10 Kid-Friendly Places to Visit in Northern California

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10 Awesome Kid-Friendly Places in Northern California to Visit this Summer

Enjoy any or all of these kid-friendly places in Northern California

If you are looking for kid-friendly places in Northern California, this list of 10 Awesome Places to Take Your Kids This Summer in Northern California is the perfect place to start. Whether you are spending time in the San Francisco area or looking to explore the northern part of the state, you’re sure to find something to please every kid in your family!

If you’re looking to go to Southern California we’ve got you covered there too. Check out our article 10 Awesome Kid-Friendly Places in Southern California.

10 Awesome Kid-Friendly Places in Northern California to Visit this Summer

Northern California is a beautiful place for a family vacation. Explore rocky northern beaches and redwood forests in Humbolt county. Or wander the steeply-hilled city streets of San Francisco, one of the most artistic and enchanting cities in the world. Whether your kids love animals, museums, or playing in the water, this list of kid-friendly places in Northern California will help you find someplace perfect to explore.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Monterey, CA (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Do your kids love nature and learning about the wonderful creatures living in or near the ocean? If so, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best kid-friendly places in Northern California to visit. Enjoy daily shows, live cams, beautiful exhibits, and other fun adventures. You and your family can learn all about some of the amazing animals with whom we share our planetary home. Be sure to check out their website before your trip to see what is coming up on their schedule. Print up some fun coloring pages and other activities for your kids while you’re at it. It will give them something fun to do while on the road!Monterey Bay Aquarium Jellyfish

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium – San Francisco, CA (The Exploratorium)

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to the Exploratorium. A science museum and then-some, the Exploratorium is an amazing experience for kids and adults. Everywhere you turn is something wonderful to learn about through play and interaction. Not only that but by interacting with the various activities they offer, you help others to learn, as well. The Exploratorium may be dedicated to science, but at times it can seem downright magical. It has a way of making you feel young at heart, regardless of your age. It’s a great place to spend the day, playing with your kids as you learn and explore the wonders of the world together!

California State Railroad Museum

California State Railroad Museum – Sacramento, CA (California State Railroad Museum)

If your kids love trains, they will be completely thrilled when you take them to the California State Railroad Museum in the Old Sacramento area of Sacramento. Explore the beautifully restored train cars and engines while learning the history of the railroad. Every weekend from April to September, you and your family can enjoy a trip back in history. The incredible 40-minute Excursion Train Ride is pulled by either a steam or a vintage diesel engine. And if you are local, you can even have your kid’s birthday party at this wonderful museum!

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House – San Jose, CA (Winchester Mystery House)

Winchester House in San Jose - a tourist spot to check outIf your kids are into spooky places, the Winchester Mystery House is an amazing place to visit. This beautiful Victorian mansion is a stunning place of beauty and well-worth seeing, whether or not you believe that spirits really wander inside. The regular tour takes you through 110 of the 160 rooms found in this beautiful mansion, and the tour guides are friendly and knowledgeable, with many wonderful stories to share. The grounds outside of the house are wonderful, too, filled with gardens and a carriage house and other great things for kids to see and explore. And if you watch closely, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of Sarah Winchester!Winchester House in San Jose - a tourist spot to check outI’ve been on this tour without my daughter as she doesn’t love scary stuff. It was interesting but unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside the house but you can take photos outside. The grounds themselves are quite lovely and can make for a good spot for an impromptu family photo. I was there in the summer, just remember San Jose is warm that time of the year so I would go in the morning with kids and make sure to have water on hand.Winchester House in San Jose - a tourist spot to check out

Cable Car Museum

Cable Car Museum – San Francisco, CA (Cable Car Museum)

If your kids are into Cable Cars or machinery, a visit to the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco is definitely in order. The museum has a wonderful collection of photos, displays, and real cable cars. Kids will love seeing all the amazing exhibits and watching the working models as they run. With so much to see and do, they may even learn something while having fun!

Sequoia Park Zoo

Sequoia Park Zoo – Eureka, CA (Sequoia Park Zoo)

If you are visiting Northern California, a visit to Humbolt County is like taking a trip to another world. The old growth redwood forest is a magical place to be, and the small towns of Eureka and Arcata are wonderful places to explore. If you visit, be sure to drop by the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka. This wonderful zoo might be small, but as the oldest zoo in California, it is rich in history. Spend time with adorable red pandas, spider monkeys, and gibbons, walk through the aviary and hang out with goats and sheep in the Contact Corral. Kids will love this wonderful zoo and the way they make visitors feel right at home!

