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When I started planning our US trip, I found a huge range of things to do in San Francisco! Despite our start to exploring San Francisco beginning with cold, foggy and drizzly weather, our final day transformed into a glorious, winter-sunshine filled day. We had 3 full days / 4 nights in this bustling city, which wasn’t enough for us to see everything we wanted! Here’s is our list of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids.
Here’s a quick look at what we covered in our 3 days with the kids, plus a few other ideas for if you have more time (or older kids who don’t get tired out so quickly!).
Alcatraz was, and still is, at the top of our must-see list for San Francisco. This historic site was an immersive and educational experience that we all enjoyed, even our youngest child. The audio tour provides a fascinating commentary on the history of the jail and on life inside for both it’s inmates and staff.
Golden Gate Bridge
This iconic bridge was hidden from us due to the fog and rain until our last day! We headed down to the Golden Gate Park area for some photo opportunities with the bridge, before enjoying a good coffee from the nearby Warming Hut and then strolling along the bay.
California Academy of Sciences
Out of all the museums, aquariums and similar attractions we visited while on our three-week trip, the California Academy of Sciences is our favourite. While admission was a little on the expensive side, we easily spent over 3 hours exploring the centre. With a planetarium, aquarium and a living rainforest, it is well worth the admission price.
Lombard Street is famous for being the curviest street in the city, but it’s worth visiting just to witness the crazy amount of cars driving down it while the driver and/or passenger films the experience on their phones. We walked from the top to the bottom via the pedestrian stairs down the beautifully landscaped street, and wondered how the residents there got their cars in and out of their homes!
Although quite a touristy spot, Pier 39 has plenty of shops, restaurants and seals! My kids were most excited about finding this beautiful Christmas tree.
Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the USA. Beautifully landscaped and tranquil, we enjoyed wandering around the garden and crossing all the different bridges.
More Things to Do in San Francisco:
While we ran out of time to visit the following attractions that were on our list, I hope it will provide you with some more ideas on things to do while in San Fran:
The Museum of Ice Cream (makes sure you book tickets ahead of time, as it was sold out when we arrived!)
Cable Car Museum
The Painted Ladies
San Francisco Zoo
Where We Stayed:
Accommodation in San Francisco is expensive, especially during the busy holiday season! We settled on booking the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Fisherman’s Wharf due to it’s location, the size of the room for our family of 5, and breakfast being included. Our room was a massive space with big bay windows that looked out onto the street, and with 2 king beds plus a fold-out sofa bed, we had plenty of space to stretch out. The included breakfast was plentiful and a great way to start our day. With the room having a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, and a nearby Safeway grocery store, this allowed us to self-cater as much as possible for meals and snacks.
Getting Around San Francisco:
We found the traffic busy in downtown San Francisco very busy, and so combined with hilly streets and lack of parking at times, we decided to do without a hire car. We did purchase a Hop On, Hop Off Tour Bus pass that I was recommended by another traveller, however it was expensive and I don’t feel we got the full value out of this. Once I studied the Muni website a bit more (San Fran’s public transport system) and realised that Google Maps lists all the public transport options as well (remember, I’m from a country town and using public transport is something new for me haha!), we used it for our last day to get around as it is so much cheaper, plus being able to purchase and use the passes on my phone with the Muni app made it easy. We also used Uber to and from the airport as it was cheaper than a taxi, and easier than negotiating public transport with kids and suitcases.
There is no shortage of family fun to be had in this amazing city! What are your top things to do in San Francisco?