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.
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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. Other fun things to do at the aquarium include the hands on lab and the 3-D movie theater.
Learn More: Aquarium of the Bay
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, see a show at the planetarium or watch the fish swim at the large Steinhart Aquarium. You can also step in the earthquake simulator to feel what it's like to be in an earthquake.
It's the perfect kids museum in San Francisco that is fun for the entire family too!
Learn More: California Academy of Sciences
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. It's a great way to spend the day in San Francisco with kids.
Learn More: Exploratorium
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.
Learn More: SF Zoo
The Cable Car Museum is a free museum in SF's Nob Hill neighborhood and another one of my favorite family activities in San Francisco. While it covers the history of the cable cars, the most interesting thing for kids is the large wheels pulling the cables. There are currently four cables running in the city for the three cable car lines.
Learn More: Cable Car Museum
If you are looking to save a little money on your trip, make sure you check out the current selection of discounted tickets on Goldstar. Here you will find a variety of tickets from tours to the theater.
The best part about Goldstar is that you can often find tickets at up to 50% off! Here are just a few of the best tickets currently offered on their site.
*Small service fee at checkout.
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. It's one of the best things to do with families in San Francisco as it will keep every entertained for at least an hour or two.
Learn More: USS Pampanito
A view from under the Golden Gate Bridge on the San Francisco Bay cruise
The San Francisco Bay Cruise is a 60-minute trip around the bay. On this tour, you will ride under the Golden Gate Bridge, past Alcatraz Island and get some great views of the SF skyline. It's a great activity for anyone visiting San Francisco for the first time.
Learn More: My experience on the Bay Cruise
Right next to Pier 45 in Fishermans Wharf, you will find the Musee Mechanique. This is a fun stop for anyone that loves antique music boxes or 80s video games such as PacMan. It's free to enter, but does cost money to play. It's the perfect kid friendly stop.
Learn More: Musee Mechanique
Angel Island is a small, national park in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. The only way to get here is by ferry. On the island, you can hike, bike or spend some time admiring the views around the bay. Angel Island is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon in the city.
Learn More: Angel Island
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. 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: Golden Gate Bridge
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. The Randall Museum is free and you will find it at their temporary location at 745 Treat Avenue in the Mission. Their full museum will reopen in 2017.
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If you've already been on a bay cruise or are looking for an adventure on the water, then check out the Rocketboat rides. These fast paced, high energy boat rides take you on a 30-minute journey around the bay at speeds up to 55-mph. The tour runs from the late spring through late fall.
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 lazer 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 lazer room then twisting and turning in an effort to avoid hitting any lazers 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.
Tickets: Find discounts on Groupon today
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.
More: Muir Woods visiting tips
Another great activity in San Francisco for kids is to hike the Coastal Trail. This trail starts in the SF Presidio and takes you all the way to Ocean Beach. You can start or end anywhere along the way. It's one of the best places to get amazing shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the beautiful waterfront below.
More: SF Presidio activities
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.
Upcoming sports events in the SF Bay Area:
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Earlier on my list, I included a visit to the Cable Car Museum. Once you learn more about how they run, it's fun to hop aboard for a ride around the city. My favorite line is the Powell/Hyde line that runs from Union Square to the western side of Fisherman's Wharf. It has some of the best views in addition to an amazing ride down one of the steepest streets in the city.
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 http://creativity.org/.
In addition to the Aquarium of the Bay, 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 7-D experience that includes a roller coaster type ride that moves in sync with the activities on the large, movie screen in front of you.
Every day of the week (except Tuesdays), 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 free with admission into the museum.
More: Tips to visit the museum
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.
For those that love the outdoors, another fun activity is to take a paddle boat ride on Stow Lake. This man-made lake is in the heart of Golden Gate Park. It is just steps from other popular attractions such as the California Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum.
Keep your kids guessing with City Clues Adventure's Urban Scavenger Hunt. Each weekend day (and daily from early June to August 31) from 9:30am to noon, they offer a treasure hunt and tour designed specifically for families with children. During the 2.5-hour journey, you will make your way through popular SF neighborhoods including North Beach, Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Each hunt includes a guide to ensure you don't get lost along the way!
All year long, different species of whales migrate through the waters of the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco. Between June and November, you get the chance to see blue and humpback whales. From December to May, spot gray, sperm and killer whales can be seen swimming around. On these whale watching adventures, you will also get the chance to see other animals such as dolphins, large turtles and sea birds.
What kid doesn't want to ride around SF in a fire engine? This 75-minute tour takes you through SF's Fisherman's Wharf, the Presidio, and over the Golden Gate Bridge. You will also get the chance to stop for photos at the bridge and ride through the lovely waterfront town of Sausalito. Your ride for the day is a Big Mack Shiny Red Fire Engine! How cool is that!
Tickets: Buy your tickets today on Viator
Are you looking for additional fun activities for your stay? Check out all of the best events by month by clicking the links below.
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