San Francisco can be a great city for children and families - it's fairly small, there are lots of physical and outdoor activities... and many SF adults have playful childlike tastes in fun :)
are also great outdoor spots for kids... especially when the
is considerably more expensive and often requires advance purchase). The
can be fun for kids (and free). In and around the
... among others :)
successfully orient towards children. (Interestingly, the
does not especially).Tagged for With Kids...
In Harbaugh we trust...
If you have a funny bone, hook or patch, visit one of the city's hidden gems!
Relaxation, now with stunning views...
Alamo Square's elevated and central location makes for a pleasant park - great for picnicking or just relaxing after a long day. Unless the day happens to be the 3rd Sunday of May when Alamo Square's top-of-Hayes-hill becomes a madhouse of spectators, participants and those doing a bit of both in Bay to Breakers
Commune with the inner Capone
Notorious beyond it's size and penitential impact (Alcatraz was only a prison for 19 years►
), "The Rock" is an exciting afternoon - especially on a nice day. The complex is nicely restored with lots of information and many photographs. The "prison yard" has phenomenal views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge
Alta Plaza Park
Playground with a view
Sitting on the highest peak of Pacific Heights, Alta Plaza Park (literally "high place") provides some views to the north (the bay) and amazing ones to south... and there is not a playground in SF with a better view.
Escape from Alcatraz
's bigger and less-developed sibling, Angel Island provides unbelievable views on 14 miles of trails - truly a hidden gem! Hiking and biking
are recommended, and for those with sea legs kayaking
and a Segway
tours are also available. Camping
is an unforgettable experience, but fills up quickly - the group sites are regularly booked a year in advance.
Aquarium of the Bay
Jellyfish, giant Sea Bass, sharks, oh my!
Devoted to the stunning aquatic life of the San Francisco Bay, the aquarium sparks the imagination to the watery world below!
Most scenic beach in SF
The first professional ballet company in the United States, San Francisco Ballet is possibly the most highly regarded performance group in the area.
Keepin' it real...
With every performance 100% plan-free (much less practice!) and imbibed with audience input
(and sometimes on-stage participation) - BATS amuses, inspires and, occasionally... falls totally flat :)
How does the bay model model itself?
The US Army Corp of Engineers created the Bay Model
in 1958 to understand the effects of new structures built in or by the bay. The meticulously constructed scale model of the bay area (complete with tides!) is more than 1.5 acres itself and spans from the Pacific to Stockton and Sacramento.
With a 360° views and a warmer-than-average reputation, Bernal puts the urban lowlands in their place :)
Just say yes!
Catty corner to Dolores Park
and as-of-yet untouched by the DEA
, this Mission
"homemade ice cream" hot-spot often sports a line out the door. There are no reports of un-delicious►
ice creams, but it's advisable to sample a few flavors before ordering... just to be safe :)
Blue & Gold Ferries
SF's most exciting public transporation..
A ferry trip provides an easy and cheap way to enjoy the exciting geography of the bay - not to mention, transportation :)
All your flora are belong to us
A tranquil 55 acres inhabited by 7500 hundred plants, the garden►
delights plant nerds, walkers and picnickers - especially on warm days!
Buena Vista Park
"Good views" :)
One of SF's larger neighborhood parks, BVP mixes a large tree canopy and numerous trails with 360° views. Connecting the Haight
neighborhoods - the park vibes seedier than nearby Corona Heights
or further away Kite Hill
, although typically less so than the Panhandle
and the east side of Golden Gate
Cable Car Museum
Those interested in the mechanics and history of the Cable Cars
will not be disappointed!
Walk Like a Victorian
Originally invented to spare horses dying (literally!) on the steep hills
of San Francisco, the city's now-iconic transportation►
is worth a ride if it's easy - waiting for an hour or more makes the decision harder.
Cal Academy of Sciences
Stunning aquarium and rainforest
San Francisco's most freshly baked (err.. renovated) museum delights with large aquariums, African dioramas, a rainforest, and planetarium all wrapped in a wondrously uber-modern grass covered "living roof"►
Cantor Arts Center
Cartoon Art Museum
Delightful theater, excellent films
Perfect Spot for a Post-Headlands Drink or Three
Providing stunning city views, spooky military ruins (which you're "not supposed to" explore), fishing, and one of the better frisbee/picnicking fields you'll find - Cavallo Point delights.
