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17 Fabulous Things to Do in San Francisco with Kids

San Francisco is one of the most popular vacation destinations on the West Coast. Visiting San Francisco with kids is a breeze, thanks to a wealth of family-friendly attractions and off-the-beaten-path spots. It can be a fabulous vacation for all ages.

There are beautiful beaches that will keep the whole family entertained for hours and gorgeous green parks perfect for young kids, like Golden Gate Park. There are also a lot of things to do inside too. Here is a list of things to get you started and help plan your family vacation to San Francisco.

Fun and Family Friendly Things to Do in San Francisco - Kids Are A Trip

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Awesome Things to Do in San Francisco with Kids

While there is a saying that San Francisco has more dogs than kids, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a family-friendly place. There are so many fun things to do in San Francisco with kids of all ages. From the Walt Disney Family Museum to Pier 39, San Francisco offers an endless amount of family-friendly things to do. Not to mention, it’s a great place to start or end a California road trip!

1. Presidio National Park Site

Presidio of San Francisco has many fun things to do with kids. Families can take out rowboats, climb in tree forts, and play on the playgrounds. It’s a great way for nature lovers to spend the day, and there are even picnic areas for you to sit down and enjoy lunch.

Presidio Visitor Center

Be sure to check out the visitor center to learn about the park’s interesting history, and then spend time on its hiking trails or coastal walks. There is also a golf course for grown-ups and older kids. 

This is a great place to spend time at the beach. History buffs can check out the military fort, gun batteries, and the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center. 

2. Bay Area Discovery Museum

Across the Golden Gate Bridge, one of our favorite things is the Bay Area Discovery Museum. This great place has a lot of hands-on, kid-friendly activities that are both indoors and outdoors and are perfect for ages 6 months to 10 years, making it a popular spot for families.

Be sure to visit Lookout Cove, as it’s one of the best things to do with kids. The 2.5-acre outdoor area has tide pools, fishing boats, shipwrecks, gravel pits, and the best part: spider web installations. 

The Bay Area Discovery Museum is one of the best places for hands-on activities. Don’t forget to pop into the gift shop for something to remember the day! 

Other San Francisco museums kids might enjoy are the Children’s Creativity Museum and the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland (part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area). 

3. Aquarium of the Bay

If you don’t want to make a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, consider exploring one in the city.

Aquarium of the Bay is a great family attraction in a prime location. This fantastic place (and its 20,000 marine animals and creatures) is located on Pier 39, right on the water. Kid-favorite exhibits include the touch pools, playful otters, and a shark tunnel. 

The museum focuses on the life found in local waters, like in the nearby bay and Pacific Ocean. It’s interesting to learn about what lurks in the shallow water and deeper out toward the sea.

We recommend planning your trip around their special programs, like feedings and animal encounters. This is a smaller aquarium, so it won’t take up a full day of your vacation. Instead, it can be part of a fun day exploring Pier 39 and the area around Fisherman’s Wharf. 

4. Exploratorium

Located on Pier 15, Exploratorium is an awesome spot for kids, but adults have a great time here, too. Adults love the exhibits so much that the Exploratorium offers a weekly adults-only evening. While that might not be a good fit for your family, it’s definitely a sign you all will have a good time at this fun museum. 

Exploratorium Museum

The Exploratorium lets guests play, touch, and explore over 600 interactive exhibits centering around the local environment, thoughts, behavior, and feelings. This is a great overall educational experience. It’s so fun that kids won’t realize they’re learning.

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Popular exhibits include the shadow box, tornado simulator, and a lifesize kaleidoscope. Keep an eye out for free admission days throughout the year.

5. California Academy of Sciences

Did you know that San Francisco is home to one of the world’s largest natural history museums?

The California Academy of Sciences is more than a museum. This fantastic attraction has an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum all in one place – and all for the price of one!

If you’re short on time, focus on the Natural History Museum and indoor rainforest. These are great spots for kids of all ages. Plus, the lush rainforest is perfect for teens who want to take fun photos and videos with a unique background. 

But really, you should plan to spend multiple hours here so you can experience the many exhibits and activities located throughout the grounds. 

This science center and its great exhibits can be found in Golden Gate Park. 

6. Take a Day Trip to Santa Cruz

Just over an hour outside the city, you will find the beach town of Santa Cruz, known for its stunning coastline, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and surfing!

Santa Cruz Beach California with kids

If the kids need time away from the city crowds, this is the place to go. They will love exploring the boardwalk, with its roller coasters and old-school charm.

Nature lovers won’t want to miss Natural Bridges State Beach, known for its stunning rock formations and tide pools filled with sea creatures.

7. Presidio Wall Playground

The Presidio Wall Playground is a “Parisian-style” play area that is like being transported to the Luxembourg Gardens. It’s a great place for the entire family, and you can spend the entire day enjoying the scenery and activities. 

Adults can enjoy spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais while kids can play in the interactive wet sand play sculpture and climbing equipment. It’s the best way to enjoy both worlds and makes for a great day trip from San Francisco (plus, it’s one of the free things you can do to save money on your trip).

The shaded setting feels decidedly charming while entertaining kids in a relaxed way. It is perfect for parents who need a little break after endless exploration.

8. San Francisco Zoo

What kid doesn’t love heading to the zoo? The San Francisco Zoo offers all kinds of animals, from hippos to bears to penguins. It covers 100 acres and even has wildlife trails to hike. This is a fun way (the perfect place, really) to explore different animals. 

