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Guide to San Francisco for Families

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Traveling to San Francisco with your kids? There are lots of great places to take them that will be fun for you too!

Good for
  • Family
  • History Buff
  • Thrill Seeker
  • Nature Lover
  • Foodie
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

10 Places

8 City Tips

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Map

10 Places

Exploratorium

Children's Museums, Science Museums

California Academy of Sciences

Science Museums

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Children's Museums, Science Museums, Speciality Museums

Pier 39

Piers & Boardwalks

Golden Gate Park

Parks

House Of Air

Game & Entertainment Centres

The Ice Cream Bar

Restaurants

Ferry Building Marketplace

Points of Interest & Landmarks, Shopping Malls

Marrakech Magic Theater

Performances, Comedy Clubs

Alcatraz Island

Historic Sites, Islands, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas

Martha C's City Tips

  • Be sure to hop on a cable car at some point. You don't have to wait in line at the turntables (where the lines are long); hop on anywhere you see a brown-and-white stop sign!
  • As far as how to dress, anything goes in San Francisco! If you'll be walking a lot, be sure to wear comfy shoes and always have a light jacket in case the fog rolls in.
  • Walking is a great way to see the city, but the hills may be hard on little legs. Get a transit passport that's good for buses, cable cars and streetcars for 1 or 3 days.
  • San Francisco is a fairly bike and pedestrian friendly city. If you're driving remember all pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks throughout California.
  • The CityPASS offers admission to several attractions, plus free Muni transit and other discounts. It's valid for 9-day periods, and children's passes are also available.
  • The weather can change drastically depending on your location, so always carry layers for little ones — especially in San Francisco's notoriously chilly summers!
  • San Francisco is filled with great restaurants, and the popular ones sure are busy! Be sure to book ahead, if that's an option, to save time.
  • There are restaurants to suit all taste buds and budgets here. Note that at least 15-20% tipping is customary.
  • Save
    Exploratorium
    Children's Museums, Science Museums
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    The Exploratorium has long been one of San Francisco's many amazing interactive museums, and its new location, right on the water at Pier 15, is even more impressive, and a much larger facility than the original. Expect lots of great science exhibits that will teach your kids (and you!) all about the world around them.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Plan ahead and book some time in the Tactile Dome. Kids should be at least 7 years old, as this exhibit is entirely in the dark and utilizes the sense of touch to navigate.
    • Don't miss the Bay Observatory Gallery, where you can learn more about the San Francisco Bay and its surroundings.
    • The restaurant is great; its menu changes seasonally, but you can always find pizzas, sandwiches, salads and a whole lot more.
    • The Exploratorium is covered by the San Francisco CityPASS, so if you plan to visit other museums, consider the pass as a way to bundle and save.
    Plan to stay:/
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 558 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Fun for the scientist 16/10/2017
    • Endless fun 15/10/2017
    • Exploratorium
    Address:
    Pier 15, on the Embarcadero
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    Phone:
    +1 415-528-4444
    Price range:
    US$ 19 - US$ 19
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    10:00 - 17:00
    Thu
    18:00 - 22:00
    Other:
  • Save
    California Academy of Sciences
    Science Museums
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    With its cutting-edge eco-friendly building (complete with living roof) and fascinating nature and natural history exhibits, the California Academy of Sciences is a great place for kids and adults alike! The indoor rainforest is not to be missed, and there is a wonderful aquarium too! The brave kids in your bunch will love the earthquake simulator, which gives you a scarily accurate idea of what the big California quakes really feel like!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Claude, the albino alligator in the Swamp area, is nearly 20 years old! Be sure to stop by and say "hi" to him.
    • Make sure to head up and explore the living roof — it's not only incredibly cool but a good lesson in ecology.
    • The Academy of Sciences is included in the CityPASS.
    • The museum's Golden Gate Park location makes for a great day-long adventure. Spend the morning at the Academy, and then explore the park in the afternoon.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #14 of 558 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great Science Museum: Something for Everyone 15/10/2017
    • Plan to spend half a day 15/10/2017
    • California Academy of Sciences
    Address:
    55 Music Concourse Dr
    Golden Gate Park
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    Phone:
    +1 415-379-8000
    Hours:
    Sun
    11:00 - 17:00
    Mon - Sat
    09:30 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Bay Area Discovery Museum
    Children's Museums, Science Museums, Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    Not technically in San Francisco — but well worth the trip across the Bay — the Bay Area Discovery Museum is fantastic for kids (and adults) of all ages! Nestled in a cove on the outskirts of Sausalito, this museum is very interactive, with a special area for toddlers and an art room where they can get messy with daily changing craft projects. Bonus: The view from this area cannot be beat: a special angle of the Golden Gate Bridge that not every visitor to SF gets to see!

