Rocking Out: The Best Places to See Kid-Friendly Concerts

Ana Picazo - San Francisco Bay Area
November 6, 2017

Bay Area parents who want to treat their child to a live performance never have to look very far. The Bay Area hosts numerous family-friendly performances, from musical theater to lavish music concerts to puppet shows to ice shows to monster truck rallies. They're held in every city, at venues both large and small. 

With so many choices, it's worth remembering that when it comes to children's performances, location, location, location for a concert matters just as much as the concert itself. The lack of a snack bar or a no-whispering policy can make or break the experience for a hungry, overexcited child and her parents. With that in mind, we've put together a list of our favorite concert venues in the Bay Area. Each one hosts wonderful family performances, and each one is kid-friendly so everyone has a great time before, during, and after the show!

HP Pavilion (San Jose) and ORACLE Arena (Oakland)

Bay Area parents know that San Jose's HP Pavilion and Oakland's ORACLE Arena are our big-name concert venues; if you've ever attended or plan to attend a children's concert, circus, ice show, musical production, or other family performance, chances are they'll be held at one of these two places. Both are great places to take your children: they both have ample parking, changing facilities, and concession stands. What's more, most shows feature pre-concert activities as well as colorful souvenir stands to entertain little ones before the show.

Stern Grove, San Francisco

Stern Grove's weekly summer concerts are immensely popular, drawing crowds of up to 20,000 for each performance. Despite the daunting numbers, a large portion of the crowd includes children and families because savvy parents know that the Stern Grove Festival is one of the best ways to introduce little ones to quality live music and dance performances. Each concert features a KidStage full of hands-on arts projects and workshops before each show. Best of all, kids aren't confined to their seats. They are free to run around and play, and thanks to the tall, shady trees surrounding the grove, parents never have to worry about overheating. 

Magic Castle Theatre, Palo Alto

The venue for the Palo Alto Children's Theatre's famed Hotdog Suppertime Shows is truly like no other. Not only does the Roy Ginsburg Magic Castle Theatre really look like a castle, it's set in a real, honest-to-goodness Secret Garden. It's surrounded by an ivy-covered brick wall, and a single wooden door leads into a garden straight out of Frances Hodgson Burnett's childhood classic, complete with rose bushes, arched trees, pathways, and a fountain. The Magic Castle Theater sits to one side of the garden with turrets and towers on either side that actors can use during the play. Families can spread their blankets on the gently sloping lawn in front of the outdoor stage and enjoy the show with a picnic dinner, so their little ones nibble throughout the show without any hunger pangs to distract them from the magic.

Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga

You'll never have to worry about pre-concert fidgets when you're attending a concert at the Montalvo Arts Center. Before the show starts, families are free to roam around the estate. Parents can soak in the atmosphere and pretend they're vacationing at an Italian villa, while the little ones can frolic on the rolling green hills and get their sillies out before the show. 

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