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Bay Area Field Trips to See Animals

These San Francisco Bay Area animal related field trip destinations have been recommended by homeschooling parents and kids. If you have a favorite that isn't listed here please call Homefires Journal at 650-365-9425 or E-mail Your Field Trip Destination. While we hope that this information is accurate, please do call to confirm.

San Francisco Bay Area Field Trips to See Wild and Domestic Animals

Año Nuevo State Reserve

New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, CA
(Highway 1 - 22 miles north of Santa Cruz)
Phone: 1-800-444-4445 or 650-879-0227 or 650-879-2025
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to Sunset.
Admission: $6/vehicle

One of only three mainland breeding sites in the world for the northern elephant seal. Breeding in fall and winter months -- with big population of adults males, females and pups. Informative visitors center; docent-led tours along a 3-mile stretch of beach to observe breeding grounds, rookery, and elephant seals. Layered clothing recommended. Bring water. Some porta-potties along way. Not for kids under 7.

Ardenwood Historic Farm

34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont, CA
Phone: 510-796-0199 or 510-796-0663

Winter Hours

(Nov. 21 - April 1): Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Winter Fees: $2.00/adults, $1.00/children (4-17)

Summer Hours

(April - Nov.): Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday
Fees: $2.00/adults, $1.00/children (4-17)
Thursday, Friday and Sunday
Fees: $5.00/adults, $4.00/children (4-17)

Special Event Entry Fee: $8.00/adults, $5.00/children (4-17)
Special event entry fees may vary.
Please call (510) 796-0199 for updated information.

Learn about 19th century farming and agriculture activities. Civil War reenactment once each year. Train rides through Butterfly Forest. Hay rides. Crafts & activities. Homeschool tours available.

Carrier's Beekeeping Supplies

601 South Baywood Avenue, (at Moorpark) San Jose, CA
Telephone: 408-296-6100

Carrier (the owner) has a working active hive. He gives 20-30 minute talk about bees free of charge, and sells a large variety of colored honeycomb wax sheets for under $2 each to make home made candles. His business is part of his home. Eccentric character and worth repeated visits.

Children's Fairyland

699 Bellevue Avenue (at Grand) Oakland, CA
Phone: 510-452-2259 or recorded message 510-238-6876
Winter Hours: Friday - Sunday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

A fairy-tale theme park featuring more than 30 colorful fantasy sets and more than 25 domestic animals - from tiny mice to a pair of frisky donkeys and a Welsh Mountain pony. Designed for kids 10 and under. Gentle rides, train, puppet shows, slides, animals.

Coyote Hills Regional Park

8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont, CA
Phone: 510-795-9385
Parking Fee: $5.00/vehicle

Park Hours

April - October: 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. October - April: 8:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m.

Visitor Center Hours

Tuesdays through Sundays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m

Some classes require a $3-$10 fee. You don't have to be in a group, just call ahead to sign up. Classes vary--there are classes for all ages and some that specify an age minimum. There are also extended summer classes for kids that let the kids really explore a particular facet of wildlife.

The visitor center offers a small museum with Ohlone Indian artifacts and a model village. To get the most out of a visit, it's helpful to attend one of the many activities offered by park rangers that explore the world of Ohlone Indians. We attended a class (free!) that took us on a tour of one of the few remaining intact Bay Area shellmounds (complete with full scale model of an Ohlone village. Once the kids had explored, the ranger then taught us games that Indian children had played on that very site a thousand years ago. The ranger was very kid oriented and knew just how to keep their interest.

Coyote Hills is also a Wildlife Refuge and offers activites and classes about the native wildlife as well. We attended a morning raccoon hunt that was loads of fun. There is a marsh boardwalk that lets you get very close to the water birds.

Deer Hill Ranch

3232 Deer Hill Road, Lafayette, CA
Phone: 925-283-1197
Email Deer Hill Ranch

Field trips are available Monday through Friday in the AM or PM. Ranch visits by appointment only. Rates are $8/person with a minimum group of 10 children. Carpooling is strongly encouraged. There are picnic tables to enjoy lunch before or after the tour.

