Ten Boredom-Busting Park Adventures for Kids


National Park Service Ranger with Summer Campers

Discovery Quests & Treasure Hunts
Calling all gumshoes! Pick up the “Mystery Trail Challenge” at the Warming Hut, get the “Redwood Discovery” guide at Muir Woods, and visit the Presidio Trust website for more self-guiding adventures. Older kids will love the “treasure hunt” around the Golden Gate Bridge, developed in celebration of its 75th anniversary (download the pdf guide).

El Polín Spring/Ecology Trail
Fresh from a dramatic restoration and makeover, El Polín Spring—in the southeastern sector of the Presidio—has become one of the best places to watch birds in San Francisco. Make it a full nature hike by taking the kids from El Polín up the Ecology Trail to picnic-perfect Inspiration Point.

Fort Baker/Bay Area Discovery Museum
This tucked-away park site is often a sunny refuge from summer fog. Enjoy a picnic on the lawn, surrounded by the stately buildings of Cavallo Point lodge. Then let the kids burn off their energy—and ignite their creativity—at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, which features hands-on exhibits indoor and out.

Golden Gate Bridge
Yes, the majestic span just turned 75. But the visitor experience is brand new. Check out the recently-installed National Science Foundation-funded exhibits, browse the displays at the Bridge Pavilion welcome center, grab a bite at the Bridge Café, and snap a family portrait “atop the Bridge Tower”—sure to be a hit come holiday-card time!

Junior Ranger Booklets
What’s better than a trip to the park? A chance to become a “park ranger!” When visiting Alcatraz, Muir Woods, or the Marin Headlands, ask at the visitor center (at the Dock Office on Alcatraz) for a free activity booklet, perfect for elementary-school-aged kids.

Marine Mammal Center
Your budding biologists will be amazed by the seals and sea lions at this facility at Fort Cronkhite—and by the work of staff and volunteers to rehabilitate the animals. Admission is free and the conservation lessons invaluable. Plan your visit here.

Native Plant Nurseries
Summer’s a great time to introduce the next generation of park stewards to the virtues of volunteering, and our native plant nurseries currently have plenty of low-impact, kid-friendly work activities. Click here to locate the nearest nursery and learn its drop-in hours. Help grow the future!

Outdoor Exploratorium
All the legendary wonder of the Exploratorium—at no cost! Twenty outdoor exhibits, concentrated along the waterfront of Fort Mason and Fort Mason Center, harness the wind, waves, sun, and surrounding environment to teach and delight. Visit the Outdoor Exploratorium website for map and guide.

Pier Crabbing
Family feeling crabby? In a pinch, a quick jaunt to Fort Point can be your cure! Learn the basics of crabbing in San Francisco Bay—then try your hand with the provided nets. The next days for this regularly scheduled program are July 14 and July 28. Call (415) 556-1693 to make reservations. And while the kids exercise their imaginations amid the castle-like environs of Fort Point, you can enjoy the new International Orange exhibit, featuring artists’ creative responses to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Point Bonita YMCA & NatureBridge
These two phenomenal park partners have low-cost, family-friendly programs throughout the summer: night hikes, campfires, camping trips, and hikes that introduce explorers of all ages to the natural wonders of the Marin Headlands. Visit the NatureBridge and Point Bonita YMCA websites for details.

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