The best things to do in San Francisco with young kids

Raluca Loteanu August 14, 2017
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San Francisco with young kids

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If you plan to visit San Francisco with young kids, here are 14 awesome things to do in the city! You'll certainly find some great inspiration on this list!

I can still remember the first time when we crossed the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. The city looked so beautiful and the views were amazing. I loved it! Since then we crossed that bridge several times and I still get the same feeling every single time!

San Francisco is about a one-hour drive away from where we live now, so we go there pretty often. The city offers so many nice places to visit that we still feel that we have plenty to discover! There are a lot of things to do for kids too, so my son enjoys each visit as much as we do!

If you plan to visit San Francisco with young kids, I’ve gathered here a list of some great things to try! The city has some wonderful museums you can visit with children but also some very nice free attractions that kids will enjoy.

Here is our list of favorite things to do, I’m sure that you’ll find here some good ideas to include in your vacation plans! At the end, you will also find some hotel recommendations, in case you are looking for accommodation too!

Wonderful museums to visit with children

San Francisco has many amazing museums and some of them are really family-friendly too! These are our top choices:

1. California Academy of Science

This museum includes an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one roof. There are plenty of things to see and do in the museum! You can find out more about the exhibitions and the visiting hours here.

2. Bay Area Discovery Museum

This museum combines play with learning and it’s a very good choice for young kids! It is less crowded during the week so it’s better to plan your visit then. They have a lot of activities for kids. You can find all the details here.

3. San Francisco Zoo

You could spend half a day in the zoo and kids will have plenty of things to do. Our favorite attractions besides watching the animals are the steam train and the carousel. The zoo also has restaurants, a playground, and a small farm. You can rent strollers at the entrance. The website with all the details is here.San Francisco with young kidsPhoto by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

4. Aquarium of the Bay

The aquarium is located at Pier 39 and it’s a great place to visit with kids! We especially liked the clear tunnels featuring thousands of marine animals from San Francisco Bay. You can find our more about the aquarium here.

5. Exploratorium

The Exploratorium has a lot of practical science activities for children of all ages. Young kids can enjoy exhibits with lights, colors, and bubbles. The museum also rents strollers during the visit, in case you need one. The official website of the museum is here.

6. USS Pampanito

USS Pampanito is a World War II  submarine museum. It offers a very nice experience for kids but it is not stroller-friendly. You can find more details about it here.

7. San Francisco Botanical Garden

If you want to have some quiet time during your stay in San Francisco you can make a visit to the Botanical Garden. They also plan some family activities you may like. Their official website is here.

Nice things to do with young kids in the city

If you are looking for some unique experiences, here are two ideas you may like!

8. Take one of the San Francisco’s Fire Engine tours

These tours take you on a drive along the Golden Gate bridge, then to Sausalito and back to Fisherman’s Wharf. If your kids like fire engines, they will probably enjoy this tour a lot! You can find out all the details about the tours here.

9. Ride the cable cars

The cable cars are a landmark of San Francisco and they are really unique. You can ride them up and down the hills to enjoy a special experience!San Francisco with young kidsPhoto by Rezaul Karim on Unsplash

Free attractions that young kids will enjoy

Not all the nice things to do mean spending money! San Francisco is an expensive city but it also has many free attractions you can enjoy!

10. Walk the Golden Gate bridge

The Golden Gate bridge is a must-see place in San Francisco! Walking along the bridge is a wonderful experience if the weather is fine. The distance is pretty long for young kids, so a stroller is helpful to make things easier for you!

11. Visit the Golden Gate park

Near the bridge, you can also discover the Golden Gate park. The park is the home of some of the best museums in the city, like the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, or the Conservatory of Flowers. But it is also a perfect destination for families and it has a huge playground.

Tip: You can also visit the Japanese Tea Garden for free if you come on  Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays before 10 am.San Francisco with young kidsPhoto by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

12. Walk down the Lombard Street

The Lombard Street in Russian Hill is “the most crooked street in the the world”. Young kids will certainly enjoy the special shape of the street! The landscape along the street is very beautiful so you’ll have a very pleasant walk.

13. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf at Pier 39 and watch the sea lions

Sea lions are cute and sometimes very noisy and kids like to observe them from the pier. Fisherman’s Wharf at Pier 39 is one of the most renowned tourist areas in the city, with souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Kids can also enjoy a carousel ride there!

14. Enjoy the beach

If you are lucky to have nice weather during your stay in San Francisco, you’ll certainly enjoy the beach! We like to walk along the trail near the beach and enjoy the breeze!

Our hotel recommendations

We never stayed at a hotel in San Francisco because we can drive home in an hour. So I cannot make any recommendations from my own experience. But I can recommend you some hotels were some friends and acquaintances stayed during their vacation in San Francisco.San Francisco with young kidsPhoto by Lili Popper on Unsplash

Staypineapple at The Alise San Francisco is a four-star hotel with a very central location. It has a great review score on Booking.com.

Hotel Boheme is located in the historic North Beach San Francisco. It is a small hotel with a unique atmosphere.

Orchard Hotel is a hotel in the center of the city, near the Union Square and other attractions. It is a 4-star hotel with a good price-quality ratio.

San Francisco is an expensive city, but you can also find good deals for any budget on Booking.com or other hotel booking sites.


I wish you a wonderful vacation and I hope that you and your kids will truly enjoy San Francisco!

Useful travel tips from Playful Notes

10 must-have items for traveling with kids (from our experience)

How to “survive” a long-haul flight with a young child {our top tips}

Travel binder for young kids: a great way to have fun (and quiet moments) on the road [printable]

Our favorite smart packing travel tips (+ printable family packing list)If you will visit San Francisco with young kids, here are 14 awesome things to do in the city! You'll certainly find some great inspiration on our list! | Things to do in San Francisco | San Francisco with kids | San Francisco with toddlers | San Francisco attractions for kids

If you will visit San Francisco with young kids, here are 14 awesome things to do in the city! You'll certainly find some great inspiration on our list! | Things to do in San Francisco | San Francisco with kids | San Francisco with toddlers | San Francisco attractions for kids

Preview photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

Category: Destinations
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Raluca Loteanu

If you find yourself on this blog I invite you to discover us as the happy family we are, who look with optimism and joy at life. If you want to contact me, you can find me on email, I gladly respond to each message.

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