Deer Hill Ranch is a family-owned working ranch adjacent to Briones Regional Park near Walnut Creek in the San Francisco East Bay. They raise Black Angus breeding stock and enjoy sharing their facilities to educate children (ages 4 and up) about farm animals and the ranch way of life. A tour of the farm includes an opportunity for kids to meet and hand-feed a few barnyard animals like bunnies, goats, pigs, chickens, and ducks.

The children are invited into the chicken coop to collect eggs. Kids get to hold or pet a chicken and feel its comb and wattle. At the Sheep Station kids can touch and compare wool from different sheep. They will have a chance to use a spinning wheel, card from a sheep fleece, and try hand-spinning. They get to keep their own piece of wool to take home. At the Hay Barn kids can climb on hay bales and working as a team they lift a bale of hay. The kids also get to see authentic Western-syle furnishings and learn about some of the historical items on the ranch too. Finally, the kids get a chance to brush or curry comb a miniature horse!

Emma Prusch Farm Park

647 South King Road, (at Story Roads) San Jose, CA
Phone: 408-926-5555
Hours: Open Daily 8:30 a.m. - Sunset

This is a nice field trip for younger children, with a poultry yard, rabbits, picnic tables, old tractors to climb on, and a big grassy area for tag or frisbee. They also run tours of their rare fruit trees orchard, community garden, and the historical farm house, and provide a chance to churn butter and eat it on crackers. These tours are open to homeschool groups (targeted at the K-3 grade level), but it is necessary to sign up well in advance (as in a month or two) and there is a $25 fee per group.

Kids have the opportunity one Saturday morning each month to assist park staff in feeding the ducks, goats, chickens, rabbits, geese, sheep and miniature pigs. Limited to the first 20 children to register. Cost $3.00/child.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

200 Nevada Ave, Moss Beach, CA
(Off Highway 1, Moss Beach, 7 miles no. of Half Moon Bay airport.)
Phone: 650-728-3584
Hours: Opens Daily at 8:00 A.M. Closing time varies by time of year.
Admission: Free
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is operated by the San Mateo County Parks Department.

The Reserve is open during daylight hours but the life in the tidepools can only be seen at low tides, below +1.0 feet. Check your newspaper, an online tide guide, or a tide book which is available at marinas, boating or fishing shops. The tides at Moss Beach occur about one hour earlier than listed for the Golden Gate. Tidepooling is best done just before and just after low tide. Be sure to bring a windbreaker, a sweater and a pair of dry shoes.

Note: If your group has 10 or more people, you must make a reservation to visit the reserve.

Read what homeschoolers have to say about the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

1300 Senter Road, San Jose, CA
Phone: 408-277-3000

Hours: Open Daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Weekends in July/August 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Admission Fee: $6.00/adults, children under 2 free.
$1.00 Admission Day 2nd Tuesday of every month.
Parking Fee: $6.00/car (Hybrid Cars free with City of San José issued placard.)

Gentle children's theme rides, creative play areas, puppet shows, petting zoo, picnic areas. Great for families with young children. Entrance fee includes Zoo, Puppet Shows, and all rides.

The Zoo provides hands-on experience with many animals along with the education that's necessary to secure the future of endangered species. There's also an Animal Contact Area featuring Goats, Miniature Horses, and Zebus.

Lindsay Wildlife Museum

1931 First Avenue, Walnut Creek, CA
Phone: 925-935-1978
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(Hours may vary, check website for closures.)
Admission Fee: $7.00/adults, $5.00/children (2-17), children under 2 free.

Lindsay Wildlife Museum exhibits live, non-releasable wildlife. The museum is the oldest and one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation centers in the U.S., treating more than 5,000 injured or orphaned animals each year. In addition to the great field trip experiences, Lindsay Wildlife Museum offers programs and workshops specifically designed for the home school student ages 6-14. These programs contain elements of the California State Science Standards and are modified to the age group.

