The Family Travel Guide to San Francisco
By Rob Toledo
San Francisco is a sought-after vacation destination complete with all the action and culture that a big city has to offer. The activities for the kids are endless, the scenery is breathtaking and there’s enough culture and great food to keep mom and dad smiling.
But before you pack your bags, book your hotel, and confirm your trip insurance, make sure you check out our list of fun-packed, family-friendly activities in San Francisco.
Before we get to our must-see list, three things to keep in mind:
1. The weather can be finicky. The best, warmest months are September and October; otherwise, pack layers for you and the kids.
2. Be wary of the parking situation, because there isn’t much of it. Plan on using public transportation, such as the MUNI or BART or the legendary cable cars.
3. There are a lot of very steep hills, so bring some comfortable shoes and a hiker’s mentality if you’re going to be walking.
While it will be one of the more crowded, touristy spots, Fisherman’s Wharf is great fun for both you and the kids. The views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge are fantastic. There is a carnival atmosphere, with plenty of street vendors, outdoor entertainment, souvenir shops and funky restaurants. The fact that it’s free and easy to get to makes it #1 on our list.
Your kids will surely pull you in the direction of the Marina waterfront and Pier 39 for the many kid-friendly activities it has to offer. There is a Venetian carousel, a large arcade and virtual reality theatre, a large marine park (called Underwater World) countless kid-friendly stores (like the Disney store- Puppets on the Pier- Wound About) and an entire flock of local, friendly sea lions that make their home there.
Exploratorium Tactile Dome
Located on the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts the Exploratorium is an interactive science museum. There are many educational exhibits for the entire family as well as a few interactive exhibits, such as having your kids create their own tornado. Make sure to set a reservation for the popular Tactile Dome, where you’ll take a tour in total darkness.
AT&T Park and Candlestick Park
Depending what time of year you visit, make sure to visit the iconic stadiums of the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers and catch a game with the whole family. Don’t leave without ordering the famous garlic fries!
California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences contains an aquarium, a planetarium and a Natural History museum. There is an indoor rainforest you can walk thru. There are over 40,000 live animals to see, as well as dinosaur fossils, earthquake simulators and much, much more.
Golden Gate Park
Another free and entertaining locale is the Golden Gate Park, which is a large rectangular park in the middle of the city. There you can find a conservatory, a live buffalo herd, a Japanese Tea Garden, a museum of art as well as easy access to iconic neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury.
While there is fine dining to be had just about anywhere in this city, Chinatown remains a coveted destination spot. In the 24 blocks of Chinatown you will find countless restaurants, museums, open-air markets, shops and temples. The atmosphere is exotic, the smells and sights are vibrant. Make sure to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and show your kids how the fortunes end up inside.
There are many more places to visit so make sure to write down a list of your must-see spots and take advantage of all that San Francisco has to offer for you and your family.
San Francisco photos courtesy of Shutterstock
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