Favorite Kid-Friendly Activities in San Francisco



Description:

Guide written by Suzanne Battat Dowling.

San Francisco is a dream destination for families. Within the city limits are a plethora of activities for every age group, from toddler to senior. There’s nature to stimulate the senses, museums to excite the mind, and a variety of ways to burn your kids boundless energy while piquing their curiosity.


Note: Be sure to read the Day Notes for the kid-friendly details on recommended attractions.

Ciao Bambino provides tips and advice around all things related to traveling with kids and is a guide to the best kid friendly hotels.

Author: Ciao Bambino!


Crissy Field

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Location:

Old Mason Street
off Marina Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94123

Contact:

tel: (415) 561-4700
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Fort Point National Historic Site

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Location:

Fort Point NHS Long Avenue and Presidio of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94129

Contact:

tel: (415) 556-1693 / (415) 556-0505
fax: (415) 561-4390
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Day 1 - San Francisco


Golden Gate Park

Few urban areas offer as large a green oasis as Golden Gate Park, which exceeds New York’s Central Park in size. There is so much to see and do here, that it may take you several days to visit all of the key attractions. Luckily, many are within walking distance of each other.

de Young Museum

Begin at the de Young Museum. This fine arts museum offers a variety of rotating and permanent exhibitions. However, the big attractions for your kids will be the free sculpture garden and the fantastic tower, which offers a 360-degree view of the city. To reach the tower, adults must pay admission, but children 12 and under are free. Please note that many Fridays throughout the year the museum offers a special themed evening program which includes family friendly musical performances and art activities for all. Galleries are open until 8:45pm, as is the restaurant and a no-host bar.

Japanese Tea Garden

From the De Young, travel next door to the Japanese tea garden where your kids will delight at the sight of large Koi and a near vertical bridge. Treat yourselves to a well-earned cocoa (or tea) and cookies at the teahouse.

California Academy of Sciences

Now that you’ve rested, cross the concourse to the California Academy of Sciences. This world-class science and nature museum boasts an aquarium, a live rainforest, a planetarium, a “living roof” and much, much, more. Your young paleontologist will love the Naturalist Center on the second floor, and if you are visiting on a Sunday, there is a craft activity for children 4-8 years old from 11-12:30pm. There are several dining options here. The museum has a small café in their first floor atrium, a much larger cafeteria located near the T-Rex, and the elegant Moss Room, which is on the lower level.

After the Academy, make your way to the Children’s Playground, thought to be the country’s first public playground. Your kids will enjoy the enormous play structures, a two-story cement slide and a 1914 renovated carrousel. Please note: if you have young children, please know that this is quite a large playground and it is not enclosed.

Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers is your last stop in the park. This beautiful Victorian greenhouse is the oldest public conservatory in the United States. Your children will love the tropical rooms, which transport them to a far away jungle. You will love the huge variety of beautiful and fragrant foliage. In addition to the permanent collection, there is also a special exhibit. Past themes have included meat-eating plants, living butterflies and “Edible Exhibitions.”

Dinner

At this point you will be famished and ready for dinner (or to simply collapse). Try one of these nearby kid-friendly restaurants:

Pacific Catch – 1200 9th Avenue, at Lincoln, across from Golden Gate Park. The restaurant offers a healthy kids menu and high chairs are available. The owners have young kids and are very welcoming to families.

Park Chow – 1240 9th Avenue, between Lincoln and Irving. There’s a child’s menu along with special kid “cocktails”. High chairs available upon request.

Crepevine - 624 Irving Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue. A Bay Area chain serving crepes, sandwiches, salads and a variety of brunch-style items. There is a kid’s menu for children under 12, however much of the menu is accessible to kids. High chairs and booster seats available.


