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San Francisco for families

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Found this guide helpful

San Fransisco can seem overwhelming at first glance, but with a little planning, it is a very manageable city. Below you will find three days full of activities for families that include many of the must-see attractions in and around San Francisco.

Good for
  • Family
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

17 Places

3 City Tips

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Map

17 Places

Day 1

Alcatraz Island

Historic Sites, Islands, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas

Pier 39

Piers & Boardwalks

Wipeout Bar & Grill

Restaurants

Fisherman's Wharf

Neighbourhoods, Piers & Boardwalks

Cable Cars

Tramways

Ghirardelli Square

Shopping Malls, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Lombard Street

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Twin Peaks

Historic Walking Areas, Neighbourhoods, Mountains, Lookouts

Day 2

Golden Gate Bridge

Bridges

Sausalito

Destinations

Muir Woods National Monument

Forests, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas

Muir Beach Overlook

Beaches

Fort Point National Historic Site

Historic Sites, Lighthouses, Military Bases & Facilities

Day 3

Japanese Tea Garden

Gardens

Chinatown

Neighbourhoods

Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Co

Gift & Speciality Shops

Exploratorium

Children's Museums, Science Museums

ColoMama33's City Tips

  • If you are staying on the Oakland side, take advantage of the commuter ferry. It runs often and on time, with ample free parking on the Oakland side.
  • Dress in layers, the weather can be unpredictable.
  • San Francisco is a very kid-friendly city. We had no problem taking the kids anywhere and found most places stroller accessible as well.
    Day 1
  • Save
    Alcatraz Island
    Historic Sites, Islands, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    "The Rock" can be seen from many locations in San Francisco. It is home to the abandoned prison (which offers an amazing tour), the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, and several bird colonies.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Buy tickets up to 90 days prior to your visit online. Tickets can be purchased for Alcatraz (including the cruise) with the CityPass add-on depending on what other sites you are planning to see.
    • Dress in layers, the weather can change before you get back. It is colder on the boat than on shore, plan accordingly.
    • The audio cell tour is one-of-a kind, don't miss it. Have your family all hit "play" at the same time to stay together throughout the tour.
    • Pack water and snacks, food is very limited on the boat and island.
    • Much of Alcatraz is steep and hilly, be prepared to walk.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Another piece of interesting history 21/09/2017
    • Best Attraction Ever 21/09/2017
    • Alcatraz Island
    Address:
    Pier 33
    B201 Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94122
    Phone:
    +1 415-981-7625
    Other:
  • Save
    Pier 39
    Piers & Boardwalks
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Pier 39 is a great place to grab a bite to eat, find some uniquely San Francisco souvenirs and watch the huge California Sea Lions.

    Good for
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Head through the shops, all the way to the end of the pier on the left side to see the sea lions.
    • There is food here to please everyone, but it also comes at a high price because of the location. Come prepared.
    • Most of the restaurants and some stores don't open until 11am. Pier 39 is best visited in the afternoons or evening.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #22 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Has some interesting stores but very touristy 21/09/2017
    • Busy and boring 21/09/2017
    • Pier 39
    Address:
    Beach Street & The Embarcadero
    Parking area
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Phone:
    +1 415-705-5500
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 21:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Wipeout Bar & Grill
    Restaurants (American, Bar, Seafood, Soups)
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    This restaurant offer great food with a view. The laid-back tropical beach theme offers a relaxing retreat from all the walking San Fran can bring.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Friends
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    Tips
    • Ask for a table by the windows to see the harbor
    • Ask for a table on the patio to watch the people on Pier 39.
    • The BBQ Pork sandwich is heavenly!
    • My kids loved the pizza.
    • Kids will love the unique restrooms.
    From the community
    Ranked #126 of 4,216 restaurants in San Francisco
    • Great Meal After a Long Day 21/09/2017
    • Fun and pleasant 21/09/2017
    • Wipeout Bar & Grill
    Address:
    Pier 39 #A02
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Phone:
    +1 415-986-5966
    Price range:
    USD 10 - USD 20
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    09:00 - 23:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Fisherman's Wharf
    Neighbourhoods, Piers & Boardwalks
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Take a stroll through this iconic part of San Francisco checking out the markets and multiple restaurants serving up fresh fish.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    Tips
    • There is a strong smell of fish in the area - be prepared if you are traveling with sensitive little noses.
    • Remember you are in a tourist attraction. Prices are high and not all food joints serve good quality food. Plan accordingly and use some caution.
    From the community
    Ranked #36 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great athmospere!! 21/09/2017
    • tourist area 21/09/2017
    • Fisherman's Wharf
    Address:
    Jefferson Street
    Between Hyde and Powell Streets
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Phone:
    +1 415-673-3530
    Other:
  • Save
    Cable Cars
    Tramways
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Take a ride on the world's last manually operated cable car system.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Cable car rides are generally $6 on way. They are free/included with the MUNI pass or CityPass.
    • TheHyde St Cable cars will take you to the top of Lombard St and offer great vistas of The Bay.
    • Cars are frequently used by commuters, as such rush hour can be busy.
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great fun 21/09/2017
    • Cable Cars are Great 21/09/2017
    • Cable Cars
    Phone:
    +1 415-673-6864
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 18:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Ghirardelli Square
    Shopping Malls, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Ghiradelli Square is a landmark that began as the factory for Ghiradelli Chocolate. Now, it is home to some stores and restaurants, including a couple Ghiradelli Chocolate retail stores.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    Tips
    • Grab a free sample of Ghiradelli Chocolate in any of the retail stores.
    • The main Ghiradelli store is known for it's ice cream sundaes. Delicious! Buy one and share as a family, they are big!
    • If the main Ghieradelli store is busy, try the one at the corner of Beach and Larkin. It is normally less crowded.
    From the community
    Ranked #51 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Scammed and no Compensation 20/09/2017
    • Expensive 20/09/2017
    • Ghirardelli Square
    Address:
    900 N Point St
    At Polk Street
    San Francisco, CA 94109-1192
    Phone:
    +1 415-775-5500
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    09:00 - 23:00
    Fri - Sat
    09:00 - 00:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Lombard Street
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Crooked, curvy, steep Lombard St is a sight to see!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Parking in the area can be limited. Ride the Hyde St Cable car up to enjoy Lombard St by foot.
    • The views from the street are fantastic.
    • The road is one way, downhill from Hyde St to Leavenworth St and should be driven with caution. There are hidden driveways and many curves (obviously!) but the tourists add an additional obstacle.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #21 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A San Francisco icon for sure! 21/09/2017
    • one thing to tick off on your list in San Francisco 21/09/2017
    • Lombard Street
    Phone:
    +1 415-391-2000
    Other:
  • Save
    Twin Peaks
    Historic Walking Areas, Neighbourhoods, Mountains, Lookouts
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Twin peaks sits south of San Francisco and offers amazing views of the entire city. Head here on a clear day to enjoy the sunset over The Bay Area.

