Best Free And Low-Cost Winter Activities For Families In San Francisco

Best Free And Low-Cost Winter Activities For Families In San Francisco

zoolight traintrack 800x451 Best Free And Low Cost Winter Activities For Families In San FranciscoOakland Zoo’s ZooLights (credit: Oakland Zoo)

Free and low-cost family adventures are as close as your neighborhood library. Check Out the SF Family Pass, San Francisco’s best family-friendly resource for free entrance into many of the city’s best attractions. Visit your local San Francisco library to check out a Family Pass, just as you would check out a book, for admission to the attraction of your choice. Each library has one pass for each attraction, except for the Main Library which carries two passes for each attraction. Family Passes are terrific bargains since each pass is valid for four youths under 18 and two adults. What a deal! A pass is valid for one admission for each attraction, and must be used within a week of checking out the pass.

Participating attractions satisfy a range of family interests, and include the Aquarium of the Bay, Children’s Creativity Museum, Exploratorium, San Francisco Zoo and much more. Click here for a complete list of attractions.

Suggestions for the Family Pass:
Zoo Lights Preview
San Francisco Zoo
2945 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 753-7080
Dates: Dec. 12, 13 and 14, 2014

Celebrate the season at the San Francisco Zoo at night under dreamlike holiday lights. Enjoy a moonlight stroll through the Zoo as it sparkles with holiday cheer under the stars. Head over to Santa and warm up while sipping hot cider and cocoa. The kids will enjoy a visit with Santa’s special holiday reindeer too, but be sure to bundle up as it will be “snowing” at Zoo Lights. Ride the historic Dentzel carousel while humming along to the live holiday entertainment. Spend a fun day at the Zoo, and stay for the lights!

Explorables: Handmade Science
Pier 15
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 528-4444
Date: Dec. 29, 2014

Use ordinary materials to produce the models and tools used to explore the world around us. Both kids and their parents will enjoy these drop-in workshops that combine timeless activities with investigations that encourage curious minds. Workshops are run by a team of highly skilled and dedicated volunteers who guide the activities, encouraging participants to follow their intuition to that “aha” moment of scientific insight.

Junior Academy: Naturalist Know-How
California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000
Date: Jan. 18, 2015

Learn to be a naturalist! A new nature skill will be presented each month in the Naturalist Center, with variations of the skill available each week. Kids will become naturalists in no time at all. Come join this fun and peppy hands-on program, designed for youth ages eight to 11. Check the website Master Events Calendar for other activities the family will enjoy.

Related: Bay Area’s 10 Must-See Museums For Kids

Activities not included in the Family Pass:
Family Cheap Skate Night
Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center
750 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 820-3532
Date: Dec. 17, 2014

San Francisco’s only year-round ice-skating center offers a wide range of fun skating opportunities that include lessons and skating leagues for adults, youth and children, plus the rink is available to rent for parties and events. Yerba Buena Center offers a calendar schedule for Public Skating, including Wednesday night “Cheap Skate” time when the skate rental fee is waived with regular paid admission. This is a great chance for family skate time. Visit the website’s calendar to choose the best skate date for your family.

Story Time & Family Walk
San Francisco Botanical Gardens
1199 9th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 661-1316
Date: Dec. 7, 2014

The San Francisco Botanical Garden offers a beautiful oasis to explore, and an excellent resource to learn about nature. The Gardens invite families to enjoy a variety of family adventures together, including garden walks, circle time with stories and singing, craft activities to do together and more. Take the little ones to Story Time & Family Walk for a free, fun activity suitable for kids ages four to eight. Join the group in the cozy children’s book nook with its comfy kid-sized cushions, flock of friendly stuffed animals and dynamic readers. Follow up with a special docent-led children’s tour of the Garden. Make it even more special and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the beautiful setting. Check the website calendar for additional kid- and family-friendly events.

RelatedBest Bay-Area One-Day ‘Staycations’ On A Budget

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at