6 Best Family-Friendly Attractions in San Francisco
California’s “City by the Bay” is teeming with fun attractions for people of all ages. While there are lots of ways to enjoy your time in the city, if you have kids in tow, try sticking to these classic San Francisco experiences that are sure to make the trip memorable.
Ride a Cable Car
Ever heard of a historic city landmark that serves as a fun form of public transportation? San Francisco’s cable cars are just that. These famous cars have been a symbol of the city for years—and will conveniently take you to popular family attractions!
Hop on the Powell-Mason or Powell-Hyde Line (both begin at Powell and Market streets) which will take you to Fisherman’s Wharf. The Powell-Mason Line ends at Bay Street, and the Powell-Hyde Line ends near Ghirardelli Square. If you want to see Chinatown, get on the California Street Line at Van Ness Avenue.
While you may consider this attraction cliché or a bit too touristy, your kids will feel like they are on a thrill ride (albeit, a rather leisurely one). Besides, there is no denying that the view of the bay from the hills is breathtaking!
Spend a Day in Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is large enough to spend the entire day—which you may want to consider if you are staying a few nights in the city.
The historic Herschell-Spillman Carousel at the Koret Children’s Quarter is a must-see for little ones who can’t resist going for a ride, as well as adults who can appreciate its beautiful design. There is also a large play area nearby that has a climbing wall and a rope climbing structure.
Toddlers and babies will want to check out the Panhandle Children’s Playground, which has a play structure, large sandbox area, and picnic tables for when it’s time for a snack. If your kids like nature, stop at the Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco Botanical Garden, or Japanese Tea Garden.
Make sure you grab a map of the park when you arrive to make it easier to find all your must-sees.
Don’t Forget the Museums
There are a several museums in San Francisco that cater to children and families, so pick out a few your kids will enjoy.
The Exploratorium is an art and science-oriented museum, featuring hundreds of interactive exhibits that will stimulate your child’s mind. Another great choice for scientific youngsters is the California Academy of Sciences, which has an indoor rainforest, aquarium, and planetarium.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is a must-see for fans of the classic Disney films and contains a wealth of memorabilia and historical items from Walt Disney’s past. Little kids will enjoy the Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Gardens, which teaches youngsters about multimedia through hands-on exhibits that focus on subjects ranging from animation to music.
Go Wild at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
The San Francisco Zoo is home to more than one thousand endangered or rescued animals. Kids will marvel at seeing animals like Black Rhinos, Western Lowland Gorillas, and Red Pandas with their own eyes. There are also plenty of reptiles, insects, and exotic birds to check out as well.
Make sure you visit the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo, a six-acre attraction of its own located within the zoo grounds. Here you’ll find a family farm, nature trail, and an Animal Resource Center where visitors can educate themselves about living in harmony with animals and nature.
The gardens of the park are filled with a variety of plants from all over the world as well as flora that’s native to California. Along with its animal and plant exhibits, the zoo features a miniature train ride, carousel, and playground.
Get a Whiff of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
This area of the city has it all: retail stores, restaurants, and plenty of attractions all right next to the bay. Embrace your inner tourist and browse through the many establishments of this bustling neighborhood.
You can’t visit Pier 39 without seeing the sea lions that lounge about on the docks and play. If you want to snap some great photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, take a Bay Cruise and sail right underneath!
Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its fresh seafood that is often caught right offshore, so check out the Fog Harbor Fish House or any of the other delicious seafood restaurants you stumble across. There’s also a variety of shops to browse through, so bring some spending cash.
Fans of sailing and sea life should visit the Maritime Museum and the Aquarium of the Bay. Other area attractions include Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Madame Tussaud’s, and Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze for when you’ve had your fill of nature. Alcatraz can be seen from a distance at the Wharf, but if you want the full experience, purchase a tour in advance.
Sample Ghirardelli Square
The original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is now one of San Francisco’s most popular collections of shops and restaurants. Live music and special events take place at various times throughout the year, so check ahead to see what is going on when you are in town.
The main attraction is the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, so make sure you take the kids here to sample some of the best chocolate and ice cream in the city. There are lots of reasonably-priced street vendors in the area, so carry some extra cash and purchase a few souvenirs.
Just below the square is Aquatic Park where parents can take a rest while kids play on the sand. The Hyde Street cable car line is accessible from the square so families can easily jump on and take it to Union Square.
What are some of the top attractions on your classic San Francisco trip? Share them with us in the comments below!
Cable car photo by shalunts/Shutterstock. Ghirardelli photo by ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.Tags : travel San Francisco California