There’s no shortage of fun things to do as a family in the San Francisco Bay Area, from family friendly restaurants and ice rinks to marine life and tech museums. There’s also sailing, Alcatraz, cycling in Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, the beaches, the Route 1 coastline, and the nature of Marin. I wrote about many of these things earlier this year. Below I cover some of the other family fun activities in the area we missed in our first guide of the year.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Called Waterworld until April of this year, this Concord-based water park is now part of Six Flags. The kids will love the size of this park, since there’s so much variation that you can easily spend an entire day here and not take it all in. Note: if you want to avoid long lines, try going mid-week if you can, especially if you plan to bring several kids.
Then there’s the Tornado, where you can raft down a 132 foot tunnel into the mouth of a gigantic funnel in the most original water thrill imaginable.
There’s no shortage of vibrant colors throughout the park.
Other rides range from tubes that accommodate a full family (the Big Kahuna) to tubes which you can experience the “thrill” on your own.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (formerly Waterworld)
1950 Waterworld Parkway
Concord, CA 94520
Great America Theme Park
In the South Bay along Great America Parkway in Santa Clara lies a fun family theme park: Great America.
This 100-acre amusement park has a few rollercoasters to die for, such as the Rail Steel Coaster they call Railblazer and our favorite, the Psycho Mouse. Yes, there’s really a ride called the Psycho Mouse — you sit in small cars and they zig zag quickly around sharp turns with surprising outcomes.
The Gold Striker is their old fashioned wooden roller coaster which even took us by surprise. They have a bunch of fun names for other thrill rides, like the Delirium, the Drop Tower, Orbit and Jake’s favorite, the Tiki Twirl, which he went on a few times.
They also have a beautiful carousel on-site as well which all four of us had to experience — I love the artisan work on the ceilings and walls, as well as the mirrors that line the inside.
What we loved most about the park was its serene moments, rarely found at a theme park. Grant you, we were there mid-week and not during a holiday. I’d recommend staying clear of weekends and busy travel season so you don’t have to wait long for rides — it makes a huge difference for how you experience the park.
We also loved the “water moments”, plenty of food choices and the fact that there were so many roller coast options to choose from – YAY!
4701 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Fillmore Street Jazz Festival
Since we were in San Francisco during the annual Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, we had to go. First of all, it’s free and it’s fun for adults and kids alike.
From artwork, crafts, honey and jewelry to Turkey on a Stick, ice cream and Giros, you’ll be covered. We loved the work of Santa Cruz based artist Matt Jones (below) who works in 3D.
And of course, music is the order of the day. There are different stages set up and performers playing along the streets. It’s a great place to tap your feet, get up and dance, browse the tables for fun and creative wares or simply people watch.
San Francisco architecture nearby is oh so classic and also interesting.
This year marked its 35th year of holding the festival in San Francisco.
Fillmore Street Jazz Festival
From Jackson to Eddy
San Francisco, CA
10:00 AM to 6:00 PM ~ FREE
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum SF
I am fond of wax museums and yet despite their popularity, they rarely make the cut when I travel. This is largely because of an already over-booked agenda most of the time.
That said, I experienced Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London many years ago, so was thrilled when we had an opportunity to pop into the San Francisco venue, along the ever so pretty Embarcadero.
Yup, that’s Johnny Depp in the upper left, but let’s see how many others you can guess?
It was so much fun — we’d recommend visiting, especially if you have kids in tow. And, since you’ll be on the Embarcadero, why not pop into the San Francisco Dungeon right next door. See below.
Madame Tussaud’s San Francisco
145 Jefferson Street #600
San Francisco, CA 94133
The San Francisco Dungeon
Immediately adjacent to Madame Tussaud’s is the San Francisco Dungeon, which is a tourist attraction that recreates historical events using 360° sets, special effects, and live actors. Visitors walk through the Dungeon, and are guided through each show by professional actors.
In each room, actors provide historical accounts of times gone by, try to scare visitors as much as they can, and awe us with their fabulous costumes. Amusing, scary, thrilling and interesting, it’s all there for the taking.
At the very end of the experience, you’re brought into a room where you experience the very short “ride” portion of the Dungeon: the Alcatraz Drop Ride.
Two thumbs up — we had a blast!!
San Francisco Dungeon
145 Jefferson Street #500
San Francisco, CA 94133
The Santa Cruz Boardwalk
This all outdoor amusement park offers a wide variety of games and rides along a mile-long stretch of sandy beach in the heart of beautiful Santa Cruz along California’s Route 1 coastline.
I’d recommend a full day here and getting the full day pass so you can come and go as you please as well as go on as many rides as you wish. There are plenty of places to get food on the boardwalk, from sweets like cotton candy, soft serve ice cream and caramel apples to pizza, giros and salads.
Sing Along Movies @ Castro Theatre
The Castro Theatre is a popular San Francisco movie palace which became San Francisco Historic Landmark #100 in September 1976. Truth be told, we are fans of this beautiful theatre and try to get there as often as we can for shows.
They offer sing along movies throughout the year, which range from classics for kids like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music to more epic ones from years gone by.
We had an opportunity to go to the Sound of Music singalong, which is one of my favorites. In the beginning, two hosts let the audience know what to expect and of course, as the songs come on, words pop up on the screen so the entire audience can sing along.
429 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Golden Gate Bridge
Of course you have to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and take that notorious shot on the beach with this famous iconic landmark in the distance (we have a ton of them over the years, be sure to check out our Instagram feed as we post San Francisco shots often). Also be sure to get closer up shots as well.