10 Ways to Savor the Summer with Your Kids

With school back in session soon, dont let the summer slip away without trying out a few new family bonding experiences. Here are some things you can do throughout the whole Bay Area that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Featured Photo: Alvin Lumanlan

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Break Out of Alcatraz Prison

Sure, you can wait until out-of-towners show up to plan a trip to Alcatraz Island, but it can be just as fun to go as a local tourist. This fascinating prison, which operated from the Civil War era to the early 1940s is chock-full of chilling history and eerie stories that will keep kids intrigued. Plus the ferry ride to and from the place is a whole other source of entertainment. It can be crowded during the summer months, so better to plan this one closer to the end of the season. nps.gov

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Survey the Sights at Angel Island

Bike-rideable Angel Island is a history lesson all unto itself, complete with buildings dating back to the Civil War era and relics left behind by the Coast Miwok, the areas earliest inhabitants. A must-see stop on the atoll is Immigration Station — the Ellis Island of the Bay Area — where immigrants from China and other countries were detained in the early 1900s. Not into bike riding? Step aboard the island trolley for a hop-on-and-off tour. Angel Island is only reachable by ferry, so make sure to buy tickets in advance. parks.ca.gov

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Photo: © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

Thoroughly Explore the Exploratorium

Recently reopened on July 1, this hybrid museum integrating art, technology and science is always full of surprises and is sure to capture everyones imagination. It has six full galleries full of hundreds of exhibits, making it easy to spend an entire morning or afternoon of investigating everything from shadow boxes to bubbles to the famous tinkering studio. Dont forget to check out the museums newest installation, Aperture Lucida, an optical illusion that tricks and tickles the senses. exploratorium.edu

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Photo: bernalheights.com

Slip Down the Giant Slide in Bernal Heights

There are several parks with giant slides in the Bay Area, like the one in Golden Gate Park, but Esmeralda Slide Park is a lesser known, tucked-away escape in the heart of Bernal Heights. Here, kids — and their parents — have been shouting wheeee” since the 1970s by racing down the 35-foot long side-by-side slides. Bring a cardboard box or two for a more slippery-slidey experience. Afterwards, hit up Mitchells Ice Cream in the Mission, because its always great to follow up a good scream with some ice cream. artandarchitecture-sf.com

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Photo: Ghirardelli Square

Nosh on Hot Fudge Sundaes and More at Ghirardelli Square

While the famous Ghirardelli chocolate store is the place to get your ice cream sundae fix, Ghirardelli Square has so much more to offer. As the oldest adaptive reuse project in the U.S, it offers a solid mix of shopping, dining and entertainment. Make a day of it by exploring a number of upscale shops, enjoying lunch with views of the bay, playing indoor mini-golf or visiting the virtual arcade. ghirardelli.com 

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Photo: Magowan's Mirror Maze

Wind Your Way Through Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

Kids love mazes, and this one might top them all. Its a winding labyrinth full of mirrors set aglow with black lights, making it a truly psychedelic experience. Theres no time limit to make your way through the maze, and its a good thing since youre going to need those extra minutes to navigate all the twists and turns. Kids 5 and under are free. magowansinfinitemirrormaze.com

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Photo: Museum of 3D Illusions

Go Far Out at the Museum of 3D Illusions

At this funky new art museum, you can soar over the Golden Gate Bridge on a magic carpet, surf your way through a water tunnel, scale a skyscraper or find yourself clutched in the jaws of a great white shark. Filled with more than 40 giant optical illusion paintings that you can literally step into and be part of, theres plenty of make believe to believe in.  sfillusions.com

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Photo: Eric Leung

Plan a Day Trip to Point Reyes

Making the drive out to West Marin is worthwhile; there are a number of kid-friendly activities in and around Point Reyes Station. Start with a stop in town at Bovine Bakery for oversized cookies and flaky pastries, or head to Station House Café for a full-on breakfast. Afterwards, the kids can look for new reads at Point Reyes Books or shop for treasures at the local building supply store or the Country Emporium, both of which have a surprisingly diverse selection of toys and gifts. Spend the rest of the day at Hearts Desire Beach — the bayside waves are much tamer for kids — or head to Alamere Falls to see the dramatic waterfall that flows straight into the ocean. pointreyes.org

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Photo: Alvin Lumanlan

Sail Over the Bay on a Seaplane

If this isnt already on your bucket list, it needs to be: flying over the majestic San Francisco Bay in plane that takes off from and lands on water. Because there are just some views that should be seen from the big windows of a small plane at least once, and youll learn unexpected facts about our areas famous landmarks courtesy of your pilot. seaplane.com

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Photo: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Scream Like a Banshee at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo is fully open again, with 11 roller coasts guaranteed to elicit shrieks and squeals. Six Flags isnt just for thrill-seekers; there are plenty of rides for younger kids and those who prefer to keep their hats on; plus live shows and wildlife encounters. sixflags.com

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