[ Things to Do ]

21 Fun Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

Are you traveling to San Francisco with your family? If so, you’re probably searching for things to do with kids in San Francisco. Luckily, this city is super fun for those of all ages to visit—including little ones! From engaging aquatic attractions to sprawling outdoor parks and museums that are both fun and educational, this vacation destination knows how to keep kids and parents both happy.

1)  Visit Golden Gate Park

If there’s one thing kids universally love, it’s being outside. And, where better to spend time outside than Golden Gate Park? Not only do you have a picturesque view of the Golden Gate Bridge but there’s plenty of activities to enjoy too.

Koret’s Children’s Quarter: Climb rope towers or the wave wall, then take a ride on a historic carousel. Bring some cardboard to race down the famous concrete slides available here.

Stow Lake: Go for a scenic paddleboat ride as a family.

Spreckels Lake: Watch radio-controlled boats zip around on Spreckels Lake.

Japanese Tea Garden: Pop in here for a tasty tea-and-cookie break.

California Academy of Sciences: Golden Gate Park is home to famous more than just outdoor activities. Be sure to stop into the California Academy of Sciences to explore dinosaur skeletons, a rooftop garden, a penguin colony, and so much more!

Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

2) Play at Pier 39

There’s a lot to see and do at Pier 39! As such, it’s one of the ideal things to do in with kids in San Francisco. Stroll around Pier 39 to catch frequent free performances on the pier stage, do a little souvenir shopping, and grab a sweet treat or two. (You deserve it!) Then, take the kids to the double-decker Venetian carousel before visiting the Aquarium of the Bay. The fun at Pier 39 doesn’t end there, though. Be sure to watch the famous sea lions of Pier 39 too.

3) Check Out the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is one of those things to do in with kids in San Francisco that is really educational—but don’t tell your children! They can spend hours tinkering with more than 650 exhibits and never even realize they’re learning something along the way. That’s definitely a parenting win! Some of the available activities include building bridges and electrical circuits, testing the strength of a tornado, experimenting with optical illusions, and dance with your own shadow, to just name a few.

4) Ride a Cable Car

It’s amazing how something as simple as riding a cable car can be very entertaining for children. You can easily hop aboard a Cable Car at several stops throughout the city. However, we recommend the Powell-Hyde Line. This line offers some of the most iconic San Francisco sights, including a stop at Lombard Street—the “crookedest street” in the country. Another option is the Powell-Mason Line, which features an uphill climb towards Chinatown.

Do keep in mind, Cable Car rides are better suited for children who do not use a stroller. While strollers are allowed on Cable Cars, they’re quite cumbersome to load and there’s not a lot of storage on the cars.

5) Go Wild at the San Francisco Zoo

If you’ve got an animal lover on your hands, a visit to the San Francisco Zoo is a must. The 100-acre zoo, with a location on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, features hippos, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, penguins, bears, and more. Kids can spend hours exploring all of the animal life here. In addition, be sure to take a ride aboard the Little Puffer Steam Train for extra fun!

6) Get Your Full House On

Are your kid’s fans of Full House? How about Fuller House? If so, take them to Alamo Square to view the iconic house from both series in person.

Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

7) Visit the Beach

Another one of the top things to do with kids in San Francisco is visiting the beach. The ocean and the sand combine to create a wonderful way to play all day. Build sandcastles, splash in the waves, fly a kite or play frisbee. No matter what you do, it’s sure to be a memorable day!

A couple of ideal family beaches we recommend include:

  • Ocean Beach
  • China Beach

8) Go On a Whale Watching Tour

Nothing impresses quite like seeing a whale up-close and in person. As such, booking a whale watching tour is one of the most unique things to do with kids in San Francisco. As a bonus, you can also spot whales in San Francisco all year long.

June through November you’ll spot blue and humpback whales while December to May, gray, sperm and killer whales can be seen in the waters of the Pacific.

9) Ride a Real Fire Engine Truck

Does your kiddo think firemen and fire trucks are the coolest? Then, book a ride aboard a real red fire engine. During the 90-minute tour on a Big Mack Fire Engine, you’ll cross over the Golden Gate Bridge, cruise by Fisherman’s Wharf, the Presidio, and other iconic San Francisco sights. In addition, you get to wear real fireman’s gear making the experience feel even more authentic.

10) Explore the Children’s Creativity Museum

For kids who are 3 years+, visit the Children’s Creativity MuseumThe M. This interactive art museum encourages kids to imagine and create with hands-on activities. A music studio, imagination lab, and animation studio are among the main attractions.