Children's Creativity Museum
More m than moma
Between a rock and a gorgeous view
's smaller and more secluded sibling provides a cozy scene with fewer dogs (not technically allowed) and a big storm wall! The beach is supposedly named for Chinese fishermen who used to camp there during the early years of the city.
More China than town
A visual stimulator
The namesake tower gets the attention - but the hike and the views►
are the main attraction!
Conservatory of Flowers
Located just inside Golden Gate Park
from the Panhandle
, the oldest surviving flower conservatory in the western hemisphere (1878) and consists of 25 tons of glass - and after a 2003 restoration, it seems likely to hold the title for a while longer yet :)
Corona Heights Park
Iron in them thar hills!
Sometimes forgotten but rarely regretted (!) Corona Heights Park offers hiking (short but exciting!), great views, picnicking, basketball, tennis, a playground and a museum
on and around dramatic red rock formations.
The bay, up close and personal :)
Sunny center of outdoor activitiy
Covering two city blocks on the Castro
side of the Mission
district, Dolores Park has more visitors per square foot than any park in the city. Tennis and basketball courts, pickup soccer, a children's playground (currently under re-construction), dogs aplenty, and expansive skyline views combine for a magically relaxing afternoon. It is delightful (and relatively safe) after dark as well. Bike polo
is on (at least temporary) hiatus
pending a political battle with the tennis players.
Running along the bay from AT&T Park
up to Fisherman's Wharf
, the Embarcadero provides a break from the city's steep inclinations
. As such, it's widely enjoyed by locals and visitors on foot, bicycle
, skateboard, rollerskate, etc... although traffic can be an issue both on the sidewalk and off.
All hands on... everything!
The most hands-on►
museum experience in SF (anywhere?!), the Exploratorium offers a great visit for everyone. For children and the scientifically curious, the museum is a must-see! More than one family has been saved by this rainy day adventure :)
San Francisco's Archetype of Itself
San Francisco's biggest tourist destination is visually stunning, entertaining, and offers a starting point for a variety of activities: bay tours/ferries (including Alcatraz
), Cable Cars
's chocolate, a variety of seafood, and one of the nation's best Maritime Museums
(including the USS Pampanito
The unofficial recreation wing of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (run by the National Park Service
), Fort Funston provides a world renowned hang gliding►
hot spot, the city's largest and best off-leash area for dogs and a network of beautiful trails and beaches.
Fortune Cookie Factory
Making fortunes, one cookie at a time
Home of the Giants
As the only major sports team playing in urban San Francisco, the Giants enjoy special support among locals. AT&T park (its 3rd name since opening
in 2000 when the Giants left the now 49ers
-only Candlestick Park) is a relatively small open-air stadium providing nice views of the bay and not much protection from the wind.
Glide Memorial Church
Salvation through music
A heavyhitter in San Francisco's progressive political arena - Glide builds on a foundation of gospel singing►
Golden Gate Bridge
Icon of the Golden Gate
The Golden Gate Bridge is not to be missed! It's best up close and personal. The bridge is a bit less than 2 miles across - an excellent hike or bike
ride. Be sure to wear warm clothes, as it is often windy and/or cold►
Golden Gate Park
Soul of SF
Holy Cathedral, Batman! Gothic is bigger than you
's heavyweight hood ornament is a must-visit for those intrigued by cathedrals and architecture
. In addition to stunning stained glass, there are two meditation labyrinths►
(outside and in), and three massive organs.
