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by Jill Loeffler •
Updated: January 18, 2023
With so many attractions, it's sometimes hard to determine the best things to do in San Francisco with kids. Here you will find a list of the activities and attractions that both your kids and your entire family will enjoy.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
The Aquarium of the Bay is a popular option for those visiting San Francisco with kids. The aquarium is in the heart of Pier 39 and easy to access from anywhere in the city.
Here you will learn more about the plants and animals in the SF Bay. It's a fun experience for kids of all ages. You can watch the jelly fish float around, stroll through their large walk through aquarium tunnels, and admire their large Pacific octopus.
Other fun things to do at the aquarium include the hands on-lab where you can touch a star fish, a baby shark or a stingray.
>> More about visiting the Aquarium of the Bay
>> Find tickets for your visit
The Exploratorium is a hands-on, educational museum for kids of all ages. Here you can visit hundreds of exhibits where you will learn things such as how electricity works, what causes earthquakes and how important everyday things are made.
Other top stops include the weather area where you can see temperatures and weather patterns all around the world, their tornado exhibit, and the sounds and colors areas.
It's a great way to spend the day in San Francisco with kids.
>> Find tickets for your visit
>> More about what it's like to visit the Exploratorium
>> Discover 10 of the best family-friendly museums in SF
The most visited museum in San Francisco is the California Academy of Sciences. It's one of my personal favorites too. There are several fun activities for both kids and adults.
Walk through the four-story rain forest and watch the butterflies opening fly around the rainforest. Grab tickets to see a show at the Morrison Planetarium. You can also head down into the large and colorful Steinhart Aquarium.
Make sure to also head up to the top where you can check out their living roof.
It's the perfect kids' museum in San Francisco that is fun for the entire family too! Plan to spend at least 3 to 4 hours here to see everything.
>> Buy your tickets in advance online for skip the line privileges
>> Additional information about visiting the California Academy of Sciences
Suggested Itinerary: If you are spending the weekend, check out my Perfect Weekend with Kids suggested itinerary. It's an easy way to plan your stay! You'll find it here.
Have you ever been on a real submarine? The USS Pampanito is one of two historic ships docked at Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. This WWII sub went on six missions. The intact vessel was slightly modified and is now a floating San Francisco museum.
Inside, you will learn all about what it's like to live and work on a submarine. You can spend some time in the main console where the navigators run the submarine. You can take a peek in the quarters and even see where the people on board ate and hung out while living on board.
It's one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids as it will keep every entertained for at least an hour or two.
>> Learn more about what you will see on the USS Pampanito
>> Tickets included in the GO San Francisco Card, learn more here
Everyone in your family will love spending time riding the San Francisco cable cars. These rolling historic gems run up and down some of our steepest streets.
You will find three lines still in operation. Two run between Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. The third line runs up and down California Street.
All three offer wonderful views and an exciting ride around the city.
You can also step inside the free cable car museum. This small museum tells you all about the history of the cable cars in San Francisco and what happened to them after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.
However, the best part for kids is to see the wheels in action as they pull the cars on the line up the steep hills.
In the basement, you will also find a full model scale that allows you to step inside, look around, and learn more about them.
It's one of the unforgettable things to do in San Francisco with kids.
>> Learn more about what's its like to ride a cable car
>> More about visiting the free museum
>> Find a list of 20 free things to do with kids
Another one of the fun things to do in San Francisco with kids is to head out to Golden Gate Park. You will find #3 on my list in this park (California Academy of Sciences) as well as several other family-friendly activities.
You can visit the colorful Japanese Tea Garden, stroll through the Conservatory of Flowers, and visit the de Young (the views from the free tower are the best for kids of all ages).
If you love the outdoors, you can also head over to Stow Lake. Here you can head out on a pedal boat ride, walk around the lake checking out the wildlife (I love the turtles), or climb to the stop of Strawberry Hill (a small island in the middle of the lake).
You can also head out to the Bison Paddock to see a couple of bison in person. You can then end your day out near Ocean Beach with lunch or dinner at the Beach Chalet with views over the Pacific Ocean.
>> Learn more about everything there is to see and do at Golden Gate Park
Muir Woods is one of my favorite places to visit. It's amazing seeing the true size of these Coastal Redwood trees. It's also the perfect place for kids. You can stroll in the popular areas where you will find educational information about the trees.
You can also head off the beaten path for a longer hike in the woods. Children under 15 get in free.
They also require reservations for both those visiting by car and shuttle. Make sure to read through my page before you visit to find out how to book your spot today.
To make it easier, you can also head out on a guided tour. They will do the driving for you so you. They will also drop you off at the entrance, so you don't have to worry about scheduling a parking spot in advance. Many include trips to Sausalito at the end of the tour.
