San Francisco presents a good selection of family-friendly places. Besides offering wonderful sightseeing opportunities, the city has a vast collection of museums that are well-spread throughout the Bay Area. Most of these museums offer hands-on learning and interactive exhibits, which promote children’s active learning and creativity. Some introduce kids to imaginative techniques such as stop-motion animation.

    Below, we’ve gathered some of the best things to do with your family in San Francisco. A few attractions, like the Cable Car Museum and the Randall Museum, hark back to the old days but the exhibits either remain relevant or feature observable inner workings that still function to this day. Active kids can spend a day out at a premier trampoline park or hop on an old-fashioned carousel in one of America’s first public playgrounds.

    What are the best things to do with your family in San Francisco?


    Bay Area Discovery Museum

    Children’s museum at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Families with kids in San Francisco can head up to this interactive children’s museum for a day out filled with interactive arts and science exhibits. It’s right off Horseshoe Bay, at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and occupies around 7.5 acres of National Park land. Toddlers can enjoy the Tot Spot, a multi-sensory playground specially designed with stimulating outdoor tunnels, obstacles, and other explorative features. Older kids can join in on various STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities.

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    Location: 557 McReynolds Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965, USA

    Open: Sunday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 415-339-3900


    photo by Näystin (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    House of Air trampoline park

    Bounce, slam dunk, and discover your inner gymnast

    • Families

    Active kids can jump and bounce to their hearts’ content at this indoor adrenaline and trampoline park that’s right next to the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Even mum and dad, or complete novices can join in the fun. House of Air hosts a good variety of activities in its massive indoor facility. There are trampoline jumping sessions, aerials, physical training on trampolines, trampoline dodgeball, trampoline basketball dunks, to other active sports such as rock climbing, ninja obstacles, and fitness classes.

    Location: 926 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94129, USA

    Open: Sunday – Monday from 10 am to 8 pm, Tuesday – Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm, Friday – Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 415-212-4197


    photo by House of Air (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified



    A museum of science, art, and human perception

    • Families

    Promoting an ongoing exploration of science, art, and human perception, Exploratorium is one of San Francisco’s great educational spots for families with kids. The interactive museum is at Pier 15, just a few minutes’ drive south from the Fisherman’s Wharf. Parents and kids can explore, play, and discover through the various exhibits that cover a wide range of topics, such as learning about light through making your own light paintings, generating electricity from light through photoelectricity exhibits, and test-launching model rockets with a launcher of your own design.

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    Location: Pier 15 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm (Thursdays also from 6 pm to 10 pm, Fridays until 9 pm)

    Phone: +1 415-528-4444


    photo by HarshLight (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Children's Creativity Museum

    A place for budding designers, musicians, and movie directors

    • Families

    The Children’s Creativity Museum is an interactive science and technology museum that focuses on creativity and family collaboration. Younger kids can brainstorm to make their own spaceship designs at a DIY table, while older kids can create a series of clay characters, then bring them to life through stop-motion animation techniques. General admission is around $13 and it’s free for kids under 2 years.

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    Location: 221 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 415-820-3320


    photo by Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0) modified


    California Academy of Sciences

    Natural history museum where scientists do research

    • Families
    • Photo

    You can find the California Academy of Sciences inside the eastern half of the vast Golden Gate Park. It houses the Steinhart Aquarium, the Morrison planetarium, the Kimball Natural History Museum, and is an actual institute where scientists conduct research projects. Take an inspiring stroll through the Osher Rainforest exhibit. This lush, 4-story rainforest teems with butterflies, exotic birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Check out the giant arapaima in the Amazon Forest tunnel, too. Tickets are around $40 for adults and $30 for kids aged between 4 and 11.

    Location: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 9.30 am to 5 pm, Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 415-379-8000


    Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace

    Indulge in a chocolate treat at San Francisco’s native chocolatier

    Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace is the home of San Francisco’s most famous chocolatier, located in the picturesque Ghirardelli Square. You can enjoy a range of decadent sweet treats here, including chocolate bars, shakes, cocoas and ice cream sundaes.

    The Ghirardelli Marketplace isn’t just for your sweet tooth. It’s one of the best places to enjoy a view of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz. Take in the view from your seat for the price of a piece of chocolate. This is also a good spot to stock up on tasty souvenirs that are sure to be appreciated.

    Location: 891 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 9 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 9.30 pm

    Phone: +1 415-474-3938


    photo by Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Cable Car Museum

    View the working mechanism of the city’s cable car system

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    This museum serves as a place where families can admire the history and understand the workings of the world’s oldest cable car system. San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum on 1201 Mason Street is free to visit. The working museum showcases exhibits that explain how the cable car system works. There are several old grip cars displayed as well as the cable car power house nearby, in which you can observe the pulleys and cables hard at work from its 2 viewing galleries above.