    Good for
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • This is a popular destination with locals and tourists alike on a clear evening. Parking can be difficult, but with persistence can be found.
    • Twin Peaks is best driven from south (Portola Dr) to north (Cleredon Ave)
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Nice view of San Francisco 20/09/2017
    • Amazing views of San Fran! A must see. 20/09/2017
    • Twin Peaks
    Address:
    501 Twin Peaks Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94114
    Phone:
    +1 415-831-6331
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    05:00 - 00:00
    Other:
  • Day 2
  • Save
    Golden Gate Bridge
    Bridges
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the world. It can be seen from most of San Francisco and stands nearly 2 miles long.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • There is less traffic early in the day and on holidays. We were the only car on the bridge on Christmas Morning which gave us fantastic photos and the opportunity to drive at our own pace.
    • Tolls are charged driving from north to south only. The electronic system will mail you a bill about a month after crossing.
    • This is first and foremost a 6 lane roadway carrying an average of 110,000 cars per day. This can quickly lead up to a traffic jam. Time your visit accordingly.
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Lots of ways to experience it 21/09/2017
    • Always worth a visit - Dress warm! 21/09/2017
    • Golden Gate Bridge
    Address:
    Lincoln Boulevard, near Doyle Drive and Fort Point
    San Francisco, CA 94129
    Phone:
    +1 415-921-5858
    Other:
  • Save
    Sausalito
    Destinations
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Head north of San Francisco to the sleepy town of Sausalito where you will find cute houseboats and quaint little shops.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Take the Donahue St exit off the 101 and head for the waterfront to see the adorable houseboats. The kids will have fun checking out the houses and getting the opportunity to run off some energy.
    • Head south to town for good shopping.
    • Please be respectful of the residents.
    • Sausalito
  • Save
    Muir Woods National Monument
    Forests, National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Muir Woods is an enchanted forest filled with towering trees. It can offer a peaceful, relaxing moment with nature.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Family
    • Hidden Gems
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Go early in the day. The monument can get busy and parking can become a nightmare.
    • Wear good walking shoes. You will want to explore the forest.
    • The 1/2 hour and 1 hour loops are handicap/stroller accessible. These offer great opportunities to explore the forest.
    • Take a jacket, the trees offer lots of shade and the cool damp forest can seem chilly year round.
    • Consider walking the loop clockwise, most people walk counterclockwise and this can help you avoid the crowd and explore at your own pace.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 30 things to do in Mill Valley
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Crowded but magical 20/09/2017
    • Family visit 19/09/2017
    • Muir Woods National Monument
    Address:
    1 Muir Woods Rd
    Mill Valley, CA 94941-4205
    Phone:
    +1 415-388-2595
    Price range:
    USD 10 - USD 10
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    08:00 - 20:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Muir Beach Overlook
    Beaches
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    After exploring Muir Woods, continue west to the coast where you will find Muir Beach Overlook. This offers a beautiful view of the California coastline.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Hidden Gems
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Parking and picnic tables are ample here.
    • Wear sturdy shoes and keep kids close as you walk out to the overlook. The rocky path filled with steps could become dangerous if you don't use some caution and common sense.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 30 things to do in Mill Valley
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Another Jewel in world famous Marin County 05/09/2017
    • lovely quiet and unspoilt beac 25/08/2017
    • Muir Beach Overlook
    Address:
    Highway 1
    Muir Beach
    Mill Valley, CA 94965
    Other:
  • Save
    Fort Point National Historic Site
    Historic Sites, Lighthouses, Military Bases & Facilities
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Fort Point is a gem hidden under the Golden Gate Bridge. This old Civil War Fort has an interesting history and offers an amazing and unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Hidden Gems
    Tips
    • Heading southbound across the Golden Gate Bridge, take the first exit, turn right and loop under the toll plaza. At end of road, turn left onto Lincoln Blvd, then left on Long Ave which turns into Marine Dr. Follow it all the way to the end where Fort Point sits. Parking is ample here even if it appears full up the road.
    • Take time to watch the 10 minute video on the history of the fort or talk to one of the Park Rangers. The building has an interesting history to tell.
    • Did you know the Golden Gate Bridge was redesigned by engineers to save this building? Climb the steps to the top floor for a spectacular view of the underneath side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
    • This site is a great place to let kids take the lead and be your tour guide while learning and exploring along the way.
    • Look for surfers in the water just off the parking lot.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great view 16/09/2017
    • Best gg bridge view 13/09/2017
    • Fort Point National Historic Site
    Address:
    Long Ave & Marine Dr
    Building 999
    San Francisco, CA 94129
    Phone:
    +1 415-556-1693
    Hours:
    Fri - Sun
    10:00 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Japanese Tea Garden
    Gardens
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    A peaceful retreat in the middle of a busy city, the Japanese Tea Garden offers a unique perspective.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Arrive early to find parking and avoid crowds. Admission is free on Mon, Wed and Fri before 10am.
    • A stop at the teahouse can be a unique and fun experience.
    • The garden is filled with stepping stones, arches to climb and discoveries around every corner.
    From the community
    Ranked #40 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Perfectly manicured 20/09/2017
    • You have to pay to enter! 20/09/2017
    • Japanese Tea Garden
    Address:
    Golden Gate Park
    San Francisco, CA 94117
    Phone:
    +1 415-752-4227
    Other:
  • Save
    Chinatown
    Neighbourhoods
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Chinatown is a hustling vibrant portion of the city filled with shops, markets and restaurants to delight your senses.

