San Francisco is always one of the most visited destinations in the U.S. And the “City by the Bay” offers so much to do for adults and kids alike. Since we have two private residences in the Telegraph Hill area and often have families staying there, we are asked all the time about what the top family activities in San Francisco are and the most popular things to do with kids. So, here are our top recommendations:
Tinker with the Exhibits at the Exploratorium
The totally reimagined Exploratorium in its new waterfront home at Pier 15 is nothing short of spectacular. Named by CNN as the #1 Spot for Kids in the country, the museum encourages guests of all ages to touch, explore and play with 600 exhibits.
Investigate the living world, experiment with thoughts, feelings and behavior, explore the local environment, think with your hands and much more. All this science making you hungry? The Exploratorium houses a cafe and a waterfront restaurant, both serving seasonal and sustainable cuisine prepared by local chefs. All ages are welcome, and if you’ve got toddlers in tow, just follow the giant bubbles. Strollers are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis. www.exploratorium.edu
Have a Whole Day of Fun at Golden Gate Park
San Francisco sets the bar high when it comes to parks. Nearly every neighborhood has one, although the grandest of all is Golden Gate Park, which stretches from the Haight to the Pacific Ocean. With more than 1,000 acres of plush greenery, it’s also home to The Koret Children’s Quarter (a merry-go-round and playground), the de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, Stow Lake and, if you’re lucky, a resident herd of buffalo. There’s plenty of room to spread out for a picnic, go on a hunt for waterfalls, or polish a few soccer moves in an open meadow.
Get Nostalgic at the Walt Disney Family Museum
Don’t let the title fool you — this isn’t Disneyland (although there is a miniature replica of the park in the museum). But there is magic within these walls. Parents will love browsing memorabilia collected by the Disney family and reminiscing about the life of Walt Disney, his films and Disneyland.
While the grown-ups are learning about the evolution of Mickey, little ones can participate in the museum’s Little Open Studio to enjoy story time and family-friendly activities geared towards children seven and under. Also check the calendar for special film screenings (including those locked away in the infamous Disney vault). www.waltdisney.org
Enjoy the Family Friendly Activities at Pier 39
Not as popular for the “adults only” activities, Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf is a whirlwind of fun for the little ones. Visit the resident sea lions who mysteriously took over the PIER’s docks after the 1989 earthquake, watch magicians, jugglers, comedians and more during daily street performer shows, and run down oversized musical stairs — all for free!
Other activities for the little kids (or big ones) include Aquarium of the Bay, Players Sports Grill & Arcade, Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, the San Francisco Carousel, a classic Caricature stand and Frequent Flyers (think bungee cords + giant trampoline). www.pier39.com
Bay Cruise and Water Taxi
Exploring San Francisco’s bay is nothing short of magical, no matter what age. While there are many ways to stretch your sea legs, the most popular for families is a classic Bay Cruise. Get up close and personal with the city skyline, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island (to get on the Island, visit www.alcatrazcruises.com). If you’re lucky you may even spot some sea life.
For a more custom experience try out the new Tideline Water Taxi service (www.tidelinesf.com) which shuttles passengers around the perimeter of the bay and along the San Francisco waterfront. If that doesn’t take your breath away, sailing smoothly under the Golden Gate Bridge will. www.blueandgoldfleet.com andwww.redandwhite.com
Get Outdoors at Crissy Field
A 100-acre shoreline park and restored marshland along the Bay, Crissy Field is one of the most scenic spots in San Francisco. Get up close and personal views of the Golden Gate Bridge while dipping your toes in the Pacific along the shore or stroll the paved path along the waterfront. Families come here to picnic and barbecue or ride bikes. The Warming Hut café and gift shop is worth a stop for a hot chocolate and sandwich and sells great souvenirs.
Visit the 4- Floor Rainforest at the California Academy of Sciences
With mind-boggling numbers — nearly 40,000 live animals, over 25 million specimens — the California Academy of Sciences is the world’s only institution to house an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and four-story rainforest under one roof. And since we’re talking superlatives, that undulating roof — a working science lab outfitted with weather stations, plant life and solar panels — crowns one of the most environmentally friendly museums on the planet, and is located in Golden Gate Park.
See, Smell and Experience the Otherworldly Chinatown
Experience the bright colors and fascinating facades of the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Explore the golden dragons and emerald roofs of Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, then follow the scent of fresh fortune cookies to the famed Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley to witness first-hand how the fortune actually makes it into the cookie.
Admire the Animals at the San Francisco Zoo
This San Francisco attraction is often overlooked, but is the perfect activity for kids. See the penguins, lions, kangaroos, turtles, owls, frogs and more. The zoo is also home to fun family rides and play areas, including the Little Puffer Miniature Steam Train, Dentzel Carousel and Elinor Friend Playground.
For an interactive experience, pick up a zoo key and unlock interactive story areas throughout the zoo, where visitors will learn facts about the animals. Year-round, the zoo is home to exhibits and special animals, such as reindeer during the early winter months. Additional family and children’s programs are offered seasonally, too, including nature walks, scavenger hunts, bike excursions and overnight stays.
The San Francisco Zoo is home to its very own Children’s Zoo, which offers kids up-close encounters with animals. Children can play in the Family Farm area, see birds flying through the air above and learn about nature and the various animal species along trails with zoo guides.
That concludes our list of top recommendations for things to do with kids in the Bay area. And if you’re looking for a place to stay with a concierge to make a customized plan for your family in San Francisco, G2G Members pay around $400/night for a 2 bedroom/2 bath Penthouse in the Cow Hollow/Pacific Heights area that is perfect for most families, but they have also paid to join a private club that affords them lower nightly rental rates. Or check out our blog post “San Francisco Vacation Rental Costs” for other options. If you would like more information on how to stay in a luxury residence in San Francisco at rates like this, please call us at 678-506-2700 or email us at email@example.com.