San Francisco Attractions That Provide Kids With Interactive Experiences

July 25, 2016 / San Francisco

There’s no better way to learn something than to experience it in a hands-on way. That’s what makes many of San Francisco’s nearby museums and interactive attractions such a great day-trip option for families.

Here are some great ones worth exploring:

California Academy of Sciences

Consider the California Academy of Sciences, where tots can touch sea urchins, experience a realistic earthquake simulation, and explore a four-story rainforest environment. Located in Golden Gate Park, the Academy is the only place in the world with a natural history museum, aquarium, and planetarium all under one roof. Even the roof itself is unique. Known as a “living roof,” it encompasses nearly 2.5 acres of undulating hills planted with groundcover and native wildflowers.


For the ultimate in interactive fun, it’s hard to beat the Exploratorium. This “public learning laboratory” features hundreds of exhibits encompassing science, art, and technology. Visit the South Gallery, where you can participate in the Art of Tinkering. Make time for the Osher West Gallery, where you’ll learn about interesting human phenomena. Also experience the Tactile Dome, a pitch-black series of chambers that you maneuver through using only your sense of touch.

Aquarium by the Bay

If your family wants to interact with aquatic life, then Aquarium by the Bay is the perfect stop. The “Touch the Bay” experience gives inquisitive hands access to touch pools inhabited by sea stars, rays—and even sharks. Another fascinating attraction is “Under the Bay,” with tunnels that let you view habitats of moon jellies, Pacific sea nettles, giant sea bass, and more.

San Francisco Zoo

In the vastness that is the San Francisco Zoo, interactive experiences for families are all around. Little ones will love the petting zoo, and they’ll have fun climbing on a gigantic spider web outside the Insect Zoo. All age groups will enjoy the Elinor Friend Playground, modeled after three bio-regions: a River Play area for toddlers, a Polar Zone exploration space for preschoolers, and a Banyan Tree climbing structure for older children. For more climbing fun, there’s an elevated ropes obstacle course in the Pachyderm Building. In addition, kids can learn many fascinating facts about animals by using plastic animal keys to activate talking storyboards located throughout the zoo.

Avoid Parking Hassles

If there’s one downside to these popular attractions, it’s the hassle of parking and finding a space. Parking lots and garages fill up fast, especially on weekends and holidays. And it can get pricey, especially if you want to visit more than one place in a day. One way to avoid the ordeal of parking and put that money toward an Uber fare.

If you live in a close-in neighborhood like Noe Valley, uberX fares to the zoo or California Academy would run about $10-$15 (one-way), whereas a trip to the Aquarium or Exploratorium would be around $15-$20 (for larger families, add approximately 50% more for uberXL). If you live somewhere further out like San Mateo, uberX fares to any of the four attractions would cost about $25-$35.

Set up your Family Profile in the Uber app to keep your family moving.