The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC)

Marin Headlands, 1065 Fort Cronkhite, (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) Sausalito, CA
Phone: 415-289-7325 (415-979-4357 to volunteer)
Call for hours, tours, admission fees.

Visit the Marine Mammal Visitor Center adjacent from Rodeo Lagoon and Beach at Building 1049. Hours are 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily.

Non-profit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, sea otters, whales and dolphins. Oil triage facility for animals affected by oil or chemical spills as well. Tours available. Volunteers needed.

Oakland Zoo

9777 Golf Links Rd., Oakland, CA
Phone: 510-632-9525
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; September and October, the zoo is open one additional hour on the weekends, closing at 5:00 p.m.
Admission Tips: Group discounts for 12 or more are available.

Nestled in the rolling hills of 525-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is home to more than 440 native and exotic animals. African Savanna exhibit ongoing with 11 exhibits including meerkats, hyenas, green monkeys and a savanna monitor lizard. See the Zoo's elephant herd, lions, giraffes, chimpanzees and more -- animals from around the world. Petting Zoo, mini-train rides, carousel, picnic grounds.

Be sure to visit the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo, located within the Oakland Zoo. It's part zoo, part children's museum and part playground. Designed to be a fanciful world of discovery, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo encourages children to learn through exploration and play.

San Francisco Zoo

1 Zoo Road, (Sloat Blvd. & 45th Avenue) San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-753-7080
Hours: Open Daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Admission Fee: $11.00/adults, $8/youth (12-17), $5.00/kids (3-11), children age 2 and under free.
Group discount and San Francisco resident discount rate available.
The first Wednesday of every month, admission to the Zoo is free.

See lions, tigers, giraffes, chimpanzees, elephants, rhinos, hippos and other wildlife. The most incredible Insect Museum is in this zoo too -- with every kind of strange and exotic bug you have ever seen! Zoo includes a Children's Petting Zoo, a Zebra Train, a Carousel, Warthog Exhibit and more.


76 Albert Park Lane, San Rafael, CA
Phone: 415-456-SAVE (7283); for field trip info call 415-453-1000
Hours: Open Daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Admission Fee: Free

A unique animal hospital and educational service. Over 300 volunteers care for more than 4,000 ill, orphaned or injured animals a year. On a visit you might see a kestrel with an injured wing, an orphaned raccoon, a sick squirrel, or a recovering pelican. Healthy animals are returned to the wild. Volunteers needed to rehabilitate wildlife and serve as nature guides on field trips there.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

1001 Fairgrounds Dr. (I-80 at state Hwy 37) Vallejo, CA
Phone: 707-644-4000 ext. 374
Hours: Seasonal - Call for times.
Admission: $49.99/adult, $29.99/child ages 4-12 (and over 48 inches tall), free 2 and under.

This 135 acre theme park contains wildlife park, oceanarium and amusement rides. See zebras, sharks, dolphins, alligators, butterflies, cheetahs, and a cheetahs. Educational shows and entertainment with over 30 animal attractions, 197 different species and 1,700+ animals. Offers Homeschool Discount Days year-round -- call to inquire.

Slide Ranch -- Organic Farm in Marin

2025 Shoreline Highway, Muir Beach, CA
Phone: 415-381-6155

Milk a goat, explore tide pools, hike among wildflowers, feed farm animals, dig around in an organic garden. This non-profit educational center teaches children and families an understanding of our connection and respect for nature with practical lessons about basic human needs -- food, clothing, shelter and community. Daycamps and overnights for school or homeschool groups. Weekend family programs. All available from fall to spring.

Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory -- University of California at Santa Cruz

1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Phone: 831-459-2883 or 831-459-4308

View marine life exhibits, touch tanks, sea lion enclosures, blue whale skeleton. Docent tours available Tuesday - Sunday 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz. Free -- but $15 fee for groups of 10 or more.