Overview : There are many neighborhoods in San Francisco that are great to explore with children. This guide aims to capture some of the city's... more »
There are many neighborhoods in San Francisco that are great to explore with children. This guide aims to capture some of the city's... more » most popular sites in a walkable half-day format. By starting at the Ferry Building near the downtown Financial District, families can fuel up on great food, coffee and provisions for the day as they prepare to leisurely stroll along the Embarcadero, the waterfront boulevard that snakes north and west around the tip of the city. This itinerary allows for plenty of stops, views, activities, dining and shopping.
Alcatraz Option: This guide includes the option to tour Alcatraz Island. Tour operators suggest that you allow 2.5 hours to ride out to, explore and return from the island.
This guide's half-day time estimate does not take into account the 2.5-hour Alcatraz tour, so please plan accordingly and note tour and ferry schedules. less «
Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers, especially near the water where wind can kick up and make even a summer day chilly.
If... more » you have young children, bring a stroller. Fortunately the route is flat, but it can get long for small travelers on foot.
Wear a backpack since you will inevitably want to buy some souvenirs; bring a camera; store snacks or water and since this is a good amount of time on your feet, you want to be prepared and comfortable. less «
This is a great way to start your day, especially on a weekend when the Farmers' Market is going on. You and your family can fuel up on excellent, organic, local breakfast choices, delicious coffee and unbeatable bay views.
If you are staying in town, walk, cab, BART or trolley to the eastern end of Market Street, cross the Embarcadero and you... More will dead-end at the wonderful Ferry Building Marketplace.
If you are coming into town for the day, you have many nearby parking garages to choose from, especially if you arrive early, which is a smart idea on the weekend when the Farmers' Market is open.
Arrive early to get your first choice of the many purveyors' goods and then move on to the next stop on our list to avoid crowds.
There is a terrific (and large) farmers' market three day a week:
Originally built in 1898, the Ferry Building was remodeled and reopened in 2003. The result of a public-private collaboration, the building features a world-class public food market on the ground floor and office space with amazing views above.
Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
-Validated parking is available at the Washington Embarcadero lot across from the Ferry Building.
-Additional parking is available in four garages in the Embarcadero Center on Sacramento Street.
-Metered street parking is available on Embarcadero, Washington, Folsom and Drumm streets.Less
Fresh fruit, delicious pastries and terrific coffee spell a terrific way to start your day and begin your tour of the amazing Ferry Building Marketplace.
Blue Bottle Coffee is famous in the Bay Area for its prepared drip coffee, but this shop will create almost any coffee beverage you like. Also, the owner's wife makes desserts every day using mostly organic ingredients, and the kitchen offers other items like granola and Belgian waffles.
Great general store to pick up provisions for your day out walking around.
In the winter time, the city creates an open-air ice rink for the public to enjoy. All lit up for the holidays, it's conveniently located across Embarcadero Road from the Ferry Building and punctuates the end of Market Street, affording amazing views in both directions.
4 Embarcadero Center
The walk from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 is about 1.5 miles, but with a wide, flat sidewalk (no infamous SF hills here), endless bay and city views and a few fun places along the way, the open air exercise is a welcome change from the bustling ferry marketplace.
Runners, people walking their dogs, locals and toursists all easily co-mingle... More along the Embarcadero.
Kids will enjoy watching the old-time trolleys make their way along the street and you can jump on one too, if you'd rather do that than walk.Less
This is a great place to take a quick break and enjoy the sights. From here, you can see two of the most distinctive San Francisco landmarks: Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower. Bay Bridge is also visible from here. It's a great place to take some great photos of the city.
Located right next to Pier 17, TCHO takes San Francisco's chocolate culture to the next level. TCHO promotes organic high-quality dark chocolate and in this location you get to tour the facility and do some chocolate tasting. The tours are by appointment only and start at 10:30am and 2pm every day. You can make a reservation for the tour at http:/... More/www.tcho.com/where-to-buy/tour.Less
Hornblower Alcatraz Landing at Pier 33 is the spot to catch a ferry if you want to tour Alcatraz.
Of note, tour operators suggest that you allow 2.5 hours to ride out to, explore and return from the island.
If you plan to tour Alcatraz, please plan accordingly. This guide was written without allowing for the 2.5-hour Alcatraz trip, but there... More would be time to add it to this itinerary if you allow a full day and start early enough in the morning.Less
"The Rock," most famous for the infamous inmates it housed as a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963, is part of the National Park Service.
