30 Fun Things to Do in San Francisco with Your Kids
San Francisco is one of the most kid-friendly cities to visit in the United States. It’s teeming with attractions that excite the senses and light up the imagination. It’s surprisingly stroller-friendly, though some streets are moderately steep or can be crowded with people.
An informal walking tour could include the Dolores Park, Telegraph Hill, and Yerba Buena areas.
Popular locations for just hanging out are Ghirardelli Square (ice cream!), Alamo Square (the picturesque “Postcard Row”), North Beach (an Italian neighborhood with retro cafes and parks), and Union Square (the true center of town with upscale shopping in a historic setting).
Visiting San Francisco with kids is often exhausting if you try to do too much all at once, so pace yourself! Choose one or two attractions with kid activities each day and leave lots of room for downtime in between visits.
Here are 30 of the top family-friendly activities you can experience together in San Francisco.
The Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s most iconic landmark, The Golden Gate Bridge can be experienced in a number of ways. If your kids are up to the 1.7-mile trek, then walking across the bridge is an experience in itself. It’s best to avoid foggy days so you can get a view across to Angel Island, Alcatraz, and to the city skyline.
Renting a bike to cycle across the bridge is also an option, but it’s usually cold and windy on the bridge, so wrap up warm. There are souvenir shops at the south end of the bridge perfect for picking up those cheesy trinkets your relatives demand!
If you don’t plan on traversing the bridge yourself, you should still take a few snaps of it. For that, head to Hyde Street Pier near Ghirardelli Square, Marin Headlands, and Coit Tower, all of which offer great views of The Golden Gate Bridge.
Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum offers galleries and exhibitions about Walt Disney, his incredible life, how he dreamed of opening an amusement park for children, and how his dream was realized.
The museum is fun for adults and children alike. While telling the story, it entertains children by offering showings of some of Walt Disney’s most famous movies such as Bambi and Alice in Wonderland.
The museum also offers art and animation classes to students of all ages, field trips and outreach programs, workshops, and other special events.
Pier 39 is one of the most popular tourist attractions for families to visit in the city. There is something fun for everyone here. From the magical mirror maze for the kids to the wine tasting for adults, you will definitely have a fun-filled family day.
Other attractions include whale tours, rocket boat adventures, sea lions, an aquarium, and so much more. While you’re there, grab an ice cream from one of the many vendors, or just browse the shops.
Named the most visited attraction in San Francisco for nine years in a row, this is a destination your family won’t want to miss. Although the pier is open daily, hours of operation do vary. You only pay for the attractions you like and there is no cost to walk around enjoying the sights.
Heading to “The Rock”, aka Alcatraz Island, is an exciting and fun (if not slightly macabre) escapade for all kids. It’s been considered the #1 landmark in America by TripAdvisor on multiple occasions.
Once a penitentiary housing some of America’s most notorious gangsters and criminals (including Al Capone), the island also has beautiful historic gardens and the Pacific Coast’s oldest lighthouse to explore.
The ferry building is located at Alcatraz Landing, Pier 33. The trip across to the island takes around 15 minutes. A typical day tour will take around three hours including the trip to the island, taking the audio tour, viewing the historic exhibits, and exploring the rest of the island.
Chinatown & the Fortune Cookie Factory
Located in one of the most historically interesting parts of San Francisco, the heart of Chinatown, the Cookie Factory has been a family-run operation for well over a half century, and still produces over 10,000 hand-folded cookies each day! The building dates from 1907, part of the rebuild after the devastating 1906 earthquake.
Chinatown has many such sites of appeal, both for experiencing the tantalizing delights of Chinese dim sum, herbalists, karaoke bars, and shops and restaurants of all kinds.
A visit to San Francisco is not complete without at least one trip to its world-famous Chinatown district, and a visit to the Fortune Cookie Factory gives your trip a decidedly family-friendly vibe.
Oracle Park — Home of the Giants
Another thrilling “must-do” for a family looking for the complete San Francisco experience is taking in a ball game at historic Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Join up to 42,000 other baseball fans in one of America’s greatest ballparks. While they now offer healthier food options than they used to let’s face it - most kids will love the hotdogs
Tickets to a game are available online, and you can even arrange for a message to be shown on the 4K video board or meet Lou Seal, the Giants’ mascot.
Alternatively, you can tour the ballpark in action behind-the-scenes, or take an educational tour to learn more about America’s National Pastime and the San Francisco Giants’ history.
