The best things to do in San Francisco with kids

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Known around the world as a first-rate destination, San Francisco has carved out an enviable reputation for its steep rolling hills, pastel-painted Victorians, cable cars, and iconic Golden Gate Bridge. But the city is also a mecca for families, with a laundry list of kid-friendly attractions that go way beyond the cliched tourist destinations (we're looking at you, Alcatraz).

From historic theaters to museums with dozens of hands-on experiences, San Francisco offers both locals and visitors a never-ending list of things to do. And while there's plenty of activities if rain forces your family inside―like the de Young Museum and the Exploratorium―the city really shines when the clouds clear and you can play outside.

Gorgeous beaches will entertain kids for hours, and the 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park and the Presidio national park offer families the opportunity to row boats, play in tree forts, and explore innovative playgrounds. Perhaps the best part of the city is how easy it is to navigate; most kid-friendly spots are in a concentrated area with access to public transportation.

So without further ado, here are the 28 best places in San Francisco to visit with kids. Have another favorite spot that didn't make it onto our list? Let us know in the comments!

Traveling to other cities with your kiddos? Don’t miss Curbed’s maps of the best family activities in Washington, D.C., Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Austin, and New York City.

 

1. Bay Area Discovery Museum
557 McReynolds Rd
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 339-3900


Yes, you have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to get to this children's museum, but we promise it's worth the trip.

Located on the bay near Sausalito, the Bay Area Discovery Museum boasts a plethora of hands-on, indoor/outdoor experiences for kids aged 6 months to 10 years.

Don't miss the Lookout Cove, a 2.5-acre outdoor area with tide pools, gravel pits, fishing boats, shipwrecks, caves, and spider web installations.

 

2. House of Air
926 Old Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 212-4197

If you need an indoor option, check out this trampoline park in San Francisco's Crissy Field.

Located in a converted airplane hanger, families can take advantage of open trampoline jump time, trampoline dodgeball, and even sometimes catch Olympians training on the trampolines.

 

3. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Beach St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 447-5000

There are many reasons to avoid the tourist-afflicted Fisherman's Wharf, but one spot we can recommend is the San Francisco National Maritime Park.

Kids can see the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, where a three-masted cargo ship and a paddle steamboat are docked. There's also a sandy beach and many kids also like to watch the boats in action from Aquatic Park.

 

4. Coit Tower
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 362-0808

This 210-foot white concrete tower—built in 1933—nestled into the top of Pioneer Park might be on a lot of tourist must-do lists, but trust us when we say your kids will be happy here too.

The tower is accessible by elevator and you'll get amazing 360-degree views of the city. Pro tip: check out the murals inside the tower's base, which depict California life during the Depression.

 

5. Exploratorium
Pier 15, The Embarcadero & Green St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 528-4444

Head to the Embaracdero and experience this ode to all things science.

Hands-on exhibits allow kids to step inside a tornado, count the rings on a 300-year-old tree, and even build their own electrical circuits. Adults will love this place too.

 

6. Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center
1 Letterman Dr
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 746-8000

Located in the Presidio, the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center is home to Lucas Film.

Star Wars fanatics will love the life-size Yoda sculpture and the Star Wars costumes located inside the lobby, and the center's surrounding grounds (complete with meadows, a lagoon, and sitting areas) offer an ideal spot for a picnic.

 

7. Presidio
Presidio
San Francisco, CA

Let us count the ways we love the Presidio. First: Easy, kid-friendly hikes abound. Second: Three sculptures made from felled trees and created by British artist Andy Goldsworthy show art in a natural environment.

Third: Children will love exploring the tree groves and hidden forts. Start your visit to this National Park from the Visitor's Center at the Main Post, and don't miss Goldsworthy's Spire and Wood Line sculptures.

 

8. City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 362-8193

Since 1953, City Lights Bookstore has been an icon in the literary world of San Francisco, the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S. and the birthplace of the Beat movement.

But there's also a great children's book section, especially if you're inclined to introduce your children to books that specialize in social justice and activism.

