San Francisco is considered to be one of the most fantastic places to visit in the United States, if not the world. It’s a town that I am proud to call my home. I’m a second generation San Franciscan and I could not imagine living anywhere else. The city has it all: culture, museums, epic views, beautiful building, and a delicious array of restaurants. But that’s not all it has, it’s also an amazing place for kids. If you are planning on visiting San Francisco with your family, here are nine suggestions of things that not only they will enjoy, but you’ll love too. Check out our top 9 things to do in San Francisco – Family Edition – right here:
Alcatraz Island 1 of 9
No one wants to see their child in prison, but Alcatraz is an exception. The infamous former prison sits atop Alcatraz Island in middle of the San Francisco Bay and it's an amazing place to take kids not just for it's beauty but for the educational value. The island was also a detention camp for political prisoners during the Civil War, an Army prison, and finally a federal prison (when it came to national fame). But it's not just the destination that is worth the trip, it is the journey. To get to the island you take a bay cruise ship and it's a stunning and beautiful voyage to "The Rock."
Photo Source: Alcatraz
The Ferry Building 2 of 9
San Francisco's Ferry Building isn't just a transit hub for the Bay's many ferries, but it has been transformed into a gorgeous and vibrant tribute to food. Inside the building houses a marketplace where there are oodles of restaurants, various purveyors, and twice a week it houses a farmer's market around the outside of the building. The best time to take the kids is during one of the farmer's markets days on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Then you can stroll through the stands, nibble on samples, listen to the entertainers who come out, and at the end treat yourself to one of the many delicious desserts from hand-crafted chocolates, to gelato to baked treats from Miette.
Photo Source: San Francisco's Ferry Building
The Mission 3 of 9
While the Mission district isn't usually the top item on the San Francisco tour, it's a great place for families to visit. It's hip, happening and very kid friendly.
A couple places that are musts are the Pirate Store at Dave Egger's 826 Valencia (make sure to have the kid's barter for a gem from the sand pit). The beautiful shop Paxton Gate's Curiosities for Kids (with a grown up version next to the pirate store). Have lunch at one of the fabulous eateries nearby (one of our family favorites is the kid-friendly Tacolicious). And then head over to Bi-Rite Creamery and get a scoop of salted caramel, an ice cream sundae or a creamy and smooth soft serve. Then head over to Dolores Park, across the street, and sit in the sun or take the kids to the epically cool and brand new playground on the south side of the park.
Photo Source: Bi-Rite Creamery
Crissy Field 4 of 9
One of my favorite spots in all of San Francisco is Crissy Field. This area, which was once a military landing stripe, has been redone to be a beautiful open space with lots of family activities strewn about. You can take the kids to climb the walls at the massive indoor climbing wall at Planet Granite. Or you can take your kids for an afternoon round of jumping at the huge indoor trampoline park House of Air. Or you can just go for an afternoon bike ride down the Bay's coast by renting bikes for the whole family from one of the many local bike rental places. Then walk (or ride) on down to the Warming Hut for a snack and mozy on over to the historical Fort Point which is positioned directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. While you journey from the Warming Hut to Fort Point, note the rocky area to your right. That is where Kim Novak dove into the bay in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Vertigo.
Photo Source: Crissy Field
Academy of Sciences 5 of 9
The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park isn't just fun, it isn't just fascinating, but every single time we go there we learn something. There is so much to see and do there; from the state of the art Planetarium to the four story indoor rainforest to the enormous aquarium to their natural history museum. But beyond the all the learnin' there is some great eatin' to be done! The Academy's restaurant the Moss Room is a lovely escape as well as their cafeteria that offers foods of all different nationalities from pork buns to burritos. After you've explored the Academy and find you need a little pick-me-up, head over to the mobile ice cream truck called Twirl and Dip to the west of the Academy for an organic soft serve ice cream cone (and we always get ours dipped in the organic fair trade chocolate from Tcho with a sprinkle of sea salt on top). A perfect ending to a perfect adventure.
Photo Source: California Academy of Sciences
Friday Nights at the DeYoung 6 of 9
It used to be Friday nights were meant for bar hopping and parties, but once you become a parent, Friday nights mean something totally different. But that doesn't mean Friday nights can't be totally amazing. One of our favorite things to do is to go to the DeYoung Museum on Friday nights for their family friendly events. During the year, the museum offers free events in their massive lobby where culture, art and families collide in a chaos of fun and festivity. There is always a musical act sometimes accompanied by dancers, no-host bars so mom and dad can get a cocktail, and the always popular craft table where kids can make a creation that relates to the theme of the exhibits currently on display at the museum. It really puts those party Friday night's of yore to shame.
Photo Source: DeYoung Museum
Musee Mecanique 7 of 9
MusÃ©e MÃ©canique - San Francisco's Antique Penny Arcade is a must see experience. Located in Fisherman's Wharf, which is often completely overrun with tourists, the MusÃ©e MÃ©canique is a great place for kids to play antique arcade games and vintage curiosities. There are some truly bizarre and odd games which will totally amuse your kids, who may not know that anything like this existed before the Sony Playstation or X-Box. It is a trip back in time for sure!
Photo Source: MusÃ©e MÃ©canique
The Exploratorium 8 of 9
After thirty plus years, the Exploritorium has moved to a brand new bay front location just this past April. If you've never heard of the Exploritorium it is a "hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco." There are experiments, a massive "tinker" area, things to play with, fiddle with and most of all learn with. It is a San Francisco institution and a big part of the San Francisco kid experience. If you go there, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. It's easy to walk in but sometimes extremely difficult to get your kids to leave, it's that fun.
Photo Source: The Exploritorium
The Walt Disney Museum 9 of 9
When you think of San Francisco, you probably don't think Disney. But we have an truly awe-inspiring tribute to the man who started it all, the one and only Walt Disney. Located in San Francisco's Presideo, the Walt Disney Family Museum offers insight into the man, the myth the legend from his early days in Marceline, Missouri to his early shorts, to his first feature Snow White, to the development of Disneyland. The museum is beautifully designed with state-of-the-art exhibits and many of Disney's personal items. You can not leave there with a new found or deepened respect for one of America's most creative minds.
Photo Source: Walt Disney Family Museum