Fun in San Francisco with Kids
San Francisco has always been one of our favorite cities to visit. There is so much to do, and it’s absolutely beautiful. If it were even somewhat affordable, we’d probably be living there. But, for now, an extended visit to the City by the Bay will have to do. This was our first time visiting San Francisco with kids and we knew it would be very different than our past visits. We usually take our travels slow and try not to jam-pack too much into our days, but since there was so much to do and see, we kept ourselves busier than normal during our time in San Francisco. The kids loved exploring the city. They would’ve been perfectly happy riding the BART, trolley, and buses around the city all day! Well, luckily, we ended up getting off public transportation from time to time and visiting some excellent family friendly destinations. Here are some of our favorites spots from our time exploring San Francisco with kids!
Located in Golden Gate Park, this one of a kind garden offers a wonderful place to stroll through unique plants and trees, follow paths along koi ponds, and get a glimpse of beautiful Japanese building and sculptures. The kids had a ball exploring! Get there before 10 am on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday and admission is free!
Also in Golden Gate Park, this playground opened in 1888 and is one of the oldest public playgrounds in the country! There were play structures for kids of all ages and provided hours of entertainment. There is a fun sandbox so bring sand toys if you got em! Make sure to take a ride down the hillside slide and a spin on the carousel.
This park is home to some of the best views of the San Francisco skyline and a killer playground. Take in the view while the kids have a ball at the Helen Diller Playground. Definitely one of the best playgrounds we’ve seen in California! Want to save a buck or two? Skip the overpriced lunch, pack up the lunchboxes, and enjoy a picnic in the park!
This sweet children's museum is located in the heart of San Francisco and focuses on science, nature and the arts. There are several interactive exhibits, great for children of all ages. The Randall Museum is home to a number of local animals that have been rescued and are no longer able to survive on their own. When we were there we saw an adorable raccoon and a beautiful barn owl. Admission is free, but a small donation is well worth your visit to this wonderful museum.
A visit to San Francisco with kids would not be complete without a ride on the famous cable cars. The cable cars offer a thrilling way to travel the steep streets of San Francisco (way better than pushing a stroller!) and provide views only they can offer. If you want to catch a cable car at the tourist-filled Fisherman’s Wharf turnaround be prepared to wait for a ride. Thanks to a local’s advice we caught the California line at Drumm St. and took it to the end of the line at Van Ness Avenue. We were basically the only riders and didn’t have to fight for the best seats on the cable car.
The Cable Car Museum lets you get a first-hand look at the actual workings of the cable car lines! It’s very cool to see how the only manual cable car system left in the world runs. The museum also offers information on the history of the cable cars. Admission is free!
Like a ride on the cable cars, a visit to San Fran with the kids should probably include a visit to Pier 39 in the Fisherman’s Wharf district. We don’t like to spend much time at touristy spots when visiting a new city, so we walked right through the shops and restaurants to make our way to the sea lions. The boisterous California Sea Lions have been hanging out at Pier 39 for generations, more than 100 years! Sit, watch, and listen to the dozens of creatures as they lounge.
While the audio tour offered at Alcatraz may not be thrilling for young kids, the boat ride across the bay and chance to play in an old, spooky prison is very exciting! A trip to Alcatraz is great for the entire family as it offers a fascinating look at the rich history of the Island, beautiful grounds to explore, and panoramic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The boat ride and island can get on the breezy side, so make sure everyone is equipped a windproof jacket. There is no reason to let a chilly toddler put a damper on your fun day!
San Francisco’s Chinatown offers a truly unique experience. The sights, the sounds, and the smells are invigorating! Just walking the bustling streets of Chinatown is an exciting experience for little kids. The storefronts are filled with unique items to look at, from toys they’ve never seen before to foods they’ve never seen or tasted before. Be prepared to answer questions from curious minds about the delicious Peking ducks hanging in the windows :). The streets are crowded, so leave the stroller behind and opt for the carrier backpack if you have one.
Make sure to grab a bite to eat while visiting Chinatown. We went to the Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House, which is the oldest dim sum house in the U.S. The sweet pork buns were a hit with everyone in the family, even if they didn’t know what they were eating!
San Francisco is such a magical place to visit with kids. The wonder in their eyes as they take in the city is sure to put a smile on your face. It’s safe to say our kids now love San Fran just as much as we do. We can't wait until our next chance to explore San Francisco as a family! Share some of your favorite San Francisco treats in the comments below!