10 Things to do in San Francisco with Kids

Become a scientist for a day, explore Chinatown, learn about the history of Walt Disney or visit a Willy Wonka-style chocolate factory, discover the top 10 best fun activities for kids in San Francisco.

Carla Yaquer

Carla Yaquer

10 min read

10 Things to do in San Francisco with Kids

San Francisco | ©Bill Abbott

The world's most famous streetcars, the Golden Gate Bridge and its sophisticated views of the West Coast bay are emblematic of this city. However, there is plenty to see and do in San Francisco, especially if you are traveling with children.

A scenic walk along the Embarcadero leads from the Ferry Building to the Exploratorium. There's also the drive through Presidio National Park to visit the Walt Disney Museum. And how can we forget Fisherman's Wharf with its popular San Francisco Aquarium along Pier 39. In this post you will see 10 fun activities to plan your route through the heart of San Francisco.

1. Visit the California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences| ©Gary Stevens
California Academy of Sciences| ©Gary Stevens

The California Academy of Sciences building is fun to see when exploring San Francisco. The grassy roof is unique, kids are impressed with the views and activities.

The intent of the museum is to explore nature while being aware of the environment, so your experience is immersive.

The place is often quite crowded, especially between November and December when the Academy's reindeer, Peppermint and Cookie, stroll around and share with visitors to celebrate Thanksgiving and the December season.

That's why on travel itineraries, it's often included among the things to do in San Francisco at Christmas.

You can skip the lines by purchasing your tickets to the California Academy of Sciences in advance. Also, if you purchased your San Francisco Pass or other tourist passes, this admission is included.

Practical info

  • Where to find us: At 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118.
  • Price: From 20 €.
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Buy tickets for the Academy of Sciences

2. Learn about marine life at Fisherman's Wharf Aquarium

Aquarium of the Bay| ©FHKE
Aquarium of the Bay| ©FHKE

The Aquarium of the Bay or San Francisco Aquarium is located at Pier 39, near Fisherman's Wharf.

Once you arrive at the site, children will be dazzled as they pass through the 91-meter-long transparent tunnels.

The immersive experience offers splendid views of sea creatures, from jellyfish, wolf eels and seahorses to turtles and octopuses.

At the San Francisco Aquarium, you'll find more than 20,000 marine species living in San Francisco Bay. Guides and interpreters help you understand their unique ecosystems.

For an up-close look at sharks, rays and starfish, kids can head to the Touch the Bay exhibit. A few steps ahead, a group of river otters always thrills young visitors with their antics.

Find out more about the San Francisco Aquarium: admission fees, prices, guided tours and more, and be sure to spend an enjoyable afternoon with the kids.

As if that wasn't enough, you can access it with your San Francisco Pass and other passes such as the San Francisco with Go City ®.

Practical Information

  • Where is the San Francisco Aquarium: Pier 39, Embarcadero and Beach Street, San Francisco, California.
  • Price: From 30 €.
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (except Thanksgiving and Christmas, when they close around 3:00 p.m.).

Buy your ticket to the San Francisco Aquarium

3. Visit the Walt Disney Museum

Wall Disney Museum Entrance| ©Blake Handley
Wall Disney Museum Entrance| ©Blake Handley

The Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco has everything you need to know to celebrate the life and work of Walt Disney and the rise of Mickey Mouse. There are over 10,000 sq. ft. of exhibits that span the memories and drawings from his childhood to his work as an animator.

For Disney fans, if you enjoy the parks, movies and series and are interested in telling the story behind the genius to your children, this is the place to visit.

The museum addresses the highlights and intimate aspects of Walt Disney's career, his internationally successful productions of Snow White, Bambi, Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Temporary exhibits also feature outstanding creative artists. The works of Maurice Sendak and Salvador Dali have passed through this special section.

The atmosphere is warm and familiar in this area of the Presidio. The objects seem to tell a story of their own, plus the audio guide available in Spanish helps you follow in Disney's footsteps.

You can park for free next to the museum and, if you want to get the most for your money, you can get theSan Francisco Pass or other passes and visit more places in the area.

Practical Information

  • Where: 104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio, San Francisco, California.
  • Price: From 23 €.
  • Hours: Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.

