(credit: Childrens Discovery Museum)
With 150 hands-on exhibits, San Jose’s Children’s Discovery Museum is one of the most widely visited kids’ museums in the Bay Area. For a list of nine other must-see Bay Area museums for kids, see here.
Children’s Discovery Museum
180 Woz Way
San Jose, CA 95110
Nestled in Guadalupe River Park and designed by Mexico City architect Ricardo Legorreta, this museum will provide hours of fun and learning for kids through the age of 10. The Discovery Museum’s mission is to inspire a lifelong love of creative learning.
General admission is $12 for ages one to 59, babies under one are free and seniors pay only an $11 entrance fee. There is plenty of nearby parking, but some lots are cash only, and metered parking will require plenty of quarters. To avoid heavy weekend crowds, visit the museum on less-populated weekday afternoons. Plan to spend at least a half day at the museum, depending on the kids’ ages and attention spans.
To kick things off, most kids can’t get past the traffic zone just inside the entrance, complete with fire truck and ambulance. Little ones can climb into the driver’s seat and turn the wheel to conduct a pretend rescue mission. Just beyond the varied lobby exhibits is the popular mammoth exhibit, where kids can “dig” for fossils by using brushes in a sand pit archaeology site.
Located in back of the museum, just outside, is the Kids’ Garden, complete with fruits, vegetables and bees. In the garden, kids can participate in gardening chores like watering plants and planting seeds. Each month has a seasonal craft project kids can complete. In April, kids have the opportunity to learn about different types of clouds and can make a cloud crown.
For the creatively bent, there is the Art Gallery and The Art Loft. The Loft, geared towards four to 10 year olds, offers the opportunity to create works of visual art ranging from sculpture and collage to printmaking and drawing. Rotating projects are multi-culturally themed and allow for open-ended creative exploration. Located upstairs, the Art Gallery is dedicated to showcasing works of art by children, as well as celebrating children. Many pieces are displayed at varying heights to be enjoyed by all ages of art appreciators.
If the kids visit the ever popular Waterways exhibit on the ground floor, make sure to pack a change of clothes as it will be nearly impossible for your children to avoid getting soaked. The fully interactive exhibit engages children with squirting fountains, waterfalls and pulleys. Kids can grab a selection of the provided multi-colored balls and toss them throughout the exhibit to explore how they interact with water. Smocks are available for those who forget a change of clothes, and lockers for holding wet clothes are located downstairs.
Also worth a stop is the special babies’ play area located upstairs. The Wonder Cabinet is organized for babies and kids up to four years of age, and includes a myriad of playthings like puppets, costumes and a small stage. There are books available for reading, as well as organized story times.
On-site food and beverages are available for purchase at the café, or plan to pack a picnic to enjoy in the surrounding Guadeloupe River Park. For those looking for a nearby restaurant, check out downtown San Jose’s Original Joe’s, Pizz’a Chicago or Amici’s.
Membership is a great deal at $120, as it includes free admission for two adults and all children within one household for one year. Depending on the size of the family, membership can pay for itself within a couple of visits. It also includes discounts at the museum store, which sells everything from puppets to puzzles and play food to bath toys. Special discounted days are available for home-schooled children and families.