Although it doesn’t have the theme parks and palm-tree-lined beaches that make Southern California such a draw for family vacationers, there are plenty of reasons to plan a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area—from iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge in bustling and eclectic San Francisco to oceanfront roller coasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. But a family trip to the area wouldn’t be complete without exploring some of its many alluring science destinations. As a hotbed for marine research, all things tech, nature and wildlife adventuring, and more, the region offers plenty of chances to sneak some learning (disguised as fun) into the next family vacation. Take note of these ideas when planning your trip.
1. You really can’t go wrong with a visit to The California Academy of Sciences, where a pass gains visitors entry to a plethora of interesting features, including a planetarium, natural history museum, aquarium, rain forest, and myriad exhibits (the current featured exhibit is called “Skulls”). Plus, there are 40,000 live animals on hand, and the entire place is capped off with a must-see living roof.
2. Nestled on the cliffs above the rich marine habitat of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium brings the mysteries of the sea into the spotlight. Peek into life in the kelp forest, let yourself be mesmerized by the undulating beauty of jellyfish, and watch the playful sea otters enjoy feeding time.
3. Families with aspiring astronauts will find plenty of inspiration at The NASA Ames Exploration Center, near San Jose. Go for a spin in the shuttle cockpit simulator, view models of past space crafts, learn all about the moon, and much more.
4. Future innovators can dabble in the tech world with the many hands-on workshops and exhibits at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. An eight-story IMAX theater, virtual-reality features, and a behind-the-scenes look at important tech advances await.
5. The Exploratorium, in San Francisco, is “more than a museum—it’s a 21st-century learning laboratory,” according to its website. Adults and kids, alike, will have their curiosity piqued and satiated throughout this institution’s many galleries, exhibits and events. For example, the Tactile Dome challenges visitors to journey through total darkness using only one’s sense of touch.