Top 29 best things to do with kids while visiting San Francisco
Whether you’re a local, or you’re planning a trip to the city, get ready to discover the best things to do with kids in San Francisco. To help you really make the most of your time in this impressive city, we’ve put together a list of the very best San Francisco attractions for families. Explore the best parks in San Francisco, the most unique ways to get around, and even some indoor places just in case it rains. So here’s how to take your family vacation in San Francisco to the next level!
1: Aquarium of the Bay
Family fun in San Francisco starts right here at Aquarium of the Bay! With over 20,000 marine animals that are indigenous to San Francisco, the Aquarium of the Bay is a very popular choice for children, especially for those who love marine wildlife. Located at the waterfront at Pier 39, the 300-foot-long crystal-clear tunnels will enthrall children with spectacular views of aquatic species ranging from jellyfish and anchovies to turtles and octopuses.
Be sure to check out the Touch the Bay exhibit, which allows kids to get a closer view of sharks, stingrays, and sea stars. Kids are always captivated by the bunch of playful river otters too!
2: Bay Area Discovery Museum
This is a must-see on your family trip to San Francisco. Bay Area Discovery Museum is a place where kids can let their imagination and creativity run wild. The museum offers outdoor and indoor exhibition spaces as well as daily events for children aged 6 months to 10 years.
It is located in Sausalito at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge on 7.5 acres of National Park property. It’s a great way to double up on activities as you can enjoy all of what the museum offers, plus enjoy the breathtaking views of the bridge – talk about getting more bang for your buck!?
3: House of Air In San Francisco
Bounce, slam dunk and discover your inner gymnast. House of Air trampoline park is a great indoor option for kids (in case the weather is slightly unfavorable). Located in a repurposed airplane hangar, families with kids aged 3 and over can enjoy open trampoline jump time to their heart’s content. There is a designated “mini” jump area for children aged 3 to 6, allowing them to play freely without any fear of injuring themselves around the older wilder jumping kids.
Feeling competitive? Get that adrenaline pumping and turn it up a notch with trampoline dodgeball! This has got to be one of the best San Francisco attractions for families!
4: San Francisco Zoo
Often overlooked, this Zoo is high on our list for San Francisco family activities. Located on the city’s western side, mere steps from the Pacific Ocean, it’s the perfect day out with the kids. Especially if they are animal lovers.
A snow leopard, a black rhinoceros, and polar bears can all be found here.
Some other exhibits of interest include a three-acre savanna with zebras, giraffes, and ostriches; a gorilla preserve with a family of six gorillas; and a eucalyptus grove that homes several adorable koalas.
We highly recommend checking out the feeding schedule to get up close and personal with the beautiful animals.
5: Children’s Creativity Museum
The Children’s Creativity Museum focuses on encouraging children’s creativity and confidence while also engaging with their families. Kids can let their imaginations run wild while being surrounded by the comfort of their parents. Children can choose from a range of studios and labs in the Explore portion of the museum, depending on their personal choice.
There’s something to excite every child’s interest, whether it’s music, robotic coding, animation, or something else. With so many activities, including a carousel, you can expect to spend many hours here.
Address: 221 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
6: San Francisco Cable Cars
There’s nothing quite like taking a cable car up and down San Francisco’s hills. As one of the most unique ways to explore the city, your kids will find this both a fun and unforgettable experience.
The adventure begins while you wait for the cable cars to arrive at the cable car turnarounds (at Powell or California and Market Streets) or along the routes. Once you’ve hopped on, you can either sit down or grab the grips and hang on for the ride. The bell-ringing makes the experience even more exhilarating as it can be heard from blocks away to draw the attention of approaching vehicles.
Learn More about the Cable Cars:
7: California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences is San Francisco’s most popular museum. There are a variety of enjoyable activities for both children and adults, which makes it a great San Francisco family activity.
Watch a fantastic show at the Morrison Planetarium, or go through the four-story rainforest and watch the butterflies flutter about. You can also head to the beautiful and huge Steinhart Aquarium.
Be sure to explore the stunning views by heading to the grass-covered roof at the top, it is truly unique!
8: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, located in the Fisherman’s Wharf district, provides visitors with the views, sounds, smells, and stories of Pacific Coast maritime heritage.
The park features a Visitor Center, Maritime Museum, and Maritime Research Center. Kids can watch a stunning collection of historic ships in action from the Aquatic Park Historic District that is also featured at this San Francisco national park.
Address: Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94123
9: City Lights Bookstore
The first all-paperback bookshop in the United States and the origin of the Beat movement, City Lights Bookstore has been an emblem in the literary community of San Francisco since 1953.
