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There is so much to see in California – so much that more than one visit or a multi stop visit is needed. From those heading to LA or Anaheim to see Universal or to enjoy all the best rides at Disneyland, its well worth visiting other wonderful family places, including San Francisco, San Diego and the whole coast.
Exploring California on a road trip, is well worth it but San Francisco is also a destination in its own right. So if you are wondering what to do with kids in San Francisco, fear not! With so many kid friendly things to do in San Francisco, you will discover the area is an oasis of fun for children of all ages and it’s easy to see why it’s a bucket list destination.
Don’t forget to check out the Muni CityPASS (affiliate link) to save 42% on San Francisco’s Muni (a light rail system serving San Francisco) and 4 other attractions whilst you are visiting.
Getting around San Francisco
Getting around San Francisco with a toddler, baby or young child is easy to do even without a hire car. Uber is prevalent everywhere, the Muni Metro serves the city well and there are numerous buses and of course the historic cable cars to take you your main points of interest. If you travel a bit further afield, a guided tour may appeal too.
Fun things to do with Kids in San Francisco
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There are plenty of kid activities in San Francisco; whether you prefer to explore the great outdoors including beaches and huge Redwoods or fascinating museums to fun and quirky places.
1. Muir Woods National Monument
There are so many San Francisco attractions for kids and this one is worth the little drive out of the city.
Muir Woods National Monument is an ancient Redwood forest, just 12 miles away from the Golden Gate Bridge. The magnificent remnants (some over 600 years old) provide a magical and diverse setting to visit.
We wandered around on a mild Winter’s January afternoon and found it very quiet and atmospheric.
Star Wars fans will be pleased to know this was the setting for Endor, the home of the Ewoks and the famous speeder bike chase. Equally, you can imagine elves and fairies hiding amongst undergrowth or dancing around the trickling streams.
For kids, it is a great opportunity to let them burn off some energy, and there are many paved routes within the park which are stroller friendly. This is a great idea if you are looking for things to do with toddlers in San Francisco.
We walked around by ourselves, but if you would like a more personalised experience of approximately an hour around the Redwoods, and certain spots pointed out to you, followed by a boat trip to the picturesque town of Sausalito – have a look at the wide variety of tours from Get Your Guide. Find out more about their Muir Woods and Sausalito tour see here.
Further reading on drives and National Parks:
- If you have the opportunity for drive, consider driving 3 hours to beautiful Lake Tahoe – one day doesn’t really do justice so do try and stay at least overnight if you can.
- For other great ideas on National Parks with kids you may enjoy this useful post too.
- If your kids love National Parks, then this great selection of National Parks games may appeal also!
- NB, for a guide to National Parks in Canada, I recommend having a read through here for some great travel inspiration.
Muir Woods entrance information:
Muir Woods is open every day of the year, including all holidays. The park is open 8:00 a.m. to sunset. The entrance fee is $10.00 for people 16 years and older. Parking is free at Muir Woods and Muir Beach. Muir Woods now has parking and shuttle reservations available.
Baby changes facilities and a cafe are available.
The boardwalk hike is toddler friendly with rails, and shaded.
2. USS Pampanito
USS Pampanito is a World War II submarine museum and memorial. A wonderful experience for big and little kids to explore a key part of WW2 history. Although it is clearly not stroller friendly, it is just along the wharf which is very accessible and where many other attractions lie. The Pampanito is open for visitors daily at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
USS Pampanito Entrance Information:
The Pampanito is open for visitors daily at 9:00 am year round.
(Pier 45, at the corner of Taylor Street and the Embarcadero)
Senior (62 and over) $12
Junior (6-12) $10
Children (5 and under free)
Family (2 adults and 4 Juniors) $45
Student (with ID) $12
3. California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park
The Academy consists of an aquarium, a planetarium and a natural history museum. The vast, colourful displays really do have something for everyone and are easily accessible.
Younger children will enjoy the sensory experience of the brightly coloured fish and lights, whilst older children can admire the awe- inspiring planets and solar system. There is also a rainforest to explore too! Perfect as a part of your itinerary of .rainy day toddler activities San Francisco.
California Academy Of Sciences Entrance Information:
Monday–Saturday: 9:30 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 11 am–5 pm
General Admission tickets include access to all museum and aquarium exhibits—including the rainforest, planetarium, living roof, and a wide range of daily programs. However you can grab skip the line deals here.
