San Francisco with Kids: Best Family-Friendly Activities | San Francisco Travel
A family looks at sea life inside a tunnel at the Aquarium of the Bay
Discover all sorts of amazing sea life at Aquarium of the Bay.

San Francisco with Kids: Best Family-Friendly Activities

San Francisco can be fun for the whole family. Find out what to add to your next trip itinerary.

It's time to round up the kids and head for San Francisco, the perfect 49 square miles for your next family vacation. Looking for kid-friendly culture? We've got it. Outdoor space to play? There's plenty of it. Educational experiences are so fun that the kids won't even realize they're learning? We basically invented it.

Here are family-friendly activities we recommend for your next San Francisco family vacation.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Don't let the title fool you; this isn't Disneyland (although there is a miniature replica of the park in the museum). Parents will love browsing memorabilia collected by the Disney family and reminiscing about the life of Walt Disney, his films, and Disneyland. While the grown-ups are learning about the evolution of Mickey, little ones can participate in the museum's Little Open Studio to enjoy story time and activities geared towards children seven and under. Also, check the calendar for special film screenings (including those locked away in the infamous Disney vault).

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Aerial of the Walt Disney Family Museum with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium encourages guests of all ages to touch, explore, and play with more than 650 interactive exhibits. Investigate the living world; experiment with thoughts, feelings and behavior; explore the local environment; and much more. All this science making you hungry? The Exploratorium houses a cafe and a waterfront restaurant, both serving seasonal and sustainable cuisine prepared by local chefs. All ages are welcome. Strollers are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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Kids playing outside of the Exploratorium


A family vacation isn't complete without a trip to PIER 39 on Fisherman's Wharf. Visit the resident sea lions who mysteriously took over the docks after the 1989 earthquake. Watch magicians, jugglers, comedians, and more during daily street performer shows. Run down oversized musical stairs — all for free! Other activities for the little kids (or big ones) include, Players Sports Grill & ArcadeMuseum of 3D IllusionsMagowan's Infinite Mirror Maze, the San Francisco Carousel, a classic caricature stand, and Frequent Flyers (think bungee cords + giant trampoline).

The Children's Creativity Museum

Exposing children to creativity is one of the most valuable things you can do for them. The Children's Creativity Museum goes beyond the conventional environment of play by inspiring kids to imagine, create and share in a multimedia environment. With exhibits including an Animation Studio, Imagination Lab, Music Studio and even a Cloud Gallery, the museum is packed with workshops and hands-on activities suitable for kids of all ages.

Cable Cars

There is nothing quite like riding a cable car up and down the hills of San Francisco. While they symbolize the early innovation that made the city iconic, the experience of riding a cable car is timeless and a great city adventure for children. You could take the Powell-Mason line to Fisherman's Wharf, or the Powell-Hyde to go to Ghirardelli Square. The Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill is admission free and open daily (aside from Mondays) and is a great way to learn about the history of cable cars. 

cable far family

Bay Cruise and Water Taxi

Exploring San Francisco Bay is nothing short of magical. While there are many ways to stretch your sea legs, the most popular for families is a classic Bay Cruise. Get up close and personal with the city skyline, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island (to get on the Island, take Alcatraz Cruises). If you're lucky, you may even spot some sea life. If that doesn't take your breath away, riding Blue & Gold Fleet or Red and White Fleet to sail smoothly under the Golden Gate Bridge certainly will.


Experience the bright colors and fascinating facades of the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Explore the golden dragons and emerald roofs of Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, then follow the scent of fresh fortune cookies to the famed Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley to witness first-hand how the fortune actually makes it into the cookie.

Golden Gate Bridge

Perhaps San Francisco's most well-known attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge can be a fun outdoor experience for children. Park in the designated lots near the visitor center, then embark on a walk along the pedestrian pathway. If you're lucky and visit the bridge on clear day, you'll be able to see stunning views of San Francisco Bay, the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz and the East Bay. Be warned: the bridge can be quite cold and windy, so dress accordingly. You can make your bridge experience a day trip by exploring nearby attractions like the historic Fort Point, Baker Beach, or the lush trails of the Presidio.

Friends taking selfies on the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco sets the bar high when it comes to parks. Nearly every neighborhood has one. The grandest of all is Golden Gate Park, which stretches from the Haight to the Pacific Ocean. With more than 1,000 acres of plush greenery, it's also home to The Koret Children's Quarter (a merry-go-round and playground), the de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, Blue Heron Lake, the Japanese Tea Garden and a resident herd of buffalo. There's plenty of room to spread out for a picnic, go on a hunt for waterfalls, or polish a few soccer moves in an open meadow.

Exterior view of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

California Academy of Sciences

Want to earn cool points with the kids? They're guaranteed to smile at this aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, rain forest, and home to 40,000 live animals — all under one living roof. The Academy's Steinhart Aquarium is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse and interactive on earth! Set time aside for a penguin feeding, dive show, or swamp talk with the Academy's celebrity albino alligator, Claude. All that knowledge is sure to work up an appetite, which makes the casual Academy Cafe ideal for a mid-afternoon break.

