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Ten Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco

Updated on December 1, 2014

My husband and I went to San Francisco and Napa Valley for our honeymoon, so we've always considered that area our favorite romantic getaway destination. This year the kids wanted to come along. Goodbye romance, hello family fun! Fortunately there were tons of activities for us to enjoy together while we learned and laughed.

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Golden Gate Bridge

It's one of the major symbols of America, along with the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument and the St. Louis Arch. The Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County and when it opened in 1937 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It held that distinction until 1964. There are walkways that can be used by bikers and pedestrians – check the website for the times they're open.

www.goldengatebridge.org


A
golden gate bridge:
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States

get directions

Sitting in front of an image screen in San Francisco's Exploratorium
Sitting in front of an image screen in San Francisco's Exploratorium

Exploratorium

I don't want to call this a children's museum because that brings to my mind water tables aimed at preschoolers, and the Exploratorium was so much more than that. We found gallery after gallery filled with fascinating stations where we could explore how the world around us works. There was a station where we could become aware of the veining in our own eyes, another where we observed waves in liquid by changing the frequency of sound, one where we solved puzzles, yet another where we identified scents. It was a party for the senses.

Pier 15
San Francisco, CA

www.exploratorium.edu

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Lombard Street

This is kind of fun, and free. Just drive up to the top at Lombard and Hyde in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, wait your turn, then maneuver the curves going down the crookedest street in the United States. It was built this way in 1922 because the hill was too steep for cars to safely drive down.

Muir Woods National Monument

You're in California, you've gotta see the redwoods. Head to Muir Woods, located outside of San Francisco in Mill Valley. It's like some sort of supersized prehistoric forest – even the ferns seemed larger than usual. There was a sort of hush about the place, even though crowds of people trooped along the dirt paths. There's a variety of hiking trails winding through the park, depending on if you're looking for a pleasant stroll through the woods or a bigger challenge.

1 Muir Woods Rd
Mill Valley, Ca
www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm

Mount Tamalpais State Park

From downtown San Francisco you can see mountains rising dramatically in the distance. If you're from a part of the world that's flat, flat, flat (like I am), you and the kids can set aside a day to explore a mountain up close. Mount Tamalpais State Park features hiking and biking trails, or simply drive up the winding road to the visitor's center and hike the final leg to the summit. Mount Tamalpais is near the Muir Woods National Park and the two can be bundled into a single trip.

3801 Panoramic Hwy
Mill Valley, CA

www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=471


Musee Mecanique

This one has always been a fave for my husband and I, so it was fun to share it with the kids. It's essentially an arcade filled with games from circa 1910. There's some (somewhat) more modern games too, but the bulk of it is really old. Apparently they were pretty macabre back then, cause there are a lot of hangmen/ firing squad type things as well as plenty of fortune tellers like the Zoltar machine from the Tom Hanks film Big. It's a fun way to kill some time on a rainy day. The Musee Mecanique is located on Fisherman's Wharf.

Pier 45/Taylor St
San Francisco, CA

www.museemecaniquesf.com

Street Cars

This one depends on how patient your kids are, because we waited an hour in line for what was essentially a bus ride. But now they can say they've ridden a San Francisco streetcar. We went in the afternoon, so it might be better earlier or later in the day.

San Francisco Maritime National Park

Just a short walk down the street from Fisherman's Wharf is the San Francisco Maritime National Park where you and your family can see historical ships that once traveled the seas. My family's favorite was the Balclutha. It was fascinating to walk through the cargo holds that carried lumber and other goods across to the other side of the world, see the sailors' modest quarters and the captain's wife's attempts to bring a homey feel to her rooms.


499 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA
www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm


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Chinatown

This is a fun place to take the kids to shop for souvenirs. The streets are lined with souvenir shops filled with inexpensive tchotchkes. We got t-shirts, jewelry, tea, a pillbox, slippers and had a delicious Chinese dinner afterwards. The main tourist drag is along Grant Street – be sure to check out the Dragon Gate at Grant and Bush.

Duck Boats

A little background on this – when we visited Boston my son was dying to take a ride on their duck boats – you know, the ones that are a bus on land and a boat in water. We intended to go on our last day in Boston, but when we went to purchase the tickets they were booked until our plane was scheduled to leave. So when we saw the duck boats in San Francisco my son insisted that we ride. It was fun. They issued us quackers that we could blow and sound like ducks. My husband was mortified. We drove past some of the main attractions downtown, then drove into the water and sailed around a bit. Our driver gave all the kids a turn at piloting the boat, and when they were done he let some of the big kids (such as myself) do it too.


2770 Taylor St
San Francisco, Ca

sanfrancisco.ridetheducks.com

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