 

9. San Francisco Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 474-1887

Machine-obsessed tots look no further: the free Cable Car Museum in San Francisco's Nob Hill should be your first stop.

Not only will you get valuable info on the city's favorite means of transportation, but also kids can see the cable wheels and working models in action.

 

10. Baker Beach
1504 Pershing Dr
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-4323

Located below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach is a good choice for picnics (there are tables, restrooms, and grills at the east end of the parking lot) and sand castles.

Note: The northernmost end of Baker Beach is frequented by clothing-optional sunbathers.

 

11. Julius Kahn Playground & Clubhouse
West Pacific Avenue & Spruce St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 713-4997

This heavily used spot got a reboot in 2003 to transform it into a "Parisian-style" playground that aims to transport locals to the Luxembourg Gardens.

Children will love the interactive wet sand play sculpture and climbing equipment, while adults can relax to views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais.

 

12. Children's Creativity Museum
221 4th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 820-3320

The Children's Creativity Museum is a hands-on space that allows children to imagine and create in a multimedia environment.

Kids can design their own clay motion animations, pretend to be a rock star in the music studio, or invent a new machine. There's something for all ages here.

 

13. South Park
South Park
San Francisco, CA 94107
 
Created in 1852, South Park remains one of San Francisco’s oldest yet lesser known parks in the city. The park underwent a $3.8 million renovation, opening this year new features: grass, benches, tables, swooping meadows, cement walkways, and a custom universal play area that boasts undulating forms both in structure and in the mounded surface.

 

14. Ocean Beach
Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 561-4323

On the city's westernmost side, adjacent to Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach is a getaway with 3.5 miles of white beaches next to two giant windmills that are sure to fascinate the littles.

The water is cold and the currents can be hazardous, but Ocean Beach is a top pick for walks and beach time picnics.

 

15. Land's End Trail Hike
680 Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

This fairly flat hike (with just one big hill that has stairs) is a good one for older kids discovering their hiking legs.

The hike starts and finishes at the ruins of the Sutro Baths—a former public bath house that burned to the ground in 1966—and there's also a visitor's center. The out-and-back hike is a total of 2.9 miles, but you can always turn around any time.

 

16. de Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-3600

This fine arts museum in Golden Gate Park has plenty to entertain adults, but kids can also have a grand time here with a bit of effort.

Visit the warrior masks upstairs, explore the sculpture garden outside, and take the elevator to the museum's free observation tower for views of the city.

The museum also boasts an artist studio where kids can talk to an artist-in-residence and holds free Saturday classes with guided tours and art studio activities.

 

17. Spreckels Lake
Spreckels Lake
San Francisco, CA 94121

Set on the northern side of Golden Gate Park, Spreckels Lake is home to the San Francisco Model Yacht Club.

Head to the lake and watch enthusiasts sailing their remote controlled model yachts or bring a picnic and enjoy the sunset beside the beauty of the Monterey Cypress trees.

 

18. Stow Lake
50 Stow Lake Dr E
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 386-2531

In the heart of Golden Gate Park, Stow Lake is a gorgeous spot to rent rowboats, electric boats, and pedal boats that seat up to 6 people.

Families can spot a variety of different (and friendly) birds, and if you're lucky you'll see a turtle or two. The boathouse also has a kid-friendly cafe and serves alcohol.

 

19. California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000

As one of the largest museums of natural history in the world, the California Academy of Sciences has something for everyone and is well-located in Golden Gate Park.

Don't miss a fantastic aquarium, planetarium, and a domed, four-story rainforest that boasts animals in three distinct ecosystems.

 

20. Koret Children's Quarter Playground
Martin Luther King Jr Dr & Bowling Green Dr
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 861-0778

Called the Koret Children's Quarter, the children's playground at Golden Gate Park is a magical space with concrete slides, climbing walls, a playground, and plenty of grass for picnics.

But the park's most unique feature is a gorgeous carousel—originally built in 1914—with 62 animal figures to ride.