If you've got kids that are into "things that go" - or even if you are yourself - the Bay Area has got you covered. From the Cable Car Museum to Oakland Aviation Museum. From the USS Hornet to San Francisco Railway Museum. There's something for everyone.
Today I'm sharing a round up of our favorite museums dedicated to "things that go" in the Bay Area.
Cable Car Museum
When you think of San Francisco, what are the first few things that spring to mind? Chances are, one of them will be the iconic cable cars. San Francisco's classic cable cars have been carrying locals and tourists alike up and down all of those steep hills since the 1870s. But just how do they work? Well, if that's a question that you've ever wondered, the Cable Car Museum is the place for you. Not only is the museum home to interesting vintage cable cars, tools, and paraphernalia, it's also home to the actual cables that run the entire system! It's pretty amazing to see. The cables are attached to giant wheels that spin continuously. This keeps the cables moving throughout the city. The cable cars themselves are not actually powered. Rather, they grip onto the cable and get dragged along. When it's time to stop, the conductor pulls the grip to release the cable. Pretty cool, hey?
The Cable Car Museum is always one of our favorite places in San Francisco to take visitors. There are plenty of ways to get to the museum but the best way, of course, is by cable car! All four lines go by the museum but I always recommend taking the California Street line. It's not as popular with tourists as the other lines so there is never a queue and the views over the Bay are pretty amazing.
The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is located at 1201 Mason Street in San Francisco. It is open daily (apart from certain holidays) and admission is free. You can find more information about the museum and San Francisco's cable cars at http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/
Hyde Street Pier
Hyde Street Pier along San Francisco's waterfront is like an open air museum. In fact, the pier, which served as a ferry terminal for vehicles before the bridges were built, is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The pier is lined with various vessels from bygone eras, all of which are open to the public to tour. These include an 1886 square-rigger, an 1895 schooner, an 1890 steam ferryboat, an 1891 scow schooner, a 1907 steam tug, a 1914 paddle-wheel tug, and a 1915 steam schooner. Visitors are also encouraged to stop by the Maritime Museum, which is housed in the nearby Aquatic Park Bathhouse, a 1939 art deco building, built to resemble an ocean liner.
As Hyde Street Pier is part of a National Park, kids aged 5 -12 are able to take part in the junior ranger program and earn a badge. My kids love doing this every time we visit a National Park. It encourages them to learn something new and they get to add to their badge collection.
One of the best things about Hyde Street Pier is the views over San Francisco and the Bay that it affords. The Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz... they're all right there. If you're lucky, you might even spot a few sea lions.
Hyde Street Pier is located at the end of Hyde Street by Aquatic Park. It is open daily from 9:30am - 5pm (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day). Entry is free. For more information visit http://www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm
Hyde Street Pier may be home to many different types of vessels that go on top of the water, but it doesn't have any that go under water. If submarines are your thing, head just two piers over to Fisherman's Wharf, home of the USS Pampanito. The Pampanito is a former World War 2 submarine open to the public giving visitors a taste of what life under the waves would have been like. Let's just say it would have been cramped. And claustrophobic!
Despite the small spaces, visiting the Pampanito is really interesting. My kids loved seeing the rows of bunks, the engine room, the radar machines and the missiles. They were all about the missiles. One missile on display has the side partially removed to show the insides. My girls thought that was pretty cool. They didn't think it would be very cool to live in a submarine though! Like most former warship turned museums, there were plenty of buttons to press and knobs to turn. This is always a hit with the kids.
USS Pampanito is located at Fisherman's Wharf and is open to the public year round from 9am - 8pm (closing times may vary). For entry fees and further information visit http://www.maritime.org/pamphome.htm
San Francisco Railway Museum
San Francisco Railway Museum is the place to go to learn all about the colorful streetcars that take passengers along the F line from the Castro to Fisherman's Wharf. Street car, trolley, tram... whatever you want to call them, these historical vehicles sure are fun to ride in. While we've taken trips on the streetcars many times, we're yet to make it to the Railway Museum. We'll have to do something about that soon.
The highlight of the museum is a full size replica of the motorman's platform of a 1911 San Francisco Streetcar, where kids can experience what it was like to be at the controls. There are also plenty of historical artifacts, informative displays and archival photography on display.
San Francisco Railway Museum is located at 77 Steuart Street, near the Ferry Building. It is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm. Entry is free. For more information visit http://www.streetcar.org/museum/
USS Hornet Museum
Alameda, the island in the Bay just by Oakland, is home to the decommissioned aircraft carrier and museum, the USS Hornet. The Hornet is a fantastic place to visit if you like ships. Or planes. Or helicopters. Or space travel. Ok, that last one probably sounded a little out of place, but trust me, it'll make sense in a moment. After seeing action in both World War 2 and the Vietnam War, the Hornet was used in the successful recovery of the Apollo 11 space capsule containing the first men to walk on the moon, as well as the that of the Apollo 12 capsule a few months later. Pretty illustrious history, right?
Visitors to the Hornet can see a large range of planes, helicopters and, of course, a space capsule, on display in the hangar deck and flight deck. The planes are pretty interesting, but for me seeing the living and working quarters is always the most interesting part of visiting such a ship. I just can't imagine what it would be like to spend months at a time at sea. Seeing the places where the sailors slept, ate and relaxed helps put a human face on it all. Plus I love seeing how many bunks they manage to cram into a small space! Makes me feel much better about having my three girls crammed into one bedroom! The girls enjoyed seeing all of these things too, but their favorite (as always) was all of the buttons they could press and knobs they could twiddle! What is it with kids and buttons?
One of the other great things about the Hornet is the uninterrupted view over the Bay and San Francisco. That view is priceless.
USS Hornet is located at 707 W Hornet Ave, Alameda. It is open daily from 10am - 5pm (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day). For more information and ticketing visit http://www.uss-hornet.org/
Oakland Aviation Museum
Got a budding pilot or airplane mechanic in your family? Head to Oakland Aviation Museum for a some hands on fun with aircraft displays. The museum, located close to Oakland International Airport, features a large number of planes on display, both inside and outside. Unlike the aircraft on display at the Hornet, not all of the aircraft here were for military use. There are passenger airplanes and replicas of early aircraft on display too. Even a Solent Floating Boat like the one from Indiana Jones. No, scratch that... THE actual Solent Floating Boat from Indiana Jones!
Once again, the girls' favorite thing was playing with buttons, knobs and radio hand pieces. Lola really enjoyed pretending to work at the mechanic's benches on display. I'm not sure what she's doing in the photo below but I'm sure it's something she learned at the Boeing School of Aeronautics. Ha! That photo of her with the sign cracks me up every time!
Oakland Aviation Museum is located at 8252 Earheart Rd, Oakland. For a fun way to get there consider taking the new Air BART to Oakland Airport. You can then hop aboard the Rental Car Shuttle Bus which stops a short distance from the museum. My kids love riding Air BART!
The museum is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday from 10am - 4pm. Open Cockpit days are held several times a year and allow visitors to experience the inside of various aircraft, include that boat plane from Indiana Jones. For more information visit http://www.oaklandaviationmuseum.org/
Know of any other museums I may have missed? I'd love to hear about other fun museums dedicated to "things that go" in the Bay Area so please feel free to let me know in the comments.
Today I am joining with other California bloggers to share favorite family destinations in the Golden State! Find great resources in this list, plus link up your own below!