Palo Alto is known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, but do your kids care about that? We know it can be a challenge to keep little ones engaged… especially with all those wiggles! Luckily, Palo Alto is full of family-friendly activities. Here’s our list of the 5 best things to do with kids in the city of Palo Alto.
1. Experience science and nature at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
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The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo is located on Middlefield Rd. in between Embarcadero Rd. and University Ave. It’s open 10am - 5pm with a morning session (10am-1pm) and an afternoon session (1:30-5pm). Make sure to make an advanced reservation as tickets sell out quickly! Tickets are $10 per person over 12 months of age, and memberships are also available. Here’s what you can enjoy during your visit:
Museum: You’ll enter into the museum where you can find interactive science exhibits for kids of all ages. These hands-on activities are designed to spark curiosity and teach about science concepts like physics, geometry, natural history, and more. There’s a special area just for babies as well!
Courtyard: Outdoor play, anyone? Doors to the Courtyard can be found inside the Museum. Outside, you’ll find a water table, gravel dig, and lots of space to run around. This is also the perfect place for a quick snack!
Zoo: The zoo acts as an open-air aviary where kids and adults alike enjoy immersive zoo experiences. Flamingos, rabbits, raccoons, meerkats, macaws, a giant tortoise, and more can be found within the zoo. You can even meet animals up-close in Wildlife Circle, where zoo staff host flamingo feedings and other events throughout the day. A wheelchair-accessible treehouse sits at the back of the zoo, and we’ve found that kids love to climb through the nets and get a birds-eye view of the entire zoo!
The Junior Museum & Zoo prioritizes accessibility and offers several accommodations including audio tours, braille and large-print lettering on maps and labels, adult and child changing tables, a gender-neutral restroom, sign-language interpreters (make sure to request about a week before your visit), and special rooms for nursing mothers or those with sensory sensitivities. The Junior Museum & Zoo is the perfect place to take kids of all ages and ability levels!
2. Bring reading to life at the Palo Alto Children’s Library
The Palo Alto Children’s Library is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm. The library is geared towards children from birth to 5th grade and was the first freestanding library in the United States intended solely for kids. It’s conveniently located near the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo on Harriet St. Here’s what you can enjoy during your visit:
Indoor Reading: The library is full of books, movies, and music for children. Exploring the treasures at the Children’s Library is always a fun time! Computers are also available for kids 11 years old and under.
Outdoor Reading: The Children’s Library features a fun and inviting “Secret Garden”-- perfect for littles to read and explore outside. This magical space is sure to excite your kiddos!
Activities: The library hosts a variety of fun events for kids and families, including storytimes and music classes. You can view and register for upcoming events on the Children’s Library calendar.
The Children’s Library is a great place to explore and is sure to inspire your kid’s love of reading. The beautiful garden and lovely collection of media makes this library a must-see for families!
3. Explore Rinconada Park
Established in 1922, Rinconada Park is Palo Alto’s second oldest park. It’s surrounded by community areas such as the Rinconada and Children's Libraries, the Junior Museum & Zoo, and the Lucie Stern Community Center. The park is officially open from 10am until 7:30pm and features BBQ grills, picnic tables, and walking trails. There are also bathrooms and drinking fountains on-site. Here’s what you can enjoy during your visit:
Playground: Rinconada Park’s newly-renovated playground is sure to delight your kiddos. The playground features a climbing tower among other brand-new play equipment and is situated next to a large grassy field (perfect for a picnic setup!). You can also find a pool and tennis courts further into the park.
Solar System Model: Opening on May 14th 2022, the Voyage Solar System model is a free outdoor exhibit from the Junior Museum & Zoo. This model spans almost a mile and features the planets in our solar system at a 1 to 10 billion scale. It’s sure to blow your little one’s mind!
Magic Forest: The Magic Forest features over 60 mature redwood trees. There’s also a Coast Live Oak which is over 200 years old! It’s a beautiful place for adults and kids to explore the unique beauty of Palo Alto.
With a plethora of family-friendly features, you could probably spend an entire day at Rinconada Park! It’s the perfect place to bring little ones, get some wiggles out, and enjoy nature.
4. Watch a show at the Children’s Theatre
The Children’s Theatre hosts a variety of productions for kids of all ages. The theatre is located on Middlefield Rd. near the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo. Bring a blanket or low-backed chair (high backed chairs block the view for other kids) and enjoy the show! There’s often food and drink available for purchase before the shows, so you might want to come early, although you are also welcome to bring your own refreshments. Here’s what you can enjoy during your visit:
Mainstage Productions: These shows are perfect for all ages!
Playhouse Productions: These shows are perfect for kids ages 2-6 and include several opportunities to stand up and wiggle! Performances feature simple sets and costumes and tend to last for around 55 minutes. These storyteller-style shows run at 10am and 12pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Visit the Children’s Theatre website for more information on upcoming shows! Kids and adults alike can enjoy these wonderful productions. You can also find information on auditions if your little one is interested in performing themselves!
5. Visit the Palo Alto Art Center
The Palo Alto Art Center was established in 1971 and is located just off of Highway 101 on Embarcadero Rd. The Art Center hosts art exhibits and also offers art classes for kids, teens, adults, and families. Here are some fun activities you can enjoy at the Palo Alto Art Center:
Art Exhibits: The art gallery is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday and features rotating exhibits. Admission is free and you’re sure to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere.
Workshops for Youth + Families: The art center regularly offers classes for youth and families. Youth and teen classes are ideal for kids 3 to 18 years old. Workshops cover topics such as drawing, painting, ceramics, fiber arts, digital photography, fashion design, and mixed media. The curriculum is rotated every quarter so there’s no fear of repeating a class!
Family Days:These free activity days are a festive way to spend time making art with your family. The Art Center offers fun activities for children and meaningful experiences for parents.
With opportunities to see and make art, the Palo Alto Art Center has something for everyone. It’s a lovely way to introduce little ones to art in a creative, yet educational format.
There are so many fun activities for families in Palo Alto! We hope you and your littles have a chance to experience everything on this list!