Best Rainy Day Fun In the Bay Area

March 17, 2011 12:29 PM

Even sunny California has its fair share of dark and dreary days. While there may be an endless number of activities that can be done at home, who doesn’t eventually hear the dreaded, “I’m sooo bored! There’s nothing to do…” And then what? If you and your crew are just itching to get out of the house, here are some sure-fire Bay Area cures for cabin fever:

Indoor Playspaces

It is a well documented fact, that the combination of dreary weather plus being confined in close quarters brings out the rambunctious in kids. Why not take them to a place where they can run, shake, and climb the crazies out like The Jungle or Pump It Up. Ikea has a free drop childcare so Mom or Dad can shop in peace or just enjoy a cup of tea in the cafe. However, it is first come, first serve and your children must be potty trained and meet certain height requirements. I have on good authority that the ball pit at the Palo Alto location is always a huge hit.

Local shopping malls also tend to have free play spaces for children. My favorite is at Valley Fair Mall. However be warned that the playplace is in direct view of the Lego Store, Build a Bear, Red Mango, Coldstone, and Mrs. Fields. Your kids could very well swap their “cabin fever” for a serious case of the “gimmes”.


Museums are always a hit when it’s cold and wet outside, so expect them to be crowded. Whether it’s best to arrive earlier or later in the day depends on the location. It’s a good idea to call ahead and find out when (if any) schools or day care centers are planning field trips to the museum that day and plan accordingly. My top five recommendations are:

Children’s Discovery Museum
Children’s Discovery Museum
San Jose’s very own children’s museum, is a wonderful attraction for any day (not just a rainy one). The “main street” of the museum teaches kids about traffic lights and stop signs, while exhibits through out the 3 floors introduce concepts about light, air and shape. Definitely worth a visit!

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo
Palo Alto Junion Museum and Zoo
Having served Palo Alto for 70 years, Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is definitely a fun place to go on a rainy day – out back, there is a small zoo with bugs, bats, geese, turtles, ferrets, hedgehogs, owls, and bobcats. Inside, there are several hands-on science activities keep kids busy and learning.

Located in the heart of San Francisco, Zeum is a hands-on, multimedia arts and technology experience for kids. Follow Zeum on Twitter to keep up with the latest news.

The Hiller Aviation Museum
Hiller Aviation Museum
This is a fun and exciting way to teach kids all about the intricacies of flight!

An innovative and interactive museum dedicated to art, science, and human perception. For a different kind of hands-on experience, check out the tactile dome and the labyrinth of textures. Seminars on quirky topics are also offered on weekends.

Explore a bookstore

The spirit of the independent bookstore is alive and well in the Bay Area. These are my top picks for the South Bay:

A charming San Jose bookstore which has has been delighting readers, both young and old, for over 30 years. Specializing in books for children and young adults, Hicklebee’s is a top choice for book lovers.

Linden Tree Children’s Recording and Books
Linden Tree Children’s Recording and Books
This store has an excellent selection of children’s recordings, as well as a broad inventory of books and a helpful staff who is more than happy to find anything you need. Look for their great selection of foreign language books and international toys and gifts!

Books Inc.
Books Inc.
“The West’s Oldest Independent Book Seller”, Books Inc. hosts terrific events each and every month like books fairs, launch parties, story times and signings with authors, and book clubs for kids, teens, and moms.

Leigh’s Favorite Books
Leigh’s Favorite Books
Find your favorite new and used books at Leigh’s Favorite Books, a cozzy little shop located in historic (and newly renovated) downtown Sunnyvale. Anything not in stock can be special ordered for 20% off the list price. Bookbuyers calls themselves a “book browser’s paradise” and rightfully so! I could get lost in their Mountain View location for days. Bookbuyers has one of the largest sources of used and out-of-print books in the Bay Area.

Take a class

Many retails stores such as Home Deopt and Lakeshore Learning offer a free craft for children. Likewise, many gym, music, and play programs geared towards kids, such as Gymboree Play and Music, Little Gym, or Kindermusik, offer a trial class for free.

Check individual locations for dates and times. There are several of each in the Bay Area.

Art from the heart

Pick and paint your own pottery makes great gifts, especially for grandparents who adore anything with the kids’ handprint or footprint. Some place to consider are Color Me Mine, Brushstrokes, or Create It!.

Go to the movies. No, really!

Movie theaters are finally wising up the the fact that parents want to see movies too. Many venues such as Camera Cinemas, with locations in Campbell and Los Gatos, offer special screening for parents with little ones in tow. For the daytime crowd, there is Diaper Days on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 12:30pm. For parents with busier schedules, they also have evening screenings called Diaper Date Nights on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

Check their website at Camera Cinemas for more details and to sign up for reminders.

Grace Duffy is a married, mother of two living in Silicon Valley. She blogs at Formerly Gracie and Mama Manifesto.

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