Centerpiece of Nob Hill
A taste of Southern California
While relatively new in San Francisco, In-n-Out has a long history►
(by California standards) in Southern California and its simple menu, low prices, no advertising and purportedly healthy ingredients combine to generate fiercely loyal cult-members... err, customers :)
Japanese Tea Garden
The oldest public Japanese garden in the country, this Golden Gate park
gem is a great place to walk, check out the koi, structures, statues.. or have a cup of tea :)
A very little bit of Japan in SF
The largest and oldest Japantown in the United States. With excellent sushi restaurants, a Japanese mall, a supermarket, and the delightful Kabuki Springs & Spa
and more packed into about six blocks "J-Town" makes a great visit. It adjoins the Fillmore District, Pacific Heights, Western Addition, and annually hosts the Cherry Blossom Festival
San Francisco's fresh-water stepchild
In a city surrounded by ocean, the largest fresh-water body of water in San Francisco is sometimes forgotten. Lake Merced provides unique fishing (permits req'd), picnicking, bicycling, walking and running opportunities.
Best hike in San Francisco - easy!
Beautiful hikes up to 5 miles can be started at the Sutro Baths
parking lot (also accessible from the Muni
38 Geary line) and continued until it's time to turn around. The Legion of Honor
and golf course sit at the end of the trail. For those willing to walk through Seacliff
, Baker Beach
and the Presidio
are relatively accessible and offer similarly beautiful outdoor recreation.
Get your wiggle on
Iconic of San Francisco, the Lombard street hairpins are a quick hit of fun. If the weather is bad, or the location inconvenient - feel free to skip it. It's relatively close to the Maritime Museum
and Aquatic park
Do. It. Yourself.
Organized by "Make:technology on your time" magazine
and advertising itself as "The World's Largest DIY Festival", the faire is worth a visit for anyone who loves to make things or is inspired by the creative works►
A little gift from God
The Marin headlands offer a unforgettable (and convenient!) experience with the rugged California coast. On a clear day, San Francisco is on full display and the temperature is reliably higher on the north side of the bay. Many stunning Golden Gate Bridge
photos are shot from the headlands.
Lifeblood of early San Francisco
With one of the world's best natural ports, San Francisco owes much of its prominence to oceanic travel and Maritime Museum is a great visit for history
and maritime buffs. The Balclutha►
, a tall sailing ship from 1886, is the crown jewel of the bunch (7 total). The USS Pampanito
submarine/museum is run by the same organization, but a few blocks away on Pier 45.
All your Metreon are belong to us
Like a mall, without many stores - the Metreon does have a 15 screen movie theater
(including the largest IMAX screen in the world), a video arcade, a food court and a smattering of other stores and attractions.
The original missionary position
Wild and free
The Mission Murals are an oft-overlooked artistic treasure of San Francisco. The Mission
's regularly warm weather can combine for a great afternoon of mural appreciation.
Sweet, savory, or one of each (!)
An urban offshoot of Pie Ranch
, Mission Pie's commitment to sustainability, local produce and community involvement roots in SF's social entrepreneurship camp.
Top of the Bay Area
Sprawled between Stinson Beach
and Mill Valley, Mt Tamalpais (translating literally as "Tamale Country") offers phenomenal views and great hikes! No tamales, unfortunately. Hiking and Biking - road and mountain - are the preferred modes of transport (the "Crookedest Railroad in the World►
" ceased operation in 1930).
Old growth redwoods
"This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world" John Muir
Before Pac-Man ate dots...
The self-proclaimed largest private collection of (working!) mechanical arcade games and instruments in the world - the Musée Mécanique traces the marriage of technology and entertainment long before the birth of computers. The digital arcade (with 30+ year old video consoles) in the back juxtaposes nicely as well.
Great views, rich history + exercise :)
No beach - but a great party!
The aroma of Italy still wafts through this old quartiere... now infused with teams of hard partying "youngsters" :)
Oakland Museum of California
Going back to Cali
The big chill...
As San Francisco's largest and most relaxed beach, Ocean Beach is a delightful break from urbanity. Even on the warmest days, there is plenty of room to throw down a towel (or t-shirt) and soak up some California rays and play in the surf►
. It's advisable to bring wind protection and a warm layer, just in case :)
Palace of Fine Arts
A little bit of Rome in SF
Not just for panhandlers...
A halfway house between urban San Francisco and the Golden Gate Park
, this long (3/4 mile) narrow (1 block) strip of park divides the Haight
and the Western Addition ("NOPA" if you're a real estate agent).
