Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

Bay Area Field Trips into History

These Bay Area historic 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.

Bay Area Field Trips into History - Step Into History

Alcatraz Island Tours

Boats depart from Pier 41, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-705-1042, 415-705-1045
Hours: Daily, tours every hour from 10:00 a.m. - 4:30pm
Reservations are recommended
Admission: $24.50/adult, $15.25/child ages 5-11 includes ferry and cell house audio tour.

There is no entrance fee to visit Alcatraz Island. However there is a charge for the ferry service to and from the island which is supplied by a private company under contract with the National Park Service.

Learn the history of "The Rock" through a cell house audio program featuring stories from former correctional officers and prisoners at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. There are a variety of tours offered from self-guided walking tours to guided evening tours that include a look at some parts of the island not open to daytime visitors. Call for schedule - and prices -- as they vary on special tours.

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island, (One mile south of the Tiburon Peninsula) San Francisco Bay, CA
Phone: 415-435-3522
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. until sunset year around
Price: Varies depending on tour.
Tram-Tours -- $13.50/adult, $9.50/juniors, free under 5 (when seated on lap).

Guided history tours, tram tours and nature walks featuring the Quarantine Station, the Immigration Station, Camp Reynolds, and Fort McDowell. Hiking and biking trails too. Tram tours are one-hour, audio-enhanced tours covering the island's military history from the Civil War to the Cold War. There are ferries from Tiburon, Vallejo and San Francisco. Call for ferry schedule.

Ardenwood Historic Farm

34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont, CA
Telephone: 510-796-0199
Hours: Tuseday - Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Admission: $2.00/adults, $1.00/students (4-17), free for ages 3 and under. Special Events programs cost about $8.00/general. Check website for details.

Learn about 19th century farming and agriculture activities. Civil War reenactment once each year. Train rides through Butterfly Forest. Arden Station and Deer Park Station: Board the horse-drawn train here. The ride takes kids more than 100 years back in time on a ride into the park with docents dressed in period costumes. Hay rides. Crafts & activities. Homeschool tours available.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

5175 Somersville Road (5 miles south of state Hwy 4), Antioch, CA
Phone: 925-757-2620.
Hours: Open 8 a.m. until dusk (closing time varies seasonally)
Call for Mine Tour schedule
Admission: $3.00/general, plus $5.00 for parking. Reservations suggested. A couple of portals to the past at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve are open to the public, offering a glimpse into the park's extensive mining history. The two are:

  1. The Greathouse Visitor Center is located in an underground chamber excavated in the mid-1920s. Hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. The center contains displays, photographs, videos, brochures and artifacts depicting the park's coal and sand mining eras.
  2. The Hazel-Atlas Mine mined silica sand to make jars, bottles, and glasses. Mine hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors only on guided tours, with a limit of 15 persons per tour (minimum age 7 years). The tour costs $3.00 per person. Tours (45 minutes) begin on the hour. Tour participants take a 400-foot walk into the mine to see the office of the shifter (mine boss), ore chutes, and ancient geological features.

Advance reservations are highly recommended for the Hazel-Atlas Mine tours, and are required for group tours. Tickets can be purchased at the Greathouse Visitor Center on a space-available basis. Black Diamond's parking fee is $5.00/vehicle on weekends and holidays. One free parking pass issued for every 5 reservations.

California Historical Society

678 Mission St., San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-357-1848
Museum Hours: Wednesday though Saturday, noon to 4:30 p.m.
Admission $3.00/adults, $1.00/students, free for children under 5

California's official state historical society has exhibition galleries, research library, art collection, archives and book store.

Chinese Historical Society of America

965 Clay Street, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-391-1188
Hours: Tuesday - Friday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Closed Sunday & Monday
Admission: $3.00/adults, $1.00/children (6-17), children under 5 free

Houses the largest collection of Chinese American artifacts in the country. Traces the experiences of the Chinese American from the 1850s to the present. Features graphical panels with English and Chinese captions.

Coyote Hills Regional Park

8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont, CA
Phone: 510-795-9385
Park Hours: Aril - October: 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m.; October - April: 8:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m.
Parking Fee: $5.00 per vehicle

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. The visitor center is open Tuesdays through Sundays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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 racoon hunt that was loads of fun. There is a marsh boardwalk that lets you get very close to the water birds.