Children ages 3 and under are free
Open every day of the year.
4. Pier 39
This is an absolute must on your list when looking for things to do in San Francisco for kids and it’s free! Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for one thing in particular – the sea lions. We visited in January and there were so many basking in the warm sun! You are most likely to see them during the Winter, where there can be up to 900 sea lions! Be warned it’s smelly!
During the Summer, most migrate South for breeding but a small group has been to stay all year round. Another popular attraction is Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze. Aquarium of the Bay is also here- more detailed information below!
Pier 39 Entrance Information
It’s simple to reach the sea lions at K dock from either side of Fisherman’s Wharf or straight through all the shops and restaurants.
5. Aquarium of the Bay
If you are looking for things to do in San Francisco with toddlers, then the Aquarium is always a good bet. Aquarium of the Bay is also located near Pier 39 and aims to inspire wonder and conservation.
It features touch pools with sharks, rays and starfish. A highlight are the clear tunnels featuring over 20,000 marine animals from San Francisco Bay. One of the best family places to visit in San Francisco.
Adults $28, child (4-12) $18.25, family rate (2+2) $75 which saves $12, However the Get Your Guide skip the line tickets offers further discount deals here with a family ticket costing $68.
6. Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is a ‘typical’ tourist area with souvenirs galore, many cafes and restaurants, home to Pier 39 and the sea lions. It’s a popular spot, especially in the Summer and a place where you can easily while away some time.
There are lifts and ramps to make it wheelchair and stroller accessible. A bit further along by Pier 45 is Musee Mecanique – antique coin operated race games from the past. games only cost a penny.
7. Rainforest Cafe
There are several of these cafes dotted over the world and one is situated right by Fisherman’s Wharf. From the moment you walk in, you are greeted by animal sounds, waterfalls, life size animals and immersed into the rainforest. The displays move at times, which generates great excitement for the kids.
The menu features pastas, burgers, salads etc and includes healthy side dishes too. Even if you don’t want to eat there, it’s worth a look around if you are in the area – just be aware of the very kid tempting gift shop!
Rainforest Cafe Entrance Information
145 Jefferson Street
8. Exploratorium Pier 15
If you are in San Francisco with kids, the Exploratorium is perfect for inquisitive minds of all ages- with practical science activities to engage in. For younger children many exhibits involve colour, light, bubbles. There are also strollers available for use on a first come first served basis.
Exploratorium Entrance Information
Tickets are $29.95 for adults, $24.95 for kids between 13-17 and $19.95 for children aged between 4-12. Its open from Tuesday – Sunday and on selected Monday holidays. Skip the line and buy tickets here.
- Disney fans, did you know San Francisco has a Disney Museum? Have you been?
9. Cruise Around The Bay
There are many companies offering a cruise around the bay. It’s a perfect opportunity to get closer to the famous Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. You may even spot some sea lions too! Head to Fisherman’s Wharf to view lots of various companies and book your tour.
10. Explore San Francisco In A Fire Engine
Visit San Francisco Fire Engine Tours for a 75 minute experience which includes driving over the Golden Gate bridge, a visit to Sausalito and back to Fisherman’s Wharf. Kids will love the authentic fire gear too.
Fire Engine Tour Entrance Information
Tours leave daily at 09.00, 11,00, 13.00 and 15.00.
Prices Adults $55.00, Teens $45.00 12 & Under $35.00.
11. Golden Gate Bridge
A visit to San Francisco is not quite complete without a visit to see this iconic bridge up close and personal. A visit to the Marin Headlands can get you very close to take some great photos. Be very aware of car break-ins though. There are warning signs and sadly on our visit, we witnessed the aftermath of a smash and grab.
12. Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is a fantastic space to go boating, explore multiple playgrounds, see the buffalo, ride a segway, go to a museum, an aquarium, the academy of sciences, a Japanese tea garden, ride a carousel, stroll through the Conservatory of Flowers, learn about plants in the Botanical Gardens, listen to tunes in the Music Concourse, visit the the windmills and tulips or explore Shakespeare’s garden.
13. Lombard Street
If you are driving around the City, have a little stop at the very colourful and windy Lombard street.