Tour operators suggest allowing 2.5 hours for a visit to and a tour of the tiny island. It is a fun experience, especially for kids, history buffs or anyone enamored with the bygone and violent days of... More Prohibition.
Tour prices start at $26 for adults and depart from Pier 33.
Hours: Opens at 9am
Admission: No AdmissionLess
A tourist magnet? Yes. Worth it with kids? Absolutely.
Pier 39, unlike the other piers you passed as you walked along the Embarcadero, is a completely outfitted destination unto itself. Restaurants, shops, rides and more unbelievable views. Pier 39 is THE place to go for Alcatraz kitsch and cable car memorabilia. But it is also an amazing spot to... More watch fishing boats come and go and laughingly observe the enormous sea lions bathe themselves in the San Francisco sun. In fact, you may find more people watching these impressive creatures, taking in the spectacular bay views and just enjoying a break than doing any shopping or eating. Kind of nice actually.
Perhaps best of all, the entire experience is free--in theory. Assuming your children don't beg you for a waffle cone, a bag of old-time candy, a ride on a carousel (pretty cheap and fun) or a caricature drawing of themselves, you can people watch, window-shop, bay view and sea lion stare all you want free of charge.
Fisherman's Wharf covers a stretch of a few blocks immediately after Pier 39. You will have noticed that the relatively sparsely populated and warehouse feel that you passed when you left the Ferry Building has been replaced by a very busy, touristy stretch of waterfront.
Street performers, vendors and junky shops line the street on both sides.... More There are some hidden gems in here, however, as well as an unending bay view, and with the goal in mind of getting to chocolate mecca, otherwise known as Ghirardelli Square, hopefully you and your traveling companions will overlook a little bit of poor retailing.
Of note, one of the best seafood restaurants is located here, Scoma's (more below).
Also, you can take a ferry trip to tour the bay by water or a ride across to Marin or Sausolito for a day tour, time permitting.Less
This museum is one of the world's largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines (more than 200) in their original working condition. Almost all of them can be played after popping in a few quarters. Whether you are an arcade machine fan or not, this is definitely worth a visit. Free... More to enter.Less
A 40-year-old institution, Scoma's seafood restaurant is located right on the wharf and features some of the freshest, best seafood in the city; the complimentary valet parking helps too!
Some of the most popular dishes include crab cakes, cioppino and fresh fish daily. Another great feature (according to its website), "Scoma's fish receiving... More station permits public viewing of local fish and Dungeness crab as it is off-loaded from fishing boats and prepared for the kitchen. Scoma's is one of San Francisco's most environmentally aware restaurants, earning recognition locally and statewide."
If you are thinking of returning for dinner, maybe pop in to make a reservation.
Pier 47 on Al Scoma Way at Jefferson Street
Just past the throngs of people in the shops and restaurants is the welcome calm of a national historical park. It features a unique combination of highlights, including a museum, regular events and hands-on exhibits for kids; several historic sailing vessels, many from the 19th century; and a large inlet of water where brave swimmers regularly... More log laps. It's the beach here that welcomes cold and weary "Escape from Alcatraz" race competitors after the first leg of the annual triathalon.
Admission: $10 Adult, 6-12 $4, Chikdren under 6 are free
(corner of Jefferson and Hyde Streets/499 Jefferson)
9:30am-5:30pm (June, July, August)
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Days.
Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building (Maritime Museum)
(Foot of Polk Street/900 Beach Street)
The lobby and veranda are open everyday from 10:00am-4:00pm. The Aquatic Park Historic District, which includes the Maritime Museum in the Bathhouse Building, is undergoing a multiyear rehabilitation. Please call the Visitor Center information desk for updates, 415-561-7100.Less
Clearly visible up the street from Aquatic Park, Ghirardelli Square is a little bit of history, a little bit of shopping and a whole lot of eating fun.
Ghirardelli has been making chocolate at Ghirardelli Square since 1852. The original ice cream and chocolate factory is still there, and it is magical for kids and adults. There you can see the... More original manufacturing equipment in all its glory. It's a working sweet shop too, where families regularly converge and splurge for hot fudge sundaes and all kinds of treats. There is a gift shop as well, so you can pick up almost any chocolate present imaginable for friends, teachers and neighbors back home.
Clock Tower Building
(Fountain opens at 10am)