Whether you are a homeschooler living in California or not, there are many places to visit in California with kids. California’s coastline makes the state a great place for study of waterways and nature, but California also has a rich history and culture to explore. California residents can choose from many fun day trips in California while out-of-town homeschoolers visiting California can plan longer stays that incorporate several homeschool field trips.
Educational Field Trips in California
Regardless of the region in California, you want to explore, you will find many things to do in California with kids where you can all learn. Continue reading to find ideas for homeschool field trips in California by city or by topic.
Aquariums & Ocean Life
Any time spent in California would not be complete without visiting one of the state’s marine wonders. Here are some field trip ideas:
“See more than 5,000 fish in 60+ habitats plus a museum featuring cutting edge research from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. Take in spectacular panoramic ocean views, get hands-on with interactive activities, see a feeding, and dive deeper into the world under, in, and above the oceans.” 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037. (858) 534-3474.
“From sea otters to seaweeds, our unique oceanfront location and timeless galleries bring the wonders of the ocean to life for our visitors. But beyond our exhibits, we are transforming what it means to be an aquarium.” 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940. (831) 648-4800.
“One of the best things to do in Monterey is to join one of the whale watching trips offered year-round by Monterey Bay Whale Watch…. The Monterey Submarine Canyon approaches close to the shore at Moss Landing, allowing deep water species of whales, dolphins, and seabirds to occur near the coast.” 84 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, CA 93940. (831) 375-4658.
“Whale watching trips daily, all year-round with Newport Landing. See giant blue whales, finback whales, gray whales and many more in their natural habitat and it’s all possible on one of our whale watching cruises!” 309 Palm Street #A, Newport Beach, CA 92661. (949) 675-0551.
Visit marine animals and see family-friendly shows and presentations, and then enjoy rides and thrills including California’s tallest and fastest floorless coaster. 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, CA 92109. (619) 222-4SEA.
California day trips to art museums can bring learning and positive emotions. Here are a couple of art-related field trips for you to enjoy:
“The Bowers Museum holds in its collection more than 91,000 works of art. These works were donated from 1935 to the present and represent many regions and cultures of the world. The museum’s largest collections are in the areas of Native American art, Pre-Columbian art, Asian art, art of the Pacific, art of Africa and Orange County history.” 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706. (714) 567-3600.
“Oakland’s Paramount Theatre is one of the finest remaining examples of Art Deco design in the United States. Designed by renowned San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger and completed in late 1931, it was one of the first Depression-era buildings to incorporate and integrate the work of numerous creative artists into its architecture and is particularly noteworthy for its successful orchestration of the various artistic disciplines into an original and harmonious whole.” 2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612. (510) 465-6400.
How about a field trip that takes you beyond the limits of California and even the earth? An astronomy field trip in California may be just the thing to spark your family’s interests:
“Chabot Space & Science Center is a non-profit institution and community resource located on 13 trail-laced acres in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland amid the largest stand of coastal redwoods in the East Bay. Chabot features a 241-seat full dome planetarium, interactive and hands-on exhibits, space artifacts, a giant screen theater, a Challenger Learning Center, and the only research-level telescopes regularly available to the public for weekly live viewing in the Western United States.” 10000 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94619. (510) 336-7300.
Children’s museums and discovery centers make for fun one-day trips in California. Here are some to explore:
“We believe play is essential to healthy development and lifelong learning.” Come and explore the art gallery, art studio, mammoth discovery, rainbow market, theater, wonder cabinet, and outdoor play area. Learn about bubbles, circles, cities, waterways, and much more. 180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110. (408) 298-5437.
“From programs to camps, The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County provides hands-on, interactive exhibits and activities in a safe environment that are custom designed for families with children aged ten years old and younger.” 1835 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. (707) 546-4069.
“Our Center exhibits highlight Fresno culture and have been designed to nurture visitors’ scientific imaginations, build their confidence, competence, and encourage them to test, tinker, create, and wonder! Our exhibit philosophy responds to a person’s need to learn through concrete interactions — touching, exploring, manipulating, experimenting and hands-on learning.” 1944 N. Winery Avenue, Fresno, CA 93703. (559) 251-5333.
“Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Discovery Center provides visitors with a window into state-of-the-art research programs, computational capabilities and experimental tools. In programs designed for fifth grade, students will enjoy a combination of science displays, group activities and hands-on experiments.” 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, CA 94550. (925)-422-1100.
California’s rich history makes for great possibilities for historical field trips. Check out these:
“Barbary Coast Trail® is a San Francisco walking tour that connects the City’s most important historic sites. Bronze medallions and arrows set in the sidewalk guide you along the trail, drawing you into a world of gold rushers and railroad barons, writers and visionaries, shanghiers and silver kings.” Use printed guides, enjoy an audio tour, or take a guided tour. (415) 246-2027.
