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Silicon Valley's Top 10 Destinations for Families

Silicon Valley's Top 10 Destinations for Families


We may be known for start-ups, venture capitalism, and having the best places to work. But Silicon Valley is not all work and no play. In fact, it’s one of the best places to visit with families. The valley is home to several museums, fun theme parks, and scenic nature preserves. While Silicon Valley offers much more, we round out these top 10 “must-see” destinations that the entire family can enjoy together. 


Great America: If you’re looking for thrills, chills, entertainment, and waterworks all in one place, then California’s Great America is the place to be. Whether you’re bringing the family, going with your friends or are just a kid at heart, this amusement park is the quintessential entertainment hub for all ages.


Children’s Discovery Museum: Re-discover your world through your children’s eyes with more than 100 interactive exhibits including art, making your own pizza and bubbles, and a big red fire engine. The surrounding Guadalupe River Park is a great spot for picnics.


The Tech Museum: No visit to Silicon Valley would be complete without checking out this hands-on technology and science museum to inspire the innovator in everyone. In addition to the galleries and learning centers, they offer special exhibits and lectures. This museum has three floors, a café, a gift shop, and an IMAX dome theatre. Admission is free on the first full weekend of every month. Afterward, kids can cool off in the water fountains across the street at Plaza de César Chavez.


Raging Waters: On a hot summer day, what could be better than speed-tubing 500 feet down into the pool? Water thrill-seekers big and small have designated areas to safely enjoy their rides. In addition to 23 acres of fun, rides, slides, rivers, and pools, families can enjoy food and snacks or a picnic on the lawn. Don’t forget to check out their summer events!


Santana Row: This upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment complex is a great place for a leisurely stroll, getting a bite to eat, maybe catching a movie, or just people-watching. Throughout the year, visitors can dance to live music, participate in seasonal celebrations or in store events. Every month, they have “Mommy & Me and Daddy Too” events where families can enjoy games, arts, and crafts. There is a small playground for tots near Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant, plus tables, chairs, and umbrellas to enjoy music on stage, and a lawn area for some downtime. And yes, there is a Starbuck’s close by.


Shoreline Park: If you’re looking for something more active, Shoreline Park is a beautiful place for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, bike riding, running, or walking. The park is also a wildlife sanctuary and home to many rare, migratory birds. The café overlooks the lake and is a nice spot to refuel. Shoreline also has a dog park and a kite-flying area.


Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo: This is a small museum but very entertaining for the kids. They have hands-on exhibits, sharks, snakes, a very “cool” redesigned bat cave, and Bobcat Ridge, which is a new home for bobcats Rufus and Tule. There is no entrance fee but tax-deductible donations are encouraged.


The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum: Interested in mummies, kings, and pharaohs? Then this expedition to ancient Egypt is the place for you. Young adventurers ages 5-17 can participate in the Junior Archeologist program that offers behind-the-scenes training, hands-on learning, and a graduation ceremony.


Happy Hollow Park & Zoo: This outdoor sustainable and conservation-focused park offers kiddie rides, a puppet theater, classes, and a variety of animals, exhibits, and shops.


Lick Observatory: Love stargazing? Join the Summer Visitors program and you can visit in the evening to get a rare look through the telescopes (no children under 8). Or enjoy the free tours and sweeping views anytime.


—By Rosaline Raj
Rosaline Raj is a Silicon Valley-based freelance writer.

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