Whether your children are avid readers, or you are keen to introduce your kids to books about social justice and activism, it’s the perfect place as there is a brilliant children’s book section within the bookstore.
10: Stow Lake
In the heart of Golden Gate Park, Stow Lake is a lovely man-made beauty. There are various things to do at this San Francisco landmark, including hiking to the top of Strawberry Hill where you can see birds and turtles or simply relaxing in the Chinese Pavilion. Or why not try the most popular activity at Stow Lake, rent a pedal boat, and row out across the lake.
The Stow Lake Café is also a great place to grab a bite to eat. All the ingredients are sourced locally, organic, and sustainably grown if possible.
11: Walt Disney Museum
Enhance your family vacation to San Francisco by making a trip to the Walt Disney Museum. Delve into the life and legacy of the legendary filmmaker and learn about Disney’s incredible accomplishments and genre-defining animations by viewing magnificent mementos, film clips, and even awards on exhibit.
The museum, which opened in 2009 is one of the best things to do with the kids in San Francisco and displays a vast collection of early sketches and designs, is situated in three historic buildings in the park’s center. It even includes original artwork from the Hollywood years (1923 to 1928) such as the first known drawing of Mickey Mouse!
12: Seward Street Slides
Ready to fly down some really steep slides? Well, one of San Francisco’s best-kept treats is located on a steep hill in the Noe Valley area. Two lengthy, cement slides await those brave enough to slide down them!
The parallel slides were built in 1973 and are still providing thrills today. If you want to really feel exhilarated then bring a piece of cardboard! Although the slides are smooth, clothes can provide some friction, so sliding down on a piece of cardboard will definitely make you go faster! This is a great activity for older kids.
13: Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park
The children’s playground and carousel in Golden Gate Park’s southeast corner are remembered fondly by generations of San Franciscans (and young visitors from all over the world!). When it was opened in 1888, it was known as the Sharon Quarters for Children, and it is believed to be the country’s first public playground.
The concept of dedicating a room purely for the enjoyment of children was revolutionary at the time. The playground was completely renovated and reopened in 2007 as the Koret Children’s Quarter, thanks to the Koret Foundation’s generous funding.
A climbing wall styled like waves and a rope climbing structure have been added, but the historic concrete slide has been preserved.
14: Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park
Fun for the whole family, with beautiful views of the city, this park is a big hit. Kids can enjoy the swings, bouldering rocks, and wooden boats. The playground’s “pinnacle” however, is a thrilling 45-foot-long slide that offers a roughly thirty-foot elevation change.
The Super Slide is tucked into the hillside among stones, trees, and dense foliage, and anybody who climbs up to its entrance will be treated to a thrilling ride. The slide can be reached through an accessible bridge that leads to stone stairs, or by climbing up the slope on the rubber surface area that surrounds a field of stones.
15: 7D Experience
Really make the most of your family vacation in San Francisco and head to 7D Experience. Perfect for older children, Pier 39’s 7D Experience is a fun and interactive adventure for the whole family. The Flyer, the Dark Ride, the Lazer Challenge, or all three can be experienced.
The Dark Ride is the most popular of the three activities. It’s a combination of a movie, a roller coaster, and a video game. You will have 3D movie glasses during your time in the theater, making every moment feel extremely real! As you shoot bad guys and defend others in danger, the hairs at the back of your neck will stand up, as you take every bump (as your chair moves around), and interact with the baddies.
Address: Pier 39 San Francisco, CA 94133
16: Ghirardelli Square
Does your mouth water at the thought of chocolate? So does ours! That’s why a family vacation in San Francisco style wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the chocolate shop at Ghirardelli Square. Ghirardelli Chocolate was founded in 1852, a few years after the Gold Rush, and is the country’s oldest continually operating chocolate maker.
The newest attraction is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience. The 170-year-old chocolate company is now bringing customers into the chocolate-making experience. It is the first time Ghriradelli is making fresh chocolate bars in-store, alongside roasting hazelnuts and almonds, for customers to try. Also visit the world’s largest Ghiradelli Pick & Mix, with the widest selection of Ghirardelli Squares available to customize in a variety of gifts, which can now also be personalized!
17: Randall Museum
Still, searching for stuff to do in San Francisco? The perfect museum that promotes learning through hands-on activities. Science-themed displays, environmental education, and arts experiences are all available here.
There’s plenty of fun to be had, at the ocean study station, kids can ride a scaled-down model caboose, climb a treehouse, and touch sea stars.
