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5 Bay Area Spots To Act Like A Kid Again

Sometimes you just need to let loose in a childlike way, leave the bar scene and fancy dinners behind and have some good old-fashioned fun. These places may be more geared towards kids but you can enjoy them even if you don't have a toddler in tow. Check out these places where you can let your hair down and eat as much junk food as you want, maybe with a side of adult beverages, while reliving a bit of your own childhood. Just because you're a grown up with real world grown up problems doesn't mean you always have to act that way.

San Francisco Zoo
Visitors at the San Francisco Zoo. (AP)

The San Francisco Zoo
1 Zoo Rd
San Francisco, CA 94132
The San Francisco Zoo

There is something calming about watching monkeys cavort. This is even more calming if done while gorging yourself on pink popcorn and Icees. A lot of remodeling has been done to the zoo, like higher walls around the tiger exhibit, making it a great place to stroll through on a foggy summer afternoon and take in all the animals. The African safari that greets you at the entrance is exceptional, as giraffes walk right along with kudu and oryx. The best though, is taking off your grown up hat and heading to the children's zoo where you can feed pygmy goats and enter the bug house. It's as close as most of us city folks will ever get to farming. Catch penguin feeding time, stroll through the aviary, or marvel at the lions, tigers and bears (sorry, had to).


The Exploratorium
3601 Lyon Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
The Exploratorium

Who says learning can't be fun? (Me, in every math class I ever took.) At the Exploratorium, it definitely is. Even if you are an adult and know everything. Take a self guided walk through a museum that will teach you about matter, sound, sight, and the mind. For additional entrance fee (reservations needed), you can head into the Tactile Dome where you get to experience science in total darkness. Because you are an adult, you can also visit the Exploratorium after dark. Held the first Thursday of every month, it's for adults only and features a bar and discussions on a specially chosen topic each month, as well as access to all the regular museum exhibits.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

An old style boardwalk with a classic roller-coaster, I prefer this to some of the flashier amusement parks. Eat the ice cream of the future that's been around for years and tackle the Giant Dipper. Or grab a brass ring and try and throw it in the clowns mouth as you ride the antique carousel. If you're over carnival food, head down the pier for fresh seafood at any of several restaurants. But you should still get a hot funnel cake for dessert and ride the amazingly cheesy cave train. The great thing about Santa Cruz is that the coastal location is perfect for suntanning or surfing during the day and hitting the Boardwalk in the late afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday nights it is 1907 nights, where prices for rides, sodas, hot dogs, and cotton candy are only a $1 each. Or Wednesday and Thursday nights there are unlimited rides for $9.95. Be sure to stop by Marini's for the best salt water taffy on this coast and buy a couple delicious caramel apples for your ride home.

golden gate fields

The Track (Golden Gate Fields)
1100 Eastshore Highway
Berkeley, CA 94710

Golden Gate Fields

The track may, at first glance, seem completely designed for adults. But if you were lucky enough to go there when you were little, like I was, you know it's also a field day for kids. There is nothing to make you feel youthful and joyous again like screaming as your horse races down the stretch. And it's even better if you win. Non pro tip: don't think too hard, just pick a horse on gut instinct. Or follow advice an old track pro gave me once: Always bet on the gray horse. This is also one of my all time favorite cheap dates. If you head out on a Sunday for $1 days, pretty much everything you want is just a buck. Add in minimum bets of $2 for 9 races and you've had a really fun day for $25 or so. Live racing starts up again August 19th. If you have never been to the track to see the ponies run live, I can't recommend this enough. The people watching and characters that inhabit track culture are worth the price of admission. From the older gentlemen who have their own cliques and come daily to the track staff and jockeys, to the people staffing the betting windows, there are colorful characters at every turn.

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr
(Golden Gate Park)
San Francisco, CA 94118

Academy of Sciences

Albino alligators are cool. So are green roofs and snakes and lizards, which are being featured at Cal Academy this summer. Try to erase the memory of that awful college astronomy class and visit the planetarium to learn about the solar system. There's the aquarium with penguins and other fish, the hall of Africa, and a rainforest. Or just sit and stare at the giant pendulum as it knocks over pins. Just like the Exploratorium, the Academy of Sciences hosts an adults only evening. It happens every Thursday featuring music, cocktails, and special lectures as well as an opportunity to view the rest of the museum.

Lisa Tennenbaum is a third generation native with a love hate relationship with San Francisco, as she detests wearing a hoodie in the summer. You can follow her comments about that conflict, as well as much shouting about most sports, on Twitter @LSUcaligrl. She is also a newly minted lawyer looking to make her way in the world today with everything she's got.

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