    Good for
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • If you're looking to splurge on lunch, head over to Cavallo Point Lodge and try their tasty burger!
    • The cafe on site is perfect for kids — all healthy foods, with fun names for all the dishes.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 54 things to do in Sausalito
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • You can spend the whole day here! 11/10/2017
    • Fun for kids 28/09/2017
    • Bay Area Discovery Museum
    Address:
    557 McReynolds Rd
    Sausalito, CA 94965-2614
    Phone:
    +1 415-339-3900
    Hours:
    Sun
    09:00 - 17:00
    Tue - Fri
    09:00 - 16:00
    Sat
    10:00 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Pier 39
    Piers & Boardwalks
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    There's a reason that Pier 39 is on the top-10 lists of just about every San Francisco travel guide — it's hard to get more iconic than this. Always bustling with people, the waterfront complex has a lot to offer, from an aquarium and carousel to lots of restaurants and of course the famous sea lions! If you're looking for San Francisco gear to take home with you, this is also a great spot to find it all.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • It will almost always be crowded here, but if you start the day off at Pier 39, you might beat some of the tourist traffic.
    • Check out the massive candy shop (if you dare) — the old-fashioned spot has everything from saltwater taffy to giant jawbreakers.
    • Venture over to Fisherman's Wharf, and then give the kids a taste of history at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, where they can explore historic vessels.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #23 of 558 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing food 17/10/2017
    • Lovely place to visit 17/10/2017
    • Pier 39
    Address:
    Beach Street & The Embarcadero
    Parking area
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Phone:
    +1 415-705-5500
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 21:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Golden Gate Park
    Parks
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    Clocking in at just over 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park is a playground for young and old alike. Whether you ride the Golden Gate Park Carousel, hop on a segway tour, or just saunter through the expansive greenery, it's a great escape from the city hustle and bustle.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Do not miss the Japanese Tea Garden, which is filled with beautiful Japanese plants, bridges and, of course, tea! A true gem in San Francisco.
    • The DeYoung has a truly amazing collection of art and a free view of San Francisco from its viewing tower. It's a must stop for you and the older kids.
    • Visit the boat house at Stow Lake to rent row, pedal and electric boats. They even have a pedal boat that can accommodate 4-6 people!
    • If the weather is nice, take a picnic and sit near the Strybring Arboretum (or San Francisco Botanical Garden) — you'll see amazing plants from around the world.
    • Kids will be amazed by the giant bison grazing on the Bison Paddock.
    • The park is enormous, so take advantage of the free shuttle service, which stops at all major destinations. Hours: 9am-6pm on weekends and national holidays.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 558 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • What a wonderful park and history 17/10/2017
    • A huge glorious park!! 16/10/2017
    • Golden Gate Park
    Address:
    501 Stanyan St
    San Francisco, CA 94117-1898
    Phone:
    (415) 831-2700
    Other:
  • Save
    House Of Air
    Game & Entertainment Centres
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    Families with older (and adventurous) kids will have a blast at House of Air, a huge facility packed with trampolines on which to jump up, down, and even sideways!