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Historic Streetcars

A cross between a cable car and one of the sleek light rail vehicles that run underground along Market Street, San Francisco's fleet of historic streetcars, known as the F Line, run aboveground on Market Street between the Castro and Fisherman's Wharf. To learn the full story behind these historic cars, visit the free San Francisco Railway Museum. There are great photo ops, simple exhibits that explain the history of the fleet, and a gift shop with unique items and memorabilia. The whole experience is right on track for little train buffs.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum

Located in Sausalito, this children’s museum offers experiences for early learning in a fun, vibrant atmosphere. Located on 7.5 acres of National Parkland at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area Discovery Museum features seven indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces and more than six daily drop-in programs for children six months of age to 8 years.

The Presidio

Situated above the Presidio Parkway tunnels, the newly-opened Tunnel Tops is a popular destination for families. The Outpost, a two-acre playscape, will delight the kids as they stretch their imagination while playing in nature. Grab a picnic blanket and a jacket, then head to this unique national park experience. There's something for everyone in the Presidio, whether you want to hit the trails, explore nature, or take in history. The Presidio Visitor Center is a perfect spot to begin your adventure.

Families play at The Outpost in the Presidio

SkyStar Observation Wheel

A fun activity for older kids in San Francisco is the SkyStar Observation Wheel at Fisherman's Wharf. Standing 15 stories tall, the state-of-the-art SkyStar Observation Wheel features 36 enclosed, well-ventilated gondolas boasting unparalleled views that span the city. From its heights, you'll see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, the gleaming skyscrapers of downtown, and the beautiful communities of Sausalito and Tiburon in the north bay. The SkyStar Wheel is wheelchair accessible (aside from the VIP Gondola) and stroller-friendly. 

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Image of SkyStar Ferris Wheel in Fisherman's Wharf

Ghirardelli Square

The famed Ghirardelli Square on the west end of Fisherman's Wharf, just above Aquatic Park, is a former chocolate factory turned multi-use space filled with various shops and experiences. Visit the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience to watch chocolatiers make decadent Sundays and candy bars, or play a round at SubPar Miniature Golf, featuring miniatures of San Francisco's famed landmarks. Hyde Street Pier is just a short walk away. It is home to the SS Jeremiah O'Brien and the USS Pampanito submarine, both of which are available for historical tours. 

A chocolate sundae sits in the foreground with Ghirardelli Square in the background.

Aquarium of the Bay

Immerse yourself in the diversity of Northern California's aquatic life at the Aquarium of the Bay. From touch pools to underwater tunnels, the aquarium offers many diverse living habitats to explore and is home to over 24,000 marine animals. Through interactive exhibits, budding nature enthusiasts can also learn about environmental challenges that affect our oceans. 

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Man and child in Aquarium tunnel

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is Northern California’s largest zoological park, with more than 225 species of animals in naturalistic settings. The Children’s Zoo gives young folks the thrill of feeding and petting their favorite barnyard animals, and if little legs are starting to weary, the Little Puffer Zoo Train ($5) makes regular circuits of the grounds. The zoo is free on the first Wednesday of every month for San Francisco residents.

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Children feed a giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo.

Sports Teams and Events

San Francisco is home to the Giants baseball team and the Warriors basketball team. Oracle Park, where the Giants play, is not only a beautiful place to view a game, but has designated areas for children's activities.  The Fan Lot is an interactive play area for children and adults. Located at the promenade level, above the left field bleachers, children ages 14 and younger and taller than 36 inches can enjoy a "slide into home plate" from one of the four slides. 

boy at oracle park

Children's Fairyland

Located on the shores of Oakland's Lake Merritt, Fairyland is a storybook-themed amusement park that is the first of its kind and the perfect place to bring younger children. Explore 60 storybook sets, friendly animals, and 10 acres of garden space tailored for children under eight. Fairyland even has rides suitable for little ones, including a mini-Ferris wheel and carousel. The park is stroller-friendly and offers maps that outline sensory-friendly areas within the park. 

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Woman and child on bike by Fairyland sign

House of Air

Want to fulfill your dream of playing dodgeball on a trampoline? House of Air is the perfect place to do so. This trampoline park in San Francisco's Presidio offers multi-use facilities for fun activities with kids. Try trampoline basketball, ninja obstacle courses, and even rock climbing under one roof. House of Air also has activities for little ones. If you're bringing small children, there is a play center for kids ages 2-4. 

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The Randall Museum

The Randall Museum is a natural science museum, history museum and art center that explores the natural features of the Bay Area. This interactive museum offers an array of hands-on exhibits, including an animal habitat room, science lab, a scale model of a caboose, and more. Kids can immerse themselves in the world of natural history or arts and crafts while enjoying incredible views of the city from the museum's location in Corona Heights. 

Carol High
Carol High

Carol is a digital marketer creating media-rich content for global audiences covering travel, San Francisco and the Bay Area, food & drink, outdoor experiences, and cross-cultural storytelling. Her work is found in the San Mateo Daily Journal and The Skyline View (Skyline College). Before travel writing, her professional background included working internationally in business, nonprofits, and government. She lives in San Francisco with her family and regularly explores the parks in her city, especially untamed McLaren Park.