Family Vacations to San Francisco

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San Francisco – Family Vacation Guide

Not only is it a trendy destination and foodie mecca, it’s also a great place for families who love nature, adventure, food, transportation, history and education.

Why Go

  • In a city under 50 square miles, there are an estimated 100 neighborhoods! You can walk just a few blocks and pass through several diverse neighborhoods. 
  • Food lovers can taste their way through fresh sourdough bread, chocolate, chowder and more.
  • From shows to sports to concerts, San Francisco offers plenty of entertainment.
  • The famous hills, views and fog give this city a unique and beautiful charm. 
  • Family-friendly activities abound from eating a picnic overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge to visiting infamous Alcatraz.

What to Do

Fort Point

An old Civil War era fortress, that was never used in any battle, Fort Point is like a playground of stairs  and cannons for any kid. During the 1930s it was used as a base camp for the construction of the Golden Gate bridge. The fort is situated directly under the bridge. Other than walking on it, this is the closest view you’ll get.

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Golden Gate Park and Bridge

  • Golden Gate Park is a must if you have kids. There is so much to do there, like the California Academy of Sciences, the flower gardens, and the DeJong Museum. Kids will love the playground in the park. There are cement slides (bring some cardboard if you have it, but there are usually some left over scraps there to slide down), sand, swings, a spider climb, all sorts of things! There is a vintage carousel next to the play ground that is much cheaper than the carousel on pier 39. The flower gardens are really worth seeing and going for a nature walk in the park will leave you finding surprising plants and animals.
  • Picnic at Baker’s Beach for a true delight. The best part of this beach, is the fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a picnic and dip your toes in. You may even see a dolphin here.
  • You can also rent bikes and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Or, if you’re feeling less brave, you can always walk or drive. Turn left after the bridge and go up the hill for an amazing view of the bay, the city and the bridge.
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Muir Woods

Just a quick jaunt over the Golden Gate Bridge lies a wonderland of giant redwoods and the peace that you just might need to escape to when visiting the city by the bay.

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Ghirardelli Square

If you’ve got a sweet tooth and you’re in the mood for some chocolate, stopping in at Ghirardelli Square in a must. They have more than chocolate though. Try the milkshakes or, my personal favorite, the hot chocolate!

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Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39

  • Fisherman’s Wharf is a fun place to wander seafood stalls and grab some fresh calamari, crab, or clams. Head to the Boudin Factory for fresh sourdough bread or a bread bowl full of hot clam chowder. You can walk through the factory and see how the bread is made. Kids will love the sourdough bread shaped into all sorts of animals!
  • At Pier 39 you can try all sorts of different clam chowder on the pier, grab a crepe for dessert and watch the seals off the pier. Kids will love the beautiful double decker carousel at the end of the pier and the magic shop.


No trip to San Francisco would be complete without taking the boat ride to Alcatraz, the first Lighthouse and fort built on the west coast, and later transformed into a federal penitentiary for the worst criminals. Take the self guided audio tour that will walk you through prison cells and tell the stories of the men and women who called “the rock” home.

Lomard Street

Lombard street is known as the “crookedest street in the world” and it really deserves its name! Walk, or if you’re brave, drive, down the crooked street and try not to get dizzy!

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The Painted Ladies

Across from Alamo Park on Steiner Street, sit these beauties. Victorian mansions painted in beautiful colors. These are privately owned, but you can picnic at the park with their lovely facades as a backdrop.

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GoCar Tour

If you’re looking for something a little different, try GoCar Tours. You can drive up and down the steep hills of San Francisco in a go cart while a GPS tour guide will explain the main attractions and fascinating history of the city.

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Where to Stay

When choosing where to stay in San Francisco, you may want to considering what you’ll be doing. Many of the main attractions will be near Presidio or Golden Gate Park. The Handlery at Union Square is centrally located and has great suites for families that won’t break the bank. It also has a heated outdoor pool, laundry service and is dog-friendly so you can bring Fido along too. Hotel del Sol near Fisherman’s Wharf is another great option that’s extremely family-friendly. With colorful decor, milk and cookies offered in the lobby and a saltwater heated pool, the kids will be in heaven. There is a multitude of other hotels and home rentals all over the city that are sure to fit every families needs. 

Getting Around

The peninsula of San Francisco is only 46 square miles. It’s a relatively small city, but with copious amount of steep hills, walking can get a bit challenging, especially with little feet. Public transportation in San Francisco is varied. You can take the BART and of course, the iconic San Francisco trolleys, which you can find all around town. You can always catch a cab, Uber, or Lyft and, of course, rent bikes!

Vanessa Hunt is a full-time traveling mama who is passionate about world-schooling and food. You can find her sharing all about her travels with her family of six (her four children are 4, 7, 9 and 11), as well as her favorite recipes at WanderlustCrew.

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