Dunsmuir House & Gardens

2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA
Phone: 510-615-5555
Grounds Open for Walking: Tuesday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Docent-led Tours: Tour the 37-room Dunsmuir Mansion Wednesdays Only
Docent Tour Admission: $5.00/adults, $4.00/juniors, children 13 and under free

This 40-acre estate in the Oakland hills was built by coal and lumber baron Alexander Dunsmuir for his bride Josephine in December 1899. The Dunsmuir mansion, designed by San Francisco architect, J. Eugene Freeman, is an example of Neoclassical-Revival architecture popular in the late 1800s. The 37-room mansion features a Tiffany-style dome, woodpaneled public rooms, 10 fireplaces and inlaid parquet floors within its 16,224 square feet. Servants quarters in the house are designed to accommodate 12 live-in staff. [Dunsmuir mansion 360° tour]

Fort Point National Historic Site

The Presidio, Long Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-556-1693
Book Store: 415-673-5642
Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: Free (Fee for some programs and guided tours)

Located under the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, this four-tiered brick and granite fortress is the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi River. It was built between 1853 and 1861 and accommodated 126 cannons and 500 soldiers.

View a 17-minute video portraying the history of the site from Spanish arrival in the 1770's to the present. See a Cannon Drill and learn how soldiers were taught to load and fire a Napoleon 12-pounder cannon during a Civil War artillery drill. Also featured, "Return to the Past at Fort Point" -- a daily tour explaining a day in the life of a Civil War soldier stationed at Fort Point through an award-winning recorded tour which guides one around the casemates, through the quarters and into the past. Reservations for this are advised and the cost is $2.50/adults; $1/children.

HAAS-Lilienthal House

2007 Franklin Street, (between Washington & Jackson Streets) San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-441-3015
Hours: Tours Sundays from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Wednesdays & Saturdays 12:00 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
2-hour Pacific Heights walking tour offered Sundays at 12:30 pm.
General Admission: $8.00/adults, $5.00/children (12 & under)

An elegant Queen Anne Victorian built in 1886 delights visitors with one-hour, docent-led tours of its large, formal rooms and many original furnishings.

Saturday Walking Tours
San Francisco Heritage is delighted to offer 4 public walking tours, given on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. Each tour covers 15-20 blocks and takes about 2 hours. These 4 tours will be given on a rotating basis, see website for details.

Heidrick Ag History Center

1962 Hayes Lane, Woodland, CA
Phone: 530-666-9700
Hours: Monday - Friday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.;
Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.; Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Admission: $7.00/adults, $4.00/children (5-12), children under 4 free

Opened in 1997, the Ag museum features 130,000 square feet of displays (interactive, computer, etc.) on the history and contributions of agriculture, complemented by a gift shop and outdoor display area. Exhibits include farm implements, tractors and harvesting machinery from the late 1800s through the middle of the last century.

Hoover Institution

Herbert Hoover Memorial Pavilion, 434 Galvez Mall, (Stanford University) Stanford, CA
Phone: 650-723-1754
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Free
Exhibits: Changing exhibits of historical significance. Call for schedule.
Additional Details: Library and Archives

In 1919, the Hoover Library and Archives began collecting firsthand accounts of historical events and political transformations. Today the library contains over 750,000 publications, and archives, more than 5,600 collections, including 100,000 political posters, 100,000 audiotapes, 10,000 videotapes, and 5,000 movie reels, filling twenty-five miles of shelving.

Mission Dolores

3321 Sixteenth (16th) Street, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-621-8203
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily
Admission: Free - suggested donation $5.00/adult, $3.00/children

Listed on the National Register of historic Places, Mission Dolores is San Francisco's first registered landmark and the oldest intact building in The City. Dating from 1782, it houses paintings and artifacts from California's mission period. Audio tour available for fee. One of the most interesting aspects of this Mission is its graveyard -- with unusual and historic headstones.

The Museum of American Heritage (MOAH)

351 Homer Avenue, Palo Alto, CA
Phone: 650-321-1004
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Friday, Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Free
Group tours: Available for minimal fees

MOAH offers changing historical exhibits of technologies used in the home and in industry in the 19th and 20th century. There are some really fascinating gadgets and precursors to today's technology here. MOAH conducts popular science classes and workshops in basic concepts of electrical and electronic technology that are available to San Francisco Peninsula families, and an increasing number of on-line exhibits relating to the history of invention and technology.

Museum Of Vintage Fashion

10 Lacassie Court, Walnut Creek, CA
Telephone: 925-944-1896.
Hours: Wednesday, Friday & Sunday 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Admission: $6.00

Contains designer and historic fashions and complete accessories! Tours by advanced, pre-paid appointment. Minimum 5 people per tour, age restrictions apply. Call for details.

MOAH can also accommodate a limited number of field trips at other times, which can be scheduled by advance arrangement.

Musee Mecanique

Pier 45, Shed A (at the end of Taylor Street) Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-346-2000
Hours: Open Daily 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. (Sat. & Sun. until 8:00 p.m.
Admission: Free

Displays one of the world's largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines. Take a journey down memory lane from turn of the century hand cranked music boxes to modern video arcade games. Antique "peep-show" and fortune telling machines -- the forerunners of today's arcade games. Some cost a quarter to play.

Napa Valley Museum

55 Presidents Circle, Yountville, CA
Telephone: 707-944-0500
Hours: Open Daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Closed Tuesday.
Admission Fee: $4.50/general, $3.50/students, $2.50/kids (7-17), under 7 Free.

