First, let's acknowledge that we haven't had to talk about this in 4+ years. Many of our kids have only known drought. For example, I don't think my kids wore a raincoat once last winter. So this "going outside" thing is different this year. And thank goodness it is! Yay for rain!
Second, let's get something out of the way. Going outside when it's wet or cold does not make you sick. It doesn't. Viruses make you sick, and viruses live inside and outside. I personally think viruses are happiest in the warmth of schools. They thrive on rugs in classrooms. The internet backs me up on this one (here too). Actually, going outside and exercising keeps you healthy.
Alright, with those things taken care of, let's get to the good stuff.
Where to go and what to do when it's raining!
This is where winter in the Bay Area shines! The creeks have water in them and are perfect for rock throwing, dam building, stick-raft making, and whatever else your creative mind can conjure up. I love going back to the same spot a few times, because you can see how the level of the creek goes up and down with the storms. It's a good opportunity to sharpen your observation skills. A few creeks that I recommend are: Wildcat Creek that flows through Tilden, Alameda Creek that flows through Sunol Regional Wilderness, and Lagunitas Creek that flows through Marin (where you can see salmon!).
Forests are a great way to hide from the rain. It's like a huge green umbrella. Plus, forests tend to be the wettest areas which means MUSHROOMS. They are so cool! I never touch or pick any because I don't want to risk anything. But I love looking at them. Maybe it was the years of watching The Smurfs, but there's just something cool about them. We found lots in Redwood Regional Park along the Stream Trail once.
Have you driven along 580 between Pleasanton and the Altamont Pass recently? The hills to the north of there are totally stunning. They're rolling hills of bright, bright green. I want to go! This is a great time of year to see Morgan Territory, Round Valley, Black Diamond Mines, Briones, and anything else east of the Oakland/Berkeley hills. The air is cool (which it isn't during the dry season) and it's alive with plants and animals (who often go dormant in the heat of the summer). There are so many places to explore and now is a great time to do it.
What to bring?
I'm a big proponent of putting a change of clothes and a towel in the car before starting out. That way you can play, play, play without having to sit in muddy clothes all the way home. And there's that good ole outdoorsy saying by Alfred Wainwright:
“There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
It takes some extra energy, but the payoff is huge. Go outside.