If your kids love to play at the playground, then head over to Dolores Park for an hour or two. You will find it in the Mission Dolores district.
This newly added playground offers your kids a space to run around and play for an hour or two. You will find swings, slides, and climbing equipment.
It's also a wonderful place to have a picnic with the family. This spacious park sits at an angle with views of downtown San Francisco and is a popular spot with locals. It's a fun way to spend some time in San Francisco with kids.
In addition to the Aquarium of the Bay (#1 on my list), you will also find several other family friendly activities on Pier 39. You can ride the carousel or walk through the Mirror Maze.
You can even go on a 7D Experience that includes a roller coaster type ride that moves in sync with the activities on the large, movie screen in front of you.
Another favorite here are the sea lions. You can watch them on their platforms as they jump in and out of the water from time to time and work to reclaim their spot when they return.
More: Pier 39 in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf
The Children's Creativity Museum is a hands-on adventure for kids of all ages. Their Animation Studio allows kids 5+ to create their own clay characters and bring them to life on screen. Kids 3-6 will enjoy the Imagination Lab where they can imagine, create and share. The musically inclined children 3+ will also enjoy the Music Studio.
The museum is in the SOMA district at 221 Fourth Street. Visit their website at https://creativity.org/.
The San Francisco Bay Cruise is a 60-minute trip around the bay. The thing I love most about this tour is that you get the chance to ride under the Golden Gate Bridge, twice!
The picture below is me on a cruise as we are heading under the bridge. The other cruise on the bay is on the same route, as these cruises run several times a day.
You will also get some great views of the SF Skyline. Another thing I love about this cruise and why I think everyone in your family will enjoy it is that you get a close up look at Alcatraz from the water. You also learn a little more about the prisoners that were locked up here.
It's a great activity for anyone visiting San Francisco for the first, second, or third time.
>> My experience on the Bay Cruise
In addition to the 60-minute bay cruise, you will also find some other great cruises around the SF Bay. Here are a few additional ideas.
Another fun thing to do in San Francisco with kids is to check out our colorful stairways. You will find them all around the city and they are a fun way to work off some energy.
Some of the most popular are the mosaic stairs including the 16th Avenue and Hidden Garden Stairs. If you plan to visit Coit Tower, you can also climb either the Filbert Street Stairs or the Greenwich Stairs to the top for your visit.
You will also find other interesting stairways in some of SF's other top districts and near some of our best attractions.
>> Find a list of my favorites around SF
The Randall Museum is a kid-friendly museum in the heart of San Francisco. They have a handful of animals that live in the city including a Brown Pelican, a Gopher Snake and Honey Bees.
They also have several other hands on exhibits including Riding the Rails, the Tree House Toddler Exploration Zone and the Creativity & Discovery Hand in Hand area.
They just recently updated this wonderful kids' museum, so there is more space to run around and check out their interactive exhibits. The Randall Museum is free and at 199 Museum Way.
Before or after your visit here, you can also check out the climb to the top of Corona Heights. Here you will find wonderful, unobstructed views around part of the SF Bay, including downtown.
>> Find additional fun activities for toddlers in SF
>> Visit their website for additional details
If you love the outdoors as much as me, then check out some of the best urban hikes. It's one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids.
You will find a variety of options. Some are easy hikes through the park and others offer a bit more of a climb to the summit. Most are fairly short but will get your heart pumping.
One of my top picks is Lands End. This trail is along a cliff with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and across to Marin. It's a great one for older kids and teens that you don't need to keep an eye on all the time.
>> Find a list of my 15 favorite urban hikes
While in Chinatown with the kids admiring the many colors, shops, and flavors, take them to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to delve a little deeper into the culture, have a sample, and see first-hand how these treats are made.
It's a fun and educational experience for everyone. It's also a quick trip but is a cool and unique experience for kids.
The people making the cookies are very friendly as well as the person standing at the door managing the crowds. They do request a donation if you want to take pictures, so have a few small bills with you when you arrive.
>> Plan your visit to the fortune cookie factory
>> Learn more about this and other Chinatown gems on this great guided walking tour
San Francisco has a few escape rooms. These are interactive games where you will work as a family to solve clues and "escape" from the room.
They offer a variety of different themes, so you and the family can decide what adventure you want to be on. This simulated game takes place in room that will only include your family, so you can be comfortable with letting them explore and make some decisions on their own.
The two I recommend are EscapeSF at 602 Kearny St and The Escape Game San Francisco at 150 Kearny St.
This SF attraction is often overlooked but is the perfect activity for kids. This family activity in San Francisco is just steps from the Pacific Ocean on the western side of the city.
