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Guest post: Rainy Day Tips from Red Tricycle

February 9, 2010

The first couple weeks of rain were almost fun – a change of pace from our every-sunny skies. But we’ve exhausted our supply of rainy day activities, so I was thrilled to get these suggestions from Red Tricycle.

As the founder of Red Tricycle, an online city guide for parents, I spend my days exploring the Bay Area, looking for often overlooked spots for rainy day fun with kids. Bored by the same old, same old?  Since it’s not quite time for camp yet, try these ideas for cheap (or free) things to do with kids in the San Francisco Bay Area.
1. One of the city’s greatest treasures for kids is the always-free, always-fun Randall Museum. From the everyday exhibits (like Wild in the City, showing kids which animals live in their neighborhoods) to Saturdays, when kids can get up-close-and-personal with the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club’s train set, the museum’s always got tons going on to satisfy kiddie curiosity. 199 Museum Way, San Francisco
2. It’s almost a Bay Area rite of passage for a child’s first introduction to farm animals to take place at Tilden Park’s Little Farm. Bring lettuce and celery for the ducks, cows, sheep, chickens and more, and check back every spring to see if there are any new baby animals to check out. 600 Canon Dr., Berkeley
3. Kids with an interest in science and the environment will love the Bay Model. Constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers to illustrate and understand the water flow of the Bay, this large-scale working model, complete with replicated tides, is a perfect way to illustrate your kid’s knowledge of water, waves, and beaches. Starting at the northern end, and then working the way down to the South Bay, then over to the delta, your child can watch the daily tidal changes take place in just a few minutes.
4. Shopping play areas: they’re vital to a day of errands, and on a rainy day, they can be vital to our sanity. The two best we’ve found are the soft play area at San Bruno’s Tanforan Mall (just outside Target), and the big blue box…yes, IKEA kids department is full of nooks for kids to play, and the childcare center on the first floor is a great place to drop ‘em while you and your partner debate roman blinds vs. window panels for an hour. The Shops at Tanforan, 1150 El Camino Real, San Bruno; IKEA, 4400 Shellmound St., Emeryville
5. The train! The AirTrain shuttle at SFO is smooth, rarely crowded, and offers views of the planes taking off from the airport, not to mention the trucks loading and unloading luggage onto them. You can take BART down to SFO, then ride around on the track to your heart’s content without paying a dime (pack a lunch—your kid may never want to leave).
6. The admission price at many of the local museums may seem a bit steep when your little one gets fried out after only a couple of hours of exploring. But if you take advantage of a free museum admission day, you’ll always get your money’s worth. California Academy of Science’s free day is the third Wednesday of every month, and the Exploratorium’s is the first Wednesday (as is the San Francisco Zoo). For artsy types, the de Young museum opens its doors to all on the first Tuesday of the month. If your kids love the sculpture garden, be sure to check out SF MOMA’s brand-new rooftop garden, as well.
BONUS: If you just can’t make your desired museum’s free day, check in with your local public library. The Mill Valley Library, for example, has memberships to many museums (including MoAD, de Young, Asian Art, and Exploratorium) available for their members to check out.
7. Just a reminder: your local public library are not just a great place to expand your child’s literary horizons, but most offer a free story time for children in a variety of age ranges. Parents can get some tips on how to be an awesome storyteller, too.
Looking for more things to do with kids in the Bay Area? Subscribe to Red Tricycle and get the inside scoop on kid-friendly events, activities, restaurants and other adventures every week.
— Jacqui Boland, Founder
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