Buy your skip-the-line ticket to the Walt Disney Museum

4. Participate in the Escape Room of San Francisco

San Francisco| ©Melinda
San Francisco| ©Melinda

Your kids love adventures and you want to have a different kind of time? Book your tickets and go straight to the Escape Games in San Francisco.

Participants are locked in a room and work together to solve clues and puzzles to help them escape. The staff watches you and gives you clues. It's a 60-minute immersive experience. It's great fun to watch the kids solve the clues and work as a team to escape together while testing their mental agility.

Why San Francisco? First and foremost because the whole family can participate. To solve the puzzles it is recommended that participants be 13 years old or older, but if you have children 4 years old or younger, they can join you and it will be free, just let us know in advance when you purchase your tickets online.

Another reason that makes this experience special is that The Escape Game has designed scenarios that are as friendly as they are challenging for families to play. As a result, they have won the Golden Lock Awards award that recognizes the best in this art.

All the rooms have different themes, so you can come back more than once and experience a totally different adventure.

Make a note of this activity for your next San Francisco vacation with kids.

Practical Info

  • Where to find The Escape Game: 150 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA, 94108 (Sutter St.)
  • Price: From 41 € you can join the fun.
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to midnight. It is important to reserve your place in advance.

Book the San Francisco Escape Room

5. Visit a chocolate factory

Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory| ©Casey Fiesler
Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory| ©Casey Fiesler

In this case it won't be Willy Wonka greeting you, but I guarantee that the hosts at Ghirardelli Chocolate will be trying as hard, if not harder, than Timothée Chalamet, Johnny Depp and Gene Wilder in the movie classic.

San Francisco chocolate is among the most prized on the West Coast of the United States and San Francisco serves as the center of this acclaim.

San Francisco's most famous chocolate maker, Ghirardelli Chocolate, was founded in 1852 and is the oldest chocolate manufacturer in the United States still in operation.

The Original Ice Cream and Chocolate Store 's location showcases some of the original equipment from the company's historic chocolate factory. You can also enjoy the brand's world-famous hot chocolate or its handcrafted chocolates, the delight of children.

Practical Information

  • Where to find this former factory: 900 North Point, ste 52, San Francisco, CA 94109.
  • Price: From 13 € you can enjoy one of their famous sundays.
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Carla's Tip

Ghirardelli is usually quite busy, you can take the inside tour and take a picture under the iconic illuminated sign while waiting for your creamy ice cream.

6. Take a ride with the kids on San Francisco's Cable Cars or Streetcars

San Francisco Cable Car| ©Jon Robson
San Francisco Cable Car| ©Jon Robson

A ride on one of San Francisco's iconic cable cars is an unforgettable experience for most children. The streetcars offer an exhilarating way to get from one end of San Francisco to the other, riding in an open-air car through the city's historic neighborhoods.

The historic San Francisco Cable Car lines still in operation are:

  • The Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines begin at the corner of Powell and Market Streets.
  • The Powell-Mason line runs up Nob Hill and down to Fisherman's Wharf, where it stops at Taylor and Bay Streets.
  • The Powell-Hyde line also goes up Nob Hill, but turns to cross Russian Hill before terminating at Aquatic Park (Hyde and Beach Streets) near Ghirardelli Square.

Children and adults alike are amazed to witness one of the best views of San Francisco with the bay and Alcatraz in the distance. To add to the fun, the streetcar drivers are friendly, ringing bells at each stop and, during the steepest stretches, encouraging passengers to cheer and shout as if they were on a roller coaster.

Although all the cable car lines cater primarily to tourists, San Francisco locals often use the California line, which runs from the Financial District through Chinatown and Nob Hill, and ends at Van Ness Avenue. If you want to get an idea of what to see and do in Chinatown before visiting this area like the locals, you can hop on this streetcar.

San Francisco streetcars were created in 1873 by Andrew Hallidie to replace horse-drawn carriages. Hallidie designed a transportation system that could overcome San Francisco's steepest hills and at affordable prices. You can ride San Francisco's streetcars from as low as €8.