Here you can see tigers, penguins and gorillas.
You can also see a few rare animals such as a snow leopard, a black rhinoceros and two polar bears. Make sure you check out the animal feeding schedule too.
>> More about visiting the SF Zoo
Kids of all ages will enjoy heading to a game in the SF Bay Area. We are home to more than half a dozen professional teams including baseball, football, soccer, and hockey.
Sporting events run all year long in the SF Bay and it's a great way to spend a few hours during your visit.
The SF Giants are in action during the summer and they are a popular choice. The Golden State Warriors are one of the most popular picks in the cool winter months.
Here are a few upcoming games for the SF Giants.
>> Find tickets to all upcoming games
>> Find a list of all sporting events year around in the SF Bay Area
Another fun thing to do in San Francisco with kids is tour the Golden Gate Bridge. Walk through the outdoor museum and learn how the suspension bridge works.
You can then spend some time walking across the bridge to get a better feel for its size. The entire walkway is 1.7 miles, but you can turn around and head back at any point along the way.
If your kids and you like biking, you can also rent a bike for the day in Fisherman's Wharf and bike over the bridge.
>> Learn more about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge
Most weekend days, the Walt Disney Museum shows a classic Disney movie in their Fantasia Theater. These films range from Bambi to Mary Poppins.
Although the schedule varies slightly, you will usually find at least one show in the morning and a couple showings in the afternoon. Tickets are an additional $5 for those with tickets to the museum. If you just want to see a movie, the cost is $10 for adults and $8 for youth. Five and under are free
The museum itself is also interesting. It walks you through the life of Walt Disney. It shows you all about how he got started, some early versions of his cartoons, the process to create those cartoons and so much more.
>> Find tickets to the Disney Museum
Are you looking for a great hotel for your stay? Check out the great deals below.
Booking: Find great deals all around San Francisco for your upcoming stay!
TripAdvisor: What's the #1 hotel in San Francisco? Read reviews & find hotel deals on TripAdvisor!
VRBO: In addition to hotels, you'll also find some great places to stay locally through VRBO. Book an apartment or a room and feel more like a local. Find some great places to stay on VRBO here.
The 7D Experience is actually two activities in one. The first activity is the Dark Ride, which is part theater, part video game, and a whole lot of fun.
After you strap into your seat, you will be taken on the ride of your life as your seat moves to the action.
You use your laser gun to get rid of the bad guys and score points along the way. There are different Dark Ride games, so everyone in the family can join along.
At the 7D Experience, you will also find the LaZer Challenge. You can play in teams or on your own. You compete by stepping inside the laser room then twisting and turning in an effort to avoid hitting any lasers as you cross the room several times.
Both activities are at the 7D Experience on SF's Pier 39. Tickets are available in person or, at times, for a discount on Groupon.
>> Find tickets to the 7D Experience with the San Francisco Explorer Pass
Head to the Telegraph Hill District in the search for the famous parrots of Telegraph Hill. These green and red parrots have been flying around this district for decades. They are not native to SF, but instead a few were let go into the wild many years ago and the flock grew from there.
You can head over on your own to search for them. You may not get a chance to see them up close, but you will definitely hear them if they are overhead.
In addition, you will also find out wild parrots along the Embarcadero, along the Saturn Stairs (near the Castro), and in the Mission District.
Another one of the fun things to do in San Francisco with kids is to head over to the Seward Street Slides. These cement slides are a fun way to spend an hour with the family as you explore SF.
Since the slide are made out of cement, you do need some cardboard to get down. Fortunately, you can almost always find some there from previous visitors.
The slides are free and open at 10am in the morning until 5pm. They are open every day except Monday.
The House of Air Trampoline is great for kids 3 and older. You can grab tickets for their open gym time and let your kids jump around for an hour or two. The price is per hour and is about $20 per child, per hour. This is for kids 7 and older.
They also have designated "mini" jump areas for kids 3 to 6. This allows them to play around without having to worry or get hurt by jumping with the older kids. These sessions are also priced out by the hour.
The House of Air Trampoline is open daily. It will make for a memorable time in San Francisco with kids.
>> Visit their site for details
Lombard Street is another one of the fun things to do in San Francisco with kids. This crooked street is like no other. It's made of brick with several hairpin turns.
It also has a set of staircases on each side, so you don't have a rent a car just to visit.
You can walk up and down the stairs and watch the cars as they navigate the tight turns all the way to the bottom. It's a fun thing to do when visiting the North Beach or Russian Hill districts.
Plus, it's free to visit and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!
>> Learn more about what it's like to visit Lombard Street
Are you looking for additional fun activities for your stay? Check out all of the best events by month by clicking the links below.