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San Jose, California Family Vacation Ideas with NASA, Raging Waters, and STEAM.  Children Enjoy Oban Festival in San Jose CaliforniaSan Francisco’s South Bay area is the ideal spot to share fun and learning. From lively festivals and events to inspirational theater and live music, the area is loaded with ways to share fun with kids. 

Here’s the scoop. When I think of Mountain View I think of Stanford but the San Jose area offers dozens of opportunities for young families to share fun and learning including watery adventures, shopping, and ways to interact with science and nature. From the tranquility of the Japanese Friendship Gardens or shopping excursions at San Jose's Santana Row to discovering mammoth bones at the Children's Discovery Museum or watching movies taken of Mars, there's something for everyone.  For planning purposes I have assembled a list of sure bets – some of them free and the rest worth the coins. 

Look to the stars. Admission is free to the NASA Ames Exploration Center located on the grounds of NASA Ames at Moffett Field. One of the coolest things about this spot is a curved 360-foot wide high definition screen which shows movies taken of Mars. Get a glimpse of a rock collected from the surface of the Moon and see an actual Mercury Redstone capsule. Throughout the day there are scheduled presentations relating to space discoveries and space travel. Checkout Science on a Sphere which offers visitors a new look at the planets from a large, spherical projection system. Bonus points: Moffett Field is also the home of Moffett Field Museum and docent tours are available. (NASA Ames Exploration Center Moffett Field, CA 94035. (650) 604-6274 or (650) 604-6497 at Moffet Field NASA)

Get really technical. At the Tech Museum it’s all about hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning. From the Tech Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery to the Tech Innovation at Play to Galler hands-on science workshops learning and family fun are easily combined. Tech Museum Kid Fun San Jose CaliforniaBonus points: From November through August members of Stanford's Genetics department lead hands-on activities at the museum. Wait for it! The museum hosts 30-mute workshops lead by Bay Area Makers. Each energy filled session focuses on ideas and how to maximize the creative process for makers of any age. (201 S. Market Street, San Jose 95113. (408) 294-8324 or

Touch, feel and discover. At the Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose interactive is what it is all about. “Please touch me” exhibits enable exploration in a very fun way. Areas of exploration include sciences of paleontology, biology, math, and horticulture. Visit Lupe – a giant mammoth in residence or make magic by creating giant bubbles. Attend big screen Sundays or engage in theatre play. Relax at one of the numerous story times throughout the day or watch books on screen – a WOW for little ones. (Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose 180 Woz Way San Jose, CA 95110. (408) 298-5437, 298-6826 or

Explore the science of Silicon Valley. Sleek, shinny, and very cool, the Intel Museum in Santa Clara, California is an ideal spot to learn about the science of computers including microchips and the future of technology. Just drop in and get an idea of what it is like to be inside a highly automated silicon chip factory. The museum offers 10,000 square feet set for interactive learning. Learn what ants and transistors have in common. Discover the difference between petaflops and teraflops. Assess the importance of bunnysuits, ingots, and Moore's Law. Here’s the deal: Admission and parking are free. (Intel Museum 2200 Mission College Boulevard, Santa Clara, CA 95054. (408) 765-0503 or

Share the quiet beauty. The Japanese Friendship Gardens in San Jose present a natural symbol of cross cultural connections between San Jose and its sister city, Okayama, Japan. Tranquil and beautiful, this is the spot to disconnect, unplug and imagine what life in balance means.  While it is not a place for high energy children because there is no playground, it is ideal for a stroll with a baby or an aging parent or both.  (Japanese Friendship Gardens Senter Road and East Alma Ave. San Jose, CA 95112. (408) 794-7275 or San Jose Parks
Shop, shop, shop. One stop may just be enough in this case. Santana Row in San Jose is one of California's premier shopping, dining, and entertainment spots. It is described as a "town within a town," where shoppers will find Anthropologie, Burberry, Crate & Barrel, Diesel, Furla, Urban Outfitters, Tumi and several day spas. Bonus points: Mommy & Me (daddy too) takes place the second Tuesday of each month through December. The day out program includes free entertainment, interactive games, crafts and educational activities designed for parents and their pre-school aged children. Families will enjoy arts and crafts, face painting, music, balloon art, story time, and much more. (356 Santana Row, San Jose, CA. 95128. Waters Summer Fun  San Jose California

Splash down summer fun. There is something freeing about getting wet on purpose. Raging Waters in San Jose’s Lake Cunningham Regional Park is just the place to do it. The 23-acre site is the largest water park in northern California and provides millions of gallons of water just for fun. The newest ride Bombs Away may be the most popular but the 350,000-gallon wave pool and Pirate's Cove-an interactive themed water fort are worth a try. The splash down choices include with rides and slides with big thrills and gentle options for the little ones. (Raging Waters 2333 S White Road, San Jose, CA 9514. (408) 238-9900 or

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nel6on-Duac, Editor FTF. Images courtesy San Jose CVB and Raging Waters San Jose. Copyrightupdated 2016.

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