You might think of San Francisco as an adult-oriented city, but the fact is there are plenty of wonderful things to do with kids that will keep both children and parents entertained. For one thing, the city is home to some very popular interactive museums — the Exploratorium, Children's Creativity Museum, and the aquarium top the list.
San Francisco also boasts many green spaces like the Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. But first and foremost, SF is about the water. We've included many activities that happen on or near the waterfront, including whale watching and bay cruises. And the zoo? We'd never forget about the zoo!
Although the Exploratorium is very large (and very interesting) the museum is broken down into many fun and manageable spaces. There's Observing Landscapes, Outdoor Exhibits, Living Systems, Seeing & Listening, Tinkering, Human Phenomena & Getting Started.
Arrive early and well-rested to explore! When the kids are tired and hungry, head to east side of the museum to the SeaGlass Restaurant. The waterside eatery has stunning bay views. Found at Pier 15 — Embarcadero at Green Street.
1,000 acres of woods, trails, lakes, gardens, museums… it could take days to fully explore the Golden Gate Park. Let's start here, by considering the park's highlights —
THE CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
An absolute must for kids.
CONSERVATORY OF FLOWERS
Make sure you (and the kids) stop by the carnivorous plant collection.
DE YOUNG MUSEUM
Head to the copper-covered observation floor for sweeping views.
THE JAPANESE TEA GARDEN
Where kids love to scramble over the steep humpback bridge.
Sure, it's kitschy and overpriced, but a trip to Fisherman's Wharf is essential with kids. Tip #1: Arrive early to beat the crowds. Tip #2: Spend time wandering and enjoying the views of the water.
There's a lot of schlock but there are exceptions, one is Le Musée Mecanique. Admission is free but bring plenty of quarters for the antique arcade machines.
We also suggest you make a day of it by continuing with a boat ride to Alcatraz. The ride is short but offers beautiful views of the city. Plan to allow about three hours for the visit. Tip #3: book your tickets online and well in advance.
This is hands-down one of the best interactive museums for children from toddlers to teens. In the Animation Studio kids have a blast learning the basics of stop-motion animation and bring their clay creations to life on screen.
There's also a community lab, imagination lab, innovation lab, music studio, spiral gallery, tech lab and cloud gallery. Plan on spending at least half a day exploring all the cool things to do.
After being in the city for a few days kids will be itching to run around. That's the time to take them to the zoo and observe cool animals in their natural-looking habitats. Small children adore the petting zoo and taking a ride on the nearly 100 year old Little Steamer.
Older kids love Grizzly Gulch & the Insect Zoo. If you don't have a car you can get to the zoo by the muni. If you don't have a child, go yourself — you won't regret it! This is one of the best zoos we've ever visited.
This unassuming museum is one of the city's best places to visit with kids. Best way to get there? Cable car, of course! All three lines stop between Russian Hill and Nob Hill. The museum is inside the last cable car barn and shows you all the inner workings including the massive powerhouse cable wheels.Make sure to visit the small gift shop — it's the best place to get cable car souvenirs.
A perfect way to start your visit to the City by the Bay is with an one-hour boat cruise to see stunning city views, Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate Bridge.
Kids love to be out in the open air with the sea breeze blowing through their hair, and it's a wonderful way to show them the highlights of the city from the water.
Start your exploration of North Beach by taking an elevator to the top of Coit Tower to enjoy stunning views of the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
Also marvel at the Depression-era murals inspired by Diego Rivera. Be warned, parking at Coit Tower is limited, so either walk up or take the number 39 bus. On the walk down, keep your eyes peeled for the wild parrots that live on Telegraph Hill.
A relative newcomer to the SF museum scene, this Disney museum is naturally the place to explore the life of Walt Disney and the history of animation.
The museum features interactive galleries with state-of-the-art exhibits narrated in Walt's own voice along with his early drawings, cartoons, films, music and a marvellous model of Disneyland. It's a must-see stop on your visit to the Presidio.
Between January and April hundreds of grey whales migrate along the Pacific coast.
The rest of the year humpback and blue whales feed just 27 miles offshore at the Farallon Islands. A whale watching expedition with children 6+ will be a memorable family trip! Just remember to wear warm clothes, pack rain gear and bring a boxed lunch.
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