The Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 and Lombard Street are among San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions. But while these draw the crowds that descend upon the City by the Bay, they’re not necessarily ideal for kids.
The best things to do with kids in San Francisco are in fact those that are seeped in history, knowledge and curiosities. Luckily for families, the city is full of them, kid-friendly attractions that are not only very educational, but also fun and engaging. Be prepared to spend a lot of time at these five spots, as your kids and teens will never want to leave.
Best Things to Do with Kids in San Francisco for Science and Curiosity
California Academy of Sciences. If you haven’t been to the kid-friendly California Academy of Sciences, then you and your kids are in for an incredible treat. This unique and colossal complex is an aquarium, planetarium, biodome and natural history museum all in one. With world-class facilities and the most fascinating exhibits, your kids will want to stay here for hours. If you’re looking for the best things to do with kids in San Francisco, this should certainly be at the top of your list. Our favorites include the immersive planetarium show Incoming!, the wonderful Osher Rainforest, and the Steinhart Aquarium. And if the kids just can’t get enough, book tickets for their Penguins+Pajamas Sleepover and experience the museum after hours.
Exploratorium. There are only a handful of museum as interactive and as educational as San Francisco’s Exploratorium, located at Pier 15 right on the water. Whether your kids and teens are interested in science, creation, art, human perception or all of the above, they will love this kid-friendly museum. It may look small from the outside, but it packs a punch. This museum is aswarm with incredible pieces, many made onsite by the museum’s own talented team, that will pique your curiosity and hold your interest. Through interactive contraptions, the kids can learn about many things under the sun, including how things such as the earth’s gravitational pull, whirlpools, and lights and colors work. Be prepared to spend at least three hours here as there are simply so many things to do.
Aquarium of the Bay. It may be a tad small, but the kid-friendly Aquarium of the Bayis still worth a visit. If you have an hour or so to kill, skip the Fisherman’s Wharf and head to Embarcadero and Beach. This aquarium is home to many sharks, rays, jellyfish and other beautiful marine animals from the Bay and the neighboring waters. More importantly, it teaches the kids the importance of conservation, the effect of climate change and the impact our actions have on the environment. Adorable highlights include the playful sea otters and the shark tank. This aquarium truly is one of the best things to do with kids in San Francisco.
Best Things to Do in San Francisco for Dark History
San Francisco Dungeon. If your teens have a penchant for dark history and spooky attractions, then the San Francisco Dungeon must be at the top of your best things to do with kids in San Francisco list. It’s a tad touristy sure, located at the Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the city’s most touristy places. But it’s definitely worth doing if you want the kids to learn about the Bay Area’s dark history in an exciting way. In this guided experience, you’ll be visiting different rooms that represent different eras in the city’s history. At the end, everyone will be treated to an underground drop ride called Escape Alcatraz, the fun latest addition to this not-for-the-faint-of-heart attraction.
Best Things to Do in San Francisco for the View
Battery Spencer. While most tourists seem to flock to boring and crowded Vista Point for the quintessential photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, you’re better off taking the kids to Battery Spencer. The old fortifications used to protect the city from hostile ships and aircrafts. Today, however, it offers the one of the best views of the famous bridge and the beautiful bay. Come right before sunrise or at sunset for the most dramatic photographs. And let the kids run around and explore what remains of the old battery. It can get pretty windy and chilly up there so make sure to bring layers to keep warm.
Michelle Rae Uy contributed this toMiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.