Traveling with kids always brings a unique and enjoyable holiday experience. You can’t help but wonder if there are any other “must-see” or “must-do” activities to keep them happy and engaged. Well, worry no more about your family holiday in San Francisco, as we have curated a list of exciting options for you to choose from. Spend less time searching and more time cherishing these memorable moments with your little ones.
Drawing inspiration from our past articles, such as “Things to do with kids in Madrid – Spain Holiday” and “Walt Disney World Family Holiday and Vacation, Orlando,” we have carefully crafted a selection of activities that will spark joy and create lasting memories during your next family vacation. So, get ready to embark on an adventure filled with fun and laughter in San Francisco!
Golden Gate Park;
Golden Gate Park is an oasis of outdoor entertainment that has been thriving for over 200 years. A single day is barely sufficient to fully explore this vast park, which is even larger than New York’s Central Park. Spanning 1,017 acres, Golden Gate Park offers a plethora of attractions for visitors of all ages. From tranquil picnic groves and expansive meadows to serene lakes and captivating rose gardens, there is no shortage of natural beauty to behold. Additionally, the park boasts an arboretum, a rhododendron dell, scenic trails, a children’s playground, and even a buffalo paddock. Monuments and landmarks are scattered throughout, and visitors can marvel at the impressive tallest artificial waterfall in the West. Furthermore, Golden Gate Park hosts a variety of cultural venues, events, and activities to cater to diverse interests. One such area is the Music Concourse, a beautifully landscaped basin nestled between the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum. Throughout the fall, spring, and summer seasons, this space comes alive with numerous music performances, providing delightful experiences for park-goers.
Japanese Tea Garden;
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California, has been a beloved and historically significant attraction since its establishment in 1894 during the California Midwinter International Exposition. Located in Golden Gate Park, this meticulously crafted garden embodies traditional Japanese aesthetics with its carefully pruned trees, moss-covered hills, meticulously raked gravel, and serene water features. Its harmonious arrangement creates a balanced environment that offers visitors a sense of peace and tranquility.
One of the garden’s highlights is its enchanting koi pond, which is home to vibrant and graceful koi fish. Surrounding the pond, lush foliage and ornamental bridges create a picturesque setting for visitors to enjoy.
Throughout the year, the garden showcases the changing seasons with a variety of blooming plants and flowers. Visitors can witness the captivating beauty of cherry blossoms in spring, vibrant azaleas in summer, and colorful maple leaves in fall, among other seasonal delights. Each visit promises a unique and captivating experience.
In addition to exploring the garden’s landscapes, visitors have the opportunity to take part in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. These ceremonies provide a cultural experience where participants can observe the art of tea preparation and enjoy a cup of matcha tea while immersing themselves in the peaceful surroundings.
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco has become an iconic destination for both locals and tourists, offering a serene escape from the bustling city. It allows visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty and tranquility of Japanese garden design while experiencing a taste of Japanese culture.
Golden Gate Park boasts a multitude of attractions, including the renowned Japanese Tea Garden. Visitors can also explore the Botanical Garden and San Francisco Rose Garden, both showcasing a diverse array of plants and flowers, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts.
Picnics and Lakes:
For those looking to enjoy a leisurely day outdoors with loved ones, the park offers designated picnic areas where visitors can relax and take in the beautiful surroundings. Additionally, the park’s charming lakes provide an opportunity to rent paddleboats or rowboats, allowing for a serene exploration of the scenic landscapes.
Families with children will find the park’s playgrounds a delightful treat. With swings, slides, and climbing structures set amidst stunning landscapes, kids can have a blast while parents enjoy quality time together in this idyllic setting.
Koret Children’s Quarter playground,
The Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park is indeed a popular and historic playground in San Francisco. It has been enjoyed by families and children for over a century. The playground owes its name to Joseph and Clara Koret, philanthropists who played a significant role in renovating and improving the area during the 1980s.
