From Nature & Whales to Thrill Rides • Tour Travel Hotels
We’ve written a lot about the SF Bay Area, from restaurant and hotel reviews to family-friendly activities. Be sure to read our Family Travel section, which includes other parts of the country and the world. At the bottom of this article, we include links to other Do not miss Comments on the SF Bay Area. Also, don’t forget to check out our Family Fun in Sonoma article for some fun suggestions in a post-Covid world.
And with that, we would like to share two fun experiences in the SF Bay Area for a family adventure.
Thrills for kids at Great America
Great America is once again open for business in the SF Bay Area, so if you’re an amusement park or thrill-seeker, add it to your list. When we visited in the summer of 2021, Great America was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but open the rest of the week. We recommend a midweek if you can handle it and don’t want to stand in line, I strongly encourage you to get their FAST PASS, which is available as an individual upgrade or as a season pass, although they are sold out. on the latter at the time of writing. The FAST PASS allows you to bypass regular lines on 17 rides and attractions, including RailBlazer, Patriot, Gold Striker and more.
To get a taste, here is a short video of our day.
There is also a water park which you can visit although we did not explore it on this trip – maybe on a future visit as it is always fun on a hot summer day and it was almost 90 when we went in August. We missed spending time with Snoopy because the roller coaster was calling us the moment we entered the park, but if you have smaller kids be sure to snap a pic with Peanuts’ favorite character.
Truth be told, the main thrill here is their roller coaster. Inside out, right side out, vertical, horizontal, sideways and more. They even have an old fashioned wooden roller coaster, one of my favorites. The RailBlazer is Great America’s revolutionary single-rail steel coaster, although there is also the Demon (yes, it’s really called that) which has a major reverse action, the Flight Deck, the Gold Striker, the Psycho Mouse, and the Grizzly.
My favorite is the Rip Roaring Rapids. The good thing about this ride is that you can take your whole family on a raft even if you are not a family of 6 (the max per raft). They’ll let you take a raft on your own, which is great as we come out of a pandemic.
The raft takes you over a rugged river course with whitewater challenges that sometimes feel like a real rafting trip.
While the Merry Go-Round might seem a bit slow if you’re traveling with older kids, I still love it as an adult and always go whenever I’m at a theme park or park. attractions – Great America has a great one because it offers two levels, so you can go to the higher or lower level. Of course, the upper level offers a better view of the park.
Below, the beautifully painted horses on the merry-go-round.
We loved the Tiki Twirl, surrounded by the sounds of tribal music and jungle drumming. You pass 40-foot-tall flaming torches, exotic relics, and tropical landscaping. The disc coaster features a camel hump in the middle, but the disc also rolls over a hill, causing riders to spin in different directions.
One of my favorite parts of the park is the New Orleans themed section. The last time we were there there was jazz music playing so be sure to check the schedule if live music is your thing. We love the bright colors, the food, the ambiance and the energy of the place.
There are also colorful flowers throughout the park as well as tons of places to buy burgers, pizza, frozen drinks, soda, chicken and more.
The Sky Tower is an iconic 200-foot observation tower that offers an aerial view of the Greater America of California and is the very first tower that guests encounter upon entering the park. Don’t miss the bumper cars, the Flying Eagles and Barney Oldfield Speedway (both are great for small children), the Delirium if you can handle Fast and Upside Down Rides, Swings (see our video above), Centrifuge and more.
Be sure to check their website for details and opening hours, where you can also purchase tickets. They are based at 4701 Great America Parkway in Santa Clara, California.
Sailing and Whale Watching from Santa Cruz
Even further south of Santa Clara is Santa Cruz, where we have spent quite a bit of time over the years. In one of our previous articles (see bottom of this article for links), we have covered the promenade and the amusement park of Santa Cruz, but you can also take cruises (more relaxing like on one of the Chardonnay yachts), or one of the whale watching tours. What we love the most is chartering a yacht for the day, which is a great thing to do with friends or family.
On this particular trip the clouds did not burn which meant most of our day was sunless. Although it is nearly 90 degrees ten miles south of us and over 90 degrees in Marin, it has been stable at 66 degrees for most of the day.
I love passing the lighthouse every time – it never gets old to me because it’s such an iconic structure and there are always tons of seagulls, geese and birds mingling.
It’s a great way to teach kids how to navigate or, at a minimum, how to navigate and steer the boat when the sails are down.
Some pictures of our day.
When we left the port we had almost no wind but it got up around 2pm so it was fine sailing after that. We headed to a whale watching tour boat that was on the way back to the dock. This meant we were left out on the vast ocean with no other boats and several whales that we followed for a few hours. We were amazed at how close we got to them and on more than one occasion we saw their faces as they leaped out of the water near the boat. They are truly amazing and fascinating creatures to watch.
While we had rare views on this particular trip, what you will primarily catch are their backs and of course their fins as they weave their way underwater once again.
Visit the Santa Cruz tourism page on outdoor activities to learn more about what you can do in the area, including sailing and surfing.
- Family fun in Sonoma County in 2021, including
- Sonoma Canopy Tours to Zipline Through the Redwoods
- Dutton wine estate
- Pascaline Pastry & Coffee which is a charming French gastronomic gem, nestled among world-class vineyards, and Gravenstein
- Ice Cream at Screamin ‘Mimi’s
- Fun in the SF Bay Area in winter: see our article which includes an overview of
- SF Love Tours
- GoCar Tours and the…
- Walt Disney Family Museum.
- Family activities in the SF Bay area in the summer: see our article which includes an overview of
- Lucky tuk tuk tours
- Fisherman’s wharf
- Drive or walk on Crooked Street
- Palace of Fine Arts
- China city
- The Presidio, dine outside on the pier and along the Embarcadero including the famous Cioppinos where we had lunch
- The Painted Ladies (houses) in San Francisco
- The city on foot and by tram, the Cartoon Art Museum
- The water park
- The maritime museum
- Ghirardelli Square and the cable cars
- Aqua Adventure water park in Fremont
- Fairfax for shopping, pizza and ice cream
- Marin County Fair and….
- Point Reyes Station along the coast, which is a nice walk from San Francisco or Marin. Don’t miss their Buffalo Ice Cream in the country store along Main Street.
- This article from the SF Bay Area family includes visits to
- Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
- Great America pre-Covid
- The Fillmore Jazz Festival in San Francisco
- San Francisco Dungeon
- Madame Tussaud wax museum
- Santa Cruz Promenade and Amusement Park
- The Golden Gate Bridge and….
- Films performed at the famous Castro Theater in San Francisco
- This piece focuses on Silicon Valley including the
- Pacific fishing restaurant and…
- Broadway by the Bay for great shows and musicals for the whole family
- This great article focuses on SF and South Bay for family activities, including
- House of Air on Old Mason Street in SF
- Stowe Lake Boathouse
- The Exploratorium
- Winter Lodge for Ice Skating in Palo Alto
- The hike, views and a swing on Bernal Heights (Hill) in San Francisco where we lived for a while and…..
- Half Moon Bay Antiques and Collectibles Show
- Explore the Tri-Valley restaurant scene
- The wines of the Livermore valley
Note: We have been hosted by some of the providers, but any views expressed are entirely our own.