Fun Place To Go In San Francisco – San Francisco is one city that has seduced me for years – and while I didn’t really intend to wait until my daughter was born to visit California, it turns out to be a fantastic place to visit with the kids.
For starters, it has all the big attractions you might expect from a big city but it never feels as crowded or busy as some other cities in America. There’s lots of unique things to discover too, which is always a winner for my daughter – plus lots of open spaces, from parks to beaches… actually, there’s so much for me to do in San Francisco with the kids.
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If you’re spending longer than our few days it’s worth looking at the San Francisco CityPassor Go San Francisco Explorer Pass to help keep costs down although you don’t have to spend a fortune with some great free things to do in San Francisco among my picks for the best family.
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If San Francisco is your first stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, check out my 10-day itinerary for a California road trip with kids as well as things to do in Northern California with kids and some fun days from San Francisco. with kids
Wrapped in summer mist in an open-top fire truck, we crunch and zoom up and down the city’s famous hills, from Fisherman’s Wharf across the Golden Gate bridge to a viewpoint near Fort Baker on this vintage fire truck tour.
Many heads turned as our bright red vehicle drove by, which is definitely one of the most enjoyable ways to see some of the sights.
We had no more trouble seeing (and hearing… and smelling) a colony of California sea lions than staying at Pier 39.
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You might spend longer than you think watching them swim, sunbathe, and fight in the best spots on the pontoon – and the bonus San Francisco attraction is free.
While you’re by the coast, don’t miss getting out into the water on one of the San Francisco boat tours available.
Take a cruise on the San Francisco Bay for views of the skyline, bridges, and Alcatraz (
There are plenty of options, between about one and two hours at most including this Bridge to Bridge option, as well as longer cruises taking you out of town into Muir Woods.
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If you want to take a day trip from the city, try this tour to see Sausalito, Muir Woods, and the giant redwoods, with half or full day options
Better yet, take a cruise to Alcatrazitself to combine sightseeing with a visit to the island’s notorious prison.
Book early as tickets will be snapped up, but even the little ones will be enthralled by the notorious prison and there’s plenty of room to run around and cells to hide in.
Although Ocean Beach, on the west edge of town, isn’t great for swimming due to its strong currents, you can easily spend a few hours building sandcastles or flying a kite in the sea breeze.
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Head across the road from the beach, and you can see the windmills in Golden Gate Park, before taking a leisurely stroll under the trees.
Spanning 2.5 square miles, the windmill is also the park’s first attraction, but is fun to see with younger children.
Also in a park near the corner of Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way, the San Francisco botanical garden has more than 50,000 individual plants to admire across its 55 acres.
Visit on weekends, and there is an interpretation station with staff to explain more about the park, plus several family activities at different times of year.
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The Victorian-era greenhouse, another attraction in Golden Gate Park, has over 2,000 species of plants & flowers.
Or you can transport yourself to another world without leaving the garden, in a Japanese tea garden. This is a large park…
Stop for tea at the tea house, looking out over the pool, plus fortune cookies as you explore.
While you’re at the park, say hello to the American bison family who live in the buffalo pens.
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(Together… what’s the difference between buffalo and bison? You can’t wash your hands with buffalo).
They have lived here since 1890 when a pair was brought to the park, and today you can see the flock around John F Kennedy Drive in the northwest corner.
Click here to book tickets and tours for the best things to do in San Francisco with the kids Spot leopard
For more animals, spot endangered species like the snow leopard during a visit to the San Francisco Zoo– located just outside Lake Merced and along the ocean, it’s home to more than 2,000 animals, many of which have been rescued.
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From tiny insects to giraffes, no one will ever get bored for a day here, especially with the lions, bears and tigers on display.
Spotted several flocks of wild parrots living on Telegraph Hill, with Coit Tower nearby. Bright green with a bright red head, the cherry-headed conure has found the urban jungle to enjoy.
If you (or your kids) don’t fancy climbing up or down the steep Filbert stairs with the beautiful gardens surrounding it, you can also spot birds at Sue Bierman Park near the Ferry building.
If sea creatures are your favorite, then head to the Aquarium of the Bay, which has 20,0000 marine inhabitants.
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You can book a behind-the-scenes tour to learn how it was cared for, as well as explore the three main halls, interact with starfish in the interactive tide pool and see everything from river otters to sharks.
There’s also an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and 40,000 animals under one roof at the California Academy of Sciences– skip the lines with these tickets.
You can take a journey into space in the world’s largest all-digital planetarium or be reminded of some of the natural wonders on earth, from the African Penguin exhibit to the rainforest dome and 2.5 acres of living rooftop wildflowers.
Go and hear the Wave Organ at the marina – head outside the Golden Gate yacht club for great views, and maybe a small recital where the organ pipes turn the movement of the tides to music. Well, sounds.
Trip Idea: Take A Jimi Hendrix Inspired San Francisco Trip
The most unusual concert you’ll easily hear in town and completely kid-friendly – not to mention completely free if you’re visiting San Francisco on a budget.
To explore the rest of the city, take the 49 Mile city tour – you can download a map before your visit, and journey through some of San Francisco’s most famous attractions and most famous neighborhoods.
As well as taking you along the coast, you can drive through Golden Gate Park to Twin Peaks, the Mission District, Chinatown and Russian Hill, to name a few.
If you’d rather let someone else do all the hard work, join a Big Bus Tour around the city’s different neighborhoods.
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With 24 stops, you can hop on and off as you please, and there are options to upgrade your ticket to include a Sausalito trolley tour and a night tour, or the Big Bus Tour plus an Alcatraz visit.
Head to the top of Twin Peaks for panoramic views of the city. Unless you are super fit and your kids are up for the challenge, it’s better to drive than hike.
Rent a bicycle and cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge for another experience of this iconic landmark – there’s a mix of guided bike tours as well as opportunities to explore at your own pace.
If you’re visiting San Francisco with teenagers or older children, this two-day tour package will take you across the bridge by bicycle and includes admission to Alcatraz.
Indoor Activities In San Francisco
Taking (or walking) one of the trails at The Presidio – Battery Trail to the Bluffs is great if you’re visiting San Francisco with the kids.
It’s just under a mile long, short, not too challenging and with some amazing views across the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge.
For a longer trip, follow the trail from the Land’s End Lookout for the ruins of Sutro Baths, the labyrinth, and more stunning views of the coastline.
There is a five-mile version of the circular walk, although you can also opt for a shorter section to get the feel for it.
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Hop on one of the classic cable cars – the Powell-Hyde line is probably the best known, but the California Street line is the quietest if you want a skip-the-line experience.
You can also see the massive mechanism that keeps the city’s famous cable car in operation, with a visit to the free Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill.
There’s a collection of historic cable cars, which first operated in 1873, as well as a look at how technology has changed and efforts to save the city’s iconic transport.
Find the curves of Lombard Street, either by car or on foot (start at the top and work your way down).
Little Hiccups: Kid Friendly Fun In The Bay Area
The ‘Crookedest Street’, running between Hyde and Leavenworth is notoriously uneven
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