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Free family activities in Northern California

Free family fun abounds in California. From the beach to the boardwalk to the best parks around, here’s a guide to the best family activities that are free, to boot!

San Francisco Bay Area

Cal sailing

1Cal Sailing Club Sailboat Rides, Berkeley

The Cal Sailing Club holds “open houses” on select Sundays throughout the year to give families a taste of what it is like to sail the seas in an earth-friendly way. Individuals ages 5 and up are encouraged to come to the front of the clubhouse and sign up for a free ride, put on a lifejacket, and learn all about sailing, from the ABCs of sailing to sailboat safety. Bring a change of clothes because you might get wet – or soaked – as you sail the open sea. The Cal Sailing Club is located in the Berkeley Marina between Adventure Playground and Cal Adventures.

Website: Cal Sailing Club Sailboat Rides

Address: 124 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94710


2National Maritime Museum, San Francisco

Climb aboard ships and historic vessels at the National Maritime Museum. Hands-on exhibits, ships, videos and tours offer insight and education into the nautical world of both past and present. Below-deck tours of a ferry boat, sail demonstrations, and small and craft collection tours get visitors up close and personal with featured vessels. Check out guided historic waterfront walking tours and programs designed especially for kids. Or, stop in and talk to the people behind the watercraft: the Small Boat Shop on Hyde Street Pier offers visitors the chance to talk directly with the boat builders themselves. Along with other monthly events, musical concerts and monthly sea chantey sing-a-longs aboard ships are also available at this San Francisco Maritime experience.

Website: National Maritime Museum

Address: 499 Jefferson St., San Francisco, CA


3Douglass Playground Slide, San Francisco

Tucked away amongst the local San Francisco residences is a local secret: tall cement playground slides! The concrete giants offer plenty of fast-riding fun, whether you choose to bring your own cardboard or catch a ride on one of the pieces left near the slides by past patrons. Some past visitors suggest sprinkling a little sand on the slide before heading down on the cardboard sled, but the slides are said to be slippery enough to ride down on your own behind. Be aware though that a few scrapped or rubbed elbows can be ensued, but overall, the cement slides are a treat for the entire family. However, be sure to bring your kids with you; no adults allowed unless accompanied by children.

Address: Seward St. & Douglass St., San Francisco, CA 94114

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