10 Things to do in San Francisco With Kids


Visiting San Francisco with kids? Lucky you! There’s no shortage of fun to be had in this gorgeous city, and here are some of my favorite family friendly spots…

10 Things to do with kids in San Francisco

1. The Ferry Building is a must for locals and out-of-towners alike. Built in 1898 and totally renovated, it’s a cherished gem with restaurants, specialty food stores, and a world-class farmer’s market.  It can be a mad-house so I suggest a quick jaunt to get sourdough from the Acme Bread Company, the addictive Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, a little vino from the wine shop, some cured meat from Boccalone Salumeria – and head out back to watch the ferry boats while enjoying an al-fresco sandwich.  Or if you’re like me and have 2.5 seconds before the kids go insane from hunger, I’d head off the beaten path of the Ferry Building to Gott’s Roadside Tray Gourmet – a great kid’s menu, interesting items for the adults, fast seating and fast service.

2. Head down the street to Pier 41 and hop on a quick ferry to Angel Island! The largest natural island in the bay, it has bike rentals, miles of hiking trails, lovely beaches, tram tours, and when you get hungry, the Cove Cafe and the Cove Cantina Oyster Bar – all of which is totally kid friendly and a great way to stretch the legs.  Remember, however, that if you decide to do a Segway Tour of the island, the hilarity factor increases dramatically.

3. Although the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is no longer at Ghiradelli Square, it’s still – ahem! – a sweet spot to visit.  There are free guided walking history tours several mornings a week, after which I think Mommy (and whomever Mommy deems worthy) deserves to go to the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.  If it’s rainy or god-awful-foggy-and-cold, do what the locals do and head to the gorgeous and amazing Peekadoodle Kids Club.  The day-passes are pricey, but see if your hotel can finagle you a deal.  Isn’t your sanity worth it?

4. San Francisco ain’t done until the cable cars are did.  A place for you to rest your weary bones and entertain the children, the Cable Cars are wonderful fun.  Hop on the Powell-Hyde Line at the bottom of Hyde Street by Ghirardelli Square and head up to the original Swenson’s Ice Cream on Hyde and Union that opened in 1948.  If you’re making a meal out of it, start with Za Pizza next door.  When you’re done stuffing your faces, climb to the top of Nob Hill.  The gorgeous Huntington Park awaits the kids – and the fully stocked bars await Mommy and Daddy at the surrounding hotels.

5. It’s raining?  You don’t say. Head on over to the California Academy of Sciences, the best bang for your cabin-fever buck.  It boasts a 4-story rainforest, a swamp, a coral reef, a planetarium, and so much more.  The kids will love it, you will love it, and did I mention the cafe is out of this world?  I would kill for that Vietnamese noodle salad.  Oh, don’t worry, they have french fries and a whole assortment of kids items too.

6. Next up, Crissy Field, a former air-field turned park and one of the best spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge while playing on the beach, going for a walk or riding a bike.  I recommend doing a picnic lunch and grabbing some food at the Warming Hut Cafe on the west end or – my personal favorite – a hotdog from the Let’s Be Frank hotdog stand. For the older kids, there’s also House of Air, an indoor trampoline park, and Planet Granite, which has a fun climbing wall.

7. Kids won’t sit still at dinner?  Who needs chairs! People are raving about the off the grid food trucks in the Fort Mason Center parking lot on Friday nights.  How can you go wrong with options like Kung Fu Tacos, Seoul On Wheels, Curry Up Now, and the Creme Brulee Cart?  You had me at Empanadas, Fort Mason Center.  (Word to the wise: go early.)

8. With weather frequently touch-and-go, the Presidio Bowling Center is always a good family option, even for the littlest gutter-balls of the group. And located in the lush Presidio Park, there are hiking trails and so much more if the sun should make an appearance.

9. One of my favorite places to go with kids – in sunshine or rain – is the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito.  It has amazing indoor and outdoor space, including art studios, a tot spot for the little ones, a train room, a wave workshop, and Lookout Cove, a 2.5 acre outdoor play area.  Starting in the fall, Miss Kitty, a beloved local musician, plays kids music a few mornings a week as well.  Make a day of it, get lunch at the cafe and sit outside with a view of the city.

10. I love the Laurel Heights neighborhood in San Francisco and the Clay Street Playground is a newly renovated gem there.  Let the kids romp around and then walk on over for a meal at Rigolo Cafe, which boasts being “the most child-friendly restaurant in SF.”  There’s even a toy area in the back, so kick back and relax.  At least for two minutes.

Got your own  San Francisco tips? Leave them in the comments!


The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

  1. Alexandra says

    Tarja, thank you for the whirlwind tour of San Francisco.

    I was only there once, without children, and when I do go again–right after I call you to tell you to meet me at the airport for a quick kiss, I’ll pull up this post and we’ll know what to do.

    LOVE seeing you here.

    xo (Jill is the greatest)

    Show Replies
  2. Nancy Davis Kho says

    Perfect! You hit all the high notes. (Touring the East Bay’s hotspots would have made this a 20-point list, plus I haven’t shown you around yet.) Particularly love the Cal Academy and Ferry Building suggestions, those are can’t miss.

    Only thing I’d add is that if you are a tourist and don’t want to stand in line for 7 hours waiting for a cable car, go to the stop on Market at Embarcadero, right in front of the Hyatt. I have NEVER seen a line there and it runs you up California through the FiDi (that’s the financial district, yo) – you can hop off in Chinatown for lunch and ride it back, or grab the Powell Street line there. Much more efficient than the Powell Street infinity-long line…

    Show Replies
  3. MJ says

    Love the list but don’t forget the Exploratorium! A fantastic place for kids who want to be able to touch everything in a museum-like setting. It’s going to move in 2013 to a new home on the Embarcadero, which will be conveniently close to the Ferry Building. Also, for older kids who like to hike, the Land’s End trail is a must-see.

    Show Replies
  4. Lisa B. says

    I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned Children’s Fairyland in Oakland yet? Strange.

    It’s the precursor to Disneyland and is a wonderful institution for both young and old alike. I’m waiting for my daughter to turn 2 so that we can have her birthday there next year.

    Show Replies
  5. Johnd867 says

    Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is wonderful, let alone the content! edabdegkfagd

    Show Replies
  6. says

    These are some great daytime attractions that you have listed. Evenings in San Francisco can be a little challenging with the kids. The Marrakech Magic Theater near Union Square is a wonderful truly family friendly show that has been running since 2010. It offers 7 shows a week every week of the year. This is a must see show for families with children ages 7 and up.

    Show Replies
  7. Erin S says

    So happy to run across this San Francisco guide!

    My husband and I are trying to plan a trip, as we have some airline funds that are about to expire. I have never been to San Francisco, so it is on the top of our list.

    It seems like there are tons of things to do with our little guy. However, he will only be 15 months at the time (not to mention I will be 30 weeks pregnant). Would we need to rent a car? What location would be best for us to rest our heads?

    I would love any pointers you could share about your great city!

    Show Replies

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>