San Francisco With The Kids!

This is the rare city that has so much to offer children of all ages (and adults too). Take a look at all there is to do in this fascinating place.

Pier 39 – watch the sea liKid-Friendly (teal & purple)ons frolic, enjoy the street performers and grab a bite all at the same time. Nearby there is the Aquarium of the Bay where you can feed the stingrays.

Exploratorium – a hands-on museum with fun exhibits like “the Science of Baseball”. Afterwards, go watch a game at the At&T park where the views are fantastic.

Chinatown – The largest outside of Asia, this is an interesting place to eat, shop for cheap souveniers and make cross-cultural connections.

Cable cars – The favorite route is the Powell-Hyde line which passes the crooked Lombard Street and ends near Ghirardelli Square (chocolate, anyone?). Also along the line is the famous Swenson’s Ice Cream that opened in 1948. Visit the operational powerhouse for a neat behind-the-scenes look at the mechanics and history. And several mornings a week there are free guided walking tours.

Golden Gate Park – check out the gardens, pedal boats, California Academy of Sciences, and the bison pen. Throw in some picnic supplies and enjoy a day outdoors.

San Francisco Zoo – Who doesn’t love a zoo?

Alcatraz – Once a prison, this is reached by boat (fun in itself). Then take the tour through the cell blocks and listen to the stories about Al Capone and the Birdman.

Angel Island – From Pier 41, hop a ferry to the largest island in the bay, rent some bikes or take a hike. The beaches are nice and there is a tour by tram.

Ferry Building – This center was totally renovated. The building (dates from 1898) has restaurants, specialty food shops, a farmers’ market and a wine shop. Pick up your picnic supplies and head over to Angel Island or Golden Gate Park.

Sausalito Just a ferry ride across the bay but worlds away, filled with art galleries and quiet streets. The Bay Area Discovery Museum is also here with a train room, art studios and play areas. Great for a rainy day or when mommy is tired.

Randall MuseumEvery Saturday there  is a program called “Meet the Animals”. Come and pet a snake, feed a turtle, play with the rabbits. (Starts at 11:15.)

Fire Department MuseumCheck out the equipment, like an 1810 engine.

With kayaking along the waterfront, great ethnic restaurants, museums for all interests and plenty of history, San Francisco should be on everyone’s bucket list.




  • Took you advice and went to Pier 39 – colorful, noisy, busy – our kids loved it. Many souvenir shops and places to eat. Free restrooms. Sea lions steal the show. Hard to park around the pier but definitely worth a stop. Also recommend the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

  • The Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Park lets kids make music videos, is filled with hands-on activities, has a carousel and plenty of things to keep little ones busy. Admission is $12 (under 2 free) and it’s open Wed. to Sun. from 10 am to 4 pm. (Closed Mon. and Tues.)

  • Dominic and Heather

    The best way to get around San Francisco is public transportation. Use the Muni F line which runs along Market St. to get to Embarcadero. Near Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 33 where you can catch the only ferry that brings you to Alcatraz. Alcatraz is run by the National Parks Service and is worth a visit. Great views of the city from the water.

    • Alcatraz is free but you pay for the boat ride over. Worth it.

    • Took this advice and left the car. So nice to not have to look for /pay for parking spots. Transportation is easy to figure out, not expensive, convenient. Thanks for some great suggestions.

  • Amanda and Steve

    We took a break from the city and booked a bus trip for a day in Yosemite National Park to see the giant sequoias. Bus came right to the hotel, tour guide was very funny and knowledgeable, and we didn’t have to worry about the driving, parking, fees, etc. They give you 5-6 hours in the park – enough for a good hike. This is a long day, probably better for older kids. Also, weather in Yosemite is really unpredictable so bring a windbreaker, sweatshirt, etc. Added bonus: you pass through some old gold rush towns along the way with some interesting stories.

  • Try a walking tour of the city – there are so many: Gold Rush San Fran, Ghosts in the City, Gems of San Fran, Chinatown, Little Italy, North Beach. Each one has a different perspective. Also, the ferry to Alcatraz and a tour there will always be fun for the kids.

  • Nancy and Frank

    Make sure to see Chinatown but prep your kids before you go with stories, food, etc. Try eating with chopsticks, buy some fun (and cheap) souvenirs. (Warning: some children may not enjoy the smells and sights.) And avoid going during Chinese New Year when the streets are so packed you can’t move.

    • Souvenirs like diaries, playing cards, etc. are great but be careful with the games – very small parts, not good for young children.

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