Whether you’re looking for a culture fix at a museum, a place to soak up nature or an exciting sporting event, San Francisco is awash with kid-friendly attractions. Here are eight favorites that are sure to please the whole family.
1. Golden Gate Park
This is truly a must-visit for anyone visiting San Francisco, but particularly families, and is amazing in good weather or bad. When the sun is shining, stroll the immaculate Japanese Tea Garden, take a pedal-boat out on Stow Lake or just wander the endless trails. If the wind or rain drives you inside, step inside the California Academy of Sciences (arguably the city’s best attraction), the DeYoung Museum and the Conservatory of Flowers. You could spend all day at this impressive park.
2. The Exploratorium
This iconic Bay Area children’s museum is even more spectacular following its move to the new Pier 15 location several years ago. Hands-on, immersive activities abound for kids of all ages, including a ‘shadow camera’ that freezes your silhouette onto the wall. A café and gift shop add to the fun, and this is a place where the hours fly by for families.
3. AT&T Park
Whether your kid is a fervent fan or making their first visit to a big-league game, it’s hard to top AT&T Park. Breathtaking views from the upper decks, fantastic food and some wild kiddie activities make this one of Major League Baseball’s best family venues. Where else can kids (under 14) slide down a gigantic Coca-Cola bottle, view a mini-version of AT&T Park, pose by a humongous baseball glove or take selfies in a Fantasy Photo booth?
4. Pier 39
While it’s often overflowing with crowds of tourists and a bit hectic, it’s hard to debate the lures of Pier 39 as one of San Francisco’s best diversions for children. Kitschy shopping, amusement rides — like a two-story carousel — and sweet treats of every nature await at this bastion of eclectic entertainment. Video game arcades, seafood eateries and a community of splashing Sea Lions add to the draw.
5. Fisherman’s Wharf
Neighboring and surrounding Pier 39, this neighborhood is another tourist attraction with ample family fun. Among the popular venues are a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, and the wax museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. Endless souvenir shops, classic seafood and Italian dining—such as Alioto’s — round out the fun.
Exploring the Chinatown neighborhood district is like visiting an entirely different country for kids, from the deliciously authentic eats to the colorful shops. Grant Street is probably the most quintessential avenue for dining and window-shopping, but the entire neighborhood makes for an adventurous amble. Consider Yuet Lee at Stockton and Broadway for an authentic and affordable family lunch.
7. Yerba Buena Gardens
Centrally located a few blocks south of Market Street, this compound of public space and outdoor art is actually a haven of diversions for the young ones as well. Among the youthful lures are the Children’s Creativity Museum, an ice skating rink, a bowling alley and a restored 1905 carousel. Hungry families can head for the B Restaurant and Grill, Mo’s Grill on the upper walkway or the snack shop neighboring the merry-go-round.
8. The Walt Disney Family Museum
Tucked away inside the Presidio, this treasure trove of memorabilia and interactive media will be a huge hit for any kids fascinated by the iconic characters or theme parks brought to life by the late Walt Disney. Early artwork, a detailed model of Disneyland and a digital theater presenting Disney classics are just a few of the innumerable highlights of this 40,000-square-foot venue.
By Zach Chouteau