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Top 10 Places in San Francisco to Take Kids

In my mind, there is no better city to visit on the West Coast than San Francisco.  Besides being gorgeous, it offers everything you could want from a cosmopolitan city- culture, shopping, fantastic public transportation, and plenty of outdoor opportunities within the city limits.  Are you planning a visit to SF but don’t know where to take your kids?

Here are the top 10 places in San Francisco to take kids as voted by Trekaroo families:

1. Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39– Yes, its a tourist trap. But its a tourist trap worth visiting because the kids love it and the sourdough bread bowls at Boudin Bakery are incredible.  Hit up the souvenir shops which carry and endless array of San Francisco themed goodies. Stop and say hi to the world’s most beloved sea lions. Take time to enjoy the street performers and be sure to relish that awe inspiring Bay Bridge view.

2. San Francisco Zoo–  Giraffes, lemurs, tigers, penguins and 246 other species all call the SF Zoo home.  It features a carousel, puffer train, and a large children’s zoo.  The zoo is directly across the street from Ocean Beach so be sure to leave time in your day to enjoy a sunset.

3. Golden Gate Bridge– Nothing says San Francisco quite like the Golden Gate Bridge.  The massive red suspension bridge is an icon, both in its beauty and presence.  Walking across the bridge and taking in the incredible views of the bay and the Pacific is a right of passage that everyone, locals and tourists alike, should experience.

4. California Academy of Sciences– This museum was reborn in 2008 when its new 400,000 square foot structure opened to the public.  The building includes a 4 story rainforest experience, an aquarium housing 900 different species of aquatic life, a natural history museum, the largest digital planetarium in the world, and a living roof. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Claude, the museum’s albino alligator.

5. The Exploratorium– Your children will have so much fun here they won’t even realize they are learning!  This museum allows kids to explore science hands on.  Play with magnetic sand, watch you shadow stick to the wall, step into a giant kaleidoscope, and enjoy hundred of other exhibits geared towards children but enjoyed thoroughly by all ages.

6. Golden Gate Park– If you are looking for a great place to enjoy the outdoors in San Francisco, look no further than Golden Gate Park. Families can take a paddleboat ride around Stowe Lake, explore the Japanese Tea Garden, stop by the buffalo paddock, and enjoy the many walking trails throughout this massive park. Outdoors concerts in the park are great way to enjoy some quality family time during the summer months.

7. Chinatown– Plenty of American cities have a Chinatown, but the Chinatown in San Francisco is simply the best.  Introduce your children to the wonders of dim sum inside one of the many restaurants lining the streets and then stop by the fortune cookie factory for dessert. Explore the shops looking for a special souvenir but don’t forget to stop and take a picture in front of the famous Chinatown gate.

8. Alcatraz– There is no place quite like The Rock and the ferry ride out to this eerie place on a foggy day is something you will never forget.  A self guided audio tours of the former federal prison are the perfect way to introduce the history of Alcatraz to your school aged children. Be sure to have your kids spend some time in one of the tiny cells, a reminder of the experience could especially come in handy during the teenage years.

9. Ghirardelli Square– A square dedicated to chocolate- what’s not to love about that? Come to watch chocolate being made but stay for the out of this world ice cream sundaes. The lines can be long but the treats are worth the wait.

10. Lombard Street– 8 switchbacks. A 27 degree incline. A slow 8 mph drive. This all waits for you if you decide to drive the family car down the crookedest street in the world. Personally, I prefer to take the sidewalk and get some exercise while enjoying this San Francisco landmark.

Need a place to stay while visiting The City? Then read reviews of family friendly San Francisco hotels.

Get the kids excited before you go! Pick up The Kids Guide to San Francisco by Eileen Ogintz. 

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Sharlene Earnshaw (aka doubleadventure) is Blogger-in-chief for Trekaroo and the blogger behind Double the Adventure.

Travel with kids to: CA |CO | DC | FL | HI | IL |MA | NC | NY | OR | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA

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2 Responses to Top 10 Places in San Francisco to Take Kids

  1. Tonya Staab February 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Fabulous post. We have an upcoming vacation in SF next month. We will be dong the Golden Gate Bridge and the California Academy of Sciences with the kids. I can’t wait.

    I highly recommend all of the others too, all such great places to visit. San Fran is such a great city to explore.

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