One of the most visited cities in the world, San Francisco is an amazing place to visit for families. There are dozens of family friendly things to do in San Francisco, from the working waterfront to famous historical locations to world renowned architectural sites. A family visiting the San Francisco bay area can fill up a week or more with incredible sights and breathtaking activities, many of which can be seen nowhere else in the world.
1. Alcatraz is an island that has been used as harbor fortification, a facility for military detention and a maximum security federal penitentiary. Alcatraz Island has a rich history and housed many of the United States most notorious criminals, including Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. The natural locale of Alcatraz makes it an amazing place to visit – it’s easily viewed from around San Francisco, and is a quick boat ride away. Now a National Park it’s an incredible and educational place to visit.
2. Golden Gate Park is one of the world’s most famous urban parks. Families can visit the serene Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest Japanese garden in the United States, with its Zen gardens, the famous Drum Bridge, and tea house. Stow Lake is a fun attraction on warm days, as families can rent rowboats and pedal boats and cruises the lake at their own speed. A visit to Golden Gate Park wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Bison Paddock, where you can visit a herd of bison that has been kept in the park since 1891.
3. The Exploratorium is a unique science-cum-art museum that kids (and adults!) love. There are many participatory wonders that you can discover with your family at The Exploratorium, including The Science of Music, The Science of Cooking, even Skateboard Science. These exhibits teach valuable information on living things, the material world, the mind, human culture, the earth and more.
4. San Francisco Maritime National Park lets you visit and climb aboard some of the more famous vessels in U.S. Maritime history, including the USS Pampanito, a WWII Balao class submarine, the Balclutha, a 300-foot long three masted sailing ship from the 1880s; the C A Thayer, a three-masted schooner from the 1890s; plus seven more ships both big and small to explore.
5. Sea Lions At Pier 39 will give you an up close and personal view of a throng of cute but loud sea lions. Their numbers fluctuate – at times there might be as few as a dozen, at other times there have been over 1,500. They are fun to watch, and kids can stare at them for hours. Pier 39 is a fairly touristy location, so it usually isn’t too hard to pry kids away from the sea lions.
6. Chabot Space & Science Center is a center that focuses on space sciences and astronomy. There are visitor shows and programs held for families to discover the secrets of our universe and the Milky Way. The Planetarium and MegaDome Theater are always big hits.
7. The California Academy Of Sciences is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. Founded in 1853, the CAS currently houses a large number of historical exhibits along with the Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, and Kimball Natural History Museum. The four-story living rainforest display is an amazing display of fish, plants, animals and birds, and is one of the highlights of any trip.
8. Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. It’s also a major tourist attraction, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge. There are always interesting events taking place, whether something large like a parade or festival, or one of the more mundane snapshots of daily life (life shopping in a traditional Chinese market)
that can be fascinating to the uninitiated. It is a place that you cannot afford to miss when in San Francisco.