Riding the Rails' to the earthquake shack, can be really fascinating. The new Windswept exhibit shows arrows pointing which way the wind blows, ideal for kids working their way through Earth Science programs. Any kids who have gotten intrigued by the Cable Car Museum must go on a Saturday to see the Golden Gate Model Railroad, which was upgraded to digital controls and realistic sounds on a working track. If you're not too tired from the uphill walk to get to the museum, there's a nearby trail with good views overlooking the city and Bay area. The theatre has really broad-based appeal. It opens in the evening, and shows anything from “A Clockwork Orange” to “Lawrence of Arabia”, though the Museum doesn't require any admission fees or age restrictions, parents are told to use their best judgment. That also goes for the free astronomy lecture at 8 pm on every third Wednesday, and other one-off events such as explanations of animal mating strategies. Classical concerts and choirs free and open to all ages (though donations are appreciated), and the low-cost ($8) Buddy Club outings on Sundays for magic shows or ventriloquism.

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