South Bay Family Freebies

November 5, 2010 7:32 AM

Finding things to do around the Bay Area is easy – there’s fun everywhere! But finding freebies for the whole family can be challenging. From outdoor events including the San Jose Mariachi Festival , the South Bay is full of exciting ways to spend little or no money for a full day of fun. The best free kid fun in Santa Clara County are here!

Japanese Friendship Gardens

1300 Senter Rd.
San Jose, CA 95106
Japanese Friendship Gardens

You might know the famed Happy Holly Park and Zoo, a super fun kid extravaganza in San Jose. But what you might have missed between carousel rides and lemur exhibits is the gentle, vast park right next door. The Japanese Friendship Gardens, part of San Jose Parks’ Kelley Park, is home to one of the greatest spots in the Bay Area. The gardens are filled with ponds and peppered with teahouses modeled after those of San Jose’s sister city Okayama, Japan.

Kids enjoy climbing on massive oak and willow trees while parents can feel free to let children wander and discover the gardens; many trimmed and kept in the Japanese style. There are several paths that wind through the park where children can find tadpoles, hidden nooks and little bridges everywhere, all fashioned in the Japanese style. The Koi fish are gone, but hope to return by Spring 2011, but wild geese and little tadpoles keep kids busy for hours.

Visit the gardens on a weekend to catch a glimpse of a wedding or two or walk over to History San Jose for a little ice cream cone at the antique ice cream parlor.

NASA Exploration Center

Moffett Field
Hwy 101
Mountain View, CA 94035
NASA Exploration Center

Okay, so it’s not the Smithsonian Museum, but the NASA Exploration Center is one of the best little-known family freebies in the Bay Area. Although the museum is small and slightly dated, the history is truly incredible. Most of the tour and information are geared toward children between the ages of 5-10, but the excitement of being on the NASA campus is surreal and exciting. Current exhibits include a moon rock retrieved from Apolo 15, the Mercury Redstone capsule from 1960, and a 14-foot immersive theater.

Look for gadgets and artifacts, cool math and science tidbits and lots of historical information. The videos are good, but the most fun information comes from the volunteers themselves who are rich with knowledge of the history of space travel and how our own Moffet field has played a role in our knowledge of space. The tours often feature special speakers and several times during the year, NASA hosts a family fun night right inside the Aames facility.

Emma Prusch Farm

647 S King Rd.
San Jose, CA 95116
Emma Prusch Farm

The biggest wooden barn in all of California lies directly in the heart of San Jose. The Emma Prusch Farm, funded and run privately, is amongst one of the most beloved nooks hidden just off of King and Story Road. The big barn is home to goats and sheep and pigs, all free roaming. The farm is used as both a community outreach for urban children and as a facility for the education of sustainable farming.

Emma Prusch farm is perfect for young children who are ready to be introduced to animals and farm life – beware of the wild turkeys and geese, they’re known for plucking snacks right out of little kids’ hands. Plan on being at the farm for a couple of hours, this isn’t a daylong destination spot, however, what’s there is special.

Find the community garden where local San Jose residents share space and gardens; see if kids can spy “Bella” the 80-year-old working windmill which pumps into the park’s ponds and is used for feeding the animals. The park is host to several yearly events including the Tamale Festival, the evenings under-the-stars and the well-known Fall Harvest Festival featuring an old fashioned country fair that takes place each October.

-Samantha Fein, The Garza Girls

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