One of the greatest things about childhood is the ability and desire to learn, that innate sense of wonder and excitement when faced with anything new. A child's curiosity knows no bounds, and every day is an opportunity to make new discoveries, learn new things, and figure out "how the world works." It's a big, wide world out there, so start exploring it with your little one by taking him to these top-rated museums and centers around the Bay Area:
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Since its grand reopening in 2008, the California Academy of Sciences has drawn huge crowds, and for good reason. Visitors can trek through a four-story rainforest, see penguins being fed, touch a scaly snake, see an African savanna, dive into a tropical reef and visit the stars, all under one roof. Speaking of roofs, don't forget to take a a trip to the top floor to check out the Living Roof, a Teletubbie-like landscape of gently sloping hills and meadows with round sunroofs popping up between the wildflowers, a testament to the museum's sustainable architecture and commitment to living green.
Children's Discovery Museum, San Jose
What's better than a big indoor playground? Why, a big indoor playground that encourages learning through exploration. The Children's Discovery Museum is full of interesting things to see, prod, tinker with, test, and explore -- and no one is ever going to say, "Don't Touch!" With over 150 interactive exhibits, it's a fun way for little ones to learn about the world they live in. They can stroll down a replica city street -- complete with stop signs, street lamps and a fire truck -- to investigate the sights and sounds of the big city. They can make cornhusk dolls and other arts and crafts at the Art Loft without messing up mom's kitchen! They can even discover the splish, splashy properties of water as they guide plastic balls down waterfalls, over fountains and through pulleys and tunnels in the WaterWays exhibit. There's so much to see and do, your child won't want to leave!
The Tech, San Jose
Most reviews of The Tech recommend the museum for older children, and their website lists exhibits involving microchips, electronics, circuitry -- concepts that might go over a young child's head. But The Tech has quite a few exhibits that little ones love; you just need to know where to look. Your child can experience what an earthquake feels like on the Earthquake Platform, where real data from recent quakes around the world are fed into a computer program that is connected to an authentic research shake platform that visitors can stand on. They can ham it up and strike a pose for the Thermal Photo camera, which displays their thermal image on a blank wall. Young children will be fascinated seeing themselves in rainbow-colored glory, and older children can learn about which parts of the body produce more or less heat. Preschoolers will enjoy the hydropower design area in the Green Design exhibit, which to their minds is basically one giant water play area where they can arrange turbines and splash to their heart's content. And what race car fan, young or old, wouldn't want to charge up the supercapacitor-powered race cars and race them down a wooden hill?
Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley
Nestled in the hills of the UC Berkeley campus, the Lawrence Hall of Science has been a destination for science fun for more than 40 years. Kids can explore science by doing science through the museum's fun, interactive displays. From the moment kids approach the entrance and see the full-scale model of a fin whale (not to mention the oversized DNA structure), they know they're going to have fun. Don't miss the outdoor Bay Area and Beyond section, where kids can ride an earthquake simulator, control the water flow from a simulated Sierra Nevada cascade, and explore the outdoors with the spectacular view of the entire Bay Area as a backdrop.
CuriOdyssey, San Mateo
Families from all over the Bay Area come here to CuriOdyssey, formely known as Coyote Point Museum, to learn about the beautiful diversity of California's natural environment, explore the natural world -- or just have a good time. Inside the museum, kids can learn about different ecosystems, including the environmental systems related to the Bay Area, and how nature's complex systems work together via fun exhibits such as a fog machine, air tube and do-it-yourself magnetic sculpture. Outside, there's plenty of space for your little ones to run amongst the eucalyptus trees and gardens to blow off some steam. There's an aviary, a butterfly garden and a wildlife exhibit with snakes, badgers, turtles and more. The daily river otter feeding is wildly popular, and you can also catch bobcat feedings, keeper talks, art workshops and other programs offered throughout the day. In addition, children will enjoy spotting boats or windsurfers and watching planes get bigger and bigger as they work their way towards nearby San Francisco airport.
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