Your Family Fun Guide to the SF Bay Area

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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.

family travel silicon valley

Quite the exilirating ride

There are rides that allow you to rock a skate park classic as you swoop up and down the sides of a four-story half pipe at 23 mph, as well as the Shark Attack Mako, which is a relentlessly fast open air body slide with sudden steep drops.
We also loved Hurricane Bay, which is a phenomenal million gallon wave pool which makes king-sized currents and ocean-sized fun.
Spiritual travel, family travel silicon valley

Gotta love those magic mushrooms from which magical water falls!

family travel silicon valley

Another area for swimming and where kids can play

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.

family travel silicon valley

More water fun on the Tornado, which was btw, our favorite.

water park fun silicon valley family travel

On the high curve

waterpark family travel silicon valley

Having fun at the waterpark

Tons of fun in the sun

There’s no shortage of vibrant colors throughout the park.

Family travel silicon valley

Vibrant colors on the rides 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.

Solo in a tube and ready to go!

Invigorating experiences at their best!


Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (formerly Waterworld)

1950 Waterworld Parkway

Concord, CA 94520

Website Info Here!

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.

Great America Parkway family travel bay area

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.

Rollercoasters Great America Family Fun

Thrill rides galore and in a ton of vibrant colors. Psycho mouse anyone?

Family fun thrill rides Bay Area

View from above!

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!


Great America

4701 Great America Parkway

Santa Clara, CA 95054

Website Info here

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.

family fun south bay bay area

The work of Santa Cruz artist Matt Jones

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.

family fun bay area

Above and below, traditional San Francisco houses in and around Fillmore Street, which makes for an interesting walk in the immediate area

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

Website Info here! 

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?

family fun wax museum san francisco

Icons like Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman and Leonardo DiCaprio are represented here

family fun bay area

For favorites: Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett (who I used to work for btw), Audrey Hepburn (she’s so elegant) and Woopie Goldberg

family fun bay area

At the top — you betcha, it’s George Clooney & if you’re into Martial Arts, well…..

family fun bay area

Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett, SF legend Ed Lee & Al Capone all in one showing? What a day it was!

family fun bay area

Yeah, singers and legendaries were there too like Elvis, Santana and Maadonna!

They also had folks like Johann ‘John’ Augustus Sutter (middle right) who was one of the first to hit the San Francisco gold and yet died a poor man. Yup, that’s Obama there on the upper right and lower left (LOVE HIM!!)

Oh how we miss Robin Williams (on the top — young and old) and Quentin Crisp who I knew little about (a writer who wrote The Naked Civil Servant) and of course Francis Ford Coppola!

family fun bay area

Upper right: we love you Rosa Parks (what a miraculous woman she was), more Quentin, Lincoln of course (so dignified they made him) and Harvey Milk!!

A little football and martial arts action (on the top) with more Johnny Depp (what can I say, Anthony and I both love his movies) and of course Steven Spielberg! (LOVE your work Steven!!)

family fun bay area

Jake on drums near Tony Bennett of course

Michael Jackson wax museum, family fun bay area

Uncanny how real it all was!

family fun bay area bob marley wax museum

Bob Marley — did I say Jammin’ again?

family fun bay area

Morgan Freeman, one of my favorite actors – LOVE him!!

Baby Grand family fun silicon valley

If you play piano (which I do)), why not play a grand whenever you can?

Tiger Woods wax museum Jake family fun bay area

Tiger Woods and Jake take up a l’il golf on set.

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

Website Info here! 

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. 

The Alcatraz Drop Ride

The Alcatraz Drop Ride — photo credit: San Francisco Dungeon

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.

family fun silicon valley south bay

Inside the attraction — photo credits courteous of San Francisco Dungeon

Two thumbs up — we had a blast!!


San Francisco Dungeon

145 Jefferson Street #500

San Francisco, CA 94133

Website Info here! 

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.

family fun thrill rides

My personal favorite roller coaster — it reminded me a bit of Psycho Mouse from Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara.

Thrill rides family fun

On the boardwalk, one of their more renowned rides is the SWINGS!! This will bring you back to childhood even if does make you a bit dizzy. The swings soar over the beach, so you have breathtaking views of the ocean beyond. WELL worth doing!

theme park family fun

You can take the gondola across the park so you can get views of the ocean and the theme park below.

Theme park theme rides family fun

The sunsets in Santa Cruz are always breathtaking, so be sure to bring your camera.

theme park, rides, family fun santa cruz

These funky and fun creatures seemed to pop up everywhere. On rides, benches and throughout the park. Creativity at its best!

Santa cruz family fun theme park thrill rides

The beach

family fun theme park thrill rides

This one was far too dizzying for me but Jake loved it!

Santa Cruz theme parks family fun

More sunset magic above

Theme park family fun

Whoah!! Those magical swings — does it get much better than this?

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.


Santa Cruz Boardwalk
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Website Info Here!

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.

Castro theatre family fun bay area san francisco

Look at just how spectacular the theatre is — the artisan and authentic wood, the walls, the fine touches and more. You won’t be disappointed.

family fun bay area

Hosts for the Sound of Music singalong at the Castro Theatre, an incredible evening out for the family

family fun castro theatre south bay

More family fun. People actually dressed up for the occasion and all those who did make the effort were invited on stage — children AND adults.  

family fun

Above and below: snippets from the film itself – it was a blast and I’d strongly recommend it. Check out the Castro Theatre for their schedule and how it times with your travel schedule.


Castro Theater

429 Castro Street

San Francisco, CA 94114

Website Info Here! 

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.

family fun bay area

The notorious Golden Gate Bridge


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