Covering approximately 10 acres, the Koret Children’s Quarter offers a diverse range of play structures and activities designed to cater to children of all ages. The playground’s scenic surroundings and well-maintained landscaping contribute to its charm and attractiveness.
Being located in Golden Gate Park, the Koret Children’s Quarter benefits from its proximity to other notable attractions within the park. Visitors can easily combine a trip to the playground with visits to nearby attractions like the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. This makes it a convenient and enjoyable destination for families and tourists looking to explore Golden Gate Park.
The park’s carousel offers a nostalgic experience for visitors of all ages, featuring beautifully handcrafted animal figures that add to the park’s charm.
Golden Gate Park is a haven for cycling enthusiasts, offering bike rentals to explore its vast network of paths and trails. Embracing a diverse range of attractions, the park caters to varied interests, guaranteeing an exciting experience for all. Nature lovers, science enthusiasts, and those seeking relaxation amidst breathtaking surroundings will find Golden Gate Park a delightful and fulfilling destination. With its extensive array of offerings, visitors are sure to have a memorable time exploring its wonders and engaging in outdoor activities.
Conservatory of Flowers;
the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. If you and your children love flowers and plants sure you’ll enjoy the Conservatory of Flowers as it houses some 1,700 species.
California Academy of Sciences;
Located in the bustling Pier 39 area of Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is a renowned museum that has captured the hearts of families visiting San Francisco, especially those with children. Since its inception in 1853 as a scholarly society, the museum has flourished into a vast natural history institution, spanning four captivating stories. Recognized globally, it stands as one of the largest and most comprehensive museums dedicated to the wonders of nature. The Academy’s core mission revolves around educating young minds, providing them with enriching experiences and deeper insights into the captivating worlds of flora and fauna. By promoting exploration and fostering a sense of responsibility towards the preservation of life on our extraordinary planet, Earth, the museum continues to inspire and captivate visitors of all ages.
Sea Lions at Pier 39;
That’s a great description of Pier 39 and its famous sea lions! Pier 39 truly is a popular destination for both locals and tourists in San Francisco. The presence of these playful marine mammals adds to the unique charm of the pier.
It’s worth noting that while sea lions typically arrive at Pier 39 in large numbers from January to around July, their exact schedule can vary each year. Factors such as food availability and weather conditions can influence their behavior and migration patterns. Therefore, checking for the latest updates or contacting the pier directly can help ensure that you’ll get to see the sea lions during your visit.
Apart from observing the sea lions, Pier 39 offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. The variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options make it an ideal place to spend a day exploring. The vibrant atmosphere, combined with the scenic views of the San Francisco Bay, creates a memorable experience for families and individuals alike.
Thanks for sharing this information about Pier 39 and the sea lions. It’s indeed a wonderful place to visit and appreciate these fascinating marine creatures.
The Exploratorium at Pier 15;
The Exploratorium, situated at Pier 15, is widely recognized as a paramount science museum and a captivating hub for educational exploration. It presents an array of interactive exhibits, enabling children to delve into a multitude of captivating subjects encompassing science, art, and the fascinating realm of human perception. The museum boasts a vast collection of hands-on displays, offering visitors of all ages the opportunity to actively engage with scientific concepts and immerse themselves in outdoor installations. This blend of education and entertainment makes the Exploratorium an esteemed choice for families and individuals seeking a captivating science-focused experience.
Angel Island “Ellis Island of the West” at Pier 41;
Situated at Pier 41 in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island is often referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West” due to its historical significance and role as an immigration station. This natural island is the largest in the bay and attracts visitors with its combination of outdoor activities and historical sites.
Angel Island State Park is a major attraction on the island, accessible via a ferry ride from Pier 41. Once there, visitors can partake in various activities such as hiking, picnicking, and enjoying the breathtaking panoramic views of San Francisco. With its extensive network of hiking trails, the island provides ample opportunities to explore its natural beauty and encounter diverse wildlife.