San Francisco Railway Museum
Are you and your family fans of all things trains? Then this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Since trains, cable cars, and rail cars have been so much a part of San Francisco’s colorful history, you will see and discover all kinds of amazing historical details and stories centered on San Francisco’s railway.
The museum itself occupies one fascinating room full of memorabilia, photographs, videos, and one of the more popular features, the gift shop, offering all kinds of hard to find historical train/cable car/railway style mementos and artifacts.
Come by cable car! Truly a San Francisco experience for all the family to enjoy.
The 7D Experience
3D meets virtual reality at San Francisco’s renowned 7D experience. The ultra-sensory experience combines a roller coaster experience with motion seats, a laser gun, and a curved screen. The huge curved screen and 3D action fill your peripheral vision to bring you an experience like no other!
Though all ages are welcome, participants must be at least 40 inches tall, and it’s not recommended that you ride The Flyer if you are pregnant. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis and each ride can hold just 20 guests. Each ride lasts about 15 minutes.
Fire Department Museum
Whether you’re a tourist or a local resident, the San Francisco Fire Department Museum should be on your list of attractions. Tucked away in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, the Fire Department Museum is home to a large collection of historic fire department memorabilia.
Once inside this sweet, unobtrusive museum, children will get a chance to see eye-catching classic firefighting vehicles, implements, badges, and uniforms.
The Fire Department Museum also has a huge selection dedicated to the massive fires that destroyed the city over a century ago. Parents can use this opportunity as an excellent learning tool for their children to hammer home the seriousness of fire safety, and why supporting firefighters is extremely important. And what kid, young or old, doesn’t love a good fire engine?
California Academy of Sciences
Are you looking for an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum all in one location? Then the California Academy of Sciences is the place to be.
You can tour the Academy at your own pace or you can take one of the specialty tours such as a Penguins + Pajamas Sleepover or a nightlife VIP tour.
There are also multiple exhibits and events such as a “Passport to the Universe” where you can discover the cosmos at the planetarium shows; a “Coral Reef Dive” where you can watch divers plunge into amazing indoor coral reefs; and the Osher Rainforest, an indoor four-storey rainforest home to tropical butterflies and birds.
From toddlers to teenagers to adults, the California Academy of Sciences is a one-stop trip for hours of entertainment and lasting memories.
Often called one of the “crookedest” streets in the world, Lombard Street features eight “hairpin” curves and a walking experience replete with beautiful gardens, swirling red brickwork, lovely mansions, and stunning views of San Francisco Bay. It’s a Bay area kid photographer’s dream.
From Lombard Street, many of the other landmarks the city has to offer are also within walking distance or are just a short ride away, such as Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown.
Golden Gate Park and Stow Lake
Golden Gate Park and Stow Lake are the perfect destinations for outdoor fun with the whole family. The park boasts miles of trails that can be walked or cycled. There are several bike rental facilities. Bring a stroller for the little ones, so they don’t tire out too quickly.
There is plenty of wildlife to encounter from ducks and geese to blue herons. Stop by the snack shack for a quick bite or rent a boat to cruise around the lake. It takes an hour to go around the entire lake, and there is plenty to see.
Golden Gate Park is also home to the de Young Museum, a fine arts museum that showcases American art from the Victorian age through to the 21st Century.
This is an adventure the entire family will love.
Aquarium of the Bay
San Francisco can be an expensive city to visit, so anytime you can find a fun activity that will take the better part of a day at a reasonable price you should jump on it. The aquarium has a great family package deal that covers admission for four family members.
Kids will love the interactive exhibits here in which they can actually touch rays, sharks, skates, and other sea critters.
This is a great way to get the kids excited about the ocean and the natural world, and give parents a fun day out for a good price.
Ocean Beach is located next to Golden Gate Park and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The water is cold, but it is excellent for surfing. There are riptides in the water, so wading or casual swimming can be dangerous.
However, families of all ages can enjoy the sandy beach and surrounding attractions. There is plenty of sand for building castles and hunting for buried treasure. When night falls, a beach bonfire will chase away the chill and offer the chance to make s’mores. Golden Gate Park next door offers bicycling, food trucks, and live music.
San Francisco Zoo
There is easy access by bus, BART, light rail or train to this remarkable zoo in San Francisco’s Sunset District, located along the Pacific Coast Highway.
