Summer Staycations: California Bay Area

Skip the bedbugs this Summer vacation by opting for a staycation instead. Sure getting away from home can be fun, but saving a ton on flight, hotel (bedbug worry), and car rental fees can be the answer to a lot of family budget problems where the choice has to be made between either a fixed pipe or vacation. For the sake of your sanity, do both and enjoy a staycation for way less money! Keep reading for hot spot areas to vacation at for the day with your family throughout the Bay Area.bridge

Tour San Francisco

Whether your family loves sight seeing, the plethora of gelato flavors at Naia, or checking out the hustle and bustle of the city, there’s a lot to see in SF, including loads of free Summer family activities. Below are some options for a few different days that you can follow, mix and match, or cram together in one day. Just be sure to stick around for the beautiful SF sunset.

Walk the Warf

Snag all-day parking ahead of time through (affiliate link – get $5 credit) Parking Panda then get lunch at Boudin and walk down to Pier 39 for Trish’s Mini Donuts (cinnamon sugar) or the aquarium!

Get Creative

Visit Yerba Buena Gardens to check out the free Tuesday events at the Children’s Learning Garden.  Take a break for lunch, or head over to the Children’s Creativity Museum for a fun-filled day of both classes or free-play learning and creativity. Just don’t forget to take a ride on the historic LeRoy King Carousel before it closes at 5 p.m. The Creativity Museum is now offering two-hour drop-off classes for ages 4-9 as well in case you want some time alone with your partner while in SF.


Ages: All ages would enjoy this outing, but little ones under 4 will spend less time at the museum due to activities in their age range.

Presidio or Bust

The Presidio is extremely historic, and one of the hidden gems of SF. Drive through the gates to turn in at the former home of Lucas Arts, the Letterman Digital Arts Center, to take pictures with one of few Yoda statues, then stroll down to Starbucks for a visit with the statue of the guy who created the first moving picture, and a great view of the Palace of Fine Arts. If you’re fans of Disney, drive over to the Walt Disney Family Museum (no strollers allowed here) for an in-depth look at Walt’s life and the making of some Disney classics.


Then drive through to Baker Beach, a fun place for pier crabbing in Fall, and always beautiful for a stroll. One of the great things about the Presidio and Baker Beach is that they both have beautiful, old buildings, and parking. Baker Beach is connected to Crissy Field, too. you can bring a little grill and buy some fixings at the Safeway near Crissy Field for a tasty lunch, or simply order something nearby. Another great spot near Baker Beach is Fort Point, where you can see how our waters used to be protected. After playing all day at Crissy Field and Baker Beach, end the day at the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s a must-see whenever you’re near the Presidio (just be careful that you don’t accidentally end up on the Golden Gate Bridge).

Ages: All ages would enjoy this outing.

Explore the Sunset Until Sunset

San Francisco’s Sunset District is home to the SF Zoo (plus a pizzeria and coffee shop across the street) as well as the picturesque Ocean Beach. Start at the zoo, then visit the Golden Gate Park Visitor’s Center and Beach Chalet (it’s across the street from Ocean Beach) for a bit of history and a delicious meal. Next to the Chalet is one of two windmills located in Golden Gate Park, a Dutch windmill surrounded by bright tulips in a lovely garden. Take a quick tour before relaxing in sunshine at ocean beach. If your kids are past the napping years, or happened to nap between the zoo and leaving the beach, head over to Cliff House and Sutro Baths to explore the ruins of a historic bath house from 1894 that caught fire in 1964, and its adjacent resort which is now used as a restaurant. Side Note: The Legion of Honor/de Young (free first Tuesday of the month) is also nearby, so you could opt to go there instead of one of the other activities, or go to the museum earlier in the day so that you wind up at the beach for sunset.


Ages: All ages would enjoy this outing, but toddlers 1-2 may need extra snacks and supervision (especially near Sutro Baths).

Golden Gate Park (and Everything There)

There is so much to do at Golden Gate Park that it really could be an all-day event. Depending on which day you go there are different things going on, like a roller skating party or dance lessons. Each museum usually has its own free days or events going on as well. Whether you check out the California Academy of Sciences or Japanese Tea Garden, your kids will love you for taking them to the concrete slide at the Golden Gate Park Playground. If you love flowers and carousel rides, Golden Gate Park both, too! (Just be aware that though the park is vast and amazing, there are some odd people there doing shady things at times).


Ages: All ages would enjoy this outing. Even tweens can’t resist the concrete slide. Your teenager just might smile!

Spend a Day in the South Bay

Depending on your family you could possibly spend all day at California’s Great America. This park is known for its roller coasters, concerts, and spooky fright fest around Halloween time.

Ages: If you have teens they’ll likely be pretty happy here for the day. The park brought in more water activities for the little ones and there are a few fun rides, but it’s more of a half day thing that you can pair with a visit to Happy Hollow or eating out at a really fun place if you have kids under the age of 6.


Gilroy Gardens is a fun family amusement park with rides everyone from age 1.5 to 75 can enjoy. The park has two carousels (a kiddo-sized one and regular one), hosts the original Circus Trees from 1929, and has some beautiful water boat rides for the family members who don’t go on spining rides or roller coasters. Families can join the Octonauts on an adventure, too! The park has a little kids water area and just opened Water Oasis, the newest water park within Gilroy Gardens.

Ages: The whole family will enjoy this park, but kids 14-17 may be less enthusiastic.


Where do you go on your staycations?

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  1. I love this post! We go to San Francisco all the time (in fact, we were just in Golden Gate Park this past weekend!), but there are so many things on your list that we have never tried. Great tips, can’t wait to check these out! Thanks for participating in the blog hop 🙂