Families seeking entertainment can take advantage of bike rentals available on Angel Island. Children can delight in biking around the island while taking in the scenic surroundings. Additionally, the island boasts lovely beaches where visitors can unwind and bask in the sun.
For those interested in delving into the island’s history, tram tours are available, offering insights into its past. Angel Island played a crucial role as an immigration station between 1910 and 1940, processing and detaining thousands of immigrants primarily from Asia. Moreover, the island served as a military installation during different periods in American history.
Overall, Angel Island provides a full-day experience suitable for visitors of all ages. It combines outdoor activities, picturesque landscapes, and historical significance, solidifying its reputation as a sought-after destination in the San Francisco Bay area.
The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens;
Nestled alongside the picturesque Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is a top-notch destination for families with children in Northern California. Regarded as the largest zoological park in the region, it boasts a vast collection of over 1,000 different animal species, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.
The San Francisco Zoo offers visitors an enchanting experience, where animals are housed in naturalistic environments, providing an immersive and authentic setting. Notable attractions include the awe-inspiring Sumatran tigers, the captivating Penguin Island, the spellbinding Gorilla World, the expansive African Savanna, the delightful Prairie Dogs, and a plethora of other rare and intriguing creatures. These exhibits not only entertain but also serve as educational opportunities for children, with interactive displays, animal encounters, and daily feeding demonstrations.
In addition to its remarkable animal displays, the zoo provides an array of engaging activities designed specifically for children. Young visitors can explore diverse animal exhibits, encounter various species up close, and participate in animal-themed activities. This combination of entertainment and education ensures that children have a blast while expanding their knowledge about wildlife and conservation.
All in all, the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is an exceptional choice for families seeking adventure and learning. Whether it’s marveling at animals from around the world or immersing oneself in the wonders of the natural world, a visit to this renowned zoo guarantees a memorable experience for the whole family.
The San Francisco Giants;
If you’re looking for an exciting activity to engage your kids, attending a San Francisco Giants game is a must. Watching the ball in action and trying to secure player autographs would be a fantastic idea. Opt for seats close to the field or positioned right behind the bleachers, where all the fun kids’ activities are located. Make the most of your time and have a wonderful experience.
The Cable Cars ;
A Fun and Iconic Experience in San Francisco. A ride on the cable cars in San Francisco is a must-do activity for both children and adults. These charming cable cars, which have been running since the late 1800s, are not only a fun way to explore the city but also a part of its rich history. Here are some important details to know before hopping on a cable car:
History: San Francisco’s cable car system is the last manually operated system in the world and is considered a National Historic Landmark. It has been delighting locals and visitors alike for over a century.
Routes: There are three cable car routes in San Francisco: Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines are particularly popular among tourists as they pass through iconic areas like Union Square, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The California Street line offers a scenic route through the Financial District and Nob Hill.
Fares and Tickets: The fares for a cable car ride are $8 for adults and $4 for children (5-17 years old) and seniors (65+). You can purchase tickets from the conductor on board or at ticket booths located at the cable car turnaround points. Another option is to use a Clipper card, a reloadable card used for public transportation in the Bay Area.
Waiting for a Ride: Cable cars can get crowded, especially during peak hours and weekends. To ensure you get a spot, it’s advisable to arrive early. Look for the cable car turntables at the end of each line, where you’ll find queues for boarding.
Riding Experience: Cable cars offer open-air seating on the outside and indoor seating. The conductor often rings the bell to signal stops and alert pedestrians. Hold on tight as the cable car goes up and down the city’s steep hills, and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way.
Popular Stops: Some popular stops along the cable car routes include Union Square, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, and the Cable Car Museum. These stops not only offer great photo opportunities but also provide access to popular attractions, shops, and restaurants.
Timing and Schedule: Cable cars operate daily from early morning until late at night, with more frequent service during peak hours. However, it’s always a good idea to check the official San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) website for the most up-to-date information on schedules.
