50 Fun Things For Families in San Francisco
If you’re traveling to San Francisco with kids in tow, then you’re in luck — there’s never been more fun things for families to do here. From arts and culture to outdoor adventures, no matter how your family likes to spend time together, San Francisco has you covered. Here are a few of our favorites (in no particular order) to jumpstart your trip.
Build at the Exploratorium
Build playful contraptions in the Exploratorium’s South Gallery, where exhibits are dedicated to the art of tinkering.
Ride Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Rent bikes and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge for unbeatable views and some fresh air.
Stroll Down Lombard Street
Take a stroll along the sharp, snaking turns of Lombard Street, a.k.a. “The Crookedest Street,” between Hyde and Leavenworth.
Enjoy a Cruise on the Bay
Enjoy a cruise on the San Francisco Bay for one-of-a-kind views of the city skyline, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
See Rare Species
See rare species like the snow leopard during a visit to the San Francisco Zoo.
Drop by the Buffalo
Speaking of animal sightings, drop by Golden Gate Park’s buffalo paddock to see the family of American bison who call the park home.
Construct a Sandcastle
Grab a bucket and tools and head to Ocean Beach to build a sandcastle. This three-and-a-half mile stretch along the western edge of the city isn’t great for swimming because of strong currents, but it’s a cool place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Pose for a Photo
Pose for a photo opp with San Francisco celebs like Janis Joplin and Steve Jobs at Madame Tussauds.
Hop on the Big Bus
For a taste of the city’s major attractions, neighborhoods and history, hop on a Big Bus Tour.
Go Behind the Scenes and Under the Bay
Traveling with a future marine biologist? Book a behind the scenes tour at the Aquarium of the Bay to learn about how they care for 20,000 sea creatures.
Drive to the Top
Drive to the top of Twin Peaks to enjoy panoramic views of the city. If you’re feeling particularly hardy, you can hike to the top instead.
Grab a Map and Explore
To explore the whole city, grab a map from the Visitor Information Center and go on the city’s signature 49 Mile Scenic Drive, which passes iconic landmarks, distinctive neighborhoods and some fantastic views.
Take Them Out to a Ballgame
Take them out to a ballgame. Buy them some peanuts and Cracker Jack. They won’t care if they ever go back home, and they’ll always remember seeing the Giants play at Oracle Park.
Look Inside a Cable Car
Get a first-hand look at the massive mechanisms that keep the city’s famous cable cars running when you drop by the Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill. Admission is free.
On a sunny day, set sail for fun on Stow Lake. You can rent paddleboats there.
Learn About Walt Disney
Before Disney was a household name, he was an upstart animator. Learn about his rise to celebrity and see some interesting ephemera at the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Remember the skinny guy with the red-and-white striped shirt. Some pundits on Russian Hill have taken liberty with the street signage on Russian Hill’s Waldo Street.
Explore California Academy of Sciences
There’s an aquarium, a planetarium, a rain forest and 40,000 live animals all under one living roof at the California Academy of Sciences.
Take a Spin
Take a spin on a colorful creature at Golden Gate Park’s historic carousel in the Koret’s Children’s Quarter. The merry-go-round was originally built in 1914.
Take a Walk
Take a walk (or a bike ride) on one of the trails at the Presidio. The Batteries to Bluffs trail is a favorite.
Hit the Trails
Start at the Land’s End Lookout and then hit the trails to see the ruins of the Sutro Baths, a labyrinth, and breathtaking views of the coastline.
Across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito is the Bay Area Discovery Museum, where science and creativity blend to create fun for kids and adults alike.
See historic fire engines and learn about the city’s tragic fire of 1906 at the San Francisco Fire Department Museum. Admission is free.
Find Out What's Inside a Fortune Cookie
Ever wonder how they get the fortunes inside fortune cookies? Find out with a trip to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown.
Play With Your Pocket Change
Figure out the most fun way to spend some pocket change at the Musée Mecanique, home to an amazing collection of early-20th century arcade games.
Ride Down the Slide
Ride down the winding chutes of the Seward Street Slides, a pair of concrete slides tucked away in a neighborhood park. Pro tip: Bring a piece of cardboard to use as a sled.
Get lost (but hopefully not for too long) in Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze on PIER 39.
Shop for some eclectic items at the 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store. They offer writing workshops for kids there, too, in case you’re traveling with young literati in tow.
Family Photo Time
There’s a great family photo opportunity waiting at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina neighborhood.
Find the Perfect View
Find a unique view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point, a 19th century fort that Hitchcock fans might recognize from Vertigo.
Take Time to Think
Have a deep thought while staring at a cast of Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker,” which sits at the main entrance to the Legion of Honor’s impressive art collection.
Enjoy the View
Enjoy sweeping views of the city skyline, stroll along nature trails and learn some interesting history on Angel Island, which was known as “Ellis Island of the West.”
Stand on Deck
Stand on the deck of a 19th century square-rigger ship at the Maritime National Historic Park. If you stop at the Pirate Supply Store beforehand (see #34), you’ll be ready for a great vacation photo. www.maritime.org
If you’re a fan of anime (fanime?) take a stroll through the Japantown nieghborhood and visit to Japan Center and Japantown Collectibles.
See some of the city’s most colorful murals on a walk down Balmy Alley in the Mission District.
Spot the Birds
Try to spot members of a flock of wild parrots who live on Telegraph Hill. Coit Tower is nearby.
Delve Into Science
Discovery Street Tours delves into the science of everyday life on strolls along hidden alleyways and scale hills to learn more about the city’s geology. www.discoverystreettours.com
Enjoy some local flavor at the Alemany Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Known as “the people’s market,” this Saturday tradition has been running since the 1940s.
Snap a Postcard
Snap a postcard-worthy photo of the famous Painted Ladies, a colorful row of Victorian houses along Alamo Square Park.
Head to the Forts
Head over to Fort Funston to see if there are any hang gliders floating out over the Pacific. Consider bringing a jacket, because it can be pretty windy.