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Wander Woods is Now Open at Cal Academy

Wander Woods, a new section of the California Academy of Sciences, is now open. The new section is located towards the rear of the museum, and is entirely outdoors. It’s a play-based learning experience tailored to young kids.

The goal of Wander Woods is to get youngsters out into a natural environment. Unlike the more technologically advanced exhibits at the popular San Francisco science museum, Wander Woods focuses on nature. The outdoor play space is full of natural items, including old hollowed-out logs, sticks to play with, rocks, dirt, and more. It’s positioned as an alternative to the digital worlds the kids often play in these days.

Many of the activities at Wonderwood‘s are modeled on the nests created by bowerbirds. These are intricate creations built using sticks and other natural items. At Wander Woods, kids can build a person-sized nest similar to the ones of our bird with construct.

In addition, there are trails that lead kids through a natural environment, and around massive, ancient trees that were there long before the museum. The whole thing is fenced, making it a potentially safer place to wander than in the real woods.

What Kids Can Do at Wander Woods

Bring your kids there, and they’ll enjoy playing with dirt, sticks, bugs, and more. Just be careful with the littlest kids, as bigger kids carrying sticks can inadvertently whack them. That hazard aside, Wander Woods is an awesome place for little kids to run around and let off some steam. It feels especially timely, given that so many kids’ activities have moved outside during the pandemic. It also feels like a great fit for the California Academy of Science’s urban environment, which is otherwise lacking in nature in many cases.

Parents will appreciate that Wander Woods is located adjacent to the outdoor tables of one of the Academy’s cafés. You can get an espresso or a snack, and sit at the table while your kid runs through Wander Woods.

Of course, there are plenty of places in the Bay Area to go wandering in some real woods. But if you want something that’s more contained, while still integrating elements of nature play, Wander Woods is a great option. Access to the area is free with your admission to the California Academy of Sciences.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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