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA (Alcatraz Island)

Although prison is no place for children, Alcatraz Island is one of the best kid-friendly places in Northern California. The fun boat ride across San Francisco Bay is just the beginning of your adventure to “Pelican Island” where the infamous prison of Alcatraz awaits. “The Rock” is well-known for many famous prisoners, and for its reputation as being impossible to escape. Kids will love the spooky atmosphere, fun boat ride, and stunning views of San Francisco across the bay. Whether you are just passing through on vacation or are a resident of northern California, Alcatraz is always worth a visit!Alcatraz Island in San Francisco

Forestiere Underground Gardens

Forestiere Underground Gardens – Fresno, CA (Forestiere Underground Gardens)

Go for a ride on a cable car in San Francisco

Not a place but we have to mention going for a cable car ride while in San Francisco. Bonus Activity while in the rea.

In the heart of the city of Fresno is a place of pure wonder – the Forestiere Underground Gardens. This amazing garden is over 110 years old and must be seen to be believed. Wander a network of hand-built passageways and underground rooms where you will find an incredible assortment of fruit trees, vines, shrubs and more, all growing underground. The Forestiere Underground Gardens are a great place to escape from the summer heat as you explore a place that must be seen to be believed!

Aqua Adventure Waterpark

Aqua Adventure Waterpark – Fremont, CA (Aqua Adventure Waterpark)

When you are looking for kid-friendly places in Northern California, the Aqua Adventure Waterpark in Fremont is the perfect place to let your kids blow off a little steam while making a big splash. From the Lazy River to the Lil’ Squirts splash pad, there is a fun place to play in the water for every member of your family. And if you live in the area, the Aqua Adventure Waterpark offers swim lessons and fun classes for kids of all ages!

Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Turtle Bay Exploration Park – Redding, CA (Turtle Bay Exploration Park)

The incredible Turtle Bay Exploration Park is an amazing place to explore for every member of your family. This beautiful facility features a museum, wildlife center, botanical gardens, and the famous Sundial Bridge, which is one of the largest sundials in the world. Learn about plants, animals, and conservation as you and your family explore hiking trails along the beautiful Sacramento River.

When on vacation this summer, keep these kid-friendly places in Northern California in mind. Busy kids are happy kids, which will make your vacation time even better! Where would you like to go first?

PIN this article for when you plan your trip to Northern California!10 Awesome Kid-Friendly Places in Northern California

Here are some great resources & products you may want to have before you travel and some to take with you.

1. Lonely Planet Northern California (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet (Paperback)

2. DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: San Francisco & Northern California by DK Travel (Paperback)

3. Top Trails: Northern California’s Redwood Coast: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone (Paperback)

4. Kids’ Travel Guide – San Francisco: The Fun Way to Discover San Francisco-especially for kids (Kids’ Travel Guide Series) by Kelsey Fox

5. National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activites, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun by Crispin Boyer (Paperback)

6. Kids Travel Tray – Car Seat Lap Tray for Children & Toddlers

7. The Exploratorium Science Snackbook: Cook Up Over 100 Hands-On Science Exhibits from Everyday Materials by Exploratorium Teacher Institute(Paperback)

8. The Big Book of Trains by DK (Hardcover)

9. A Living Bay: The Underwater World of Monterey Bay

10. Ulgoo Travel Canvas Duffel Bag

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  1. The Exploratorium – San Francisco, CA seems like a really interesting place to visit. But I think I would be happy to go to any of the suggestions.

  2. We love Northern California. My mother is from there and we would go as kids. I have relatives still there. One of our favorite places to go on top of those you mentioned was the Santa cruz boardwalk,

  3. We live in lincoln California my 4 year old son roman is medically fragile and absolutely loves trains Sacramento is a few towns over this is definately worth the trip so awesome!

  4. We love Northern California. This is a great list of things to do. We really want to go to the Winchester House.

  5. I have always wanted to visit The Winchester House – so totally cool! They are some great ideas in this list. We did this area but when the kids were really small so now they could do more and appreciate more of these.

  6. These seem like great things to check out in North Carolina. The zoo, exploratorium, and exploration park would certainly be fun

  7. I used to live in that area when my kids were young and every Sunday we would hunt out a new place to go now when I fly to Ca my grandkids and i check out many of these places!

  8. This would be a beautiful to visit. I never realized how many great family things there are to do there. Thank you so much for sharing all of this

  9. I have never been to California. I’d love to go to San Francisco and stop by Castro Valley. Castro Valley is where Cliff Burton lived and grew up.

  10. We visited the Monterey Aquarium years ago. What a great place! I would love to see the Winchester House – with or without kids.