Riding a cable car in San Francisco is not just a convenient mode of transportation but also a memorable experience that allows you to appreciate the city’s beauty and immerse yourself in its rich history. So don’t miss out on this iconic San Francisco adventure!
The Asian Art Museum;
The Asian Art Museum is indeed a remarkable institution that offers a wide range of experiences and resources for individuals of all ages and interests. Its collection spans various Asian art forms and periods, allowing visitors to explore and appreciate the rich artistic traditions of Asia.
One of the museum’s standout features is its temporary exhibitions. These exhibitions showcase rare and significant artworks from different Asian cultures, providing visitors with the chance to delve deeper into specific artistic traditions and themes. By regularly changing these exhibitions, the museum ensures that there is always something new and intriguing for visitors to discover, encouraging repeated visits and continued learning.
The museum also places a strong emphasis on catering to families and children. Interactive workshops, films, and performances are designed to bring the artworks to life and create engaging and educational experiences for young visitors. These activities enable children to actively participate and learn about Asian art in a fun and accessible manner, fostering a lifelong appreciation for different cultures.
For educators, the museum offers valuable resources and professional development opportunities. Teachers can access a variety of resources such as lesson plans, videos, and online exhibitions to supplement their classroom teaching and enhance their students’ understanding of Asian art and culture. The museum also organizes workshops and training sessions to empower educators with the knowledge and tools to effectively teach Asian art, promoting cultural awareness and understanding among students.
Beyond its educational offerings, the Asian Art Museum serves as a vibrant community center. Festivals, performances, and lectures are held throughout the year, providing visitors with opportunities to engage with Asian culture in a lively and interactive way. These events foster a sense of community and promote cross-cultural understanding, further enriching the museum experience.
In summary, the Asian Art Museum offers a captivating and comprehensive experience for individuals and families interested in Asian art and culture. Its diverse collection, engaging programs, and vibrant events make it an ideal destination for art enthusiasts, educators, and anyone seeking to expand their knowledge and appreciation of Asia’s artistic traditions. The museum’s commitment to accessibility, education, and community engagement sets it apart as a valuable resource for cultural exploration and cross-cultural understanding.
De Young Museum;
The De Young Museum, an esteemed cultural institution in San Francisco, has a rich history dating back to 1895. While originally housed in a different building, the current De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park opened to the public in October 2005.
Known for its diverse collection, the De Young Museum proudly displays artwork from various parts of the world. Its collection includes American paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and a wide array of cultural and historical artifacts. Notably, the museum boasts an extensive collection of American art spanning centuries, ranging from the 17th century to contemporary works. This collection features pieces by influential American artists from movements like the Hudson River School, the Ashcan School, and contemporary art.
Within the museum’s premises, visitors can explore a captivating public sculpture garden, showcasing a variety of sculptures and installations. However, there is no designated children’s garden at the museum.
Alongside its permanent collection, the De Young Museum regularly hosts dynamic temporary exhibitions that encompass a wide range of artistic styles, historical periods, and thematic focuses. These exhibitions consistently draw visitors from around the world, offering an immersive and thought-provoking artistic experience.
Overall, the De Young Museum serves as a vital cultural center in San Francisco, providing visitors with a wealth of artistic treasures and an engaging environment through its diverse collection and ever-changing exhibitions.
Children’s Creativity Museum
Located in the beautiful Yerba Buena Gardens, the Children’s Creativity Museum is a dynamic and engaging interactive museum that invites children to unleash their creativity. This vibrant space offers a diverse range of exhibits and activities designed to ignite imagination and facilitate self-expression. By seamlessly blending art, technology, and music, the museum creates an immersive environment where children can embark on exciting and educational adventures.