Kids typically love to see the lion, chimpanzees, and the American Black Bear. There’s also a playground, a miniature train, and an antique Dentzel Carousel. 

9. USS Pampanito Museum and Memorial

Do your kids love warships and submarines? If so, the USS Pampanito Museum is a great place to visit. Even if your family isn’t typically into war vessels and historical sites, you will still have a great time here. 

USS Pampanito

This National Historic Landmark is in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. Visitors can explore the World War II submarine and get a feel for what it was like living on board. This is a unique perspective that your kids can’t get from textbooks or documentaries. 

Entry includes a self-guided audio tour that will help you understand what you’re seeing as you walk through the submarine. 

10. Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is a great place to see California’s iconic Redwood Trees, and it’s located right in Golden Gate Park. Walk through meandering trails under the shade of the Redwood Trees that stretch up to 250 feet high. 

There is a range of hiking trails that take anywhere from half an hour to eight hours to complete. You can choose your adventure. 

Kids can spot woodland creatures as they roam the forest. Cross over several bridges and simply enjoy time in nature. It’s also one of the spots within Golden Gate Park where kids can earn a junior ranger badge. 

11. Golden Gate Bridge

No visit to San Francisco is complete without seeing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Start by heading to the visitor center to learn about the bridge’s history and construction, and then explore the surrounding grounds. 

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco with kids

Golden Gate National Recreation Area touches both sides of the bridge. It’s a great place to walk around and take in the sights and sounds of this unique location. You can even walk under the bridge to see the structure from below. The large green space of Crissy Field is perfect for a family picnic.

When you’re ready to cross the bridge, there are a few options. You can join a tour bus, take public transportation, or take your car to the other side. If you’re visiting with older kids, you may even opt to bike across. 

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There is also a pedestrian sidewalk if you want to take your time crossing. It’s just under 2 miles each way. 

12. Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island is one of San Francisco’s most popular attractions. Since it’s a former prison, some parents wonder if it’s kid-friendly. We’ve found that kids have a great time here.

Older children will enjoy exploring such a unique and historic site, while younger ones can explore the grounds, enjoy the ferry ride, and learn a little about it along the way. 

It is also part of the junior ranger program found throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

For older kids who can stay up late, consider the night tour. It’s especially fun if it’s your second visit to Alcatraz and you want a cool new experience. 

Tip: The only way to reach Alcatraz is to take a ferry from Pier 33 at the Embarcadero.

13. Pier 39: Sea Lion Viewing and Lunch

Pier 39 is such a fun area of San Francisco, and it’s a great thing to do with kids. It’s the ultimate place to view sea lions – they sometimes number in the hundreds. You can also watch street performers, ride a carousel, play in the arcade, or join a sailing trip. 

Pier 39 Sea Lions

This is also a great place to eat, especially if you’re looking for fresh seafood. Fog Harbor Fish House and Crab House at Pier 39 are top choices for lunch. We love walking around with ice cream while we take in the Pier’s lively atmosphere. 

There is also shopping kids will love including a magic shop, fudge factories, Build-a-Bear, and local gift stores. 

14. Ride The Cable Car

It’s the ultimate image of San Francisco: a cable car riding up and down steep hills. Cable car rides are one of the best ways to see downtown San Francisco. 

There are three routes to choose from, and two of the lines connect Union Square with Fisherman’s Wharf. We recommend the popular Powell-Hyde Line which will allow you to get off close to Ghirardelli Square.

This route has plenty of hills and gives you great views of the bay, Lombard Street (“the crookedest street in the world”), Alcatraz Island, and the local piers. 

San Francisco trolley

We also recommend a stop at the free Cable Car Museum. This small museum has great insight into how the iconic cable cars operate. Kids who are into trains, trolleys, and machinery will love their visit. 

15. Seward Street Slides

Embrace the hilly landscape of San Francisco in the most fun way: by sliding down. The Seward Street Slides were constructed in the 1970s, and this simple, nearly hidden attraction may become your kids’ favorite San Francisco memory. 

In the Noe Valley neighborhood, there are two steep, long, concrete slides that are perfect for young and young-at-heart (teens love them too!). Bring along cardboard for the smoothest, fastest ride – and then race down the parallel slides. 

There’s free street parking nearby (just be sure not to leave any valuables in your vehicle), though sometimes it can be tough to find. Still, this is a great free thing to do in San Francisco that feels like a hidden gem. 

16. Walt Disney Family Museum

You may not think San Francisco is the place to go for Disney magic. After all, you’re hours away from Disneyland. But the Walt Disney Family Museum is a fantastic place to visit, especially if you’re a big Disney fan. 

The charming museum – located in The Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge – explores the legacy and life of Walt Disney. Interactive galleries and exhibits are great for kids. Learn about the icon’s early life and how he created some of his most beloved animations – and eventually became one of America’s greatest household names. 

While the museum doesn’t hold the same thrill and magic as Disney’s theme parks, it shares the same attention to detail and celebration of imagination that makes the company such an icon today.  

17. Catch a San Francisco Giants Game

San Francisco has several great sports teams, but we think it’s a great place to watch a baseball game. Bring the kids along for a night at the ball field, cheering on the San Francisco Giants.

Oracle Park San Francisco baseball

First, there’s the location: Oracle Park is set right against the bay and has great views. Then there’s the food. Favorites include the Krazy Krab sandwich, clam chowder, and crab fries – but there are many non-seafood options too. 

Afternoon weekday games are perfect for vacationers, but the Giants also play home games in the evenings and on weekends. Everyone will have fun enjoying a classic baseball game in an unbeatable setting.