As a dad of three kids aged five and under, I know that rainy days can be a big challenge. Many Bay Area kids’ activities are set up to take advantage of our normally-beautiful weather, blending the indoors and the outdoors seamlessly.
That’s great when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. But when the rainy season starts, you might find yourself longing instead for something covered, dry, and toasty.
Here are five awesome Bay Area kids’ activities for a rainy day. Many of these work for days with wildfire smoke and high AQIs, too.
Head to a Museum
My favorite Bay Area kids’ museum for a rainy day is the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. This world-class science museum has a full-sized aquarium, penguins, traditional natural history displays, a multi-story rainforest, an earthquake simulator, and Bay-centered science exhibits, all under one roof.
That roof also happens to be the greenest one in the city, hosting over 1 million plants. If the rain slows down for a moment, ride the museum’s elevator to the top floor and take a peek at the rooftop foliage soaking up some much-needed water.
The Cal Academy has an indoor parking garage with an elevator leading directly to the museum’s entrance, which eliminates time spent dashing through the rain. The museum also has several eateries serving lunch at a variety of price points.
Grab discounted tickets that let you skip the (outdoor) line via Viatour.
If your kids are a bit older and enjoy a cultural experience (or a fancy cafe), the DeYoung Museum is a solid choice, too. It shares an underground parking garage with the Cal Academy, and its tower is a beautiful place to watch rain soak the city.
The Exploratorium is a great option on the Embarcadero, too, but parking is located across the street. Bring an umbrella and be prepared to run!
Outside of the city, the San Jose Children’s Museum is worth checking out. It has an indoor mockup of a town complete with traffic lights and pretend roads that your kids will love to explore.
Bounce at a Trampoline park
Sometimes a museum just won’t cut it–you need a space that keeps your kids occupied, while also getting the crazies out.
If your kids have reached the somersaults-on-the-couch phase of a rainy day, head to a trampoline park. Bouncing around a room covered in trampolines is a fun and novel experience and a great workout, too. You might find yourself bouncing away some calories, too.
My favorite local trampoline park is Rockin Jump. Their Concord location is fairly new and in great shape. You can get a popsicle at the nearby Popbar afterwards (it’s outdoors but has a nice overhang.)
Their Dublin park is smaller but has more activities for teenagers and bigger kids, including a jousting pit and a trampoline-assisted basketball hoop. If you have younger kids, visit during their early morning tot hour, when the park is blessedly teenager-free.
Rockin Jump’s locations also include arcades, snack bars, and other energy-burning activities like indoor rock climbing walls. You’re all but guaranteed a car seat nap.
Run and Climb at an Indoor Kids’ Gym
Especially for the youngest set, indoor gyms are another great indoor activity when the rains arrive.
A popular generalist option is Gymboree, which has locations throughout the Bay Area. (Don’t confuse it with Gymboree clothing, which has had some bankruptcy troubles–the Gymboree play spaces are open and doing well.)
My favorite Gymboree location is in downtown Lafayette, but you can find these music-and-exploration-oriented playspaces all around. Most Gymborees allow drop-in visits. Gymbo the Clown will kiss your children, and transport you right back to the ‘80s.
Encore Gymnastics in Walnut Creek is massive and has more intensive, structured gymnastics classes. COPA Soccer Training Center is nearby and is great for older, sports-oriented kids.
My Gym also has locations around the Bay Area and has less-structured classes with a focus on tumbling.
Check out a Play space
For curious kids, play spaces are another popular option. They tend to offer more freeform play than indoor gyms and encourage a wider variety of play styles. If your kid would rather sit quietly and play with blocks than dive headfirst into a ball pit, a playspace is probably a good bet.
Our region has a lot of different play spaces, some of which cater to specific needs and interests.
Two unique options are the Swings and Wings play space on the Alameda, and Spirited Play Lab in San Ramon. Both do double duty as play spaces and locations for occupational therapy sessions.
As a result, they’re oriented towards motor play, climbing, exploring textures, and more. Spirited Play Labs emphasizes neurodiversity, and has special quiet play sections for kids who get overwhelmed by sounds and other stimuli. Swings and Wings also had an indoor bounce house.
Another great option is Playstar Kids at City Center in San Ramon. It’s open for limited hours but has a large indoor space with a big section devoted to imagination play. Grab yourself a coffee at Philz or a bubble tea from Boba Guys and settle in.
Walk the Mall
Okay, so this one doesn’t have the cultural cachet of a museum or the physicality of a play space. Still, indoor malls make a great place to hang out and go for a walk on a rainy day. They’re flat, climate-controlled, safe, and have the inestimable benefit of onsite food courts.
I grew up on the East Coast, where walking around the mall was a cherished rainy day activity. The Bay Area’s malls are primarily outdoors, but we do have a couple of indoor ones that are good for a walk.
I like the Westfield Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara, which is newly renovated and upscale. Pleasanton’s Stoneridge mall is huge and provides plenty of room for an indoor stroll, too.
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The Bay Area’s temperate weather, beautiful scenery, and varied microclimates make it a great place to spend quality outdoor time with your kids–on most days. For those other ones, check out one of these activities, and get ready to embrace the great indoors.