Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco: 17 Fun Activities to Try

An ideal mix of classic charm, spellbinding architecture, and sparkling Pacific Ocean views, the Golden Gate City will always remain high on our ‘must-visit’ list. Yet even with all its accolades, you might question ‘is San Francisco a kid-friendly destination’?

Thanks to an influx of stunning public national parks, museums, and iconic attractions, Fog City for families is hard to beat. Follow along to discover the best things to do with kids in San Francisco: 17 kids activities.

Cruise past the Golden Gate Bridge on your Bay boat adventure, or scurry on over to the famous Pier 39 to witness the basking sea lions.

Gain even more first-hand underwater knowledge at the Aquarium when you come face to face with rays, sharks, and sea stars. Or, cover all things Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy with a trip to the Walt Disney Museum.

Traveling with kids in tow doesn’t have to equal stress. Stop endlessly searching for the ‘top
things to do in San Francisco with kids’ or ‘family activities San Francisco’ and leave the itinerary to our experts.

Ready to discover all of the fun things to do in San Francisco with kids? Read on…

San Francisco Hotels

Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Napa Valley, oh my! Make the most out of your time in Northern California when you extend your stay with the kiddies. Choose from a bevy of family-friendly San Francisco Hotels.

Whether you are seeking an outdoor swim, complimentary breakfast, or proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, we have accommodations for every budget and style. As always, make your booking stress free knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates online.

distant view of cable car on road on the streets of San Francisco, California, USAFun Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

Broaden Your Mind at the Many Museums

Wondering what one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids is? Unlock hours of education, entertainment, and interactive exhibits when you explore the astounding variety of the Golden Gate City’s museums.

From diving into the fascinating history behind the city’s omnipresent cable cars to traversing four-story rainforests and virtually climbing a towering Redwood tree, there’s no end to the thrills of a day (or night) at the museum:

California Academy of Sciences

Wallow in the wonder of a world-class aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum all under one roof at the Califonia Academy of Sciences.

Take in smartly dressed penguins, try to hold steady in an earthquake simulator, or feel your way through an immersive fog room. Become an expert on the natural environment of Northern California with exhibits including Giants of Land and Sea or the California Coast tank.

Family participating at an Interactive Exhibit at California Academy of Sciences - San Francisco, California, USABay Area Discovery Museum

Since 1987 the Bay Area Discovery Museum has encouraged imagination, play, and creativity in young children. Located in Sausalito, this esteemed edifice contains a number of research-backed exhibitions. Tiny tots can play with cardboard to build bridges and epic sky rises, or get wild with paint and mud.

For some outdoor fun, head outside for some coastal make-believe on the 2.5-acre interactive Lookout Cove area.

de Young Museum

Paging your mini Picasso! Start the artistic appreciation early with a visit to the fine arts museum. One of the largest art museums in the United States, de Young houses everything from American and African art to textiles, costumes, sculptures, and more. Savor it all, from exhibits based on graphic art to organ concerts.

Walt Disney Family Museum

Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, no loyal Mouseketeer can resist the allure of the all American Walt Disney Family Museum. Begin your journey with Walt as you learn about his early innovations from live animated shorts to live-action features.

From Fantasia to Dumbo to Disneyland, follow his ascent from humble cartoon creator to the mastermind of the Disney universe. Don’t forget to check out the rotating array of seasonal exhibits or score entry to a movie screening or special event.

Walt Disney Reading Magazine Next to Mickey at The Walt Disney Family Museum - San Francisco, California, USACable Cars Museum

Calling all rail enthusiasts! Discover the story behind the infamous cable car when you stop by this free San Francisco museum. In addition to uncovering the mechanics of this treasured form of transportation, visitors will also be privy to a collection of historic cable cars, photographs, mechanical displays, and more.

Children Creativity Museum

On the hunt for the best kids museum San Francisco? Surprise your tyke with some hands-on experimentation and innovation when you spend the day at the Children Creativity Museum. Let inspiration run amuck as you create electronic beats in the music studio or learn the A-B-Cs of stop-motion animation.

Combine your artistic talents with your green thumb when you craft digital flowers, plants, and more in the Community Garden. Or, wind down with some reading in Storybook Park.

Kids Activities in San Francisco

Aquarium of the Bay

Strap on those fins because it’s time to channel your inner mermaid or merman. Travel 20,000 leagues under the sea when you encounter over 24,000 marine animals at the Aquarium of the Bay. Little ones who love the ocean will be enthralled by the vast number of interactive ecosystems and exhibits on display.

Gaze in awe at the bright orange Garibaldi (the California State Marine Fish), or watch swirling schools of anchovies swim on by. Take a gander at the iridescent jellies doing their thing before you move on to peak predators such as the eight-foot seven-gill sharks.

Toddlers will be able to get tactile at the Touch the Bay pool where they can stroke bay rays, sharks, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and more. While older visitors will appreciate learning about how climate change is affecting the fragile landscape of the Bay. In addition, your ticket will also grant you entry to the Sea Lion Center at Pier 39 where you can view all manner of sea lions through artifacts, skulls, and more.

Entrance to the Aquarium of the Bay - San Francisco, California, USABoomers

Boom, boom, pow! Take a break from museum madness and let the competitive juices run wild with a family outing to Boomers. This haven of Modesto fun and adrenaline promises something for everyone. Keep pre-teens busy with hours of mini gold or laser tag, or challenge your entire brood to a riveting round of Spin Zone Bumper Cars.

