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Published on : Friday, June 17, 2016
With 182 playgrounds, 82 recreation centers, 60 soccer fields, and more than 300 coffee shops (that one’s for you, mom and dad), it’s no wonder San Francisco made Family Fun’s Top 10 Kid-Friendly Cities list. Vacations to San Francisco can be absolutely rewarding as this city’s natural beauty and iconic attractions charms visitors all the way. Visitors have multiple options to explore activities in San Francisco! San Francisco itself has a kiddo-friendly culture, plenty of outdoor places to play and also the Educational experiences so fun that the kids won’t even realize that they’re learning.
Here’s our top 10 family-friendly activities guaranteed to please the whole family:
Don’t let the title fool you — this isn’t Disneyland (although there is a miniature replica of the park in the museum). But there is magic within these walls. Parents will love browsing memorabilia collected by the Disney family and reminiscing about the life of Walt Disney, his films and Disneyland. While the grown-ups are learning about the evolution of Mickey, little ones can participate in the museum’s Little Open Studio to enjoy story time and family-friendly activities geared towards children seven and under.
The totally reimagined Exploratorium in its new waterfront home at Pier 15 is nothing short of spectacular. Named by CNN as the #1 Spot for Kids in the country, the museum encourages guests of all ages to touch, explore and play with 600 exhibits. Investigate the living world, experiment with thoughts, feelings and behavior, explore the local environment, think with your hands and much more. The Exploratorium houses a cafe and a waterfront restaurant, both serves seasonal and sustainable cuisine prepared by local chefs. All ages are welcome, and if you’ve got toddlers in tow, just follow the giant bubbles. Strollers are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Often referred to as the “Disneyland of San Francisco,” a family vacation isn’t complete without a trip to PIER 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf. Visit the resident sea lions who mysteriously took over the PIER’s docks after the 1989 earthquake, watch magicians, jugglers, comedians and more during daily street performer shows, and run down oversized musical stairs — all for free! Other activities for the little kids (or big ones) include Aquarium of the Bay, Players Sports Grill & Arcade, Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, the San Francisco Carousel, a classic Caricature stand and Frequent Flyers (think bungee cords + giant trampoline).
As any parent or guardian knows, exposing children to creativity is one of the most valuable tools you can offer a child. The Children’s Creativity Museum goes beyond the conventional environment of play by inspiring kids to imagine, create and share in their multimedia environment. With exhibits including an Animation Studio, Imagination Lab, Music Studio and even a Cloud Gallery, the museum is packed with workshops and hands-on activities suitable for kids of all ages.
Exploring San Francisco’s bay is nothing short of magical, no matter what age. While there are many ways to stretch your sea legs, the most popular for families is a classic Bay Cruise. Get up close and personal with the city skyline, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. If you’re lucky you may even spot some sea life. For a more custom experience try out the new Tideline Water Taxi service which shuttles passengers around the perimeter of the bay and along the San Francisco waterfront. If that doesn’t take your breath away, sailing smoothly under the Golden Gate Bridge will.
Experience the bright colors and fascinating facades of the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Explore the golden dragons and emerald roofs of Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, then follow the scent of fresh fortune cookies to the famed Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley to witness first-hand how the fortune actually makes it into the cookie.
San Francisco sets the bar high when it comes to parks. Nearly every neighborhood has one, although the grandest of all is Golden Gate Park, which stretches from the Height to the Pacific Ocean. With more than 1,000 acres of plush greenery, it’s also home to The Koret Children’s Quarter (a merry-go-round and playground), the de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers and Stow Lake. There’s plenty of room to spread out for a picnic, go on a hunt for waterfalls, or polish a few soccer moves in an open meadow.
Want to earn cool points with the kids? They’re guaranteed to pop a smile amidst the aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, rain forest, and home to 40,000 live animals — all under one living roof. Set time aside for a penguin feeding, dive show or swamp talk with the Academy’s celebrity albino alligator, Claude. All that knowledge is sure to work up an appetite, which makes the Academy’s casual Academy Cafe ideal for a mid-afternoon break.
A cross between a cable car and one of the sleek light rail vehicles that run underground along Market Street, San Francisco’s fleet of historic streetcars runs aboveground on Market Street between the Castro District and Fisherman’s Wharf. And to learn the full story behind these historic cars, visit the free San Francisco Railway Museum. There are great photo ops, simple didactics that explain the history of the fleet and a gift shop with unique items and memorabilia. The whole experience is right on track for little train buffs.
Bring the kids back to a time when texting consisted of a pen and paper and social networking was only available with face-to-face contact at Musee Mecanique at Fisherman’s Wharf. This antique arcade is one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and arcade games, all available for play. Don’t worry about paying “Laughing Sal” as you walk through his open mouth to enter the Musee —admission is free.