Museum concentrates on the culture, art and history of Napa Valley and its people. Ongoing exhibit: California Wine: The Science of an Art integrates science, agriculture, history, physiology and wine technology, in a multimedia program.

National Steinbeck Center

1 Main Street, Salinas, CA
Telephone: 831-775-4730
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Admission: $10.95/adults, $8.95/students, $7.95/youth 13-17, $5.95/children (6-12), Children 5 and under free.

Dedicated to the life and works of author John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath) the museum features a journey through 7 themed galleries of multi-sensory, interactive exhibits, plus ever-changing art and cultural exhibits. For all ages. Located in the heart of old-town Salinas, a 20-minute drive from Monterey.

Oakland Museum of California

1000 Oak Street, (at 10th Street), Oakland, CA
Telephone: 510-238-2914
Hours: Wednesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Sunday noon - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
First Friday of each month open until 9 p.m.
Admission Fee: $8.00/adults, $5.00/students, children under 6 are free.
Free admission the second Sunday of each month.

Houses major collections of California culture, history and art with an emphasis on environment and ecology. Public offerings include festivals, family programs, tours, symposia and lectures.

Renaissance Institute

Phone: 925-595-0626

Past-times Workshop is a program of the NorCal Renaissance Institute for the Renewal of Past arts and Artist, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing historical art, trade-craft, and culture education to the public. We offer programs year-round: full and half day programs at your school or meeting place, or full day programs at the English village on weekdays during the fall Renaissance Faire in Hollister.

Classroom teachers and Home School parents schedule a day at the renaissance English village to immerse students in firsthand learning workshops. The day's curriculum is tailored to each group's educational needs and is age-group appropriate. Children are taught in small groups no larger than 15 students of similar age.

Roseville Telephone Museum

106 Vernon Street, in Old Roseville, CA
Phone: 916-786-1621
Admission: $1.00/over 12 yrs; Free/under 12. Free group tours available.
Hours: Open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday through Fridays by appointment only.

4 galleries showcase the finest and most complete telephone collection in the nation. From the first telephone in 1876 to early switchboard, to generous array of wall, candlestick and multi-colored novelty telephones, kids and history buffs of all ages are treated to an entertaining and educational tour through telephone history.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium

1342 Naglee Avenue, San Jose, CA
Phone: 408-947-3636
Hours: Monday - Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday: 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Admission: $9.00/adults, $7.00/students, $5.00/children (ages 5-10), free under age 5.

An incredible collection of authentic Egyptian artifacts including real mummies! The Museum also houses a full-scale pyramid-tomb replica (reminiscent of Indiana Jones) -- that you can explore on a docent-led tour. This is one of the best museums around for enhancing learning about Egyptian history.

Planetarium Shows
Hours: Monday - Friday: 2:00 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday: 2:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
Admission: All Planetarium shows are free. Please pick up your complimentary tickets at the admissions desk of the museum.

San Francisco Presidio Museum

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Building 201, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-561-4323 or 415-561-4300
Hours: Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: Free

The Museum features exhibits from Native Americans prior to European contact -- through the Spanish, Mexican, and American eras up to World War II. Exhibits include information on the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I -- and the 1906 earthquake and fire, as well as the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Sonoma County Museum

425 7th Street, Santa Rosa, CA
Phone: 707-579-1500
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Admission: $5.00/adults, $2.00/students, children under 12 free
Changing exhibits, call for schedule.

The Museum offers a diverse array of programs, both exhibition and community-based, for the general public.

Free Family Days
Monthly Free admission day to the museum featuring open galleries and hands-on art activities relating to the exhibitions and geared towards children and families. Family Day programs create access for all economic and ethnic groups while providing explorations and dialogues with professional artists. Visit Calendar of Events or call for details.

Wells Fargo History Museum

420 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-396-2619
Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Admission: Free

Wells Fargo first opened in 1852. Two levels of the bank's headquarters brim with an assortment of artifacts from the time of Wells Fargo's founding to the present -- includes a stagecoach and an impressive display of gold dust and ore from the California Gold Country. Free Audio Tour.

Woodside Store

3300 Tripp Road, (at Kings Mountain & Tripp Road) Woodside, CA
Phone: 650-851-7615
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Admission: Free

On-going Lumber Industry & Woodside Store History Exhibit. Features artifacts from the commercial lumber industry that thrived in the Bay Area 150 years ago. The store was built in 1854 as a store, post office and community center. Features numerous examples of goods and wares available to customers in its heyday.

Annual Family History Events
Annual history days allow families to step into the past as they participate in old-time activities. Old Woodside Store Day occurs the first Sunday in May. Rancho Day occurs the third Saturday in September. The History Museum hosts Immigrants Day in June and Victorian Days in September.

More History Related Articles