Dive headfirst into hours of disco-themed bumper car antics in the arena, or really put the pedal to the medal with laps at the Lil’ Thunder Rookie Go Kart track. Wind down with some classic arcade games, or revel in the thrill of a demolition derby on the high seas with Bumper Boats!

Escape from the Rock Cruise

Your kid may be a tad young to have caught the majesty of the Rock motion picture, but older tykes will still be fascinated by the timeless lore and tales of Alcatraz. Show your youngsters that history can be exciting when you set sail for an Escape from the Rock Cruise.

This 90-minute sojourn is jam-packed with stories, facts about the American penal system, and sweeping San Francisco Bay views. Listen up as your knowledgeable guide regales you with first-hand accounts of what life was like in this most feared institution in the American penal system.

Have that camera ready, as you’ll be able to document every angle of this mysterious island as you learn about the most daring escape attempts mounted by such notorious criminals as Al Capone, Billy Cook the Killer, and Clyde Johnson.

view of alcatraz island during daytime in San Francisco, California, USALEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area

Escape the bustle of Union Square and seek sanctuary among millions of LEGO bricks at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area. This indoor plastic playground is overflowing with over 12 LEGO-based attractions and rides. Catch up with your favorite LEGO characters like Bertie and Emmet. Or, hop aboard the Imagination Express for a spirited sojourn through an interactive LEGO world and collect magic points.

Settle in for a fully immersive 4D screening full of wind, rain, and snow effects. Feeling like showing off your brick building? Tackle the challenge of creating the speediest race car at LEGO Racers: Build & Test. Or, check out some dazzling mini LEGO recreations of Golden Gate City’s most famous landmarks.

Before you make your bricktacular exit, check out their onsite cafe for a tasty snack of chicken tenders, churros, or soft-baked pretzels.

Child and her dad high-fiving a LEGO Ninja at the Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago, Illinois
photo credit: Legoland Discovery Center via Facebook

Spend a day in Golden Gate Park

Considered part of the National Park System, you could easily spend your entire San Francisco getaway conquering the over 1,000 acres of Golden Gate Park. A San Francisco institution, construction on this verdant public space began in 1870.

Today these acres upon acres of windswept dunes have been converted into a vibrant destination for tourists and locals alike. With tons of kid-approved facilities and points of interest ranging from playgrounds to carousels, Golden Gate Park is a veritable oasis for harried families on the go.

Related Post: 12 San Francisco Hidden Gems You Don’t Want to Miss

After you stop by the Golden Gate Park visitor center* get acquainted with some of our top spots for kids:

  • Japanese Tea Garden – the oldest Japanese Garden in the U.S., strolling through these emerald green paths, and perfectly painted Pagodas will bring a sense of serenity to any clan. Little ones will love spotting the giant Koi fish or snacking on sweet mochi at the Tea House. Best of all, entrance for kids under 5 is free.
  • Conservatory of Flowers – stop and smell the roses and other blooming blossoms when you make a very floral pit stop at the Conservatory of Flowers. In addition to enjoying the Dahlias and carnivorous plants, you can snap a selfie in front of the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. The Conservatory also offers a perfect place for an impromptu picnic.
  • San Francisco Botanical Garden – adults will be mesmerized by the meticulously landscaped grounds of this lush botanical garden, but the real win here is the Children’s Garden which offers up story time, garden crafts, bug hunts, and more.
  • Children’s Playground – thankfully Golden Gate Park is home to a number of interactive playground structures, so your tiny Tasmanian devil will be able to climb, play, and swing with abandon. In addition, for a special treat spring for a classic carousel ride on a dragon, camel, goat, horse, frog, or dog. Built by the Herschell-Spillman Company this carousel has been giving children whimsical rides since 1940.
  • Stow Lake – work out those legs and take in the sparkling lake scenery with a charming pedal boat ride on Stow Lake. Or, refuel with a delicious lunch from their onsite cafe.

*Also known as the Golden Gate Welcome Center

Aerial view of people in Golden Gate Park on a sunny day surrounded by green trees in San Francisco, California, USA
photo credit: Jeffrey Eisen via Unsplash

San Francisco Zoo

Creepy, crawly, and cuddly oh my! The gang’s all here at the San Francisco Zoo. Delight your budding zoologist when you spend time getting to know all of San Francisco’s residents big and small. The San Francisco Zoo features 100 acres of animals, exhibits, rides, and more.

From American Black Bears to Koalas, Mandrills, and Red Pandas there’s tons to see. Check out their events schedule ahead of time so you can catch Animal Connections on Penguin Island or Family Farm Opens.

When wee ones get antsy head to the Elinor Friend Playground to let loose or make some lasting locomotive memories with a ride aboard the Little Puffer Miniature Steam Train.

ground view of Golden Gate Bridge with bay at sunset in San Francisco, California, USAMisty mornings, spine-tingling prison escapes, and a palatial park filled with gardens, lakes, and more. San Francisco will always hold a special place in our hearts.

While many visitors may be quick to assume this cosmopolitan playground is less than kid-friendly, they’d be mistaken.

Families frequenting the Bay area will be pleased to uncover a world of Aquariums, museums, and LEGO adventures.

From the windswept feeling of an Alcatraz boat cruise to riveting Go Kart runs around the track, the Golden Gate City delivers priceless vacation memories.

Ready to tackle all of the things to do in San Francisco with kids? Don’t wait; book your getaway today!

Tell us, What Are Your Favorite Things to Do With Kids in San Francisco?

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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