The San Francisco Zoo is one of the most celebrated zoos in the world. It’s 100 acres of fun. Imagine being able to spot Siberian tigers, giraffes, gorillas, eagles, penguins, zebras, and a rich variety of over 1,000 other exotic, endangered, and rescued animals in the most natural settings possible for these amazing creatures, right along the Pacific Coast.
Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround
Re-live a part of San Francisco’s rich history — these cable cares have been running since 1883!
Come view the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets. Because these magnificent trolleys are not designed to go in reverse, they have to be manually turned around on a wood platform, quite something to behold.
While many come just to witness the event, you’ll enjoy street performers who are also there to entertain and delight, while passengers line up to get their “front-row seat.”
Cars fill up and leave at 5- or 10-minute intervals, so there usually won’t be more than a 10– or 15-minute wait, which is mad fun anyway with all the street performers going non-stop. Kids love the open-air fun when the cable car is in motion, just keep them close for obvious safety reasons.
Then you can then get off at the Wharf to check off more items on your San Francisco must-do list. If your kids can’t get enough of cable cars, there’s also the San Francisco Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill.
Children’s Creativity Museum
The Children’s Creativity Museum’s mission is to provide hands-on, multimedia arts and technology experiences that develop creativity and critical thinking skills among children.
Children have a fun experience with a heavy emphasis on creation and collaboration, with a number of exhibits such as the Imagination Lab, Animation Studio, Robot Coding Lab, and Innovation Lab.
Some events encourage children to paint, make music, make stomp rockets, and dance along with theatrical plays. Adults are welcome to assist and join in with activities and to provide motivation. They’ve geared their activities to children aged 2 to 12 and thus they’re friendly to younger children and strollers.
House of Air
One of the best trampoline indoor parks in the world is right in San Francisco!
House of Air is recommended for all ages seven and up. Kids younger than seven years old are provided a separate kid’s space, but they cannot participate in trampolining with older family members in the main areas.
There is a parent’s rest area with teas and coffee at the cafe when you are ready to take a break. There are summer camps, day and evening programs, and even a dodgeball area for the older ones to enjoy. Prices vary for ages and times, and booking online is recommended.
Located on Pier 15, you’ll enjoy all the many offerings at this spectacular museum featuring events, experiences, and displays on science, art, and “human perception.” You’ll want to visit the cinema, the art gallery, the fascinating hands-on science exhibits dome, and so much more!
There is probably too much to take in in one day, but you can get membership passes for repeat trips (highly recommended).
Julius Kahn Playground
You can be sure that visiting the Julius Kahn Playground and Picnic area will be a memorable experience. Small and large groups can rent an exclusive picnic space. There are picnic impact fees based on the size of your group.
One of the cleanest parks around, it’s a wonderful place for families. The Parisian-style play area is usually full of kids learning to play together, and you can rest and eat together at the comfortable picnic space. The play equipment is unique and challenging, and there’s an interactive wet sand play sculpture.
The playground offers beautiful surroundings for a lovely family-style picnic or larger gathering.
Koret Playground & Carousel
A well-loved playground site since 1914 in San Francisco, kids of all ages still enjoy their time here at the Koret Playground.
The Carousel runs from 10 AM until 6 PM, with shortened hours off-season. Kids under 40 inches in height will need to be accompanied by a paying adult rider. The last ride is at 3:45 PM.
There are numerous other features the playground offers such as a climbing wall and a rope climb. The carousel itself is a work of art to behold, featuring over 60 colorful painted figures including a dragon, roosters, dogs, horses, and many other funny and delightful characters. The carousel may be made for kids, but it is enjoyed by all.
City Lights Bookstore
City Lights Bookstore is a landmark in the city known internationally for its extensive collection of books. It has regular events and readings.
With a specialization in world history, politics, and cultural studies, the store is geared toward a more mature audience and it would be most suitable for older children and teenagers.
It’s a great way to introduce older children to independent bookstores and the thrill of looking through several floors of books to find the perfect one.
Children’s Fairyland (Oakland)
Children’s Fairyland is a 10-acre magical and fantasy themed park, located on Lake Merritt, in Oakland, California.
The fun is constantly changing all season long, with outdoor musical and theater shows, games, arts and crafts, puppet shows, and magic performers.
It’s recommended to take the easy-access public transit, bike, or walk into the festivities, as there is no parking on site.