The museum features a café that sells snacks, sandwiches, soups, salads, and other nutritious meals, which is convenient for families. Seasonal organic vegetables are sourced from farms within 100 miles of San Francisco.
18: Urban Putt
This San Francisco family attraction is a must for those who love golf! Watch as your kids enjoy this bizarre indoor miniature golf course, which features 14 holes of putt-putt golf, many of which are themed after famous San Francisco landmarks.
Parents we’ve got you covered, you can enjoy the full-service restaurant and bar upstairs, where you can relax and unwind while your kids play.
19: The Butterfly Joint
Feed your creative and artistic flair at the Butterfly Joint. As one of the best things to do with kids in San Francisco, It’s a children’s woodworking and design workshop for ages 2 and up. Kids use punch cards to clock in, put on aprons, and learn ancient joinery skills to produce beautiful works of art.
Focus, problem-solving, resilience, tenacity, and responsibility are instilled in the classes and camps offered here.
One of San Francisco’s most fascinating attractions, the Exploratorium hosts a number of exhibitions related to art, science, and human perception. It used to be a part of the Palace of Fine Arts, but it moved to its own location in 2013.
The Exploratorium learning laboratory covers topics such as sound waves, superstitions, electricity, optical illusions, centrifugal motion, and more. Six core galleries feature over 600 interactive displays encompassing geography, engineering, biology, and psychology.
The Tactile Dome is very popular since it allows you to journey into complete darkness just by utilizing your sense of touch! What a fantastic idea!
21: Visit Yoda at the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center
Located in the Presidio, the complex is named after the Letterman Army Hospital which previously occupied the site. Star Wars fans will be delighted with the life-size Yoda sculpture and Star Wars costumes in the lobby. You can find Yoda in front of Building B, headquarters for the San Francisco campus for Lucasfilm Ltd., Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
The site has been leveled to form hillocks that serve as a buffer between the buildings’ mass. Tree groves have been planted, and a path that runs through the park and links to the Presidio Promenade has been constructed.
The center’s surrounding grounds are beautiful. Equipped with meadows, a lagoon, and seating areas, it’s a prime location for a picnic for the whole family.
22: San Francisco Cable Car Museum
There is so much great stuff to do in San Francisco, and this museum is very popular! We mentioned riding the cable cars earlier, but to truly understand the mechanics behind these adventurous modes of transport, the Cable Car Museum is a stop you can’t miss! Entrance is completely free to the museum, which is located in the Nob Hill neighborhood.
Your machine-obsessed kids will get to explore the cable cars very closely and will be able to witness the cable wheels and functional models in operation. When you grasp how they work, you’ll realize the great expense involved to keep the system working.
The cable cars are part of the charm of San Francisco, but visiting their museum is the best way to truly get to know them!
23: Muir Woods
A trip to Muir Woods in Marin County’s lovely rolling hills provides kids with a taste of the big outdoors. Muir Woods National Monument is home to one of the world’s few old-growth redwood forests. Children are awestruck by the size of these colossal, thousand-year-old trees, which reach heights of over 250 feet.
Sunlight scarcely reaches this rich, dark setting, which is so unlike your typical city park that it will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on children. The walking trail is nice and easy, which is always appreciated by both parents and children. So make sure to add this to your list of family fun in San Francisco.
More information about Muir Woods:
Go to Muir Woods with the San Francisco Jeep Tour Company: For the most memorable experience, keep the adventure flowing and try our half-day Giant Redwoods Private Jeep tour with a stop in the Bayside town of Sausalito, or a glorious full-day combination San Francisco City tour and Muir Woods Tour onboard our convertible jeep!
24: Julius Kahn Playground & Clubhouse
Located next to the Presidio, this playground is ideal if you’re stuck when it comes to finding stuff to do in San Francisco with the kids. Parents and children can explore two of its structures, one for babies and toddlers, and another for school-aged children; both of which are situated in a sandpit.
If your kids are sports enthusiasts then they will further love it here as it has basketball and tennis courts, as well as soccer and baseball grounds, making Julius Kahn a park that appeals to individuals of all ages.
This park is beautiful and green, with a grove of wonderful trees around it, making it a great area to trek and explore.
25: Presidio Tunnel Top Park (Opening July 17, 2022)
There are lots of things to do at the Presidio Tunnel Tops. It has nature play spaces for kids, picnic areas, places to fly a kite, and trails to walk in nature with wonderful views. You can even experience a classic national park campfire with the whole family. The Outpost is an enormous outdoor playland like nothing your family has ever experienced. Children will have unforgettable adventures by swinging, crawling, and climbing on huge play structures built from fallen tree trunks, boulders, and other natural things. Kids can build, make art, roam free on their own, or make up new games with friends. This is the place to get excited about Presidio’s wild outdoors.
