Bay Explorers

My vision is to inspire families of all backgrounds to explore, be present, and have fun with their children in the Bay Area.

Our Summer Bucket List


Wow with my oldest daughter starting back to school and my youngest daughter just being born, it feels like our Summer fun is coming to a close. I don't know how they suddenly changed all the rules, and Summer ends mid August for these kids now, when I was little Labor Day always marked the end of our Summer. But alas my oldest daughter only got to enjoy 8 weeks of that Summertime special magic.

Here is what we did to make the most out of our Summer. Before the Summer started I put together a Summer Bucket List. The List included places we hadn't been to in awhile, places I had heard about and never went, and some places that we love but know are more fun to enjoy on week days with less crowds.

Because I have my own in-home daycare we take field trips every Monday and Friday so we were able to get a lot of mini trips in that way too. We also continued to make the most out of our weekends. We went so many places this Summer and had such a good time wherever we went that I wanted to share our fun!

Here is a rundown of our Summer Bucket List in hopes that it will inspire you and your family to go out and discover some new fun places around the Bay Area! Without further ado, our Summer Bucket List....

1) Gray Whale Cove State Beach: This is a beach in Pacifica that I have seen many people post about and it always looks gorgeous- well that's because it is! Getting down to the actual beach is a little bit tricky. The parking lot is across the highway and you have to carefully cross it with children and beach accessories in tow. Then there is a rather steep and long stairwell from the top of the beach overlook point to get down to the actual sand. But once you get there it is beautiful! Keep in mind this is a partially nude beach so you may find just that if you walk too far to the right lol. We could definitely see naked silhouettes but didn't venture any closer.

2) Stow Lake Paddle Boating: Stow lake in Golden Gate Park offers a wide range of boating options to see the views of the lake from. We have always been paddle boating but there are also electric & row boats. You can choose from a 4 person paddle boat or a 6 person paddle boat. Strawberry hill which is the little island in the middle of the lake also has a trail around it that you can walk on while seeing the sights up closer, this includes a beautiful waterfall and the Chinese pagoda.

3) Golden Gate Park Playground: This is one of the best playgrounds around! Not only is it super big with multiple structures, swings, slides, and climbing apparatuses but they have a very reasonably priced merry-go-round, snack stand, giant field, and the famous cement slide that kids can ride down with a piece of cardboard.

4) Happy Hollow Park and Zoo: This place located in San Jose has a little bit of everything! Featuring a very friendly petting zoo, lots of play structures, rides, an animal themed carousel, and a zoo portion with some larger animals but not too large. There is an area towards the back with tons of rides for younger children and also this gigantic play structure that is like 3 stories high. AAA discounts at the gate as well as the 50% off for other reciprocal zoo members.

5) El Cerrito Swim Center: I really like this pool for many reasons and I dislike this pool for 1 reason- there are too many rules! Here's the upshot: The pool features a small water slide for big kids, diving boards, lap lanes, a splash pad park for younger kids, and my youngest daughter's favorite feature is a shallow end of the pool where she can swim by herself with no life vest. Here's the downside lots of rules that the lifeguards are more than happy to tell you about. Don't even think of trying to bring your own life vest or floatie for your pre-swimmer- that's out, they have their own life vests that they want you to use. No piggy back rides, no splashing, no diving, etc.

6) Strawberry Canyon Pool: Love this pool! Its nestled in the trees of Cal campus in Berkeley behind the stadium. Gives off a very naturey feel when you are swimming here as you are surrounded by towering pine trees. There is lots of rec swim room so even when it's crowded there's usually plenty of room for swimming, but it does get crowded on the weekends! So I recommend getting there early & finding a good grassy spot in the sun to plunk your stuff down on.

7) Bay Area Discovery Museum: This is one of my favorite places to take the kids as there is literally hours and hours of hands on fun to be had here! Everything is interactive. Every station/ exhibit/ activity is meant to stimulate kids minds and hands lol. There are main staples of activities that are always the same there and then there are also rolling exhibits that are different every time we visit. Lots of indoor activities, lots of outdoor play space, and the best part is it is located right under the Golden Gate Bridge so great photo ops!

8) FairyLand: Oakland's own mini sized theme park. And when I say mini, I mean that is who it is age appropriate for! Bring your littles. My older daughter humored the situation but was more or less bored. My 3 year old loves the merry-go-round, train ride, and big slides. Plus all the story book themes are reminiscent of our adult childhoods. The daily puppet shows are also one of our favorite features.

9) Cull Canyon: Maybe one of my favorite place for swimming in the Bay Area! It is not your traditional pool- in fact it is not a pool at all! It's a man made lagoon. Having all the ambiance of lake swimming without the murkiness of a real lake. The water is filtered and chlorinated so it is very clean! Nice beach and sand areas plus grass and picnic areas. Set amid towering trees and wildlife.

10) Don Castro: Very similar to Cull Canyon and even has the same exit off the freeway as Cull Canyon but is in the opposite direction in Hayward. Also a man made lagoon, clean, sandy beach, picnic areas, nature esque, and very cheap way to go swimming.

