In late July my wife, our four year old daughter, and I are flying into SFO. We're renting a minivan, sightseeing for a few days, then driving up either 101, and maybe 1 too, to the southern Oregon coast to visit family.
We've done that drive a number of time but not in many years and not with a child.
On our list, in the San Fran area are Lombard Street, San Jose flea market, Jelly Belly, the Wharf, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Further north is the Avenue of Giants (which has a number of things, like the Grandfather Tree and Confusion Hill). All the way up north is Ocean World in Crescent City, and West Coast Game Park Safari in Bandon, OR.
We're looking for are suggestions of other places that we don't yet know about.
Not sure how many days you'll be in the Bay Area or if you've visited before, but if you're in San Francisco for a majority of that time, I'd recommend a day in Golden Gate Park. There's the Conservatory of Flowers, Academy of Sciences, DeYoung Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, and Stow Lake all in one area. Further west inside GGP going towards the beach is a fenced area where a large group of bisons live that's cool to see. There's also Twin Peaks for a great view of the City and the Bay.
Of course there's the Golden Gate Bridge that takes you into beautiful Marin where there's Muir Woods with its awesome Redwood Trees. On your way up from a morning there, you could take 101N to 37 through Sonoma and to Vallejo (no toll), you'll get to Jelly Belly via 80 East within an hour depending on traffic. Up 1, there's gorgeous views all over the place, but Point Reyes National Seashore is a great stop for views of the ocean, locally made cheeses to sample, and learn about all the different types of species that live in the area.
Thanks respirit for those. Near where we live we have a hands on museum, and not far from us is the Liberty State Science Center, which I believe is like the Exploratorium.
We've decided that going some place out there, like a petting zoo, is 'off the table' if we can go to the same type of place locally. Of course, is the place there has something extraordinary, maybe like a baby elephant at the petting zoo, then yeah, we'll go there for that :)
In that case, see if the "Mystery Spot" outside of Santa Cruz fits your bill. It would be a quick stopover on your way to/from Monterey.
Snowball, regarding redwoods, the ones down and around SF typically don't hold a candle to the ancient ones all the way up north on the Avenue of the Giants.
We have the Museum of Natural History, MOMA, and the others in Manhattan, so we'll probably not visit DeYoung or the Acadamy.
Point Reyes would definitely be added to the list if we weren't going to spend a week on the Oregon coast.
I really like the idea of a boat rental at Stow Lake. However, the electric boats are limited, don't last the day, and both of us adults have bad knees and wouldn't want to try a pedal boat.
The Japanese Tea Garden would be lost on the little one. She's only four...
All that said, the Conservatory of Flowers, OTOH, has an exhibit on carniverous plants. We'd go to that even without the four year old :)
Learning about something like that is what this thread is all about!
We love places like these. Confusion Hill is almost the same thing, just much, much farther north, http://www.confusionhill.com
Jedediah Smith State Park outside of Crescent City is my favorite Redwoods spot. Last I heard they had the largest one there, but I don't think the exact location is advertised.