The Field Station is where kids see the Presidio through art, science, or simply their imagination. Drop in to draw butterflies, touch a crawfish, discover maps made by the first explorers, or be challenged to close their eyes and describe what mystery object is in their hands. It’s not a classroom and it’s not a museum – and it just might be the most fun indoor spot in San Francisco.
Come to feel inspired and escape from the busy city at Presidio Tunnel Tops. This new outdoor area in San Francisco is a destination to enjoy on its own, and a jumping-off point for other Presidio adventures including the Crissy Field Center.
Info by Presidio Tunnel Top
26: Bernal Heights Park
For a quieter experience and family vacation in San Francisco, Bernal Heights Park is a great option. It offers a stunning 360-degree view with clear sights of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown, San Bruno Mountain, and the East Bay hills. Even when Twin Peaks is blanketed in afternoon fog, the light shines brightly on these windswept slopes.
You can hike around the hill’s tranquil peak to escape the stresses of urban life, as red-tailed hawks fly overhead. There’s also a rope swing at the top of the hill and a dog-friendly park.
Bernal Hill is an important area for the city’s human and wildlife residents since it is one of the city’s few remaining natural refuges.
Address: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110
27: Golden Gate Bridge
This is an absolute must. You will probably see this beautiful iconic bridge in the background while visiting many other attractions. However, we thoroughly recommend you get as close as possible to this breathtaking landmark, which is one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Whether you hike, walk, bike or drive, the Golden Gate Bridge offers a unique experience to everyone. You can even jump in a GoCar and drive across the bridge in a unique GPS-guided mode of transport! What could be more fun?
Check out more Golden Gate Bridge info to plan the perfect visit.
- Golden Gate Bridge – Information on access, parking, weather, photo locations and more
- Top 7 Spots for Photos of the Golden Gate Bridge
- 12 Movies Featuring the Golden Gate Bridge
- 10 Cool Ways to Visit the Golden Gate Bridge
- History of the Golden Gate Bridge
- 25 Fun and Interesting Facts About the Golden Gate Bridge
Want to capture your own shots of the Golden Gate Bridge? All of the San Francisco Jeep Tours include rides across the bridge. The San Francisco Jeep City Tour, Sunset and City Lights San Francisco Jeep Tours, and the Full Day Combo City and Muir Woods tour travel to different locations around San Francisco that offer incredible views of the bridge for all of your Golden Gate photo needs.
28: Lombard Street the Crookedest Street
This zig-zagging street is known as the most crooked street and is too cool not to show your kids! The iconic section of Lombard Street did not always look the way it does now. It was just a regular street. The street did not actually take its current shape until 1922. The design was implemented to try to minimize the steep slope of the street, which made driving quite unsafe at the time. But because of the hairpin bends created, Lombard Street has become the world’s most crooked street as a result!
It’s pretty steep, but you will have the choice of either walking or driving down it. Whichever method you choose, be sure to take in the beautiful views and photograph the gorgeous flowers that have been planted all around this popular landmark.
29: PIER 39
For a busier experience, Pier 39 is the perfect spot to take in the city’s cool vibe and entertainment! It is in the heart of city life and will surely keep your kids amused for many hours.
It’s packed with shops, restaurants, stunning views of the bay, and even sea lions! You can even make your own music! A series of symphonic stairs placed mid-pier, inspired by Tom Hanks’ film “Big,” allow you to create your own music as you go up or down them.
The Famous Seal Lions can be found lounging in the enclosed marina harbor.
And there you have it! 29 of the best things to do with the kids in San Francisco. Making memories with your family is the greatest joy for parents. From iconic landmarks to the best parks in San Francisco to the coolest streets, and everything in-between – San Francisco has everything to offer to keep your kids happy and amused, isn’t that every parent’s dream?
Want to explore San Francisco with your family on a private tour?
San Francisco Jeep Tours is the perfect family-friendly tour activity in San Francisco onboard their private tours. The city tour routes and entertaining tour guides cover lots of information on the “not to miss” attractions. Book a San Francisco Jeep City Tour, Sunset and City Lights San Francisco Jeep Tours, or the Full Day Combo City and Muir Woods tour to travel to many of the kid-friendly locations in and around San Francisco.
Check out the San Francisco Jeep Tours website for more information on exploring the City by the Bay.