“Visiting Bodie is the most authentic way to see the real-life setting of the California gold rush. From 1877 to 1882, Bodie was a bustling town with more than 10,000 residents and produced more than $35 million in gold and silver.” Visit to see “almost 200 abandoned wooden buildings in a state of arrested decay…. Peek in the windows of the church, schoolhouse, barbershop and saloon, where bottles, desks and other relics remain.” Bridgeport, CA 93517. (760) 616-5040.
“Home to 225,000 square-feet of exhibits and beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives which illustrate railroad history in California and the West.” 111 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 445-5995.
“The Sacramento History Museum is a reproduction of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building, which sat on our current site.” Students in grades 3-12 can explore the historic district of Old Sacramento, take an underground tour of Old Sacramento, or enjoy the Gold Fever! Game tour. 101 I Street, Old Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 808-7059.
“Come find over 125 shopping, dining, events, and attractions located in the beautiful Old Sacramento Waterfront historic district…. This national historic landmark overflows with things to see and do. From riverboats to railroad excursions to horse drawn carriages and riverside bike treks, Old Sacramento Waterfront is history on the move.” 1002 2nd Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.
“In a storied career that spanned more than five decades, Ronald Reagan inspired Americans to act and achieve even more than they imagined. His legacy thrives at The Reagan Library where events and exhibits rediscover his values, actions and spirit of determination.” 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93065. (805) 522-2977.
“Explore and honor the efforts and sacrifices of American civilians on the World War II home front. Find out how they lived, worked and got along. Many faces, many stories, many truths weave a complex tapestry of myths and realities from this time of opportunity and loss.” 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, Richmond, CA 94804. (510) 232-5050.
Industry & Technology
California is perhaps best known for Silicon Valley and its film industry, but there are lots of industries to explore. Try a factory tour as a field trip:
“Specials” are often student favorites, but “special” field trips can really be a hit. Here are some ways to experience music outside of the home while you are in California:
“Students from around the Bay Area and beyond are introduced to Chinese traditional music through seeing authentic instruments, listening to ancient classical pieces and having an opportunity to try out the instruments.” 2 Waverly Place, San Francisco, CA, 94108. (415) 391-1317.
“Children’s Concerts are 45-minute weekday presentations at Kohl Mansion designed for elementary and pre-school aged students. Fast-paced and lively, these performance by professional musicians/educators engage the very youngest audiences through participatory games, songs, and movement. They are ideal for class or group field trips, as well as individual families.” 2750 Adeline Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010. (650) 762-1130.
If you love exploring nature or being with animals, consider taking advantage of these California natural history field trips:
“Every year Blue Waters Kayaking has the honor of introducing people of all ages and abilities to the natural wonders of kayaking. We see people delight at the thrill of their first paddle, rejoice with wonder as they serenely cross the Bay under the glow of the full moon and beam with excitement as they load their kayak for a camping trip on a secluded beach.” 11401 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956. (415) 669-2600.
“CuriOdyssey is a science museum and zoo for young children based on powerful ideas about how children learn. As the champion for early science learning in San Mateo County, we are revolutionizing science education by harnessing children’s in-born curiosity about animals and nature, so they believe science is for them instead of opting out of science classes as soon as they can.” 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401. (650) 342-7755.
“Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching is dedicated to helping locals and visitors alike enjoy the unique wonders of Dana Point Harbor and the Orange County coastline.” It offers whale watching, fishing, and cruise adventures as well as kids’ programs, like a whale and dolphin adventure art lesson, fishing camp and clinic, and field trips. 34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629. (888) 224-0603.
“The parks offer our youth many opportunities for individual fun and learning, as well as age-appropriate programs and activities. These include naturalist-led programs, swimming, boating and horseback riding lessons. Special events for kids include an old-fashioned Independence Day celebration, summer and fall festivals, music concerts and more.” 2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA 94605. (888) 327-2757.
Learn more about the natural wonders of the northern coast of California like birds of the redwoods, native bees and insects, seashells, butterflies, crabs, corals and sponges, and fossils. Participate in tracking workshops, interactive “Discovery Days,” monthly speaker series, and natural resources science camps. 1242 G Street, Arcata, CA 95521. (707) 826-4479.
“Lindsay Wildlife Experience has a mission: To connect people with wildlife to inspire responsibility and respect for the world we share. We accomplish this by saving animals’ lives with the goal of returning hospital patients to the wild, and by providing guests with special, up-close encounters with our animal ambassadors.” 1931 First Avenue, Walnut Creek, CA 94597. (925) 935-1978.
“Open 365 days a year, San Francisco Zoo is home to more than 2,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals in 100 acres of majestic and peaceful gardens located directly on the Pacific Coast.” Sloat Boulevard at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94132. (415) 753-7080.
“The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has evolved to include more than 3.5 million specimens covering every aspect of natural history—from mammals, birds, and marine life to geology, astronomy, paleontology, and anthropology…. Guests learn about the Santa Barbara region’s unique and diverse natural history and then go outside to explore nature in the Museum Backyard.” 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. (805) 682-4711.
“Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a fun, non-profit 300-acre gathering place featuring the Sundial Bridge, a museum, forestry & wildlife center, arboretum and botanical gardens. At the gateway to the Sacramento River Trails, Turtle Bay celebrates far Northern California as part of the world we share.” 844 Sundial Bridge Drive, Redding, CA 96099. (530) 243-8850.
California has several major science centers, each with its own spin on how to make science interesting and fun. Here are some science field trips in California worth investigating:
“Life-changing moments. World-changing science. We’re an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum in the heart of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park—and a powerful voice for biodiversity research and exploration, environmental education, and sustainability across the globe.” Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118. (415) 379-8000.
The Center “includes four major exhibit areas. World of Life probes the commonalities of the living world, from the single-celled bacterium to the 100-trillion-celled human being; Creative World examines the ways people employ technology to meet their needs for transportation, communication and structures; and Ecosystems… features an unprecedented blend of nearly 400 species of live plants and animals, and hands-on exhibits in 11 immersive environments.” In the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit, “guests are able to see Endeavour up close and discover some of the science behind this amazing space vehicle.” 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037. (323) 724-3623.
“Our original center in Orange County, as well as our newer Los Angeles and Newport Beach campuses, gives those seeking immersive, interactive science activities a way to jump into the learning fun.” Discovery Cube/ Los Angeles: 11800 Foothill Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 91342. Discovery Cube/ Orange County: 2500 N. Main Street,
Santa Ana, CA 92705. Ocean Quest/Newport Beach: 600 E. Bay, Newport Beach, CA 92661.
“The Exploratorium isn’t just a museum; it’s an ongoing exploration of science, art, and human perception…. We create tools and experiences that help you to become an active explorer: hundreds of explore-for-yourself exhibits, a website with over 35,000 pages of content, film screenings, evening art and science events for adults, plus much more.” Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street), San Francisco, CA 94111. (415) 528-4444.
Our mission is “to ignite and foster curiosity about science and nature through inquiry and discovery…. We believe the most effective way to do this is through interactive, inquiry-based learning.” Explore science through exhibits, classes, workshops, weekend family programs, presentations by scientists, vacation classes, and science clubs. 3141 5th Street, Davis, CA 95618. (530) 756-0191.
“At the science center, you can explore and investigate more than 100 interactive exhibits that pique your curiosity and become immersed in an IMAX film adventure that shows the wonders of the planet—and beyond…. For young science enthusiasts, the Fleet hosts school field trips, science workshops and educational camps.” 1875 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101. (619) 238-1233.
“On a visit to the Hall, students collaborate to investigate new ideas as they become scientists and engineers for a day—exploring Earth and space, the nanoscale, and force and motion. Our featured exhibits, 3D films, and workshops… enhance your students’ experience.” 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720. (510) 642-5132.
“Examine fossils, dig up prehistoric beasts in our dino dig pit, explore the interior layers of the Earth, and travel to distant galaxies” in the Challenger Learning Center Simulated Space Mission. “Come explore the engineering design cycle in our brand-new Design Lab.… Visit the reptiles and invertebrates who live and play in the Nature Discovery Exhibit.” 3615 Auburn Boulevard, Sacramento, CA 95821. (916) 674-5000.
“The Tech Interactive is a family-friendly science and technology center in the heart of downtown San Jose. Our hands-on activities, experimental labs and design challenge experiences empower people to innovate with creativity, curiosity and compassion. The Tech is a world leader in the creation of immersive STEAM education resources to develop the next generation of problem-solvers locally, nationally and globally.” 201 South Market Street, San Jose, CA 95113. (408) 294-8324.
California’s geography brings opportunities to learn about water systems. Here are a couple of field trip ideas:
“The Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito is a fully accessible education center administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which hosts a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta System. The model provides scientists, educators and visitors interested in San Francisco Bay and the Bay – Delta Model a unique opportunity to view the complete bay-delta system at a glance.” 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965. (415) 289-3007.
“Guadalupe River Park & Gardens is a three-mile ribbon of park land that runs along the banks of the Guadalupe River in the heart of downtown San Jose…. Our engaging Community Homeschool Investigators of the River Park (CHIRP) Program, provides an interactive, outdoor environmental education experience…. We utilize our river, famous Heritage Rose Garden, Historic Orchard, and exhilarating park as tools to teach exciting educational themes.” 438 Coleman Avenue, San Jose, CA 95110. (408) 298-7657.
Additional California Field Trip Resources
“Find hundreds of fun things to do with children in the San Francisco Bay Area!”
“This directory provides information about finding and planning an endless array of field trip opportunities throughout the state.”
“These Northern California field trip destinations have been recommended by homeschooling parents and kids.”
“There are many entertainment venues and businesses that have special ‘Homeschool Days’ and discounts for educators in California. As I learn about them, I will share them here with you.”
Do you have a location that would make a good field trip in California? Let me know in the comments below or contact me to get it added!