There are three reservable theme park areas (Cinderella, Japanese Tea Garden, and the Circus-themed area). General park admission is by donation.
The Randall Museum
The Randall Museum is one of the best free things to do when visiting San Francisco with kids. and houses more than 100 animal exhibits, has a hands-on STEM area with a 3D printer, and a one-of-a-kind model rail exhibit.
The museum is for all ages, and it is a place to learn about science, nature, and fine art. It offers classes for kids, teens, and adults. There are activities and events that are constantly changing. Visitors are allowed to bring in outside food or can purchase food at the Café Josephine. The first floor is wheelchair accessible and other floors have elevator access.
The Randall Museum is surrounded by Corona Heights Park and is located at 199 Museum Way in San Francisco. The museum is typically closed on Sundays.
Urban Putt is located in the Mission District and is San Francisco’s first indoor miniature golf course. Kids love putt-putt golf, and some of the miniatures at Urban Putt have been lovingly created to mimic San Francisco landmarks. It’s fun to head to Urban Putt near the end of your vacation and see how many of the places you’ve visited you can recognize.
With no less than 14 holes, both children and adults will love the hi-tech mini golf course. Situated just two blocks from the 24th BART Street Station, Urban Putt is also a convenient spot if you’re relying on public transportation.
The Butterfly Joint
The Butterfly Joint is a unique educational resource that is loaded with fun and exciting activities revolving around woodworking, either in class settings, Saturday sessions, summer camps (note these fill up fast so register early!), parent and child and parent and toddler sessions, and adult evening classes.
The Butterfly Joint is built around skill building and socialization (manners and politeness are highlighted) in a safe and positive environment.
There is nothing like it anywhere else in San Francisco. Run by talented, experienced, and fully accredited teacher Danny Montoya, who has put together the most amazing array of year-round activities that any family member or individual of any age can enjoy and be inspired by, all under the umbrella of learning about and working with wood and hand tools.
Muir Woods is part of the Redwood National Park, the luscious sequoia forests and recreation area just north of San Francisco. Here you can get a guided tour and get up close and personal with trees that are over 250 feet tall! This is a world-renowned site that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, suitable for seasoned botanists and regular folk alike.
Note that there will be a lot of walking and some terrain on these trails while offering magnificent views may be somewhat steep and rough in patches. It’s not suitable for children in strollers. Wear good hiking boots and dress for the natural rugged setting.
Many people prefer booking the local shuttle to get in and out of the park easily, but ample parking is available for vehicles. The entrance fee is low, making for a very affordable and highly memorable experience.
Bay Area Discovery Museum
At the Bay Area Discovery Museum, there are seven unique exhibit spaces to wander through and be thrilled by, as well as innumerable special events throughout the year. You’ll see dinosaurs, fire and ice exhibits, amazing art displays, and constantly changing “pop up” programs featuring such things as jumbo chalk projects, robots, a worm dig, obstacle courses (designed for both adults and kids), and too many more to mention.
It’s definitely a golden nugget in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area. It’s thrilling and captivating for all ages. Note that on some holidays the museum is closed.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
San Francisco’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, or Odditorium, has entertained families for decades. While many of the exhibits are fine for children, use your discretion when taking small children, as a few of the exhibits may be too graphic for youngsters.
Numerous photographs and artifacts from Robert Ripley’s world travels are on display and their descriptions are informative, educational, and entertaining. No other museum has quite the collection as this fascinating assortment of oddities (and in fact, each Ripley’s Believe It Or Not has a different collection).
Multimedia and interactive displays encourage visitor participation and you and your family will spend fun-filled hours engaged in creative viewing and play. During school vacation times, this museum gets rather crowded, so plan accordingly. Allow several hours to visit the museum.
Small World Park (Pittsburg)
Small World Park is incredibly value-packed with very low entrance fees. park offers tons of family fun like tadpole fishing for a buck and a half, free rides including the carousel and the choo choo train for the kids, cheap and delicious snack bars on site, arts and crafts, space to run around, and many sponsored events throughout the season. Bring a picnic lunch for a relaxing family get together or birthday party.
There is plenty of parking and a good time to be had for all. The drive time is approximately 45 minutes from downtown San Francisco.
If you have the time, San Francisco is a great jumping off point for longer road trips. Some child-friendly California locations we can recommend including on your trip are: