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Fun, learning places for kids

  • PC: Ellen Olsson, 2, looks for sea life in the artificial tidepool at the Bodega Marine Lab on Saturday. The 5,000 gallon pool has rising and falling tide and simulated waves.
    12/10/00: Ellen Olsson, 2, looks for sea life Saturday in the 5,000-gallon artificial tide pool at the Bodega Marine Lab.

Kids' museum outings are a great way to involve the whole family in a fun outing on a crisp fall weekend. Get them involved in whatever exhibit they're going to see, make sure they know what's interesting about what they're going to see.

Here's a quick-hit tour of some interesting museum options in the Bay Area.

When you step in the door of U.C. Davis Marine Laboratory, you see a 24-foot museum display containing local fish and a small kelp forest. Not far away is a round aquarium that houses giant anemones, and there's also a tidepool display to give people a sense of the dynamic goings-on of the California coast. Public drop-in tours are available most Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m. for groups of fewer than 10 people. (2099 Westside Road., Bodega Bay, 875-2211, www.ucdavis.edu.)

The Randall Museum, at the top of a hill in the center of San Francisco, is a hit with kids because it has great interactive displays with animals and bugs for them to explore. Permanent areas of the museum include art and ceramics studios, a 188-seat theatre, a greenhouse and gardens.(199 Museum Way, San Francisco, (415) 554-9600, www.randallmuseum.org.)

Pacific Pinball Museum is an atypical museum that is usually just as popular with parents as with their kids, and it allows them to acquaint their offspring with games of their childhood. The museum offers unlimited play on dozens of restored machines from a variety of eras. (1510 Webster St., Alameda, (510) 769-1349, pacific pinball.org.)

Walt Disney Family Museum is a treat for Disney enthusiasts. There are plenty of artifacts on display that launched the Disney empire, and the place reveals a glimpse into Walt Disney's visionary mind. The museum offers programming that includes lectures, discussions, films and even summer camp. (104 Montgomery St., The Presidio of San Francisco, (415) 345-6800, waltdisney.org).

— Peg Melnik


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