At the Children’s Creativity Museum, hands-on exploration and imaginative play are the cornerstones of the experience. Through carefully curated exhibits, children are encouraged to delve into various artistic and technological mediums, nurturing their skills and unlocking their potential. By actively participating in interactive displays, workshops, and programs, young visitors are inspired to cultivate a lifelong passion for creativity and innovation.
The museum’s mission is to empower young minds, providing them with the tools and opportunities to discover and develop their artistic and technological abilities. By fostering a love for self-expression and a sense of wonder, the Children’s Creativity Museum aims to cultivate a new generation of innovative thinkers and problem solvers.
The Randall Museum is a kid-friendly museum in the heart of San Francisco. They have a handful of animals that live in the city including a Brown Pelican, a Gopher Snake and Honey Bees. They also have several other hands on exhibits including Riding the Rails, the Tree House Toddler Exploration Zone and the Creativity & Discovery Hand in Hand area. They just recently updated this wonderful kids’ museum, so there is more space to run around and check out their interactive exhibits. The Randall Museum is free and at 199 Museum Way. Before or after your visit here, you can also check out the climb to the top of Corona Heights. Here you will find wonderful, unobstructed views around part of the SF Bay, including downtown.
Embark on a captivating journey through time as you delve into the intriguing past and enigmatic allure of Alcatraz Island, a renowned former prison. Create lasting memories with your older children by securing your tickets ahead of time and immersing yourselves in a remarkable visit.
Experience a wealth of outdoor activities at The Presidio, a national park that was once a military base. Delight in hiking trails, picturesque picnic areas, and immerse yourself in the Presidio Visitor Center for an unforgettable adventure in nature.
Crissy Field is a beautiful recreational area located near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. It offers a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Families often frequent the area to have picnics, fly kites, or take leisurely walks along the waterfront.
With its expansive grassy fields and scenic views of the bay, Crissy Field provides an ideal setting for a picnic. Visitors can bring their own food and beverages and find a cozy spot to relax and enjoy a meal while taking in the stunning surroundings.
Flying kites is another popular activity at Crissy Field. The open space and steady winds make it an excellent location for kite enthusiasts of all ages. You can bring your own kite or purchase one from nearby stores. Watching colorful kites soar in the sky against the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge is a memorable experience.
For those who prefer a leisurely walk, Crissy Field offers a scenic waterfront promenade. The pathway stretches along the shoreline and provides beautiful views of the bay, Alcatraz Island, and the bridge. You can take a leisurely stroll, jog, or even ride a bike along this picturesque route.
Additionally, Crissy Field is known for its windsurfing activities. The strong winds and calm waters of the bay create perfect conditions for windsurfers to enjoy their sport. If you’re interested in windsurfing, you can observe the skilled windsurfers gliding through the water or even try it out for yourself if you have the necessary equipment and expertise.
Overall, Crissy Field is a fantastic destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking to spend a day enjoying nature. Its proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge and the stunning views it offers make it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park:
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is a captivating park situated in San Francisco, California, in the United States. It serves as a preserver and exhibitor of the maritime history prevalent in the San Francisco Bay Area. The park is under the management of the National Park Service and offers an array of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy.
For those who relish outdoor pursuits, the park provides opportunities for picnicking, leisurely strolls along the waterfront, and captivating scenic boat tours around the bay. Additionally, it serves as a starting point for the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Trail, which presents a picturesque hike along the coastline.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park proves to be an enthralling destination for history and maritime enthusiasts alike, as well as anyone intrigued by delving into San Francisco’s profound maritime heritage. By offering a distinctive and immersive experience, it sheds light on the city’s deep-rooted connection with the sea and the pivotal role it played in shaping its development.
Yerba Buena Gardens:
situated in the heart of San Francisco, California, is a renowned urban park cherished for its diverse range of attractions and activities. With its blend of natural beauty, recreational amenities, and cultural highlights, the park offers an ideal destination for visitors of all ages. Whether you seek quality time with loved ones, outdoor enjoyment, or engaging activities, Yerba Buena Gardens promises an exceptional experience. Furthermore, the park regularly hosts family-friendly events at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, such as theater performances, workshops, and festivals, ensuring a constant stream of exciting opportunities to partake in.
