San Francisco is an incredible city. I came with my parents a million times when I was younger, but just recently came for the first time with my own children. It was so much easier than I expected and my kids fund it absolutely remarkable.
- Exploratorium – My kids thought it was absolutely magical. They loved touching everything. My best tip is to go early and start in the later galleries – 4, 5, and 6. They’re really unique and usually quite empty early on in the day, which gives you the feel of having the museum to yourself.
- Academy of Sciences – This is one of my favorite museums in the city. There’s a ton to do, to see, and experience at the Academy of Sciences. My highlights: the albino alligator, the planetarium, and the earthquake exhibit.
- Sutro Baths may not work for little ones, but with school-age children and older, it’s a really great place. When we went, we saw a pod of whales hanging out just off-shore. A literal pod of whales. We wandered around for close to an hour looking at them from different angles. The caves were fun for the kids and the hike around was just hard enough to keep them interested and paying attention, but not so hard that I feared for their safety.
- There are tons and tons of playgrounds in the city. I have a sentimental attachment to Huntington Park at the top of Nob Hill, but the playground in the Mission on Dolores is amazing. There are playgrounds all over the place – playgrounds for dog watching, running around, with slides, with swings. The playground options are great and finding the right one for your kids is pretty easy.
- Got a little princess? Get a blow-out at DryBar. My daughter had the best time getting her hair done and getting waves put in her hair. My hair looked amazing (they really knocked it out of the park) and it was a great way to bond and get a little bit of pampering. A lot of the nail salons in the City don’t love having kids there, so the blow dry was a perfect way to have some mother-daughter bonding time.
- Get a muni pass and hop on the cable cars. Where we stay (on Nob Hill), we love hopping on the cable car early in the morning and heading into Union Square for breakfast or hopping on the California line and taking it down to the Embarcadero and popping into the Ferry Building. With the muni pass, a few rides make it worth the money. This is usually a highlight of the trip for them.
- Golden Gate Park – tons of open space to run and play – what could be better for kids, right? I put this pretty far down the list because, personally, I like the others so much more, but Golden Gate Park has everything from museums to open space to run to buffalo. What could be better?
- The boats at Pier 45 are a lot of fun for the kids to go see. They had a ton of questions for us about the history of the ships, how they worked, who lived where and it’s a very informative excursion for them.
Notably absent from this list? Alcatraz. The idea of it scared the crap out of my daughter so that was a no-go for us. What are your favorite places to go with kids in San Francisco?