With all the running and jumping and throwing and kicking they do, it's no wonder that children enjoy organized sports. Signing up for classes and joining a recreational league is a great way to help your child develop his or her athletic skills. And there's nothing like the excitement of a live game and the thrill of seeing athletes in motion to get your own little athlete all fired up to do his best! Watching local sporting events are a great way to help children find their passion and inspire them to do their best. Here are some places around the Bay Area that make it easy and fun for young sports fans to experience world-class sports:
Local football fans are lucky to have not one, but two NFL teams that call the San Francisco Bay Area home. Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders have Kids Clubs for their youngest fans, as well as kid-friendly activities during game days. At Candlestick Park, young 49ers fans can enjoy face painting, inflatable games, and a Play 60 Field at the Kids Country fun zone, while young pirates can head to the Raider Rookie Zone inside the Oakland Coliseum to jump in a Raiders-themed inflatable bounce house, throw a touchdown pass, kick a field goal, or color while sitting at child-sized picnic tables.
Nine innings of baseball can be a lot for young children to sit through, but at San Francisco's AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, little sluggers can get their mid-game wiggles out by sliding through an 80-foot Coca-Cola bottle and going up to bat at the miniature AT&T Park behind left field. In addition, the Giants host regular special events during select regular season games featuring fun activities, halftime performances and giveaways. Past events have included a Garlic Fest, Girl Scout Day, Boy Scout Day, Star Wars Day, and numerous Heritage Nights (Japanese, Filipino, Jewish, Irish, etc...).
Stanford University boasts one of the nation's top collegiate athletic programs; if Stanford were a country, it would have ranked #16 in overall medals at this year's Olympic games, with 16 medals. Their Team Cardinal Kids Club gives kids 8th grade or younger the opportunity to experience the best of Stanford sports. For an annual fee, members receive free admission to most Stanford regular season sports, including soccer, baseball, women's volleyball, and women's basketball games, plus free admission to select men's basketball and football games. They even get a free Team Cardinal T-shirt to wear while cheering the Cardinal to victory.
Soccer has never been bigger around the Bay Area, and with the San Jose Earthquakes blazing their way to the top of the table in Major League Soccer, game attendance is growing by leaps and bounds. The stadium is filled with loyal fans—and now proud parents are filling seats as well, thanks to a fun opportunity for their kids. Local youth soccer teams can book a place to march on the field before the game with the Earthquakes, all for the cost of a game ticket. It's a great way for your child's soccer team to soak up the atmosphere of a live game from the player's perspective, see their local soccer heroes up close, and gain a bit of inspiration for their own games.
Little race car fans will have a "wheelie" good time at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway, which hosts some of the country's top racing series, including the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and IZOD IndyCar® Series. Kids under 16 go free with a paid adult, so you can take the whole family to see the fastest cars burn rubber on the track without burning a hole in your wallet. What's more, kids ages 12 and under can join the Raceway's Little Racers Club and get free tickets to other Raceway events, plus a cool badge and backpack.
San Jose's HP Pavilion plays host to dozens of concerts and shows every year, including Disney on Ice, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily circus, Batman LIVE, and the biggest names in showbiz like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and more. But it's also a place where hockey, indoor football and tennis sports fans can get their fix: HP Pavilion is home to the NHL's San Jose Sharks (it isn't nicknamed The Shark Tank for nothing!), the Arena Football League's San Jose SaberCats, and the annual SAP Open men's tennis tournament. It has also hosted several major sporting events including the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the NCAA Basketball tournament, and most recently, the US National Gymnastics Championships, so families with kids in these sports get a chance to see their sports heroes in action.
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