  11. Because my mother is from the San Francisco area but we grew up in the Midwest we would go back and for to Northern Ca quite a bit growing up. Even as an adult I enjoy the Winchester Mystery house and the Monterey Aquarium.

  12. thanks for sharing I never been to San Francisco here. I enjoy looking at this post. I hope to go someday soon

  13. I have always lived near San Francisco and I have visited about 1/2 of these cool places. I need to see the rest of them!

  14. This area was one of our very favorite vacations.
    Flew into San Fran with all out camping, hiking gear.
    Toured for a month the entire northern California area…into Tahoe, Yosemite, Half Moon Bay…the whole coastal road to redwoods to Oregon. Trip of a lifetime and so different from Florida. San Fran was awesome too.
    And cheap to do for a month.

  15. I don’t know if I ever went to A living bay in Monterey Bay because we were very young when we moved from California to Texas. My entire family has always been a fan of any type of animal and my son his grown-up the same way. This maybe recommendations for kids places to go but I also recommended for adults as well

  16. Wow, so many things things to see and do in Northern California! I’ve never been, hoping to go out to SF one day. I’d love to see the Winchester Mystery House, in particular. And the Aquarium, I always love aquariums! Gorgeous photos!

  17. It is nice to have a site that highlights places to visit in California that does not zero in on Disneyland automatically. Nothing against Disney, but there is a lot more to see in the state besides that.

  18. I am always looking for fun kid friendly places. Everything looks like so much fun especially the cable car ride. I’ve been to California and haven’t done any of this.

  19. I love these suggestions. I’ve been to a few but I had never heard of the Forestiere Underground Gardens so I’ll definitely be going there soon! The Turtle Bay Exploration Park also looks fun and it’s less than an hour from me! I highly recommend the Monterey bay aquarium it’s so much fun and the Winchester mystery house is fun for those who like a little spookiness

  20. I sure did pin this! When we traveled to California, most of our friends suggested for us to visit the southern part, like Huntington Beach and Los Angeles. The northern area wasn’t even mentioned even though I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan and would have liked to have seen some of the places The Dirty Harry movies were taped! I would have loved to have gone to Alcatraz! Also The Exploratorium. This place reminds me of one of my favorite places in Chicago- The Museum of Science and Industry. Chicago offers a couple of places similar to San Francisco. I think I’d have as much fun at these places then the kids would!! I did pin this for another visit. Thank you for sharing!

  21. I would like to go to all those places! I’m particularly intrigued by the Winchester Mystery House. I wonder if the spirits are some of the contractors that were there so long, or the family that had to put up with all the noise and dust ; ). That sounds like a fun all day tour…110 rooms!

  22. So many great places that I want to go visit. Forestiere Underground Gardens sounds so interesting. I have been to some of the places but this is going on the bucket list

  23. I have never been to The Exploratorium, but it seems like the type pf place that would combine education and fun in away that would be enjoyable for kids (and adults, too!).

  24. This list makes me want to take my kids to California for our next vacation! My kids would love Alcatraz!

  25. My son, DIL, and grands just moved to San Fracisco, and I can not wait to visit! They have been visiting so many great places. I’d love to see the aquarium

  26. I would love to visit all the place that you have shared with us. I have never ever taken a vacation in my life and I am 56 ………………..I would love to come visit California some day such a gorgeous state.

  27. I never heard of the Forestiere Underground Gardens and found it fascinating. I hope to visit there on a future trip to California!

  28. I live in California yet I’ve never been to any of these places. Maybe now that I have kids it’ll encourage me to go! The Aqua Adventure Waterpark sounds the funnest!

  29. I’d love to take my kids to the Monterey Bay Aquarium – they’d love the live shows and seeing new, interesting animals.

  30. This is one of the few places in the country I’ve not yet visited. I plan on going one day though! I would especially like to see San Francisco and the redwood forests.

  31. Northern California has so many places to see. It never gets tired or boring here. Truly a great place to live or visit.

  32. I would love to go to the Monterey bay Aquarium or even the zoo sounds awesome. Tthere was a time I thought I’d done all the traveling I wanted to do with younger kids but I think as I age I’m more relaxed and not so worried they weill play around and become the tigers dinner lol

  33. These are such great ideas! I love how they aren’t your typical hot spots. I am bookmarking this for future vacation ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  34. California is on my must see places! There are some amazing things to see there, some included in this post!

  35. We obviously missed some great places whilst we were in the area, the underground gardens should have been a must and we only saw Alcatraz from the shore line. I’d have loved to have visited the Winchester Mystery House too, sigh!