1

Golden Gate Park

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expert pick

Location:

Stanyan & Fulton Sts
(Great Highway at Fulton St)
San Francisco, CA 94118

Contact:

tel: (415) 831-2700
fax: +1 415 581 2540
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2

de Young Museum

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Location:

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr
(Golden Gate Park)
San Francisco, CA 94118

Contact:

tel: (415) 863-3330
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3

Japanese Tea Garden

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Location:

At the corner of Tea Garden at Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Golden Gate Park)
San Francisco, CA 94117

Contact:

tel: (415) 752-4227
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4

California Academy of Sciences

user rating

Location:

55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94143

Contact:

tel: (415) 379-8000
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5

Conservatory of Flowers

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Location:

JFK Drive, Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94117

Contact:

tel: (415) 666-7001
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6

Pacific Catch - Sunset District

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Location:

1200 9th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94122

Contact:

tel: 4155046905
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7

Park Chow

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Location:

1238 9th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94122

Contact:

tel: (415) 665-9912
fax: +1 415 665 9914
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8

Crepevine

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Location:

624 Irving Street
(between Seventh and Eighth avenues)
San Francisco, CA 94121

Contact:

tel: (415) 681-5858
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Day 2 - San Francisco


San Francisco Zoo

It is not coincidence that both animals and kids are at their best in the morning. So head to the San Francisco Zoo to arrive by 10am when the gates first open. There is much to see here, but there are several special activities that are time specific, so I recommend the following route.

Begin your visit by stopping by the zoo shop just inside the gate. There you can arm yourself with a latte and, if needed, a wagon for your kids. The zoo is large so if you don’t have a stroller, you may want to consider this. Once you go past the ticket taker, veer left and head to the children’s zoo for the 10:30am feeding at the Family Farm. Once you’ve completed the children’s zoo, back track to the fantastic African Savanna exhibit, adjacent to the Gorillas and Lemurs. Other highlights include the grizzly bears, the penguins that are fed at 2:30, and the large cats. And if the animals don’t provide enough stimulation for your little ones, there’s also a carrousel and the Little Puffer, a century-old, miniature steam train. If you are still onsite in the late afternoon, visit the giraffe barn at 3:45 to witness their feeding.

Dining options in the zoo are limited. There are several cafeteria-style restaurants (although only one with indoor seating) and the food is typical amusement park fare. Locals often bring their own lunch and snacks.

Fort Funston

After several hours of observing the animals, return to your car and head South on the Great Highway until it turns into Skyline Blvd. Look for the sign for Fort Funston, part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. This park has several nature trails, although the ones to the beach can be steep in places. However the highlight here is watching the hang gliders ride the thermals alongside these dramatic cliffs. Please note: this is an off-leash park with many dogs of all sizes. Keep small children nearby.

Park Chalet

Cap your day with a drink or meal at the Park Chalet at the foot of Golden Gate Park. This family friendly establishment often has live music in the summer and is one of the few restaurants in town offering outdoor seating.

Park Chalet is located behind the Beach Chalet, at 1000 Great Highway, at Ocean Beach. Kids menu and high chairs are available.


1

San Francisco Zoo (& Children's Zoo)

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Location:

1 Zoo Rd
(Sloat St & 45th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94116

Contact:

tel: (415) 753-7080
fax: (415) 681-2039
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2

Fort Funston

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Location:

Skyline Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132

Contact:

visit website


3

Park Chalet

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Location:

1000 Great Hwy.
Ocean Beach
San Francisco, CA 94121

Contact:

tel: 4153868439
fax: +1 415 386 4125
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Day 3 - San Francisco


Today it is time to venture beyond the city limits. So hop in your car and drive across the famous Golden Gate Bridge where you will find two wonderful kid-friendly attractions: The Bay Area Discovery Museum, and the Marin Headlands.

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Considered one of the best children’s museums in the country, the Bay Area Discovery Museum offers activities for children, from crawlers to kids age eight. The indoor exhibits include a train area, a room that explores the sea, a “Tot Spot”, an art building and rotating special exhibits. The outdoor play area offers plenty of opportunity for children to climb, dig, build and explore. When the kids get hungry, head for the onsite café, serving organic fare, both hot and cold.

Marin Headlands

Across Highway 101, you will find the Marin Headlands, part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Begin your visit at the Marine Mammal Center at 2000 Bunker Rd. This newly renovated facility tends to sick and injured marine mammals of all types. Visitors can take a self-guided tour and docents are on hand to answer questions on weekends and holidays. Please note: there is a lab where deceased animals are dissected. Although you cannot walk inside, there is a large window and you may not want your young child to see this part of the tour.

