As Ella and I are building up our Family Travel Bucket List, we’re researching all of the best kids’ activities and foodie spots in all of the wonderful places we’re adding to our list – and of course, what’s the point in doing all of that research if we don’t share it with you?!
After talking to a few friends (and double-checking Google) here are the Best Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco – and be sure to tell me in a comment what you’d add to this list!
Beat the summer heat by the Bay: Where to visit for a kid-friendly trip to San Francisco
If you’re considering places for your next family vacation, San Francisco might not be an immediate choice. With the lure of Disney and other attractions further south, you might accidentally overlook this incredibly family-friendly stop. San Fran is terrific for both parents and little ones and is sure to be an unforgettable trip.
Kids Activities San Francisco
Angel Island. A must see stop while in San Francisco, Angel Island is often overlooked by the more famous Alcatraz. You can visit by ferry or access through Pier 41. The island offers bikes for rent and trails and roads for exploring on foot. In its history, Angel Island has served as a Chinese immigration center, a POW camp, a quarantine area, and even a civil war post. Each phase of history is still preserved against a stunningly beautiful view of San Francisco Bay.
Fisherman’s Wharf. Plan to spend the better part of a day exploring the countless treasures at Fisherman’s Wharf. There are many opportunities to observe sea life, both at the Aquarium of the Bay and on Pier 39’s Sea Lion Center. From here you can also catch a boat tour of the Bay or join a sport fishing expedition. In case of rainy weather (be prepared for rain!) there are many indoor attractions in the area such as the San Francisco Dungeon which shares the darker side of San Francisco history in an immersive experience for the entire family. Kids will also love the arcade games at Musee Mechanique – free to explore, but you must pay to play.
While the famous Duck Boat Tours have ended, you can still ride a San Francisco Cable Car. The entire family will love a ride on the vintage San Francisco cable car – little ones will love the novel ride, and the break from trekking a large city and parents can channel their favorite movie scene while taking a break themselves.
My friend Kristina from Toddler Approved (whose Bay adventures you can follow here) shared a couple of her favorite outings with her kids: “Koret Children’s Playground and Carousel in Golden Gate Park followed by a trip to the Twirl N Dip Ice cream truck nearby the California Academy of Sciences (also in GG Park). We also love hiking around Sutro Baths and along the Lands End Trail with kids and then climbing down to the steps to the Lands End Labrynth. It has gorgeous views of Golden Gate Bridge on a nice day! We usually follow it up with a trip to Bi-Rite Creamery or Mitchell’s Ice Cream!”
Muir Woods. A trip to the Bay area would not be complete without immersing yourself in the stunning Redwood forests of Muir Woods. This national park offers hiking trails that allow even the littlest legs to get out and explore – these include half hour, hour, hour and a half, and longer hiking trails. Trails are paved, or board walked, and the shortest trails are accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
City Clues Adventures. Rather than take another guided bus tour, try a Scavenger Hunt instead! By following the clues you’ll explore some of San Francisco’s greatest sites – the company offers programs in Chinatown, Japantown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Follow the map and clues to collect “treasures and treats” in the city’s unique neighborhoods. As it is a walking adventure, be sure you have a stroller for little ones, else they recommend it for kids seven and up.
California Academy of Sciences. At some point during your visit to San Francisco, it’s likely to rain, and you’ll need some quality indoor stops. The California Academy of Sciences is a stunning science museum that has attractions for everyone in the family. Visit the four-story rainforest or massive aquarium, peruse the natural history museum, and enjoy a show at one of the largest planetariums in the country.
Fire Engine Tour. Kids (and parents) of all ages will love touring the city from a vintage fire engine! These small group tours visit some of San Francisco’s beloved attractions – crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Baker, and the charming nearby town of Sausalito. Several photo ops pop up along the way – you’ll have a splendid view of the city’s skyline and the bridge’s twin spires.
Pin this collection of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids for your own family travel bucket list:
For more tips for planning your family’s California vacation check out our California Family Travel Section.