San Francisco with Kids: 25 Top Family-Friendly Activities

Jill at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: January 29, 2024

With so many attractions, it can take work to determine the best things to do in San Francisco with kids.

Here, you will find a list of the activities and attractions, from my experience of visiting them all, that I think your kids and your entire family will enjoy. 

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

1. Aquarium of the Bay

The Aquarium of the Bay is popular for those visiting San Francisco with kids. It's also one of my personal favorites and I'm lucky to get the chance to visit at least once a year! 

The aquarium is in the heart of Pier 39 and easy is 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 jellyfish float around, stroll through their large walk-through aquarium tunnels, and watch local shark species swim around their tank.

There are just so many things I love about visiting this place!

San Francisco with kids at the Aquarium of the Bay

Other fun things to do at the aquarium include the hands-on lab where you can touch a starfish, a baby shark, or a stingray.

>> More about visiting the Aquarium of the Bay

>> Find tickets for your visit

2. Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is a hands-on, educational museum for kids of all ages. Here, you can visit hundreds of exhibits where you will learn how electricity works, what causes earthquakes and how important everyday items 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

3. California Academy of Sciences

The most visited museum in San Francisco is the California Academy of Sciences. It's one of my personal favorites and I visit at least once a year. From my experience, I've been able to check out so many of the fun activities that both kids and adults will love. 

I love walking through the four-story rainforest and watch the butterflies fly around. I always try to photograph them, but it's hard to get them when they are still.

Make sure you also grab tickets to see a show at the Morrison Planetarium. You can also head down into the large and colorful Steinhart Aquarium.

California Academy of Sciences RainforestLooking into the 4-story rainforest from the outside the glass

Make sure to also head up to the top floor where you can step outside to 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.

4. USS Pampanito

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 time in the main console where the navigators run the sub. You can peek in the quarters and 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 City San Francisco Card, learn more here

5. Cable Cars & Museum

Everyone in your family will love 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.

Jumping Aboard a Cable Car in SF

All three offer beautiful views and an exciting ride around the city.

You can also step inside the free cable car museum. This small museum tells you 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 its like to ride a cable car

>> More about visiting the free museum

>> Find a list of 20 free things to do with kids

6. Golden Gate Park

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) and several other family-friendly activities.

You can visit the colorful Japanese Tea Garden, stroll through the Conservatory of Flowers, and see 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 to Blue Heron Lake (formerly known as 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 top 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 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

7. Muir Woods

Muir Woods is one of my favorite places to visit. It's incredible to see the actual 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.

It's part of the National Parks service so I always bring my American the Beautiful/National Parks pass when I visit for free admissions. If you have yours, don't forget to bring it along. 

Muir Woods in Marin County

They also require reservations for both those visiting by car and shuttle. Read through my page before you visit to find out how to book your spot today.

>> Ways to get from San Francisco to Muir Woods

>> More Muir Woods visiting tips

You can also head out on a guided tour (this is one of my favorites) to make it easier. They will do the driving for 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. 

8. Playground at Dolores Park

If your kids love playing at playgrounds, 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.

>> Find more great playgrounds around SF

9. Family Friendly Activities at Pier 39

In addition to the Aquarium of the Bay (#1 on my list), you will 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.

A single horse on the historic carousel on Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Another favorite here is the sea lions. You can watch them on their platforms as they jump in and out of the water occasionally and work to reclaim their spot when they return.

More: Pier 39 in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

10. Children's Creativity Museum

The Children's Creativity Museum is a hands-on adventure for kids of all ages. Their Animation Studio allows kids 5+ to create  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

11. Cruise Around the SF Bay

The San Francisco Bay Cruise is a 60-minute trip around the bay. What I love most about this tour is that you get to ride under the Golden Gate Bridge twice!

The picture below shows me on a cruise heading under the bridge. The other cruise on the bay is on the same route, as these cruises run several times a day. 

The underside of the Golden Gate Bridge on the Golden Gate Cruise in SFA view from under the Golden Gate Bridge on the San Francisco Bay cruise

You will also get some great views of the SF Skyline. Another thing I love about this cruise and why 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 locked up here. 

It's a excellent activity for anyone visiting San Francisco for the first, second, or third time.

>> My experience on the Bay Cruise

More Fun Bay Cruises

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.

12. Stairways Around San Francisco

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 climb either the Filbert Street Stairs or the Greenwich Stairs to the top. 

You will also find other exciting stairways in some of SF's other top districts and near some of our best attractions.

>> Find a list of my favorites around SF

Family-Friendly Hotels: Looking for the perfect spot to stay that you and your kids will love? Check out my list of the top family-friendly hotels around SF

13. Randall Museum

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 recently updated this fantastic 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 fabulous, unobstructed views around part of the SF Bay, including downtown.