11) KidTopia: This newly opened indoor play gym in Fremont has it all! Climbing, sliding, ball pit, dress ups, trains, spinners, dramatic play, tunnels, so much stuff to keep kids occupied for a really long time. After the first time we went here my kids begged me to take them back. Great place for rainy days, also great place for really hot days when you need air conditioning.

12) Heather Farms Park & Pool: Heather Farms is already one of the coolest playgrounds around I think but we hadn't had the chance to get to the pool until this Summer and it's cool for many other reasons... like gigantic inflatable obstacle courses, diving boards, and a whole small pool for little kids.

13) Ocean Beach: One of the closest off leash dog beaches in San Francisco that the dog and the kids can have fun at. More enjoyable when the fog has rolled out but still always a good time and always free!

14) Monterey Bay Aquarium: For sure the best aquarium around! The drive to Monterey is pretty manageable although being by the ocean always makes me want to stay. Literally hours of walking around looking at all the different sea life. The otters are our favorite followed by the mesmerizing jellyfish. Also a kids section for play and an observation deck.

15) Carmel Beach: OMG this is one of my favorite beaches now! The sand is powdery white and sooo soft! The waves, ocean, and views are breathtaking!

16) Adventure Playground: This iconic Berkeley spot if FREE for all visitors and features sawing, painting, hammering, building, and playing the old fashioned way. Don't wear fancy clothes here or open toe shoes, come for getting messy and rough play. A zipline is available to kids 6 and over. Set on the Berkeley Marina so really nice views and a park right next door.

17) Aqua Adventure: This water park is in Fremont is small compared to many but also very reasonably priced for a water park. My kids were mainly into the lazy river. There's a cute kids area plus two big kid water slides, lounge areas, and a snack bar.

18) Totland: I used to go to this park frequently when I worked at a daycare close by. I never took any of my actual kids here because at that time the park was sort of run down and was like the dumping grounds for old toys people discarded. But since that time 10 years ago, it's gotten a face lift! Remodeled and clean! It's now a really nice looking park that is really close to many things in downtown Berkeley.

19) Oakland Zoo: It's the zoo. There's animals, there's rides, there's a really cool gondola ride and now the new part of the zoo has opened and there are lots of visitors coming to see these new renovations.

20) CuriOdyssey: This place which is set on the beautiful grounds of Coyote Point in San Mateo is part science museum part animal rescue sanctuary. Either way it is a fun plethora of discovery for kids. Plus there are two nice playgrounds in Coyote Point and lots of room for picnics and bike riding.

21) Magic Mountain Playground: This is one of the coolest playgrounds around and is also located in Coyote Point as well. So after you go to CuriOdyseey you can check out this playground that's castle and dragon themed.

22) Exploratorium: The Exploratorium is the place for hands on exploration! Like a really cool social science experiment. Everywhere you turn is another cause and effect exhibit, something else for kids to touch and play with. Kids can spend hours learning and discovering here.

23) Albany Aquatic Center: We love this place to swim for two reasons...1) It's open year round with an indoor and outdoor pool, plus the indoor pool is heated! 2) On Saturdays in Summer the outdoor pool has an inflatable obstacle course set up.

24) Castro Valley Splash Pad Park: A great way to cool down on a hot day without going swimming. In the park there is a splash pad with shooting water guns, water streaming up from the ground, lots of splashing fun.

25) Tilden Steam Trains: All aboard the Tlden Steam Trains- choo choo! Your kids will delight in this cute little train ride through some of the Tilden hills. This is one stop of many fun things to do in Tilden.

26) San Leandro Aquatic Center: A really fun place to swim with a big kids water slide, a shallow end with a little kids play structure, a deep pool, and lots of grassy area for laying out on. Very reasonably priced but also gets full so get there early!

27) Tilden Merry Go Round: Part of the Tilden trifecta, and one of the fun stops along the Tilden grounds. Fun Merry-go-round with snack bar.

28) Roberts Redwood Pool: Very inexpensive pool in the Oakland Hills amid Joaquin Miller Park. Has the nice feel of swimming in nature as it's surrounded by trees. The first time we came here I didn't care for it. It was very crowded and the lifeguards were way too excited to blow their whistles at you. But the second time we came it was much more pleasant. Not crowded at all and the lifeguards were more chill. Plus nice grassy area to spread out and relax on.

29) Boating on Lake Chabot: This was a very memorable experience for me as I have been wanting to do this for a couple of years now. We rented a motorboat and took it out on the lake for an hour, It was really beautiful and a great way to see the lake from another perspective.

30) Hiking in Joaquin Miller Park: My favorite place to hike! Tall redwoods, peaceful paths, and off leash dog walking. Love the serenity in our Oakland backyard.

31) Natural Bridges State Beach: Although this wasn't on my original list we did get to visit this wonderful Santa Cruz beach before Summer ended!

Hope this list inspires you to get away from your TV, get outside, and get exploring!


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