Holiday kid’s activities in Stockton and San Joaquin County!

Toy soldiers guard entrance to Stockton's Children's Museum.

With holiday school break coming, you may wonder where to take the kids and/or grandkids on these first days of winter. Here are a handful of “activity-destinations”, kid-tested with our three grandchildren over the last year. You and the kids will find them interesting, relatively inexpensive (or free) and true memory-makers.

The Stockton Children’s Museum offers scores of hands-on exhibits and activities that kids cannot resist. On a recent visit, our first stop – a number of reptile exhibits, with grandson Jack locking onto the lizards and snakes and me trying not to imagine future nightmares (mine, not Jack).  Then onto the race car track, where Jack built race cars with Legos, then raced them down a long, four-abreast track.

We moved on to a climbing tour of a real fire engine, a police car (Jack quickly found delight in turning on the flashing lights), ambulance and Regional Transit bus; with Jack quickly acclimating himself to being a real bus driver.

The Haggin Museum in Victory Parkis one of Stockton’s iconic destinations, and offers appeal for kids and young adults. Early Stockton is profiled, along with the city’s dramatic growth from gold rush to development of our agricultural empire and manufacturing base that made this one of California’s great cities. For musically-inclined young adults, the museum features ‘Medieval to Metal: the Art and Evolution of the Guitar’ exhibit, with upcoming events including a Holiday Hootenanny, December 15, and Guitar and vocal duo Mark and Cindy Lemaire, January 5.

The iconic Haggin Museum is a fixture in lovely Victory Park.

Additional Stockton activities include ice skating at Oak Park Ice Arena or taking in the Stockton Heat hockey games at Stockton Arena.

Micke Grove Park just south of Lodi offers two destinations: Micke Grove Zoo is a wonderland for kids.  The zoo offers Zoo Tots, offering toddlers a WILD adventure, learning through doing.  Tots are engaged in a variety of hands-on activities such as an art project; games; crafts; stories and possible live animal encounter depending on the topic, most Tuesdays at 10 AM.  Take in Winter Zoo Day Camp for kids 5-10 years, from 10 AM to 3 PM. Highlights include Animal Antics, December 21 and 22; Winter Wildlife Warriors on December 23 and Crazy Critters, December 27 and 28. Register by calling (209) 331-2138.

Docent Bonnie Cassel welcomes kids to the old Calaveras School House.

The San Joaquin Historical Museum, also located in the park, offers youngsters the old Calaveras School House, Blacksmith Shop and the Tractor Building full of huge and historic farm tractors. The Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans, San Joaquin County residents for more than 13,000 years, is a great way to introduce young adults to the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people that predated American settlers.

“These exhibits work perfectly with our other exhibits,” notes Dave Stuart, Museum Director. “Visitors can follow the Native people’s history, to early trappers and founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Kids can follow the early American settlers, then to exhibits on the Gold Rush and the adjacent Captain Weber Gallery”.

The World of Wonders Science Museum, downtown Lodi, offers hands-on activities for kids from 2-19. Creative science exhibits will energize and amaze the minds of all ages. Check the special events option on the museum’s website, including special activities almost every day; or factor in Free Fridays (bring a friend on the last Friday each month, and your friend gets in free).

Kids experiment with a vertical windtunnel at the WOW Science Museum in Lodi.

For older kids, inspect 40+ classic cars for sale at the Vintage Reserve Garage on Cherokee Lane, Lodi; start with breakfast at Richmaid, a classic family-style restaurant across the street.

For hiking, biking and exploration when valley weather is nice, take in downtown Stockton’s waterfront (from the old Waterfront Warehouse at 445 W. Weber, then east along the Promenade to Weber Point, and west along the water out to the Stockton Arena and Ballpark). Or, opt for a 4 mile or 8 mile route around Shima Tract at the west end of Hammer Lane, Lodi Lake Park, on Turner Road in Lodi or the Cosumnes River Preserve, two miles north of Thornton. Each destination offers miles of trails to explore, birds and critters to watch (take binoculars).

Author's grandkids Hunter, Jessica and Jack hiking on Shima Tract in Stockton.

On assumption that new snow will come soon to the central Sierra, take the kids up to the snow line for sledding, tubing, snowball fights or making a snowman. Two popular destinations only about an hour from Stockton include Calaveras Big Trees State Park on Hwy. 4 and the area known as Little Sweden on Highway 108 (about four miles east of Long Barn). The state park charges $10 per carload entry, but offers hiking among the sequoias and other big trees, several sledding and tubing areas and a cozy warming hut with roaring fire and free hot chocolate for kids and adults.

Sledders enjoy sliding amongst Giant Sequoias in Calaveras Big Trees State Park (photo from last season).

The Little Sweden area (until a few years ago, an old lodge by that name stood here, now removed) is free and you can park on both sides of this four-lane stretch of 108, though heed the “no parking” section of the highway – the Highway Patrol will ticket violators.

To plan your visit: Haggin Museum,; Children’s Museum,; Micke Grove Zoo,; San Joaquin Historical Society,; Calaveras Big Trees State Park, For a map of Stockton bike and hike trails,

Contact Tim at or follow him at Happy travels in your world!

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