Photo: Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock

14+ of the Best Family-Friendly Activities in San Francisco

San Francisco Insider Guides Family Travel
by Matador Creators Feb 21, 2017

San Francisco is well known for its kid-friendly tourist attractions. First off, you have Ghirardelli Square — a historic city square that’s dedicated to delicious chocolate. And a couple blocks down there’s Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can get excellent seafood and then go watch the colony of sea lions that hang out by Pier 39. Not too far from the Marina District are the California Academy of Sciences and, on the water, the Exploratorium, both great, fun options for packing a little education into the vacation experience. I also recommend Alcatraz for the kids. Yeah, it’s a bit of a creepy place, but kids love creepy stuff. Just north of the city is Muir Woods (with its massively huge redwood trees), and the rest of the giant Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes beaches, parks, lighthouses, and a lot of scenic drives. Here’s our selection of kid-friendly activities to do in the Bay area.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. California Academy of Sciences

 California Academy of SciencesSan Francisco, United StatesOne of the best #science #museum in the world… It was completely rebuilt in 2008, and the #greenroof became an icon of the new institution. Great for both adults and #kids

There are several fun activities for both kids and adults at the California Academy of Sciences. Walk through the four-story rainforest, 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.

2. Planet Granite San Francisco

 Planet Granite San FranciscoSan Francisco, United StatesJoin local climbing buffs at one of the city’s best gyms, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Day passes are available for climbing and yoga. Work up a sweat and then cool down with a walk along Crissy Field or head into the Presidio if you’re looking for a long walk.

Planet Granite has obstacle courses, climbing games, and rock climbing for all ages and skill levels.

3. Baker Beach

 Baker BeachSan Francisco, United StatesSimply the most beautiful beach in SF. #beach #dogbeach #sunsets

Baker Beach stretches along the western shore of the Presidio below Lincoln Boulevard. Your family will be treated to views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands from the ocean side of the peninsula.

4. Exploratorium

 ExploratoriumSan Francisco, United StatesThis place is mind blowing and we are so lucky to have it here in the Bay Area. So many things to do and so many things to learn about the world. It’s great even for small kids because everything is hands on.

The Exploratorium offers hundreds of interactive exhibits in the areas of science, art, and human perception. Admission is free on five select days each year.

5. San Francisco Botanical Gardens

 San Francisco Botanical GardensSan Francisco, United StatesLocated in Golden Gate Park, the Botanical Gardens are a great place to escape the city for a bit and stroll through continent themed gardens. See proteas from South Africa or visit the Asian cloud forest. The best time to visit is probably January when the gardens many magnolia trees are in bloom.

The San Francisco Botanical Gardens holds various activities and events for the entire family such as garden crafts, bug hunts in the Children’s Garden, and story time.

6. Marshall’s Beach

 Marshall’s BeachSan Francisco, United StatesLands End hike spin-off to Marshall Beach. A short hike to see the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge

7. Sea Lion Colony

 Sea Lion ColonySan Francisco, United StatesThe Sea Lion’s at the end of Pier 39 put on a rad show and it makes Fisherman’s Wharf worth it. Always a show with these clowns of the sea.

8. Lands End Labyrinth

 Lands End LabyrinthSan Francisco, United StatesThe Presidio is one of the few National Parks actually within the city limits of a major metropolitan city. And that’s cool. #hiking

To get to the Labyrinth, park at Lands End parking lot behind the Cliff House at Point Lobos Avenue and 48th Avenue. Walk east on the Coastal Trail and take the trail off the beaten path towards Mile Rock Beach. Walk down the steps. Where the staircase turns a hard left, continue on the trail going straight. Look ahead, you can’t miss it.

9. Smitten Ice Cream

 Smitten Ice CreamSan Francisco, United StatesDelicious homemade ice cream and a nice little park across the the street to enjoy it in.

10. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

 San Francisco Maritime National Historical ParkSan Francisco, United StatesTour the ships at the Maritime Historical Park, some of them over 100 years old, and discover the truth behind he Age of Sailing. Very cool interactive tours with the park rangers, should you choose to take them. #history #ship #sailing

The San Francisco Maritime Historical Park is very well equipped for kids, there’s always something special going on. Explore the exhibits in the Visitor Center and stroll down Hyde Street Pier. Check the Calendar for program dates and times.

11. Picnic in Washington Square Park

 Washington Square ParkSan Francisco, United StatesGreat spot for tranquility and peace!

12. Treasure Island

 Treasure islandSan Francisco, United StatesStuck right between SF and the East Bay, Treasure Island isn’t a destination most tourists (or even locals!) visit. But it hosts great art festival monthly, and music festivals annually. There’s also a lot of room to bike and a few wineries that are worth a visit. Visit before all the spooky former government buildings are knocked down to make room for commercial development. Take a bus over from the Embarcadero or drive. There’s no ferry, yet.

13. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 San Francisco Museum of Modern ArtSan Francisco, United StatesThis museum was recently renovated. They are open late on Thursday nights. It has an extensive modern art collection. Some galleries are part of their permanent collection and some galleries that are rotating. There is also an outdoor garden.
If you are an Andy Warhol fan or would like to see a Picasso in person go!
#museum #gallery #history #art #design #modernart

Kids 18 and under are admitted free, book kids’ free tickets online in advance. Check out activities for families here.

14. Chinatown

 Chinatown San FranciscoSan Francisco, United StatesVisit the vibrant streets of Chinatown in San Famcisco for jade jewelry, Chinese food, and lots of color! Chinese lanterns strung between buildings and turquoise painted lampposts make Chinatown a charming destination. Recommend entering through Dragon’s Gate at Bush Street and stopping at Golden Gate Bakery.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an inch of blank space in the city’s oldest and most colorful district. Day trip it in your own backyard and watch your wee ones gobble up culture just as fast as they do their dumplings.

Find some of these spots on our travelstoke map:

Discover Matador