The Top 11 Children’s Museums in the Bay Area

|March 1, 2018

Science and art museums have been a cultural staple for centuries, acting as educational centers for all ages. However, these places often require reading comprehension, historical knowledge and other higher-level skills which are more suitable for adults, young adults and teens than they are for infants and toddlers.

But in recent years, as we’ve learned more about early learning and development, specialized children’s museums have been booming! These dedicated spaces are focused more on hands-on activities for our communities’ youngest children so we can promote creativity, collaboration and innovation in the generations to come.

To help find the right place for the kids to learn, create and explore, we rounded up the region’s most exciting and most inspiring children’s museums — and we threw in a few all-ages options for good measure. Happy learning!

1. Bay Area Discovery Museum | Sausalito

557 McReynolds Rd | Facebook | Admission info

The Bay Area Discovery Museum features seven exhibition spaces and more than six daily drop-in programs for children between 6 months of age and 10 years old. Just across the Golden Gate on 7.5 acres of National Park land in Sausalito, children can enjoy research-backed, STEM-focused, inquiry-driven experiences to encourage early learning and skill development. Check out the museum’s current exhibits here!

2. Children’s Discovery Museum | San Jose

180 Woz Way | Facebook | Admission info

Offering one of the most welcoming and fun atmospheres amongst Bay Area museums, this San Jose family staple is dedicated to inspiring creativity, curiosity, lifelong learning and motivating tomorrow’s visionaries. Exhibits include a children’s art gallery for viewing, an art loft for creating, the health-focused Rainbow Market to learn about food, the hands-on Mammoth Discovery, and more!

3. Randall Museum | San Francisco

199 Museum Way | Facebook | Admission info (it’s free!)

With drop-in activities, classes, summer camps and exhibits suited for children, teens and adults, Randall Museum is an outstanding hands-on educational destination for all ages. And it’s all free! Topics cover science, nature and art and include live animal encounters, the Toddler Tree House, and a Model Railroad with replicas of real Bay Area trains.

As a result of renovations finished in February 2018, the museum now boasts a STEM lab with state-of-the-art technological tools, a fully equipped woodworking studio, a natural sciences lab, art and ceramic studios, homes for more than 100 creatures that can no longer survive in the wild, a small amphitheater, a kinetic wind sculpture, gardens, and so much more!

4. Children’s Creativity Museum | San Francisco

221 4th St | Facebook | Admission info

Children's Creativity Museum San Francisco San Francisco Children's Museums Bay Area

Photo courtesy of Children’s Creativity Museum

Focused on innovations in art and technology and tailored for children ages 2 – 12, this SoMa museum strives to nurture both creativity and innovation in children to inspire another collaborative and motivated generation. The building offers four different hands-on labs, an Animation Studio, Music Studio, and the Spiral Gallery with both landscape and art views.

And their carousel was named one of the best in America by Travel+Leisure! It was originally constructed in 1906 then traveled from Rhode Island to San Francisco. Learn more about the LeRoy King Carousel here.  

5. CuriOdyssey | San Mateo

1651 Coyote Point Dr | Facebook | Admission info

CuriOdyssey is a nature and science center located in San Mateo’s Coyote Point Recreation Area. Perfect for kids, the museum has exhibits on bugs, local wildlife, creeks, gadgets and more! You can see the wildlife in action around the park, engage with hands-on exhibits inside the museum, and enjoy events like First Friday Family Nights and Kids’ Night Out.

6. Children’s Museum of Sonoma County | Santa Rosa

1835 W Steele Ln | Facebook | Admission info

Children's Museum of Sonoma County Bay Area

Photo courtesy of Children’s Museum of Sonoma County

This Sonoma County favorite is designed around playfulness, creativity and curiosity — and its history is as inspiring as the kid-friendly exhibits! In 2005, Sonoma County was lacking a local children’s museum of its own. The nearest one was 55 miles south and the second was over 200 miles north. So, a group of mothers and teachers launched the Museum-on-the-Go mobile science and art outreach program which operated out a trailer until December 2011 when they leased their first brick and mortar space. Through donations, grants and community generosity, Santa Rosa finally has a place to encourage early learning and creation!

7. Habitot Children’s Museum | Berkeley

2065 Kittredge St | Facebook | Admission info

Habitot opened its first facility in downtown Berkeley in 1998 and has since become the most popular and award-winning children’s discovery museum in the East Bay. Offering a toy lending library, family resources, at home activities and even free admission days, they’re also one of the most accessible. Art and science exhibits include Annie’s Little Farm, Little Town Grocery & Café, the Wind Tunnel, the Infant-Toddler Garden and are suited for every infant, toddler or preschooler under 6 years of age.

8. Museum of Children’s Arts | Oakland

1625 Clay St | Facebook | Admission info

This unique children’s art experience isn’t a typical museum. At MOCHA, they’ve created programs designed for schools, community spaces, and their facility to promote creativity and artistic learning in children over 18 months old. Open Studio on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays offers the opportunity for children and their parents to come in and create together! The drop-in program costs $5 per person and provides materials, basic instruction and space to learn.

9. Aquarium of the Bay | San Francisco

Pier 39 | Facebook | Admission info

Aquarium of the Bay San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Bay

This famous San Francisco aquarium isn’t specially designed for children, but it’s suited for all ages! The facility is located on the waterfront of Pier 39, is a Smithsonian affiliate, and is home to more than 20,000 marine animals. As you explore walk-through tunnel exhibits, transparent touch pools and a bubbling mountain stream exhibit, you’ll meet sharks and rays, octopi, jellyfish, anchovies, river otters and more.

10. Walt Disney Family Museum | San Francisco

104 Montgomery St | Facebook | Admission info

Located in the Presidio, this nonprofit organization and museum celebrates the life of Walt Disney and his transformational entertainment, animations and stories. It’s the perfect destination for families and anyone who loves Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the gang! Though not designed specifically for children, everyone can laugh and enjoy contemporary, interactive galleries narrated in Walt’s own voice, early drawings, cartoons, films, music, an early model of Disneyland, and so much more.

11. The Tech Museum of Innovation | San Jose

201 S Market St | Facebook | Admission info

The Tech Museum of Innovation San Jose San Francisco Children's Museums Bay Area

Photo courtesy of The Tech Museum of Innovation

Located in San Jose, The Tech Museum was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2015, the highest honor a museum can achieve. When you spend a day exploring and learning with your kids, you’ll discover innovations in healthcare, facts and history of the Silicon Valley, robot technology and more! With exhibits covering various biological and technological topics, every age group can find something to learn and enjoy.

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Let us know where your favorite children’s museum is — even if it’s not on our list!

Category Community Guides, East Bay, Marin County, Peninsula, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Wine Country

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