11) Discover the Disney Museum

At the Walt Disney Family Museum, you can get a look at the life and legacy of Walt Disney. In addition, there are special exhibits and galleries highlighting the art and animation of Disney. Currently, there is one dedicated to Mickey Mouse but they do change throughout the year.

Included with each admission to the Disney Museum are free screenings of classic Disney movies in the Fantasia Theater. There are typically several showings a day (except Tuesday.

12) Check Out Chinatown

No visit to San Francisco is complete without a trip to Chinatown. And, a trek through this cultural oasis is an exciting activity for kids thanks to the myriad of shops, stops, and sights that are sure to grab their attention. Give your kids a bit of spending money as Chinatown is a good place to find a cheap San Francisco souvenir. Also, be sure to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. You’ll get to see how these delicious treats are made and try free samples, too.

Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

13) Visit Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a bustling section of San Francisco teeming with things to do for families. Not only are their street performers, like clowns and jugglers, but attractions such a Madame Tussauds, 7D Experience, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum is located here too. For kids who are interested in boats, explore the Hyde Street Pier Maritime Museum. You can also tour the Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien and the Pampanito Submarine. Another interesting attraction at Fisherman’s Wharf is Musee Mecanique, an old-fashioned arcade that every member of the family will enjoy.

14) Enjoy a Sweet Treat at Ghirardelli Square

If you’re looking to reward a well-behaved child with a sweet treat, head to Ghirardelli Square. While this location no longer manufactures chocolate, it serves up some of the most delicious chocolate confections in San Francisco. From soda fountain treats to shakes and sundaes, your sweet tooth will be satisfied here.

15) Bike Over the Golden Gate Bridge

For families with kids who are a bit older, biking over the Golden Gate Bridge is a truly rewarding experience. You can easily rent a bike from Fisherman’s Square, then make the journey over the bridge as a family. Stop along the way for gorgeous photo ops.

16) Randall Museum

In a city full of fabulous museums, the Randall Museum stands out for several reasons. One, it’s free! Two, it’s very kid-friendly. And, three, it has an exploration zone dedicated to toddlers that any young parent will praise. The hands-on exhibits here let kids expend energy and learn a bit along the way, too.

17) Go Shopping at Union Square

If you have a fashion maven on your hands, you’ll definitely need to go shopping at Union Square during your San Francisco vacation. As the third-largest shopping center in the United States, there are plenty of places to shop, too! In addition to the largest Macy’s outside of New York City, there are designer boutiques featuring the latest fashions.

Union Square also has one of the city’s oldest parks. Sit here for a bit after strolling the shops for excellent people watching. During the summer months, there are often live musical performances while November and December Union Square opens an outdoor ice skating rink.

18) See a Live Sports Game

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a variety of professional sports teams, so there’s generally a live game to see almost any time of year. Basketball fans will want to attend a Golden State Warriors game while the San Francisco Giants will appeal to Baseball Fans. Of course, football fans won’t want to miss the change to see the San Francisco 49ers in action.

Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

19) Muir Woods

Trek outside the city to Muir Woods for an enjoyable exploration of the giant coastal redwood trees. Hikes here are leisurely, so kids of all ages are welcome. In addition, kids 15 and under can enter the park for free. Do note, reservations are required for visitors in order to keep parking and visitor count in check. You can also book a Muir Woods tour and let them do the work for you!

19) Go Shopping at Union Square

If you have a fashion maven on your hands, you’ll definitely need to go shopping at Union Square during your San Francisco vacation. As the third-largest shopping center in the United States, there are plenty of places to shop, too! In addition to the largest Macy’s outside of New York City, there are designer boutiques featuring the latest fashions.

Union Square also has one of the city’s oldest parks. Sit here for a bit after strolling the shops for excellent people watching. During the summer months, there are often live musical performances while November and December Union Square opens an outdoor ice skating rink.

20) Play a Round of Mini-Golf

Shocker—it does rain in San Francisco. When it does, playing a round of mini-golf is the perfect activity for families. Subpar Mini-Golf features an indoor course with 18 holes as well as an arcade with air hockey and Skee-Ball. The holes are designed to resemble San Francisco landmarks, which adds a unique spin to your traditional mini-golf game.

21) Slide Down a Seward Street Slide

In the Castro neighborhood, families will find basic but endlessly entertaining concrete slides. Tucked away in a tiny park, these steep, slippery rides are a unique San Francisco attraction. Ride down the slides on a piece of cardboard for a smoother experience. (Typically, there is cardboard available at the slides but not always.)

So Much Fun in San Francisco

There you have it! These are some of the best things to do with kids in San Francisco. With our list, you’re ready to bring your family to the Bay Area for a fun-filled vacation you’re sure to remember for years to come.

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