The Best Things to do in San Francisco with Kids

The 15 Best Things to Do in San Francisco with Kids

The San Francisco Bay Area is rife with things to do that are fun for the whole family. From museums with unique histories to iconic landmarks that you have to see to believe, there are so many things to do in San Francisco that’ll excite anyone from eight to 80. And if you’re traveling with little ones, there are whole worlds to explore with them!

Planning a trip to San Francisco with kids? We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids, from one-of-a-kind playgrounds to free events. Pick your favorite San Francisco activities for kids, and you’re bound to have a trip they won’t ever forget.

The 15 Best Things to Do in San Francisco with Kids

1. Explore the Exploratorium

Best Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: Exploratorium

Over on the waterfront at Pier 15, you’ll find one of the most kid-friendly things to do in San Francisco: the Exploratorium. This hands-on museum is a place to learn about all things art and science through interactive exhibits. 

From learning about how reflections happen to gaining a better understanding of the human mind, this museum will allow your little one to come away thinking about the world in new ways.


2. Visit the California Academy of Sciences

Cool Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: Academy of Sciences

Like the Exploratorium, visiting the California Academy of Sciences is one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids if you want to spend your trip learning about the world around you. 

This science center in Golden Gate Park will have you going under the sea and meeting incredible creatures (like Claude, the famous American alligator with albinism!) at the Steinhart Aquarium, studying the skies at the Morrison Planetarium, stepping inside a lush land at the four-story Osher Rainforest, and learning about both the past and future at the Kimball Natural History Museum.


3. Go to the Walt Disney Family Museum

Best Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: Walt Disney Family Museum
Image courtesy of Walt Disney Family Museum

Some people who visit California for the first time make the mistake of thinking that Disneyland is near San Francisco. And although the park is actually about a seven-hour drive away, one of the most family-friendly things to do in San Francisco does involve Walt Disney.

At the Presidio, you’ll find the Walt Disney Family Museum, where you can learn about all things Disney history. What’s especially cool about this museum is that it hosts tons of classes, workshops, and talks with creators of all kinds, something that aspiring artists and storytellers are bound to love.


4. Expand Your Mind in the Children’s Creativity Museum

Cool Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: Children’s Creativity Museum
Image courtesy of Children’s Creativity Museum

The Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Gardens is another great option, with all its hands-on experiences that let children explore the arts, technology, and the intersection of both.

Best for kids ages two to 12, this museum has unique exhibits that let kids learn to express themselves through art, enhance their reading comprehension skills, build a new world or a community garden, and create music or animated videos. The best part is that your kids will be having so much fun they won’t even realize how much they’re learning.


5. Discover a New World at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

For another one of the coolest activities for kids in San Francisco, hop on the ferry or take a scenic ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to get to nearby Sausalito, where you’ll find the Bay Area Discovery Museum. This children’s museum, which is best for kids between six months and eight years, offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and more than seven acres of interactive exhibits.

Every exhibit is research-backed to ensure that your kids get the most out of their playtime. They’ll learn about different cultures, make their own meals in the Mud Kitchen, study the ports of San Francisco and Oakland, and much more. 


6. See Sealife at the Aquarium of the Bay

Unique Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: Aquarium of the Bay

Over at Pier 39, you’ll find the Aquarium of the Bay, one of the best aquariums in California and a must-visit if you’re in San Francisco with kids. This aquarium is focused on local aquatic life, providing you and your little ones with an in-depth look at what’s under the water just offshore. 

With more than 24,000 local marine animals and interactive experiences like multiple touch tanks, this aquarium definitely deserves a spot on the list of the best activities for kids in San Francisco.


7. Get Hands-On at the Randall Museum

The Randall Museum is a true hidden gem that’s too often ignored. This museum, which offers free admission, focuses on the unique nature and cultures around the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Through interactive exhibits, your kids will learn about diverse habitats, natural disasters, what’s under the sea, and how railroads helped build the US. The museum also provides hands-on art and science workshops for little or no cost.


