English (UK)
Courtesy of Exploratorium

Family learning adventure

With the diversity of experiences on this trip your kids might not even notice that they’ve been learning.

Start:Exploratorium, San Francisco
End:Fresno Chaffee Zoo
3 - 6Days,12Stops,352Miles
Exploratorium, San Francisco
Courtesy of Exploratorium
California Academy of Sciences
Computer History Museum
Alanna Hale
Tech Museum of Innovation
Robert Ford/Getty Images
Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
Courtesy of the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Colouria Media/Alamy
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Yuran Shen/Getty Images
National Steinbeck Center
Jamie Pham/Alamy
Mission San Juan Bautista
Alan W. Cole/Getty Images
Gilroy Gardens
Gilroy Gardens
Casa de Fruta
Courtesy of Casa de Fruta
Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Courtesy of Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Stop 1

Exploratorium, San Francisco

Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco

Set on San Francisco’s bustling Pier 15 , the crowd-pleasing Exploratorium invites guests to experience science in action—like standing in a fog cloud or walking into the totally dark Tactile Dome. Check out six unique galleries, including the hands-on Tinkering area, where you can watch museum staff create wonders but also make your own. In the Living Systems gallery, look at fruit flies and stem cells under a powerful microscope, or let the children 'pedal' the bike-powered machine outside that approximates a giant, squirting game of skipping. Climb the stairs to the Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery for remarkable views of yachts, freighters and ferries, as well as the nearby Bay Bridge and Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands. And don’t miss the all-glass observation cube at the very tip of the pier.

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Stop 2

California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco

The earth meets the sky at the California Academy of Sciences, a combination of natural history museum, planetarium and aquarium located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Start at the domed, four-storey rainforest exhibit, where you’ll spot free-flying birds, butterflies, amphibians and even an Amazonian tree boa. Check the schedule at the Morrison Planetarium, which showcases films like Passport to the Universe, featuring footage from the Hubble Space Telescope, on its 75-foot/22-metre-diameter screen. The CAS is a great place to eat too, from the home-made soups and salads at The Academy Café to the craft beer and locally-sourced dishes at The Terrace.

Stop 3

Computer History Museum

1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View

Your first impression of Silicon Valley, the Northern Californian brain trust south of San Francisco Bay, may ironically be how pretty its landscape is, thanks to its lush green foothills. But the human-made wonders at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum will quickly grab your attention too. Learn about the birth of the computer, driverless cars and tech heroes such as Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician. Another fascinating exhibit sheds light on the little-known story of Colossus, an electronic code-breaker device developed by British maths whizzes and engineers, that helped win the Second World War.

Stop 4

Tech Museum of Innovation

201 S Market St, San Jose

In Silicon Valley’s San Jose, the interactive Tech Museum of Innovation (nicknamed 'The Tech') creates a fun laboratory and learning experience for curious people of all ages. Play cyber detective or build your own robot using sensors, actuators and controllers. Check out the Reboot Reality exhibit and design a digital painting or climb onto Birdly, the virtual reality flying simulator. For another kind of thrill, stand on the Shake Platform, which creates the sensations of the eight levels of earthquakes.

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    Stop 5

    Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

    180 Woz Way, San Jose

    Look for the distinctive purple building on San Jose’s Wozniak Way (aka  'the Woz'), named after Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Here, at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, kids can get hands-on science lessons from 150 exhibits and an outdoor playground lab. Start by visiting Lupe, the replica of a woolly mammoth whose remains were found in Silicon Valley, before having a dig in the earth to see how archaeologists search for fossils. In other areas, children can create art, climb trees, blow giant bubbles and pump water out of a rain catchment system.

    Stop 6

    Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

    1305 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz

    With its hybrid terrain of coastline, redwood forests and mountains, the university town of Santa Cruz is a natural magnet for families thanks to an old-fashioned amusement park on the boardwalk. But it’s also home to the century old Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History set above Seabright Beach. Call in for the touch pool with living, local inter tidal plants and animals and then visit the live honeybee exhibit or the Ohlone exhibition that shows what life was like in the precolonial Central Coast. (Bonus: admission is free for children.)