    Good for
    • Family
    • Trendsetter
    • Thrill Seeker
    Tips
    • Be sure to book in advance — this is a hugely popular local attraction so it books up quickly!
    • Guests are given special socks that allow you to jump around without sliding too much.
    • General admission is 7 years and up, but House of Air also sets aside special "Junior Geronimo" hours solely for kids aged 3-6.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 58 Fun & Games in San Francisco
    • Good fun! 15/05/2017
    • A Great Find! 20/04/2017
    • House Of Air
    Address:
    926 Mason St
    in the Presidio
    San Francisco, CA 94129-1602
    Phone:
    +1 415-345-9675
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:00 - 20:00
    Mon - Thu
    10:00 - 21:00
    Fri - Sat
    10:00 - 22:00
    Other:
  • Save
    The Ice Cream Bar
    Restaurants (American)
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    A great spot to treat the kids (and yourself), The Ice Cream Bar is an amazing 1930s-style soda fountain and classic lunch counter. Everything here — from the ice cream and waffle cones to the wheat and brioche breads — are made in-house from locally sourced ingredients. Kids will love the candies and sodas, while parents will enjoy adult-style milkshakes and phosphates with an added kick!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • If you happen to be vegan, they have treats for you too!
    • There are lots of interesting sodas and shakes to try, but be sure to fit in a classic ice cream sundae too!
    • The Ice Cream Bar is located in an area called Cole Valley, which makes it great for a pit stop after the California Academy of Sciences.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #330 of 4,214 restaurants in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Wow, just wow 03/10/2017
    • Delicious! 11/09/2017
    • The Ice Cream Bar
    Address:
    815 Cole St
    San Francisco, CA 94117-3907
    Phone:
    +1 415-742-4932
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    12:00 - 22:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Ferry Building Marketplace
    Points of Interest & Landmarks, Shopping Malls
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    A trip to San Francisco is not complete without a visit to the iconic Ferry Building Marketplace. You can sample Humphry Slocombe ice cream, Miette pastries, Cowgirl Creamery cheese and so much more. You and your kids are bound to leave feeling full and happy after an hour or so here!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Come on a Farmers Market day (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) to experience all the great local produce and products that the Bay Area has to offer.
    • Take a ferry ride from here over to Sausalito to explore its family-friendly shops and restaurants.
    • If you are seafood lovers, be sure to stop in at Hog Island Oyster Company, which serves amazing local seafood and great grilled cheese sandwiches!
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #16 of 558 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Nice place to stop by for lunch 16/10/2017
    • OK 16/10/2017
    • Ferry Building Marketplace
    Address:
    1 Ferry Building
    The Embarcadero at Market Street
    San Francisco, CA 94111-4209
    Phone:
    +1 415-693-0996
    Other:
  • Save
    Marrakech Magic Theater
    Performances, Comedy Clubs
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    A delightful experience for all ages, the Marrakech Magic Theater is a magic show like no other! Magician Peter Morrison delights the crowd with his family-friendly humor and amazing magic tricks. It's very interactive too, which the kids will surely love.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    Tips
    • Be sure to arrive early so you can enjoy the pre-show experience in the lounge. Peter will be there to meet and pose for photos before the show even starts!
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 58 Fun & Games in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A great show! 16/10/2017
    • Amazing 15/10/2017
    • Marrakech Magic Theater
    Address:
    419 Ofarrell St
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    Phone:
    +1 415-794-6893
    Price range:
    US$ 45 - US$ 45
    Hours:
    Thu - Sun
    17:30 - 22:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Alcatraz Island
    Historic Sites, Islands, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas
    See more photos
    Martha C Says:

    You can't really get much more iconic than this popular attraction in the San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz was once a working prison, and much of the structure is still very much intact. Expect a nice ferry ride and a few hours of exploring the buildings and paths on the island. The audio tour is top notch, and you and your family will leave feeling like you've gotten a personalized history lesson!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Alcatraz tickets sell out many weeks in advance, so plan accordingly. The night tours are amazing, and something great for the older kids to enjoy.
    • Be sure to bring warm layers, as it can get pretty chilly and windy on the ferry and the island.
    • There are no food vendors on the island, so bring along snacks if you have little ones. Eating is only permitted on the dock area.
    • If you do eat on the island, please refrain from feeding the birds. It is not healthy for them.
    Plan to stay:/
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 558 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Take the Night Tour! 17/10/2017
    • You can escape Alcatraz but you can't escape the Cormarant flies 17/10/2017
    • Alcatraz Island
    Address:
    Pier 33
    B201 Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94122
    Phone:
    +1 415-981-7625
    Other:
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