>> Find additional fun activities for toddlers in SF

>> Visit their website for additional details

14. Urban Hikes

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 only need to keep an eye on some of the time.

>> Find a list of my 15 favorite urban hikes

>> Some of my top picks for those visiting with teens

15. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

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. 

Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown

The people making the cookies are very friendly and the other people working here with them. They do request a donation if you want to take pictures, so have a few small bills with you when you arrive.

They also offer an excellent display where you can buy some of their fabulous fortune cookies. It's a unique gift option for your friends and family at home! 

>> Plan your visit to the fortune cookie factory

>> Learn more about this and other Chinatown gems on this great guided walking tour

16. Escape Rooms

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 different themes, so you and the family can decide what adventure you want to be on. This simulated game takes place in the room that will only include your family, so you can be comfortable letting them explore and make some decisions on their own.

I recommend are EscapeSF at 602 Kearny St and The Escape Game San Francisco in Fisherman's Wharf at 145 Jefferson Street.

17. San Francisco Zoo

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 city's western side. 

Here, you can see tigers, penguins, and gorillas. You can also see rare animals, such as a snow leopard, a black rhinoceros and a grizzly bear. Make sure you check out the animal feeding schedule before you arrive. 

Some of the other fun things to do here include the Little Puffer Miniature Steam Train, the Dentzel Carousel, and the Elinor Friend Playground. 

>> More about visiting the SF Zoo

18. Local Sports Teams

Kids of all ages will enjoy attending 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 round in the SF Bay Area

19. Golden Gate Bridge

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 walk 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.

Golden Gate Bridge

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

Tips to Walk Across
Where to Park Near the Golden Gate Bridge
Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge

20. Disney Movies at the Disney Museum

Several days a week, 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 of showings in the afternoon. Tickets are an additional $5 for those with tickets to the museum. If you only 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 how he got started, some early versions of his cartoons, the process of creating those cartoons, and so much more.

>> Tips to visit the museum

>> Find tickets to the Disney Museum

21. 7D Experience

The 7D Experience now offers five different kids' activities. 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. 

7D Experience on Pier 39

You use your laser gun to get rid of the bad guys and score points. 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 and twisting and turning to avoid hitting any lasers as you cross the room several times.

Other attractions include The Flyer (a huge flying theater), two escape rooms (one all about Alcatraz and another called Malone’s Mobster Hideout), and a virtual reality ride.

All activities are at the 7D Experience on SF's Pier 39. Tickets are available in person. You can also buy advanced tickets online.

>> Find tickets to the 7D Experience

22. Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Head to the Telegraph Hill District in 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 hear them if they are overhead.

In addition, you will also find our wild parrots along the Embarcadero, along the Saturn Stairs (near the Castro), and in the Mission District. 

23. Seward Slides

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 slides are made out of cement, you need some cardboard to get down. Fortunately, you can almost always find some there from previous visitors.

Seward Street Slides

The slides are free and open at 10 am in the morning until 5 pm. They are open every day except Monday.

24. House of Air Trampoline

The House of Air Trampoline is great for kids 2 and older. You can grab tickets for their open gym time and let your kids jump around for an hour or two.

They have different areas available that ensure the younger kids don't get run over by the older kids.

The playground access is an area that is only for those 2 - 4 years old. This one is $15 per child, per hour.

They also have Trampoline Area, this is for those 5 years of age and older. This is $28 per child, per hour.

The final area is the Training Ground and this is for those 7 and older only. This one is $40 per child, per hour.

They also require special HOA grip socks that are $3 a pair. 

The House of Air Trampoline is open Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesday). They are typically open for a few hours in the afternoon from around 1 or 2 pm until around 6 pm. Their hours change though, so make sure to visit their site for the exact hours for the day you plan to visit. 

It will make for a memorable time in San Francisco with kids.

>> Visit their site for details

25. Lombard Street

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 to 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

Events by Month

Are you looking for additional fun activities for your stay? Check out all of the best events by month by clicking the links below.













Ideas to Make Your SF Vacation Unforgettable

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

The best way to get around San Francisco is on the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. It runs from 9 am to 6 pm and takes you directly from one attraction to another.

You can select from their 24- or 48-hour tour.

They also have a fantastic night tour. The Big Bus Tour Company is the most popular and highly rated option.

Visit this site to learn more.

One-Hour Bay Cruise

Head out on the San Francisco Bay on this 60-minute Bay Cruise. See the Golden Gate Bridge from below, circle Alcatraz Island, and learn all about other local waterfront attractions.

Find more information and ticketing details.

Muir Woods & Sausalito Half Day Tour

The Coastal Redwoods near San Francisco are a must-see, and this half-day tour is the perfect way to explore them! On this tour, you will head north to Muir Woods, where you will have time to check out this gorgeous national monument.

On your way back, you will spend a little time in Sausalito.

Check for availability here.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

Discover 25 fun things to do with kids in San Francisco

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