Not enough people in your life?
Long live the Reyes
With stunning views over an area 40 percent larger than Golden Gate Park
, the Presidio is sometimes overlooked for outdoor adventures. An army base from 1776 (by the Spaniards, the same year as the Mission Dolores
) to 1994, and now operated by the National Park Service
, the area is not especially developed for recreation, but provides it nonetheless.
Red's Java House
Simple building, simple pleasures
In the shadow of modernity and the Bay Bridge, Red's Java House serves cheap burgers on the bay and enjoys an avid following among Downtown
Popular for good reason
A delightful finish to the Marin Headlands
loop, Rodeo Beach is a popular and accessible beach just a short drive from the Golden Gate Bridge
(the fast and furious can hike there from the bridge).
Take a break from the clouds
Sea Trek Kayaking
Bay imitates bath
With the best natural bay in the world, San Francisco has a rich maritime history
, and getting out on the water is one of the most exciting ways to explore the area :)
Smitten Ice Cream
Prepare for smiting!
The robotic "Kelvin" pushes gourmet ice cream to new heights by spinning fresh local ingredients (eg, TCHO
chocolate) at sub-zero (liquid nitrogen) temperatures!
Speedway Meadow in the middle of Golden Gate Park
is probably the most popular picnic spot in the city. The location is far enough out for the coastal Fog
to have a larger-than-Dolores
impact, but the spacious meadow and surrounding areas (eg, adjoining Stow Lake
) offer a lot of outdoor activities.
Starr King Open Space
Putting the hill in Potrero
Expansive city and bay views delight human visitors while the four-legged critters sniff out a vibrant social life - Starr King Open Space enjoys substantial popularity among both humans and dogs and regularly provides great sunset watching.
Stern Grove Festival
Not as stern as it sounds
The longest running free concert in the United States, the festival is a great way to spend a summer Sunday afternoon. There are a lot of other folks who think so too, and arriving early is the name of the game for getting good seats.
Victorian communal bathing
Amazing music, hall
Tennessee + a beautiful beach
Insulated by a 2 mile hike from the end of Tennessee Valley Road, the beach is a more secluded version of Rodeo Beach
in the eye-popping Marin
Spanish for shark :)
Easily accessible by ferry
, and a short ride from Angel Island
- picturesque Tiburon provides a warm suburban break from SF!
Beer drinkers unite
Nestled in the woods with views of Mt Tamalpais
, delicious brews, and nose-waking barbecues, the Tourist Club (also known as the "German Tourist Club") provides delightfully transporting afternoons!
Toy Boat Dessert Café
Tired of adulthood?
Serving local "Double Rainbow
" ice cream and a variety of other desserts (plus beverages, bagels and sandwiches) in a playful ice cream parlor atmosphere, Toy Boat delights!
The elusive treasure island...
An island with eyepopping views, 5 wineries (the grapes are imported) and only 2 places to eat can't be all bad? :)
Not just an old TV show...
When the weather is clear, Twin Peaks pops eyeballs - especially around dusk (or sunrise►
?). When it's cold, wet, windy, and/or foggy
, TP is more of a survival adventure challenge :)
Consistently ranked the number one public university in the country, Cal may be best known for it's historical
role in the free-speech and antiwar movements both spearheading and defining the 1960s.
University of San Francisco
Schoolgirls for Jesus
Elevated and prominently visible, San Francisco's first university makes a clean break from the Western Addition.
More fun than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?
If being in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of a war, under water, in overheated cramped quarters floats your boat - definitely check out the USS Pampanito!
Walt Disney Family Museum
A History of Magic in the Kingdom
A must-visit for anyone inspired by the history of animation and/or Disney, the museum showcases an astounding collection of artifacts and exhibits.
Wells Fargo History Museum
Back when banking was cool... or at least colorful
Located inside Wells Fargo's first office, this museum-within-a-bank maintains the best collection of California gold rush
artifacts in the city.
Yerba Buena Gardens
Some pretty good yerba
Before San Francisco became "San Francisco" it was called "Yerba Buena" - Spanish for "good herb".
Gifts from God(s)