14. Cable Car Ride
Another iconic symbol of San Francisco are the cable cars hauling up and down Powell and Hyde Street and Powell and Mason. There are often long queues at Powell and Market where the cable car turns around, but if you walk a few stops up, you can often jump on a lot quicker.
The cable car makes getting around San Francisco with a toddler easier. However, there is obviously not a lot of room for a stroller, but you can can squeeze one on. The journey takes you to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Cable Car Information :
Fare is $7 for a single ride.
15. Hyde Street Pier
Hyde Street Pier is little gem, with a small beach to the left before the main attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf. Hyde Street Pier is home to the fleet of historic landmark vessels in the collection of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
You can board all of these for a set fee. The Park offers educational, music and craft programs for all ages, and provides unique opportunities for learning more about our nation’s maritime heritage. Enjoy hands-on exhibits, waysides, videos and Ranger-led tours.
16. Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds is of course widely known. Here you can get up close and personal with Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and many many more.
Entrance information: Prices vary depending if you book with other attractions or buy a saver ticket. Prices range for adults (age 13+ from $14.99 to $27 for a wal -in price. For tickets prices and deals see here.
17. Ripley Believe It or Not
Ripleys Believe It or Not is another popular chain attraction. Inside you can discover shrunken heads, Egyptian muffled remains, a two trunk elephant and other weird and strange oddities.
Tickets are often a better deal if you buy a combo ticket which incorporates other attractions such as the Aquarium, mirror maze, laser race etc. There are some with the Big Bus company too.
18. San Francisco Dungeon
The San Francisco Dungeon is certainly not for younger children or the faint hearted. With a boat trip and a drop ride and the gore, it is not recommended for children younger than 10.
The Dungeon says “think of the dungeon as PG13” The journey lasts about 60 minutes and takes you through San Francisco’s dark and sinful past. There is nowhere to store a stroller, and all belongings must be taken with you – including up the two flights of stairs.
19. Big Bus Tour
The San Francisco Big Bus Tour is a hop on, hop off flexible way of seeing the city. the journey explores the Golden Gate bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf, Haight Asbury to Chinatown.
Child tickets are available for those aged 5-15 and children under four travel free. Strollers and pushchairs must be folded and stowed on the lower deck.
20. Ghiradelli Square
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Watch chocolatiers make candy bars in front of you at the famous Ghiradelli Chocolate Experience and of course sample away! There are plenty more things to do in Ghiradelli Square too!
Alcatraz was once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals including Al Capone. It also hosts a wealth of flora and boasts an amazing view at sunset.
The tour is stroller friendly but young children may find the tour a bit tiresome and not of great interest to them. However, older children will love the audio and hearing about the attempted escapes and prison riots.
There is only one official tour which takes you actually on to Alcatraz Island which is Alcatraz Cruises. It is definitely best to book with them and not through a tout.. If you have tweens or teens who love heist movies like the Rock, they will think this is one of coolest things to do in San Francisco for families!
22. San Francisco Zoo
San Francisco Zoo has all the big animals plus a children’s zoo. At the Cafe Playfield kid-friendly meals are offered but there are also several other restaurants to choose from too. Strollers can be hired at the zoo for $10 for a single and $12 for a double.
Children under 3 are free, aged 4-14 are charged $13 and adults $19.00
23. Union Square
if you are visiting during Christmas, one of the fun things to do in San Francisco near Union Square is the ice skating rink! With plenty of cafes for a warming hot chocolate after.
With lots to do (whatever the weather), San Francisco with kids is truly a family friendly destination. However, if you are looking for some more USA inspiration? – Have a look at Travel Mad Mum’s Road Trip on Highway 101, USA
What things to do in San Francisco with kids do you recommend?
Family Accommodation in San Francisco.
We stayed at two places, the Omni Hotel San Francisco which is downtown and more central to lots of attractions, and then the Argonaut Hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf, with its close to proximity to a small beach and all the attractions this end.
Whereas the Omni hotel had a little kids pack, and a good kids’ menu, I thought the room was a little dark. The bright, nautical feel, the location and the Argonaut swung it for me. For latest prices at the Argonaut see here.
After San Francisco
Head to Sacramento to the Fairytale town in Sacramento, a whimsical kid-friendly park featuring a storybook theme, animals for petting, gardens & a cafe and then refresh at some of the Sacramento coffee shops.
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