The San Francisco Bay Area’s North Bay has more to offer than wine tasting. The following 12 museums and attractions are a great way to spend day. Some of the following venues offer free admission days, coupons, and ticket deals, making them a savvy choice any day. FYI: Wherever possible, you’ll see my referral links to available discounts.
1. Bay Area Discovery Museum: Indoor/outdoor family museum with activities for children ages six months to eight years, including hands-on art and science exhibits, special performances and cultural festivals, near Golden Gate Bridge, in Sausalito.
ADDRESS — Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, CA 94965.
FREE DAY — Free admission on the first Wednesday of each month, from 9am – 4pm. Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) offers free reciprocal admission. The museum is a member of the Blue Star program, which means free admission to active duty military personnel and up to five family members.
2. Charles M. Schulz Museum: A Family friendly museum in Sonoma Valley that features exhibits and programs that highlight the life and art of the beloved Peanuts cartoon creator Charles M. Schulz. This is the largest collection of original Peanuts art work anywhere. You can watch animated Peanuts specials and documentaries in the museum’s theatre, and draw your own cartoons in the hands-on education room. Check out the outdoor courtyards, sculptures and the Snoopy Labyrinth. Closed Tuesdays.
ADDRESS — Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa CA.
FREE — Kids 3 and younger get free admission.
DISCOUNT — Couple choices.
- Seniors (62+) and Youth/Students (4-18) $5 off.
- You can save 20% to 55% with the Go San Francisco card, depending on how many attractions and activities you choose. They have a “build your own” pass where you can choose as few as two and still save a bunch.
3. Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society: Permanent and changing exhibits that preserve the history of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma County, featuring local artifacts, documents and photographs. Open Wednesday through Sunday.
ADDRESS — Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society, 221 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448.
FREE — Everyday free admission.
4. Santa Rosa Junior College Museum (aka Jesse Peter Anthropology Museum): Features multi-cultural exhibits and anthropology displays representing the Americas and parts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Permanent exhibits include Southwest Jewelry, Pomo roundhouse model and basketry, Kachina Dolls, and Pueblo pottery.
ADDRESS — Jesse Peter Anthropology Museum, 1501 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 (Bussman Hall on the campus of Santa Rosa Junior College).
FREE — Everyday free admission.
5. Marine Mammal Center: A nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured, sick and orphaned marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, whales and sea otters) along a 600 mile stretch of California coastline, from Mendocino County through San Luis Obispo County. The Center operates from five locations with the hospital site in the Marin Headlands (just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco).
ADDRESS — Marine Mammal Center,
FREE — Everyday free admission.
DISCOUNT — Docent led tours are $7, but $2 off for seniors and students (kids under 4 free).
6. Muir Woods National Monument: A tree-hugger’s paradise on a beautiful day in the North Bay. This is an old grove redwood forest, one of the nation’s largest coastal preserves and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
ADDRESS — Muir Woods National Monument, 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941.
FREE — Kids and teens (15 years and younger) get free admission (usually $10). Also, entrance fees are waived on certain days throughout the year. More info on dates.
DISCOUNT — If you have a 4th grader in your family, you can go free. Just follow the directions to download a pass. The pass is valid for other historic sites, too.
7. Old Faithful Geyser of Napa Valley: One of three geysers in the world with the designation “old faithful.” These are the geysers that perform at regular intervals, throwing a tower of thousands of gallons of water skyward. open 365 days of the year. Once you’ve seen the Old Faithful Geyser, you can visit the Goat Farm and Gardens, have a Picnic, play Bocce, visit the gift shop, and check out the Old Faithful Geology Museum.
ADDRESS — Old Faithful Geyser, 1299 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515 (just north of downtown Calistoga between Highway 29 and Highway 128).
FREE — Children under 4 get in free.
DISCOUNT — Seniors (55+) & Military $2 off. Children (ages 4-12) $6 off. Calistoga residents 50% off.
8. Point Reyes National Seashore: A dramatic preserve that protects wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States. Great views and an amazing place to chill out and enjoy outdoor activities: biking, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and more.
ADDRESS — Point Reyes National Seashore, 1 Bear Valley Rd, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956 (30 miles west-northwest of San Francisco).
FREE — This is an open area with plenty of free things to do. Read my review of savvy things to do in Point Reyes.
9. Sharpsteen Museum: Cultural artifacts to rotating exhibits present the upper Napa Valley from its pre-history to post World War I with an emphasis on people and changes brought by the period of US emigration and development. It’s actually more fun than that sounds. Open daily 11am to 4pm.
ADDRESS — Sharpsteen Museum, 1311 Washington St, Calistoga, CA 94515.
FREE — Admission is always free.
10. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom: In the North East side of the Bay Area, you can spend the day enjoying wild rides and wildlife at America’s popular theme park, wildlife park, and oceanarium. Includes more than 30 rides, roller coasters and water rides like the popular Tsunami Soaker, plus a variety of shows, and exotic animal attractions.
ADDRESS — Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, 1001 Fairgrounds Dr SW, Vallejo, CA 94589.
DISCOUNT — You can save 20% to 55% anytime with the Go San Francisco card. They used to run deals all the time, but now this is pretty much it. If you get Six Flags tickets directly from the park, check out their online offers and passes, which are often better than at the gate.
11. Sonoma County Museums: The Art Museum of Sonoma County and History Museum of Sonoma County are a combined Smithsonian Affiliate that celebrates and interprets the region’s rich history, art, and culture with objects and artworks. Closed Mondays and major holidays.
ADDRESS — Sonoma County Museum, 425 Seventh Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 (near Downtown Santa Rosa and Historic Railroad Square).
FREE — Admission is free for children 12 and under.
DISCOUNT — Students and Seniors get $3 off.
12. Sonoma Valley Art Museum: Local, national, and international collections of painting, drawings, sculptures, photography, ceramics, architecture, design, print-making, film, video and crafts. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
ADDRESS — Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, 551 Broadway, Sonoma CA 95476 (half block from Sonoma’s historic Town Plaza).
FREE — Every Wednesday FREE for all visitors. Students 18 and under get in free. Free 3-hour street parking is typically easy to find within 0-2 blocks of the Museum.
DISCOUNT — General Admission is typically $5, but your entire family can get in for $8.