Tilden Miniature Railway:
If you happen to be in Berkeley, just outside of San Francisco, make sure to include a visit to the Tilden Miniature Railway. This charming steam train ride is perfect for young train enthusiasts and promises to bring joy and excitement.
For those interested in delving into the life and accomplishments of Walt Disney, a trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio is a must. This captivating museum offers a comprehensive insight into the extraordinary legacy of Walt Disney.
On days with pleasant weather, consider planning a beach day in San Francisco. There are several family-friendly beaches to choose from, such as Crissy Field and Baker Beach. Take advantage of the beautiful surroundings, soak up the sun, build sandcastles, and create cherished memories.
A historic submarine from World War II, the USS Pampanito is situated at Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf. It provides guests with a singular chance to experience life on a submarine as a floating museum. Explore the main console inside, which was previously the control center for the ship’s navigators. Check out the crew’s living spaces to see where they ate and unwinded while at sea. The fact that it guarantees to keep everyone entertained for at least an hour or two makes it a terrific activity for families traveling to San Francisco.
Muir Woods is definitely one of my favorite destinations to visit. The sheer size of the Coastal Redwood trees is truly awe-inspiring. It’s not just a great spot for nature lovers, but also perfect for families as there are plenty of educational resources available in the popular areas. Moreover, if you’re up for a longer hike, you can explore the less crowded parts of the woods.
It’s important to note that children under 15 can enter for free, but it’s crucial to make reservations whether you plan to visit by car or shuttle. To make it easier for you, I have provided information on how you can book your spot on my page.
For a more convenient experience, you might want to consider joining a guided tour. They will handle transportation and drop you off at the entrance, alleviating any worries about parking in advance. Some of these tours even include a trip to Sausalito, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to your visit.
Playground at Dolores Park
If you’re searching for a fantastic location for your kids to have fun, don’t overlook the freshly added playground at Dolores Park in the Mission Dolores neighborhood. With swings, slides, and climbing structures, the playground provides plenty of room for playing and running around.
Dolores Park is more than its playground, though. Also ideal for a picnic with the family. Due to its vast layout and breathtaking views of downtown San Francisco, the park is a favorite among the inhabitants. It’s fun and a wonderful opportunity to introduce your kids to San Francisco’s splendor to spend time here. Make sure to stop by this well-known park in the Mission Dolores neighborhood.
Cruise Around the SF Bay
Experience the beauty of the San Francisco Bay with a 60-minute cruise that takes you under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge not just once, but twice! Departing multiple times a day, this popular tour offers breathtaking views of the city skyline and a unique perspective of Alcatraz Island from the water. Discover fascinating stories about the prisoners who were once confined within its walls. Whether you’re traveling with family or friends, this cruise promises an unforgettable experience for all. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to explore the stunning sights of the SF Bay.
The Lincoln Park Steps.
Miraloma Mosaic Stairs
Stairways Around San Francisco
One enjoyable activity to do in San Francisco with children is exploring the city’s vibrant stairways. These can be found throughout the city and provide a fun opportunity to burn off some energy. Among the most popular stairways are the mosaic stairs, such as the 16th Avenue and Hidden Garden Stairs. If you’re planning to visit Coit Tower, you can also climb either the Filbert Street Stairs or the Greenwich Stairs to reach the top. Additionally, there are other intriguing stairways located in various top districts of SF and near some of its finest attractions.
Just a few of San Francisco’s many family-friendly attractions are listed above. Every family may find something to enjoy in the city thanks to its wide variety of activities.
With a wealth of family-friendly activities suitable for kids of all ages, San Francisco is the perfect vacation spot for families. Get ready for an incredible trip as you and your kids explore this city’s wonders! Here are just a few of the numerous possibilities that are offered.