Five cool, kid-friendly Oakland attractions

By: Lindsay Wright

March 2, 2016

Oakland is the epicentre for great food and creative culture in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it’s no surprise that the city’s family-friendly attractions are equally cool. From a night of stargazing at the observatory to a day at the ballpark, here are the top five family-friendly Oakland attractions to try on your next trip.

Join the circus

Swing high by your knees at Trapeze Arts, Oakland’s circus arts school. Family members of all ages can fly on the trapeze, dabble in aerial acrobatic arts, bounce about on trampolines, or tumble on the mats. Special kids’ classes help aspiring acrobats hone in on coordination, build confidence, and learn the basics. There’s even a Tots Circus class for the wee ones (ages 3-4).

Five cool, kid-friendly Oakland attractions
Enjoy the sunshine and fun at Oakland Museum of California’s Friday Nights © Photo by Shaun Roberts, Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California 

Engage in the arts

There are few museums that encourage engagement – even “touching” – art like the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). Throughout OMCA’s Art, History, and Natural Sciences galleries, kids can channel their creativity through exhibit-inspired activities, such as making sound effects in the Hollywood Sound Studio or investigating creepy crawlies with microscopes. Every week, Friday Nights @ OMCA provides an all-inclusive celebration with food trucks, live music, and half-price admission for adults and free admission to the galleries for kids.

Five cool, kid-friendly Oakland attractions
Food trucks, live music, and free admission to the galleries for kids are just some of the reasons to visit Friday Nights @ OMCA © Photo by Marc Fiorito, Courtesy of Off the Grid

Channel your inner scientist

Through interactive exhibits, Planetarium shows, and other otherworldly activities, Chabot Space and Science Center lets kids explore the many enthralling mysteries of the universe. Let your little scientists’ imaginations run amok as they learn about the life of an astronaut, stars of every size and colour, and even dare to venture into a black hole. Stargaze through the three historic telescopes on the observatory deck, with views 1,500 feet above the San Francisco Bay.

Five cool, kid-friendly Oakland attractions
Explore the mysteries of the universe at Chabot Space and Science Center © Photo Courtesy of Chabot Space and Science Center

Step into a fairytale

There are no frills or high-tech rides at Children’s Fairyland, which is just what makes this 60-year-old institution so special. Kids use their imagination as they step into storybook-themed sets, including Jack & Jill Hill, Alice in Wonderland Tunnel, and Peter Rabbit’s Garden. Hop aboard the Jolly Trolley (installed in 1954) for a spin past Old West Junction, or catch an original Storybook Puppet Theater production – Frank Oz of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show was once a puppeteer here.

Five cool, kid-friendly Oakland attractions
Get up close to the more than 600 exotic animals and species at the Oakland Zoo © Photo Courtesy of the Oakland Zoo

Walk on the wild side

More than 600 native and exotic animals reside at the Oakland Zoo, nestled in the hills of Oakland. Watch the zookeepers feed the animals, experience an Animal Encounter at the Wildlife Theater, or plan an overnight safari with the entire family – in the summertime, families can bring a tent and camp out under the stars close to their new furry friends.

Five cool, kid-friendly Oakland attractions
Take a walk in the park to experience the beauty of Lake Merritt © Carolyn Urbanski / Visit Oakland

Bonus: savour the “sunny side of the Bay”

When the fog rolls in across the Bay in San Francisco, the sun is shining in Oakland, where it’s usually 10-15 degrees warmer. Pack a picnic with the family and take a stroll around Lake Merritt, catch a fly ball at an Oakland Athletics game, or snack your way through one of the many farmers’ markets to give your kids a taste of fresh California produce.


Virgin Atlantic and Delta operate flights to Oakland from London Heathrow, making it easy to book your next family holiday to California.


Have you visited any of these family-friendly Oakland attractions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


Written by Lindsay Wright


Lindsay Wright

When she's not finding a way to sneak off on a trip, Lindsay Wright is scouting out the latest restaurants, local music clubs, hiking trails, and happenings in the San Francisco Bay Area. A true Californian at heart, she is constantly exploring and promoting the wealth of travel-worthy activities in the Golden State.

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