California Field Trips for Homeschoolers
Your backpacks are filled with snacks, activity books, colored pencils and an extra change of clothes. Your route is locked into the GPS. You’ve even uploaded some educational videos to your tablet. It must be FIELD TRIP day in your homeschool!! Whether you are visiting the state as a homeschooling tourist or are a resident family who’s in search of places to visit in California with children, this great big state has amazing destinations full of learning possibilities.
In California, day trips are one of the best ways to rev up a sluggish homeschool month. Plus, homeschool field trips create the kind of learning that will often stick with your student far longer than something they read in a textbook or even watch on a video. To help you find the best field trip ideas in California, we’ve organized them by geographic region. Browse the list below and get your homeschoolers involved in choosing which ones you’ll visit first. You can even plan out each of your learning adventures on this printable California map from Time4Learning. Please make sure to contact each site before you plan your visit, as COVID-19 may have impacted their hours of operations. Plus, as a bonus, we’ve even included a free download of Time4Learning lesson tie-ins that might be the perfect supplement for each trip (grab yours at the end of this article)!
Home education is not the same in every state. Make sure you’re getting the information you need to start homeschooling in the The Golden State.
Homeschool Field Trips in Northern California
Calpine Geothermal Visitor Center, Middletown, CA – The Geysers, comprising 30 square miles along the Sonoma and Lake County border, is the largest complex of geothermal power plants in the world. The exhibit hall and free tours are designed to engage visitors and spark interest in geothermal energy.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, Nevada City, CA – This site would be a great kickoff for a homeschool lesson on mines and mining. California’s largest hydraulic mine was located here and you’ll see the end result of extreme mining techniques that washed away entire mountains in search for gold.
Placer Nature Center, Auburn, CA – This environmental education center is ideal for homeschool families and even offers monthly homeschool programs on topics such as geology, edible plants, and aquatic life cycles. There are also nature trails, gardens, and a discovery room to explore at any visit.
- Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA – At special Homeschool Days throughout the year, the museum focuses on a single theme and creates educational programs involving small-group discussions and hands-on activities for students. There are weekly art activities for preschoolers, as well.
Homeschool Field Trips in the Bay Area
Año Nuevo State Park, Pescadero, CA – This may be one of your best opportunities to see an elephant seal up close. Every year, up to 10,000 elephant seals come to this place to breed, give birth, and molt their skin in the dunes and beaches. A natural preserve was established here to protect the seals as well as otters, sea lions, and other species.
Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito, CA – Located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, this one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor discovery center has seven exhibition spaces and more than six daily drop-in programs for children 6 months of age to 10 years. Homeschooled visitors will find hands-on art, science and environmental exhibitions, and special events here year-round.
California Agriculture Museum, Woodland, CA – Get hands on with the history of farming in the Sacramento Valley area. You’ll be able to view antique tractors, horse-drawn farm equipment, and other artifacts that tell the story of how food was grown and harvested in the past. There is a gift shop and play area for children here, too.
Children’s Creativity Museum, San Francisco, CA – This hands-on multimedia art and technology experience is designed for children ages 2-12. If you have a child interested in manga, animation, or illustration, definitely don’t pass up the animation studio, where children can create their own stop-motion animated video.
Filoli, Woodside, CA – This country house and gardens is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is a popular spot for a one day trip in California. The grounds offer opportunities for nature hikes, exploration of the 54,000 square foot Georgian English country house, and letting your imagination soar in the 16 acres of formal and working gardens.
World of Wonders Science Museum, Lodi, CA – Learn about energy, electricity, magnetism, optics, and more at this STEM-focused museum for children. There are over 70 hands-on exhibits and multiple educational opportunities such as science summer camps, a regular makerspace, and a science store.
Are you a San Francisco homeschool family? Discover even more opportunities for homeschool field trips in San Francisco.
Homeschool Field Trips in Central California
- Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, CA – Plan your visit to the land of giants! Explore the deep canyons and the world’s largest trees or tour the numerous caves and rivers. A field trip in this location is great for homeschoolers to learn about geography and science! Take advantage of the free entry days throughout the year!
- Yosemite National Park, CA – There is no shortage of activities for homeschoolers at this national park. You can plan a quick day trip or a full weekend getaway. Discover majestic waterfalls and learn about history while viewing the monumental Half Dome and El Capitan.
- Fresno Zoo, Fresno, CA – Aside from getting to see over 190 species of animals, this zoo offers many educational programs to choose from. If you have little ones, make sure to check out the scavenger hunt and other activities that will help reinforce basic concepts and enrich your homeschool curriculum.
Homeschool Field Trips in the Greater LA Area
Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles, CA – This environmental education and conservation center has recorded over 140 different types of birds visiting its woodlands. Families will enjoy joining in on the regular native plant and bird walks that happen monthly, or just do your own nature hunt on any of the many hiking trails on the property.
Ojai Valley Museum of History and Art, Ojai, CA – Imagine walking through a life-size diorama of plants and animals native to the Sespe Wilderness area. Or maybe you’d like to go on a scavenger hunt to learn the history of Ojai. Students will discover multiple ways to explore the history, art, and culture of the Ojai Valley here.
Orange County Zoo, Orange, CA – Sometimes you are looking for things to do In California with children, but want a destination that won’t overwhelm or overstimulate. Nestled in the greater Irvine Regional Park Wilderness is a small zoo that focuses primarily on the animals of the southwestern U.S. Children will love the petting zoo as well as regular programs for toddlers and preschoolers.
USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA – Doing a unit study on Asia or studying about the Silk Road? The treasures in this museum let you step into the culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. With ever-changing exhibits, hands-on learning opportunities, and art workshops for all ages, you’ll definitely want to schedule a stop at this site.
Homeschool Field Trips in Southern California
Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla, CA – If you live in the San Diego area, it will definitely worthwhile for you to get an annual membership to this wonderful aquarium. The indoor tanks are organized by region (i.e. San Diego Bay, Baja Reef, etc.) and there are interactive educational features such as computer kiosks with video and photo and music options that enhance your visit.
The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, CA – When spring fever has your homeschoolers antsy and ready for some air, these 50 acres of flowers are ready for roaming. If you get weary, there is a tractor tour which gives you time to rest your legs. Special Kids’ Days during the season offer even more opportunities for hands-on fun and learning.
San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego, CA – Education is the main priority at the Air & Space Museum, so this is the ideal homeschool destination for a day trip. This is one of the largest aviation museums in the nation and you’ll encounter many exhibits and galleries of original and reproduction aircraft. You can download an education guide from their website prior to your visit.
San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, Escondido, CA – You’ll actually be looking forward to a rainy day if it means an excuse to experience science, world culture, and art geared to 0-10 year olds. Special field trip visits are offered for less busy times at the museum and there are daily story times, art and garden workshops as well as a chicken meet and greet.
Are you an Escondido homeschool family? Discover even more opportunities for homeschool field trips in Escondido.
Homeschool Field Trips in the CA Desert Region
Calico Ghost Town Regional Park, Yermo, CA – This mining town right out of the Old West has been around since 1881. Take an informative ride on an old mine train, learn about the geology of the area, pan for gold, and browse the museums and shops.
Hi-Desert Nature Museum, Yucca Valley, CA – Learn about the wildlife native to Yucca Valley and the desert environment. For families on a budget, this is a field trip to be sure to note because admission is free. Rotating exhibits ensure that you won’t see the same thing twice, even if you come more than once yearly.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Desert, CA – Do camel rides, giraffe feedings, or having a lorikeet land on your hand sound like something out of your homeschooler’s field trip wish book? Then this is a fun, full-day adventure that will teach your students all about desert ecology.
The Sawdust Factory, Upland, CA – For project-based field trips, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this unique “factory” where kids paint and create to their heart’s content. Learn about how seeds turn into the wood that is used for the workshop as well as information about the tools used to craft items from wood. Need more? Then be sure to sit in on one of the “Painting Story Times.”
CA Field Trips Unit Study Supplement
Is there anything more fun than learning through field trips? To make your experiences at these destinations even more meaningful, Time4Learning members will appreciate this download of free activity tie-ins.
I didn’t see the Palm Springs Air Museum on the list. You can actually go inside some of the planes and the staff is fantastic!
Thanks for making sure our readers know about that one, Yalonnda! 🙂
You left out the Nature Conservancy in Oak Glen and the Children’s Forest near Running Springs. Both free.
Thanks for making sure our readers know about these, Karen! 🙂
Boron (Eastern Kern County) in the Mojave Desert. Borax Visitors Center. Overlook a working open pit borax mine with it monstorous trucks, see geographical exhibits with the history of the mine, and learn of all the products that are produced with the ores and minerals from this mine and similar mines. Then visit the two museums in the town of Boron (aka Amargo,) Saxon Aerospace Museum and Boron and the 20 Mule Team Museum next door.
Sounds fun AND educational! Thanks so much for making sure our readers know about these! 🙂
Rosa Brothers Milk Co does tours at the dairy April-October in Hanford Ca. You can also go on a self guided tour at the creamery in Tulare Ca where you can sample flavored milk and premium homemade ice cream
Thanks for making sure our readers know about that one, Colleen! 🙂
I am surprised that not one of the missions was mentioned.
Hi Susan! These field trip posts are meant to provide just a few field trip ideas, and to encourage families to broaden their exploration! 🙂
If you have some specific missions that you think families would enjoy, please feel free to list them in the comments here for our readers.
The Gold Nugget Museum, sadly, no longer exists due to the destruction of the Camp Fire on 11/08/2018.
Hi, James. Thanks for taking the time to comment! While the museum was sadly destroyed in the fire, we are leaving it listed here for the time being. According the Gold Nugget Museum website, they are hoping to rebuild and they are directing site visitors to their temporary main office and museum.
Here is their statement:
“Our little Depot Museum in the Paradise Community Park was untouched by the fire, and we will maintain services there while we work through the recovery and rebuilding process.
Until further notice, the Depot Museum at 5570 Black Olive Dr. will serve as our main office and museum, open Thursday-Monday from 12:00-4:00 p.m. and during special events.”
I don’t see the Monterey Bay Aquarium here! Lots of beautiful scenery around the Monterey, Carmel area, too. In No. CA you can climb part way up Mt. Shasta, and all the way up Mt. Lassen, where (at least you could 80 years ago) you can put your hand over the steam coming out of a living volcano, and nearby is a very unusual Burney Falls (campground is at the top, and you hike down).
I love homeschool day at the aquarium! Also, Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield ❤
Thanks for making sure our readers know about those, Barbara! 🙂
These trips are just perfect for my twin sons. Some are right in our backyard, so to speak. Thank you so much.
That’s wonderful, Merrilee! Hope you guys have some great field trip experiences! 🙂
The Children’s Creativity Museum is having a HomeSchool Day on Wednesday April 25, 2018. Please check https://creativity.org/calendar/homeschool-day/
Thanks so much for sharing the homeschool day with us, and with our followers! We’ll share this across our social networks and in our parent forum. Looks like it’s going to be a fun learning day!