San Francisco, a city steeped in history, has a tale to tell at every turn. This family-friendly guide to San Fransisco is full of ideas for a memorable family vacation. From the Gold Rush of the 1800s to the resilience after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, this city, often hailed as the Paris of the West, deserves a prime spot on your family's travel bucket list.
Whether you're on a West Coast road trip or stopping by overnight we have tips to make your visit family-friendly. Let's dive into the must-see gems that make San Francisco a uniquely captivating destination for families.
San Francisco Street Car
Kick your San Francisco visit off on the right foot by hopping on a cable car. Can you visit The Golden City without thinking of Rice-A-Roni, Full House, or cable cars? Just think of all the family-friendly photo opportunities you'll have while exploring San Fransisco.
Embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of the city by hopping on one of San Francisco's iconic cable cars. Learn about their history and check the real-time status updates on their official website for a seamless experience.
Cable Car Museum
What are you usually doing at 4:00 AM? Well, Andrew Smith Hallidie tested his first cable car at that time, back in 1873. If you love cable cars as much as my family does, you’ll enjoy a visit to the Cable Car Museum.
Delve into the fascinating world of cable cars at the Cable Car Museum. Explore the invention and evolution of these historic transportation marvels that have become synonymous with San Francisco's charm.
Artistic Ascent 16th Avenue Tile Steps
To beautify Golden Gate Heights back in the early 2000s, neighborhood residents collaborated on this 163-step stairway. It truly is a beautiful site to see. One of a kind!
Climb the enchanting 16th Avenue tile steps, a unique collaboration that turned a stairway into a mesmerizing work of art. Capture Instagram-worthy moments while appreciating the creativity of the Golden Gate Heights residents.
The Crookedest Street
It’s a steep walk, but you must visit Lombard Street. It’s a fun photo opp, you’ll find tucked between Leavenworth and Hyde. Even though it’s called the Crookedest Street, it isn’t even the most crooked in San Francisco. For more twisty streets, explore Vermont Street as well.
Fire Truck Tour in San Fransisco
Take a fire truck tour of the city. Yes, that’s right! Suit up in a firefighter jacket and hat, and climb aboard the shiny red vintage fire truck. You’ll see Fisherman’s Wharf, go across the Golden Gate Bridge, and visit the village of Sausalito. The tours are limited to 13 passengers and safety measures are in place.
Love fire trucks? Stop by the SFFD Fire Museum. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Golden Gate Park
Enjoy a Golden Gate Park bike tour, or stroll through the breathtaking Japanese Tea Garden.
Explore family-friendly attractions like:
- California Academy of Science
- Steinhart Aquarium
- Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers
- Golden Gate Windmills and Tulips
Golden Gate Park is one of those attractions that you can make a whole family fun day out of. There’s so much to do and see!
Kids and adults alike will enjoy visiting the Wave Organ. What is the Wave Organ? I’m so glad you asked. 😉 It’s a sculpture that’s wave-activated, and it’s located right in the Small Boat Harbor, in San Francisco Bay. Sounds are created by the impact of the water against 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete. It’s still worth a trip for the views alone!
Check the tides before you go; you’ll get the best experience at high tide (early in the morning).
Adjacent to Golden Gate Park and situated along Highway 1, Ocean Beach is a photo-worthy stop for biking, hiking, and enjoying the scenery. It’s not suitable for swimming due to the strong currents, which means many tourists pick another beach to visit. Pack a lunch and enjoy the sights, without the crowds. The kiddos will especially love the giant windmills!
Remember to pack a jacket; the temps are usually in the 50s and it is foggy most of the year. To get to Ocean Beach, consider taking public transportation. Parking is limited.
Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Factory
A dream come true for most of us, visiting a chocolate factory is one more must-see stop on our list. Ghirardelli Square is a one-stop shop for all of your chocolate and ice cream needs. Located at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Square is a former chocolate factory; they still have some of their original equipment on display.
Dandelion Chocolate, located on Valencia Street, is another chocolate factory. They make small-batch chocolate with cacao beans sourced from small farmers worldwide.
Ready to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Drive out to Muir Woods and escape it all. Filled with majestic, giant redwoods and open 365 days a year, Muir Woods is the perfect remote getaway from city life. The hiking trails at Muir Woods include a half an hour loop, as well as longer trails for more experienced hikers. The main trail, Bridge 2 and back, is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Before you go, download your parking reservation or shuttle ticket. There is no cell service at or around Muir Woods.
Family-Friendly Scenic 49-Mile Drive of San Fransisco
Love to drive? Have plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of picturesque San Francisco? The scenic 49-mile drive includes:
- City Hall
- Nob Hill
- Lombard Street
- Alcatraz (as long as it’s not too foggy)
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Bay Bridge
- and more!
You can drive the route, with a few stops, in about four hours.
A visit to San Francisco isn’t complete without taking an Alcatraz tour. Alcatraz is the famous former federal prison that once held notorious “bad guys” like Al Capone. Hear stories from former inmates, and pass by the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Bay Bridge, on your ferry rides in and out. You’ll want to plan this one ahead of time: Alcatraz tour tickets are sold out regularly.
Family-Friendly Guide to San Fransisco
Discover the Best of San Francisco: Beyond these highlights, the city offers a plethora of attractions waiting to be explored. Maximize your experience with a CityPass or Explorer Pass for savings on these must-see destinations. While San Francisco may not be the cheapest destination, the memories created are undeniably priceless. Plan your family's adventure today!