The Randall Museum (199 Museum Way): This city-owned museum is perched atop a fabulous overlook of the city. Inside, though, the kids will have fun learning about the Bay Area ecosystem, making LEGO models strong enough to withstand an earthquake, and playing in the model caboose and Victorian house. Live animal exhibits plus animal feedings teach the kids about creatures they share the city with, like raccoons, coyotes, and skunks. Plus, every Saturday, you can watch the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club’s giant train set run in the museum basement. Getting there is half the fun. If driving, you wind through tiny streets, past fabulous out-of-the-way houses. Plus, there's parking (not a ton, so get there early)! If walking, you’ll get some exercise. If you need lodging, look into the Orchard Hotel downtown.
Zeum (221 Fourth Street): This high-tech museum is as much fun for the adults as for the kids. Here, you get to make things, like a stop-motion animation film with your own clay characters (you can even buy a copy of the film to take home). Zeum has a music studio for making your own videos, and a digital workshop too. During free art and science workshops, kids can create their own take-home projects, like photo frames and circuits to power up holiday icicle bulbs. Don’t forget to ride the carousel outside. It was built in 1906 and you’ll sit on hand-carved animals. If you need lodging, plenty of hotels are in walking distance of Zeum, including Hotel Palomar.
The Walt Disney Family Museum (104 Montgomery Street): This is probably San Francisco’s newest museum, open since October 2009. Rather than looking just at the famous characters, this Disney museum looks at Walt’s life, from the perspective of those who knew him best. You’ll also see Disney’s original Mickey Mouse sketches and his Oscar for Snow White. The youngest kids might get bored, but there are videos and interactive screens allowing you to pair music and characters, among other things. This museum is located in San Francisco’s beautiful and historic Presidio, not far from the Laurel Inn. Here's a review of the Walt Disney Family Museum.
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