9 Fun Things To Do with Kids in San Francisco
Whether your family prefers thrilling attractions, exploring the great outdoors, creating masterpieces, interacting with animals, or learning about science and natural history, San Francisco has just the thing to make your family vacation fun-filled and memorable.
Discover the magic of Disney
Few people in the entertainment industry have influenced as many generations as Walt Disney. Nestled in the historic Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum has something magical for the kids – and the kids at heart. While the younger crowd enjoys numerous videos, listening stations and other interactive exhibits, parents will appreciate the nostalgia of seeing early drawings and animations of their favorite Disney characters. This summer, discover how Walt Disney’s iconic creation, Mickey Mouse, has influenced art and entertainment for more than nine decades at the “Mickey Mouse: From Walt to the World” exhibit.
Explore scientific phenomena
Ignite curiosity in the minds of your kiddos with more than 650 hands-on exhibits at the Exploratorium, at Pier 15 along the Embarcadero. Step inside a kid-friendly tornado to better understand how the weather phenomenon works, create mega bubbles, play with sand that reveals invisible magnetic fields, and watch the dissection of a cow’s eye to understand how our own eyes help us see. With zero no-touch signs and Explainers at every exhibit ready to answer questions, the Exploratorium unabashedly encourages discovery, creativity, and well, exploration.
Uncover natural wonders
Only in San Francisco can you explore an aquarium, planetarium, and rainforest all in one day – and all under one (living!) roof. The California Academy of Sciences promises to inspire a lifelong curiosity for the natural world with opportunities to study the intricacies of a coral reef, meet numerous resident animals like Claude the albino alligator, explore the depths of a rainforest, and gaze at the stars and planets. Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, there are even more natural wonders and things to explore waiting for you outside the Academy at the end of your visit.
Enjoy green open spaces
Parks and green space are abundant in San Francisco but the grandest of them all is Golden Gate Park, which easily warrants a full day of exploration. Stretching from Haight-Ashbury to the Pacific Ocean, the 1,000-acre park offers open space, museums and family-friendly attractions like The Koret Children’s Quarter (which features a merry-go-round and playground). Bring a picnic and let the kids run off some energy in the grassy meadows, then check out a resident herd of bison cared for by the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. Discover waterfalls throughout the park and enjoy a 360-degree view of the city from the free Harmon Observation Tower at the de Young Museum. At the end of the day, catch the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean at the west end of the park. There’s a reason they call it the Sunset District, after all.
Experience exciting attractions
No family visit to the City by the Bay is complete without a visit to PIER 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf. With a long list of exciting attractions (all within walking distance of each other), everyone in your family will find something they love. The pier’s newest attraction, The Flyer, will take your family on a bird's-eye tour of San Francisco’s iconic landmarks. Carnival attractions like Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, the San Francisco Carousel, and street performers are sure to thrill everyone. Explore the Aquarium of the Bay, where you can walk through crystal clear tunnels showcasing 20,000 animals, or step back outside and meet the hundreds of sea lions who have called PIER 39 home since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. There are also multiple boat tours that the whole family is guaranteed to enjoy.
Play with Your Perception
Interact with optical illusions for photo opportunities like no other at the Museum of 3D Illusions. Go on a carpet ride above the Golden Gate Bridge, hang from the side of a skyscraper, and skydive over the San Francisco Bay. No matter the setting, each painting presents an exciting illusion with San Francisco landmarks. This museum is a great place for all ages and allows visitors to express themselves in everyway possible. Conveniently located near PIER 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, attractions and dining options are almost endless.
Exercise the entire family’s imagination at the Children’s Creativity Museum in SoMa. Children ages 2 to 12 are invited to express their creativity through multi-media art and technology at workshops and hands-on exhibits in various labs and studios throughout the museum. Watch your children learn about urban planning at the Sketch Town exhibit in the Community Lab or explore the dynamics of water flow at the Map Makers exhibit. Learn to code alongside your child at the Wonder Workshop in the Tech Lab, where your code programs a robot to navigate a maze and play music.
Ride through history
Have an aspiring conductor or engineer on your hands? Take a ride on one of the city’s historic streetcars. The cars run above ground on Market St. between Castro and Fisherman’s Wharf. Make sure you also visit the San Francisco Railway Museum, where your mini conductor can learn about the history of the fleet of streetcars.
Let imaginations run wild
Cultivate early learning alongside your little ones as they let their imaginations run wild at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. Seven indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces offer thoughtfully designed exhibits and activities for children 6 months to 10 years old. Encourage your child to try something new and solve unexpected challenges exhibits that allow them to interact with the world in a hands-on way. Check the website for a calendar of daily programs.