Parent Approved Experiential Gifts for Bay Area Families

Each holiday season parents struggle with the junk, that is, toy junk! After the holidays are over there is a struggle on where to put all of the Mr. Potato Heads, Hot Wheels, Barbie Dream Campers and Baby Shark Dolls. Alternatively, giving the gift of experiences (museum annual memberships or overnight experiences, tickets to shows or favorite sporting events, vacation rentals for a family weekend getaway, etc.) gives a child something he or she will carry forward for a long time and a family a chance to connect. FYI – Many places offer holiday discounts for membership purchases!

Enjoy these fantastic Bay Area experiential gift ideas!

Annual Memberships

Annual Memberships often come with extra benefits such as early or extended access, discounts on museum store, food or experiences and special invitations to member-only events. Many memberships have arranged reciprocal memberships at similar type of museums in the country. Plus, most memberships are tax deductible!

Oakland Zoo, Oakland -The zoo has a whole selection of membership options offering free daily admission, discounts and reciprocal admission to 125 zoos and aquariums nationwide. Good for families with kids 12 and under.

The Lawrence – Berkeley – Newly re-opened, the re-imaged Lawrence Hall of Science membership programs with fun names like Helium, Carbon or Oxygen Levels reinforces the strength of STEM leaning in children. Good for families with kids 10 and under.

Children’s Fairyland,  Oakland – If you’re looking for a wonderful gift for grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends with kids, or your own family, consider a Fairyland membership. It’s a terrific way to bring magic to the special family in your life all year long. Good for families with young kids. Buy by Dec. 31st and get a free 13th month on the membership.

Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Walnut Creek – Explore, discover, and have fun at Lindsay! Programs are discovery-based and include hands-on activities and introductions to live animals native to the Bay Area. Experience the natural world! Good for families with young kids.

Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADA), Sausalito – BADM Memberships offer families unlimited access to the museum for an entire year! Members enjoy engaging programs, fun family festivals, new exhibits, and favorite experiences, all for while supporting early childhood education. Good for families with young kids.

California Academy of Science, San Francisco – It’s no wonder this museum is in the top 20 for most visited museums in the U.S. Membership benefits include free daytime admission all year long, exclusive programs and events, and member hours every Sunday and Tuesday morning. Good for families with kids 15 and under.

Children’s Creativity Museum, San Francisco – Membership benefits include free daytime admission all year long, exclusive programs and events, discounted carousel tickets and 20% off select merchandise. Good for families with kids 10 and under.

Exploratorium, San Francisco – The Exploratorium is a gateway to exploring science, art, and human perception with every visit. Curiosity will be peaked with hundreds of exhibits, many focused on noticing and observation, in six spacious indoor and outdoor galleries in the beautiful San Francisco bayside location. Good for families with kids 16 and under.

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, San Francisco – SF Zoo offers lots to see (over 2,000 animals and peaceful gardens) in the urban oasis nestled against the Pacific Ocean. Members get unlimited admission, expedited entry and special access to member-only events. Good for families with kids 12 and under.

The Tech Interactive, San Jose – The Tech is a science and technology center that offers hands-on activities, labs, design challenges and other STEAM education resources. Membership benefits include unlimited daytime admission all year long, half-off IMAX films, exclusive programs and events. Good for families with kids 15 and under.

Family Overnight Experiences

Family Overnight Experiences allows groups to enjoy a facility in the after-hours calm. Many programs offer a behind the scenes look at the operations, special access, as well as intimate educational experiences. Outdoor experiences typically happen in the summer time and details may not yet be available. Due to Covid restrictions some offerings may be currently limited.

Oakland Zoo, Oakland – The Family Sundown Experience is an experience every family should have and often sells out early. After-hours access to nocturnal animals and educational activities allows your family to see the Zoo in a whole new light. Waking up to the sounds of animals and a morning tour of the zoo before it opens is a plus!

Children’s Fairyland Summer Sleepovers, Oakland – With rides, special performances, dinner, and a continental breakfast, a summer sleepover inside Fairyland creates amazing memories for kids of all ages.

USS Hornet Museum, Alameda – Come aboard and spend the night living with history on the ultimate overnight adventure and find out how the sailors lived and worked on this city in the sea! Board this famous World War II aircraft carrier and spend an exciting evening sleeping in the original crew bunks, eating dinner and breakfast in the crew’s mess, and experiencing personalized a personalized ship tour, activities, and a flight simulator ride. The Hornet is a veteran of numerous naval battles and has the distinction of being the ship that recovered the astronauts from the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969. All participants receive a certificate, a commemorative patch, and a coupon good for a future visit to the museum. All participants must be 7 years or older.

California Academy of Science, San Francisco – Explore the exhibits after-hours: Discover the deepest depths of the oceans, travel to the tops of rainforests, and blast off into outer space at your own private planetarium show. In the morning, rise-and-shine for breakfast time at the Academy Café—and continue the adventure with complimentary next-day admission to the museum.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey – Sleepovers at the Aquarium program offers fun activities and a chance to explore the aquarium after-hours (without the daytime crowds!) and bed down next to your favorite exhibit. The experience also includes a late-night nature movie, a bedtime snack, and continental breakfast in the Cafe.

Family Professional Sports Experiences

Game day at a professional baseball, basketball, football or ice hockey game can be quite costly for a family of four. Gifting a family the opportunity to experience a live game will make an everlasting impression on children and adults alike. Whether you are thinking about single game tickets, “mini-plans” (tickets against a specific opponent) or a four pack of games check out the home team options and holiday specials. Alternatively, allow a family a behind the scenes tour of the stadium on a non-game day so they can experience the press box, locker rooms and walking the halls of their favorite athletes.

Ticket to Games

Oakland A’s –

SF Giants –

SF 49ers –

San Jose Sharks –

Warriors –

Tours of Bay Area Stadiums

Oracle Park, home of the SF Giants –

Oakland Coliseum Tours, home of the Oakland A’s –

Levi’s Stadium, Home of the SF 49ers –

California Memorial Stadium Tours – 

Other Family Experience Gift Ideas

– Escape Room Pass

– Concert Tickets

– Mini Golf tickets or Annual Pass

– Restaurant Gift Certificates

National Park Family Annual Pass

– Local National Museum/Parks tickets (Alcatraz, Rosie the Riveter Museum, Muir Woods)

– Annual pass to a local waterpark (Hurricane Harbor/Concord, Aqua Adventure Water Park/Fremont), South Bay Shores/Inside Great America, Raging Waters San Jose)

– Go glamping at Safari West

– Tickets or annual pass to a local amusement park (Pixieland, California’s Great America, Six Flag’s Discovery Kingdom

– Unique Train Rides

– Movie Night Dinner and Tickets

– Family Gym Membership

– Pass to Zipline, Adventure Park, Ropes Course or Rock Climbing nearby (Cal Adventures, Adventure Playground, ZipAway Zipline)