8. See the Animals of the San Francisco Zoo

Fun Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: San Francisco Zoo

If you have an animal lover in your family, visiting the San Francisco Zoo is one of the best family-friendly things to do in San Francisco. This zoo is home to more than 2,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals across several exhibits. 

Kids will especially love the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo exhibit, where they can get up close to friendly animals and learn about the intersection of humans and nature. The zoo also features multiple botanical gardens, including ones that are kid-focused and kid-friendly. 


9. Enjoy a Free Show at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

San Francisco with Kids Bucket List: Yerba Buena Gardens

Lasting from May through October, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival offers some of the best San Francisco activities for kids. This festival offers free events at Yerba Buena Gardens, including outdoor concerts, circus acts, and dance showcases. There are even events that specifically cater to kids, so keep an eye on the calendar to see what’s happening while you’re in town.


10. Take a Trip to California’s Great America

Must do things in San Francisco with Kids: Great America

If you don’t mind taking a bit of a drive during your San Francisco trip, your kids would love a day at Great America. Located in Santa Clara, this amusement park features fun for the whole family, including thrilling coasters, a Peanuts-themed play area for little ones, and a waterpark. 

This park offers unique, themed experiences every season, so no matter when you go, you’ll always experience something new.


11. Burn Off Some Energy at House of Air

What to do in San Francisco with Kids: House of Air

Visiting San Francisco with kids who are just bursting with energy? Head over to House of Air Trampoline Park. Located in the Presidio, the House of Air is a trampoline park found inside a historic airplane hangar. While they do offer fitness classes and dodgeball leagues for older jumpers, little ones as young as two can enjoy spaces to take to the sky.


12. Venture Across the Bay to Children’s Fairyland

Hop on the BART and head into Oakland, where you’ll find one of the best kid-friendly attractions in the area. Over by Lake Merritt is Children’s Fairyland, one of the earliest examples of a themed amusement park in the US. The amusement park, which is themed after all different storybooks, even inspired Walt Disney in the creation of Disneyland.

Step inside nearly 60 storybook sets, meet friendly animals, explore 10 beautiful gardens, and ride several kid-friendly rides. If your little one is eight or under and loves fairy tales, this park is the place to be!


13. See the Stars at Chabot Space & Science Center

Unique Things to do in San Francisco with Kids: Chabot Space & Science Center
Image courtesy of Chabot Space & Science Center

Also over in Oakland, you’ll find Chabot Space & Science Center, featuring interactive exhibits about science and the worlds beyond our own. You’ll also find a planetarium playing immersive screenings, but the real highlight comes every Friday and Saturday night, weather permitting. 

On those nights, you can join astronomers on the Observatory Deck for a free telescope viewing. It’s a must-do experience if you’ve got a science and space fan in your family.


14. Indulge at Ghirardelli Square

San Francisco with Kids Things to do: Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is an iconic landmark in San Francisco, and your little ones are surely not going to want to miss a chance to chow down here. Anyone with a sweet tooth will feel right at home here as they dine on one of Ghirardelli’s famous hot fudge sundaes. One warning: Your kids will want to take all the chocolate they see here home with them.


15. Race Down Some Hidden Slides

Hidden slides? Believe it or not, there are actually multiple places in San Francisco where you can enjoy these hidden marvels.

Two long cement slides can be found in Noe Valley called the Seward Street Slides. Designed by a 14-year-old in 1973, this little slide park is complete with a community garden. Ideally, you’ll need a piece of cardboard to race down these slides. And don’t forget to tuck your elbows in!

Over in the late 1970s, the Bernal Heights neighborhood gained its own slide park, the Esmeralda Slide Park. You’ll head down 40-foot metal slides, complete with a community garden and amazing city views.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in San Francisco with kids. What are your favorite kid-friendly activities in San Francisco? Let us know in the comments!


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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