7. Take the kids to see Chinatown

Chinatown San Francisco| ©Mario Sánchez Prada
Chinatown San Francisco| ©Mario Sánchez Prada

This is one of the most attractive corners of San Francisco. You literally feel like you are in China. Throughout the year there are activities such as:

  • Chinese New Year celebration. Here this is serious business. You can enjoy the dancing lions, the paper lantern ceremony, Chinese zodiac history evenings and more. There are 3 weeks of special events in January where the whole family actively joins in the celebration.
  • Fortune Cookie making is available to everyone. Since 1962, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory has been making the curious fortune cookies and visitors witness the process. Children love to try their luck as they witness the cookie making process.
  • Film festivals such as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, better known as CAAMFest; or the San Francisco International Film Festival, also known by its acronym SFFILM Festival. Both events take place in the spring and usually include children's productions in their program. You'll also find galleries, traveling shows, entertainment venues and more. There is plenty to see and do in Chinatown where the atmosphere is energetic all year round.

8. Turn your child into a scientist for a day at the Exploratorium

Exploratorium, San Francisco| ©Victor R. Ruiz
Exploratorium, San Francisco| ©Victor R. Ruiz

When you find a place where people ages 5, 40 and 70 are having equal fun, it's safe to say it's family-friendly, and that's the case with the Exploratorium. This unique museum features fascinating exhibits on science, art and human perception.

The exhibits are a blast and get the young ones excited about learning while the adults enjoy the process.

The museum encourages children to ask questions that lead them to discover how the world works among its huge rooms and experiments in science, chemistry, biology, art and trends.

If you are looking for whatto see and do in San Francisco in 1 day with a family activity, the Exploratorium is the answer.

Practical Info

  • Where to find them: At Pier 15 (Embarcadero with Green Street), San Francisco, CA.
  • Price: Starting at $28.
  • Hours: Thursday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; Wednesday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm; Sunday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. On Thursdays there are special activities for people over 18 years of age from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

9. Visit the San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo| ©Willis Lam
San Francisco Zoo| ©Willis Lam

A visit to the zoo is usually a good plan with the queques and if the place offers a variety of activities, even better. This is the case at the San Francisco Zoo, where the family can:

  • Ride the famous Little Puffer Train. This little steam engine is over 100 years old. It has transported generations of visitors through the Zoo and is still running today. Hop on and tour South America through its wildlife and stories. On the tour you will also reach the park's Bear Country, a space where children are entertained by seeing the lifestyle of these animals. In addition, if you arrive early you can enjoy the following recommendation.

  • Have breakfast with a brown bear. Starting at 10:30 a.m., zookeepers serve breakfast to Kachina and Kiona, the park's pair of grizzly bears. If your kids surprised you with questions about Cartoon Network's Somos osos, this is the place to clear up doubts and share with the bears in their special place in the park.

  • Visit the home of the giraffes. Zoo visitors can enter the Giraffe House to see some of the largest animals on Earth up close. The appointment is repeated every day at 3:45 pm. During the walk, the keepers explain their stories while feeding the gentle animals, and it is even possible for your little one to become one of the day's helpers and he or she can serve the giraffes themselves.

In addition to these activities it is also possible to walk through the lemur forest, meet some endangered gray wolves, participate in guided tours and more.

Check out this year's itinerary and visit the San Francisco Zoo, live this fun experience with the kids.

Practical Information

  • Where: Sloat Blvd. at the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA. 94132
  • Price: From $21.
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

10. Explore children's creativity

Children's Creativity Museum| ©Ruth Hartnup
Children's Creativity Museum| ©Ruth Hartnup

A visit to Chinatown allows you to participate in exciting Asian cultural activities, but if your children are between the ages of 2 and 12 and you want to maximize their creativity in a fun environment, put The Children's Creativity Museum on your calendar of things to see and do in San Francisco.

This museum celebrates and supports children's creative expression through its animation studios, innovation labs, artistic expression room, music studios, humor room, exhibits, programs and innovative presentations.

In this museum children are able to create clay characters for their own stop-motion animation film, to using art to manage their emotions.

This place literally is an Imagination Lab that fosters the well-being of the little ones while they interact and have fun. Plus their prices are inexpensive. The prices are reasonable and children have access to this whole range of activities. Are you up for a visit?

Practical information

  • Where: in Yerba Buena Gardens at 221 Fourth Street, San Francisco, California
  • Price: From 19 ¤.
  • Hours: Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.