From the Mammal Center, drive down to Cronkite Beach, home to the Rodeo Lagoon. You can circumnavigate the lagoon via an easy path where you may see heron, egrets, pelicans, ducks and the like. Learn more at the nearby visitors center located in the former chapel (look for the red spire above the lagoon).

We end our visit with an exciting hike to Point Bonita Lighthouse. Built in 1877, the lighthouse lamp was designed to help guide ships through the foggy Golden Gate. The trail is a half miles path that winds along the rocky cliffs, ending dramatically at a narrow suspension bridge, high above the wild Pacific. Please note: The tunnel connecting the path to the suspension bridge is only open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, 12:30-3:30pm.


1

Golden Gate Bridge

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expert pick

Location:

Lincoln Blvd & Hwy 1
Hwy. 101 N
San Francisco, CA 94129

Contact:

tel: (415) 921-5858
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Day 4 - San Francisco, Sausalito


Alcatraz, The Ferry Building, Sausalito and The Exploratorium

Alcatraz

It would be a shame to come to San Francisco and miss out on seeing this beautiful city from the water. There are many tourist boats that operate from Fisherman’s Warf, including the worthwhile trip to Alcatraz. However, if you’re kids are too young to appreciate the famous island jail, consider taking Golden Gate Ferry round trip from San Francisco’s Ferry Building to Sausalito.

The Ferry Building

The Ferry Building is a large gourmet marketplace, which hosts a hopping Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

Sausalito

Sausalito is a charming nearby village with a European flair and lots of shops and restaurants. Obviously the best part for the kids is the boat ride, which is doubly enjoyed if you pick up some pastries at the marketplace before departing.

The Exploratorium

Upon returning to the City, head west to the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts, home of the Exploratorium – a hands-on science museum. If your kids are at least 7 years of age, reserve tickets for the museum’s Tactile Dome, an enclosed maze-like space that is completely dark, making your sense of touch your only guide. Please note: advance reservations are required for the tactile dome and can be made by calling the museum at (415) 561-0362.

For nourishment, make your way to nearby Chestnut Street, home to a variety of kid-friendly restaurants. My boys’ favorites include:

Squat and Gobble - 2263 Chestnut
@ Scott & Pierce. This family-oriented restaurant serves a range of dishes from salads and pastas to crepes and omelets. There is an extensive children’s menu with standard kid-fare. High chairs are available.

Johnny Rockets – 2201 Chestnut Street, at Pierce. Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s hard not to like a place with jukeboxes at the table and a root beer float on the menu.

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers – 3344 Steiner Street, at Chestnut. Don’t let the name put you off. There is plenty here for the health-conscious diner, including over a dozen salads large enough to feed two. Burgers can be made from turkey or chicken and even the beef is all-natural free-range Niman Ranch ground chuck. Needless to say, there’s a kids menu and highchairs available.


1

Alcatraz Island

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Location:

Embarcadero and Powell St
(Pier 39)
San Francisco, CA 94133

Contact:

tel: (415) 705-5555
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2

Ferry Building Marketplace & Farmer's Market

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expert pick

Location:

Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Contact:

tel: (415) 693-0996
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3

Sausalito

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Location:

Sausalito
Sausalito, CA 94956

Contact:

visit website


4

The Exploratorium

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expert pick

Location:

3601 Lyon Street
In the Palace of Fine Arts (at Marina Blvd.)
San Francisco, CA 94123

Contact:

tel: (415) 561-0360 / (415) 397-5673
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5

Squat and Gobble (Marina)

user rating

Location:

2263 Chestnut St
(between Avila St & Scott St)
San Francisco, CA 94123

Contact:

tel: (415) 441-2200
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6

Johnny Rocket's

user rating

Location:

2201 Chestnut St
San Francisco, CA 94123

Contact:

tel: (415) 931-6258
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7

Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers

user rating

Location:

3344 Steiner St
Between Chestnut and Lombard sts
San Francisco, CA 94123

Contact:

tel: 415/563-0307
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