Fun Things to Do with Tweens and Teens in the Bay Area


visiting san francisco with teens

We are extremely lucky to live in the Bay Area.  There are so many fun things to do. This is even true if you have teens – perhaps the pickiest and obstinate group there is.  In the year that we have lived here, we have certainly experienced a variety of events and places. Here are some of our favorites:

The Oakland and San Francisco Zoos

A well-designed zoo with a variety of animals is fun for anyone. We have been to both area zoos more than once and will no doubt go back again. The new gondola ride and California Trail at the Oakland Zoo are a must see. My personal recommendation is to avoid the weekends and to get there when it opens. We also went for Zoo Lights which is magical no matter the age. The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is awesome, too and has some animals that Oakland does not (PENGUINS). I do have to admit thought that my teens are quite jealous of the little ones that get to play on the cool habitat playground.

The Exploratorium, San Francisco

So much more than a science museum, The Exploratorium has so many nooks and crannies to get lost in.  This is a place we have been to twice and will go back to again. If you expect to get to everything in one day, even with a teen, then you are setting yourself up for a stressful day. It is typically a busy museum filled with lots of curious kids and their caretakers, so if you go in with the mindset that you won’t get to everything, then it will make the time more enjoyable.  One of the best parts are the exhibits that are outside. Be sure to take those in as well as the view of the city.

The Jelly Belly Factory and Tour, Fairfield

What teen doesn’t love candy? The Jelly Belly Factory and Tour does not disappoint. The free tour is fun, but I recommend spending the money on the guided tour (you get even more free samples)! Be sure to leave time to spend in the gift shop.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

Many locals might consider this a tourist trap, but Alcatraz Island holds mystery that is sure to engage your teen. Even the boat ride over to the island is a treat. The history of the island along with the ability to walk around at your own pace fills your mind with questions about its former inhabitants. Touring the jail (silently, I might add, with the headphones provided) gives you a sense of what prison life was like. Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time.

Mount Diablo, near Danville/ Walnut Creek

If you are trying to get your teens outside then take the drive to Mount Diablo.  The drive up is winding but the views from the top are worth it.  There are also several spots to stop on the way up to have a picnic (or eat the fast food you may have picked up on the way).  Be sure to spend time reading the signage about what makes Mount Diablo so important. You can certainly hike the mountain, or portions of it, if you are a hiking family but if not, don’t let that deter you from visiting.

The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

I think I was more interested in going to this one than the teens, but they ended up finding it just as interesting as I did. The Winchester Mystery House boggles the mind. Some parts of the scripted tour are a little hokey, but you can easily get lost in the crazy architecture and interesting décor. Be sure to get tickets for this one ahead of time.

The Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco

The Cartoon Art Museum will not take much more than an hour, if that, but if your tween or teen is a comic book or graphic novel fan then you must go. It is fun to see some of the original sketches and ideas behind some of today’s favorite cartoon characters.  

Next up on our list of things to do with our teens is the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda. Where else do you recommend?



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