1. Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
The Bay Area Discovery Museum is located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning 7.5 acres of art, science and environmental exhibitions, performances, special events, cultural festivals, and more. The programs at the museum offer children ages 6 months old through 8 years old the opportunity to develop creative thinking skills through play and exploration.
It is also the only children’s museum in the country to be located in a national park. Summer Discovery Camps, kids’ music concerts, and classes focusing on early childhood development and music are part of the learning and fun that the Bay Area Discovery Museum has to offer families both near and far. A bonus: admission on the first Wednesday of every month is free.
Address: 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito, California 94965
2. California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento
All aboard one of North America’s most popular railroad museum: The California State Railroad Museum! Located in Old Sacramento, the museum features restored trains, exhibits, special events, and every weekend in April through September, rides on a real steam locomotive. Railroad history in California and in the West is brought to life in this six-building museum, and people of all ages will enjoy learning about how railroads have changed the economy, people lives, and the culture. The museum boasts an elaborate toy train exhibit as well, featuring 1,000 vintage toy trains, six interactive displays, and a 3,300 square foot toy train layout for those who are awed by trains both big and small.
Address: 111 I St., Sacramento, California 95814
3. Oakland Aviation Museum, Oakland
The Oakland Aviation Museum is located right next to Oakland International Airport and is a must see for any young plane buff! Featuring a wide selection of historically important planes, the centerpiece of the collection is a Short Bros. Solent MkIII flying boat – one of only three surviving examples. In addition to being able to view the various planes, the museum offers “Open Cockpit Day” several times a year, where you can climb up into the pilot’s seat and see what it was like to fly these vintage beauties.
Address: 8252 Earhart Rd, Oakland, California 94621
4. Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose
The Tech Museum of Innovation aims to inspire the innovator in everyone. The more than 200 hands-on exhibits and interactive experiences are divided among themed galleries, covering topics that include the latest technological discoveries in genetics, earth sciences, alternative energy, virtual design, microchips, and even the Internet.
The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theatre offers educational movies, while other permanent exhibits, like the Tech Awards Gallery and a Tech Virtual Test Zone, brings out the tech-fan in everyone who visits. For the adventurous family, a sleepover program gives participants the chance to sleep next to their favorite exhibit, view a special IMAX showing, and enjoy a continental breakfast in the morning.
Address: 201 S. Market St., San Jose, California 95113
5. Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, Nevada City
The history of California mining can be learned up close and personal at the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park and Museum. Visitors can experience a piece of history as you walk through the reconstructed town of North Bloomfield, housing restored buildings and exhibits. The mountains that were washed away during the Gold Rush now stand as reminders of the time where hydraulic mining ruled the area.
Explorers can step into the mouth of a huge drainage tunnel that spans more than 7,000 feet into the bedrock. But, the experience does not end at dusk; families can bring their tent and sleeping bags for an overnight stay to witness what the park has to offer under the moonlight during the summer season.
Address: 23579 N. Bloomfield Rd., Nevada City, California 95959