    Good for
    • Shopping Fanatic
    Tips
    • Parking is difficult here. Read street signs twice to make sure you are parked legally. <-- this is good advice wherever you are in California.
    • Make sure to take time to explore the markets and shops. They offer a huge variety of unique goods.
    • Bathrooms are few and far between. Plan ahead so you don't have an emergency.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #58 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    • Fun times in Chinatown! 21/09/2017
    • Wow!!!! 21/09/2017
    • Chinatown
    Address:
    Grant Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    Phone:
    +1 888-212-3203
    Other:
  • Save
    Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Co
    Gift & Speciality Shops
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    Here, you can see fortune cookies being made by hand and enjoy a sample fresh off the production line.

    Good for
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Hidden Gems
    Tips
    • Look at pictures of the building ahead of time. It can be difficult to spot in the alley.
    • This place is very small and can easily become crowded. Don't let the staff rush you, take your time to see the operation.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 295 Shopping in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Handmade Cookies 03/09/2017
    • Probably not worth the trip 23/08/2017
    • Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Co
    Address:
    56 Ross Aly
    San Francisco, CA 94108-1204
    Phone:
    +1 415-781-3956
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    08:00 - 18:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Exploratorium
    Children's Museums, Science Museums
    See more photos
    ColoMama33 Says:

    The Exploratorium is a delight for kids and adults alike. There are many science lessons to be learned here through hands-on activities. Where else can you let your child (safely) drink from a toilet!

    Good for
    • Family
    Tips
    • The Exploratorium can become quite crowded on a rainy day. Go late in the day to avoid the crowds.
    • There is a small noodle shop inside that offers great food.
    • Take time to experience the hands-on activities. They are fascinating and educational for kids and adults alike.
    • Consider purchasing the CityPass depending on what other sites you are planning to see.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 552 things to do in San Francisco
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Fun for adults (even without kids), but very crowded 19/09/2017
    • we are all big kids 19/09/2017
    • Exploratorium
    Address:
    Pier 15, on the Embarcadero
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    Phone:
    +1 415-528-4444
    Price range:
    USD 19 - USD 19
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    10:00 - 17:00
    Thu
    18:00 - 22:00
    Other:
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