1. Step Waaaay Back in Time at the California Academy of Sciences
The museum’s new dinosaur exhibit, Dino Days, is a trip back in time to the tune of 66 million years. There’s a lot to learn about these prehistoric creatures, but hands down the best part is the gigantic, animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar.
The San Francisco exhibit only lasts until May 5, and offers plenty of other related activities such as digging for dinosaur bones, face painting, craft-making and puppet shows.
2. Shake It Up at Shake Shack
My son and I checked out the new Shake Shack on its opening day in Larkspur, and I have two words for you: crinkle fries. It’s worth a trip for the perfectly salted fries alone, but the burgers and shakes are also a good use of a caloric splurge. As expected, the menu is full of kid-friendly fare, including for-a-limited-time-only chicken nuggets that look nothing like the over-processed McDonald’s variety. The foosball table on the patio is a stroke of genius. Time your visit for mid-afternoon for the best chance of avoiding long lines.
3. Visit an Elaborate Model Railroad Museum
Each winter, the Golden State Model Railroad Museum in Point Richmond takes a hiatus for maintenance, but it is re-opening on April 7 just in time for spring break. It has several rooms covering 10,000 square feet full of model-scale railroads representing scenery in Northern and Central California. The actual trains only run on Sundays, but the museum is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays with free admission on those days.
4. Pig Out at Fenton’s Creamery
Fenton’s Creamery is arguably the Bay Area’s best ice cream shop, famous for its over-the-top hot fudge sundaes and banana splits. It’s worth the drive from Marin or elsewhere to Oakland for an afternoon sugar break (come hungry!). Fenton’s was featured in the animated movie “Up” (nearby Pixar Studios is known for including local references in its movies) so make sure to look for movie memorabilia in the back part of the store.
5. Go Horseback Riding at Five Brooks Ranch
Saddle up and take in some of Marin’s most breathtaking scenery from the back of horse with a guided trail ride at Five Brooks Ranch in Olema. There are guided rides for beginning riders as well as for the more experienced, lasting anywhere from one to six hours. Children must be at least six years old for trail rides, although pony rides are offered for younger children. Reservations required.
6. Trip Out at Madame Tussauds House of Wax
See rooms filled with life-size, hard-to-believe-they-aren’t-real wax figures of the Bay Area’s famous athletes such as Stephen Curry and Joe Montana; musical pop figures including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga; and Hollywood stars, entrepreneurs, politicians and more. Two new attractions are the museum’s “escape room” game based on an Alcatraz prison breakout attempt; and a virtual reality collaboration experience that stimulates time travel (for children 12 years and older).
7. Pay a Get-Well Visit to the Hospitalized Animals at the Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito centers its work on marine mammal rescue, study and rehabilitation, using clues found from water-abiding mammals to better assess the ocean’s health. Seven days a week, you can visit the center to learn about its work, including the animal hospital where you can to see the “patients” including sea lions, seals and otters. You can either do the free, self-guided tour, or a docent-guided tour for a minimal fee. The Marine Mammal Center is adding several additional guided tours during spring break this year; advance reservations required.
8. Take a Hike to Cascade Falls
One of the benefits of the rain we’ve endured over the past few months is the waterfall effect. If you don’t have time to drive all the way to Yosemite for its magnificent falls, you can make a much shorter drive to Fairfax to make the hike to the waterfall in Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve. Make sure to wear rain boots or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, as the trail usually requires crossing a few shallow streams along the way. Look out for salamanders, which are a plenty this time of year, as well as other fascinating critters.