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Thursday 24 January 2013

Bay Area Discovery Museum

This past weekend the Bay Area was blessed with absolutely beautiful weather so we decided to make the most of it and get out and about.

Our destination on Sunday was the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. Now I know what you're thinking, why would we spend a beautiful day indoors at a museum? Well, that's just it. Much of this particular museum is outdoors. And those parts of the museum that are housed indoors are filled with the most wonderfully fun activities that you don't mind that you're missing out on the beautiful day outdoors.

So what makes the Bay Area Discovery Museum such a great place? Well, first off you could not ask for a more picturesque location. The museum is located at Fort Baker right near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The museum, surrounding picnic area and even the car park award stunning views over San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Lookout Cove - a playground with a view

But it's not just the fantastic views that make the Bay Area Discovery Museum special. The hands on exhibits capture the imagination of young visitors who learn about the biodiversity of the Bay Area. Ava and Lola had fun playing with all sorts of exhibits including making boats and watching them float, checking out sea creatures such as starfish and sea urchins up close, creating artistic masterpieces, pretending to be fisherman on a wharf, building with foam blocks and lots and lots of playing.

Riding a crazy raft

The highlight of our visit to the Bay Area Discovery Museum was the amazing playground in Lookout Cove. The playground is littered with the wreck of a sunken ship which provide lots of climbing fun. And plenty of pirate fun too!

Ava on the front of the shipwreck

Captain Ava

Lola swabs the deck of the shipwreck

Lola's turn to steer

A miniature under construction Golden Gate Bridge takes pride of place in the playground area. Kids can put on construction vests and hats and help attach side panels to the bridge as if they were building the real bridge itself.

The Golden Gate Bridge appears to have shrunk!

Under the bridge there is a large sandpit area with lots of dump trucks and shovels for digging fun, however if you know Lola at all then you'll know that she has a great aversion to getting sand in her shoes (I'm verging on calling it a full blown phobia!) so we steered clear of this section.

I got sand in my shoes :(

The whole playground area has fantastic views over the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge but if you want an even better view there's a crow's nest tower to be climbed. For those not so willing to climb the crow's nest tower (i.e. parents!) there are viewing platforms at the top of the playground area.

Lookout Cove from the viewing platform

Another highlight of Lookout Cove is the willow maze, Peekaboo Palace, which not only provides fun for the children but is a thing of beauty in itself. The girls enjoyed running around and hiding in the sculptural maze.

Ava in the willow maze

The girls and I outside the willow maze. And, yes, Lola's finger is up her nose!

Both girls delighted in playing with the Rocky Shore exhibit in the playground. Rock basins filled with water slowly empty and then suddenly fill back up as if a wave has just crashed onto shore. Even though they knew to expect it, the sudden rush of water surprised the girls each time and they giggled with delight.

Watching waves in Lookout Cove

Watching waves in Lookout Cove

Adjoining Lookout Cove is the Outdoor Learning Lab. Here children can connect with native plants and natural elements in a beautifully landscaped garden. My favourite part was walking through the giant tree stump. Amazing! The girls had fun climbing through the tree stump too and loved playing on the tree stump path that lead to the viewing platforms at the top of the playground.

Lola and I in a tree stump

Ava tried to pose in the tree stump but Lola just had to push her way through!

Ava inside a giant tree stump

Climbing down the tree stump path

Of the inside spaces I think I'd have to say that the Bay Hall was my favourite. Here kids can play with trains and boats and pretend to work on the wharf. The girls had lots of fun pretending to be fishermen on the wharf. They caught fish and used ropes and pulleys to pull them up to the wharf, they rocked on the adjoining boat and they pretended to sell their catch at the Fisherman's Grotto below. Beneath the wharf display they took in the sights of life under the sea as they crawled through a tunnel.  After playing fishermen the girls went to work on the container docks, lifting containers with a crane. Just like a mini Port of Oakland! For train enthusiasts, and I know a lot of kids who fall into this category, there is a large model train set up for hours of fun.

The girls operate a crane in the Bay Hall

Operating the crane in the Bay Hall

The walls of the Bay Hall are covered in wonderful kid created murals of Bay Area life. I'd love for the girls to make something like this for their bedroom!

Love these collage murals in the Bay Hall

More collage murals in the Bay Hall 

The Art Studios were another indoor favourite. The girls worked on paper creations, Jackson Pollock style splatter paintings and played with a gooey dough that seemed to be half play dough and half slime. They have that stuff at Habitot too and I never quite know what it is!

Lola made herself a crown in the Art Studio 

Little Jackson Pollocks in the Art Studio
Lola plays with dough

Back outside the girls played with foam blocks and pool noodles in the Imagination Playground. Ava collected as many pieces as possible to create her large masterpiece.

Building with foam blocks and pool noodles

Ava's foam creation

While Ava made her creation in the Imagination Playground Lola checked out a very simple yet fun exhibit. Long threaded posts stuck in a tyre with various sized washers on each. Simply slide the washers to the top of the post and let go to watch the fun. The washers catch on the thread of the post and spin their way down. The washers spin down at various speeds depending on their size, how many are in the stack and how fast you move them. It would be so easy to make something like this at home, maybe even a handheld version. There's another idea to put in my mental note book!

Rattly fun

Before we headed home we stopped to play in one more outdoor area. A non-stop bubble machine was the highlight here for both girls who squealed with delight as they ran around trying to catch the bubbles. Here they also played with outdoor musical instruments and drew on the pavement with chalk.

Chasing bubbles

Trying to catch bubbles

A little outdoor music

The girls get creative with chalk

Ava's chalk creation

We really enjoyed our day at the Bay Area Discovery Museum and can't wait to go back again. We have friends and family coming to visit over the Summer so I think we'll have to add this to the list of "must visit" places to take them. I know that the girls will be excited to go back!


  1. Gorgeous photos, Sally! What an amazing place. Lovely to see you in the pictures also. You look great and your hair is so long! Love the new blue layout for your blog btw :-)

  2. Thanks! We'll have to take you guys here when you visit :)


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