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      Stop 7

      Monterey Bay Aquarium

      886 Cannery Row, Monterey

      The world class Monterey Bay Aquarium is an essential stop in the Central Coast town of Monterey—an attraction on the same level as historic Cannery Row. You’ll see brilliantly coloured jellyfish that resemble some kind of alien life form as they gracefully glide through the water. Go nose to nose with adorable sea otters and catch glimpses of leopard sharks and schools of sardines swimming through the kelp forest exhibit. After all, with 28-foot/8.5 metre windows, it’s one of the world’s tallest aquariums. Check out tours, too, such as the surface scuba diving session or the behind the scenes fish feeding opportunity.

      Stop 8

      National Steinbeck Center

      1 Main St, Salinas

      With a rich agricultural and literary history, the town of Salinas makes a fascinating stop. Start by exploring the world of author John Steinbeck: you can visit his boyhood home as well as the National Steinbeck Center. Even if the children aren’t old enough yet to have read The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men, this engaging museum will give them a vivid introduction to the author, by way of films, artefacts, sound clips and hands on activities that illustrate how the people and landscape of the Salinas Valley informed Steinbeck’s classic American books. Come during August for the annual Steinbeck Festival or during February for the annual birthday celebration.

      Stop 9

      Mission San Juan Bautista

      406 2nd St5, San Juan Bautista

      The town of San Juan Bautista, located off Highway 101, is an excellent time capsule thanks to its centre lined with Old West shopfronts. The centrepiece of town, though, is Mission San Juan Bautista, a classic among the 21 Spanish missions built in California between 1769 and 1834. Learn about the Spanish era and note the interesting features of the mission, like the animal paw prints depicted in the floor tiles. Two fun facts: the mission sits next to the San Andreas Fault and it was featured in the Hitchcock thriller Vertigo.

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        Stop 10

        Gilroy Gardens

        3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy

        The Santa Clara County town of Gilroy boasts of being the Garlic Capital of the World. That’s a title children might not appreciate until you take them to Gilroy Gardens theme park, which celebrates the herb along with the other crops growing in Central Coast farm country. Zoom and spin on agriculturally themed rides such as the Artichoke Dip, the Mushroom Swing and, of course, the Garlic Twirl. Don't miss the 25 incredible Circus Trees grown in nature-defying shapes. For more garlic (even in ice cream) come to the town in July for the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

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        SPOTLIGHT

        Casa de Fruta

        10021 Pacheco Pass Hwy, Hollister

        What started as a humble cherry stall in 1908 is now a huge roadside attraction, welcoming more than 3 million visitors each year. Located 40 miles north-east of Monterey, Casa de Fruta in Hollister features a 10,000-square-foot/930-square-metre market, 24-hour restaurant, sweet shop, RV park, 14-room inn and playground. The market sells road-trip friendly dried fruit, nuts, wine and fresh produce from all over the state and visitors can try strawberries from Watsonville, pistachios from Fresno, garlic from Gilroy and more. The family’s wine is offered in the traditional white, red and rose, but visitors most often leave with a bottle of Casa de Fruta’s signature pomegranate wine.

        Stop 12

        Fresno Chaffee Zoo

        894 W Belmont Ave, Fresno

        Set on Highway 99, Fresno is the agricultural heart of the Central Valley, but it also offers gorgeous gardens, parks and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The zoo has unique naturalistic enclosures such as the 13-acre, savannah-like African Adventure and is home to almost 200 species of animals from around the globe, from red kangaroos and wildebeest to cheetahs and king cobras. Don’t miss the chance for the children to feed giraffes and check out the behind-the-scenes experiences too, like Breakfast with the Rhinos or the sea lion training sessions.

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        Road Trip Snapshot

        Find out more about the amazing locations featured in this road trip. Ready to plan your trip? Print the itinerary or map your adventure to get started.

        Stop 1Exploratorium, San Francisco
        Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco
        Stop 2California Academy of Sciences
        55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco
        Stop 3Computer History Museum
        1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View
        Stop 4Tech Museum of Innovation
        201 S Market St, San Jose
          Stop 5Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
          180 Woz Way, San Jose
          Stop 6Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
          1305 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz
            Stop 7Monterey Bay Aquarium
            886 Cannery Row, Monterey
            Stop 8National Steinbeck Center
            1 Main St, Salinas
            Stop 9Mission San Juan Bautista
            406 2nd St5, San Juan Bautista
              Stop 10Gilroy Gardens
              3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy
              Stop 12Fresno Chaffee Zoo
              894 W Belmont Ave, Fresno

              Car & RV Hire

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