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    Location: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 415-474-1887


    photo by Daderot (CC0 1.0) modified


    Ride pedal boats at Stow Lake

    A fun boating lake within the Golden Gate Park

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure

    Stow Lake is the largest body of water within the Golden Gate Park, where families can rent a pedal boat and enjoy the placid and natural surroundings with the occasional sightings of turtles, ducks, and Canadian geese. The Stow Lake Boathouse also has row boats, electric boats, and passenger pedal boats that can seat up to 6 people. Boat rentals are from around $23 an hour. Some of the lakeside attractions that you can row to include Strawberry Hill Island, an artificial waterfall, and a beautiful Chinese Pavilion.

    Location: Stow Lake Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA


    photo by Daderot (CC0 1.0) modified


    Oracle Park

    One of America’s premier ballparks

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Oracle Park is one of America's premier ballparks and a visit to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without attending one of its ballgames. Home to the 7-time World Series Champions San Francisco Giants, a game here is an unmatched experience partnered with epic waterfront views.

    The duelling magnificent clock towers adorned with flags and the Willie Mays statues are the 2 exterior features you can’t miss. Once inside, check out the world’s largest baseball glove – a whopping 26 ft tall – and grab a beer at famed Peet’s Café. For the real baseball buffs, make sure to sign up for the 90-minute Behind-the-Scenes Tour where you get to sit in a Major League dugout and visit the press box. Tickets can be hard to come by on the day, so make sure to book in advance.

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    Location: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA

    Phone: +1 415-972-2000


    photo by Alex Hendricks (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Madame Tussauds San Francisco

    A cool place for fun family photos

    • Families
    • Photo

    Madame Tussauds San Francisco is where you should head to if you fancy a selfie with Elvis, Leonardo DiCaprio or Taylor Swift. Head on over to see your favourite actors, athletes, musicians, and world leaders up close. The wax sculptures are uncannily lifelike, and you're allowed to take photos next to them and even touch them if you like.

    Plan on spending 1-2 hours here. The wax museum is located at the Fisherman's Wharf. That means that you can combine your wax adventure with some souvenir shopping, seal-watching, or enjoying a bowl of clam chowder at one of the waterfront restaurants.

    Location: 145 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

    Open: Thursday from noon to 6 pm, Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 pm, Sunday and Monday from noon to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 415-757-2707


    photo by Another Believer (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Koret Children’s Quarter

    Legendary playground with an old-fashioned merry-go-round

    • Families

    Also referred to as the Golden Gate Park Carousel thanks to its centrepiece merry-go-round, the Koret Children’s Quarter is a longstanding family attraction in the southeast corner of the Golden Gate Park. Many San Franciscans recall part of their fun childhood playing in this park, and the carousel itself has been around since 1914. The children’s quarter was established back in 1888, making it one of the nation’s earliest known public playgrounds. Next door, the Sharon Art Studio offers art classes for both parents and kids.

    Location: Martin Luther King Jr Dr & Bowling Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +1 415-861-0778


    photo by mliu92 (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Randall Museum

    A small, but packed museum with interactive exhibits

    • Families

    This longstanding San Franciscan museum at the south-eastern base of the Corona Heights Park offers interactive natural science exhibits. Weekly agendas for families with kids range from Science Saturdays, when you can try out various experiments, to art-making classes. Live animal exhibits allow you to learn more about California’s diverse habitats and see native species such as coyotes, grey foxes, brush rabbits, California quails, and Gopher snakes. Toddlers can enjoy their dedicated learning space filled with carpeted climbing structures, as well as books and toys.

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    Location: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

    Open: Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 415-554-9600


    photo by Piotrus (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

    Tour a San Francisco food landmark

    • Food
    • Families
    • History
    • Budget

    Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a legendary bakery in Chinatown that has been predicting the future since 1962. Every day, up to 10,000 cookies are made here – by hand – using a secret family recipe. Cookie flavours are unique. You’ll find chocolate, strawberry, and even green tea.

    Order a customised fortune cookie message as a thoughtful gift for a loved one – it will make their day! The shop is open every day of the week. If you want to enjoy the tour with fewer crowds, it’s best to visit the factory on a weekday. The tour is free, but you are welcome to leave a tip. You can reach the factory on public transport.

    Location: 56 Ross Alley, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA

    Open: Monday–Wednesday from 9 am to 5 pm, Thursday–Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 415-806-8243


    photo by King of Hearts (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Watch model boats at Spreckels Lake

    A favourite lake for hobbyists

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Officially referred to as the Spreckels Lake Model Yacht Facility, this manmade lake on the northern side of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is a major go-to for model boat enthusiasts. Boaters of all ages gather here to put their racing sailboats or powerboats to the test, while assessing their designs or improving their remote-controlling skills. Even though the lake’s manmade, Spreckels is a fine example of a naturalistically styled artificial lake. Access is free, and you and your kids can simply relax by the lakeside while admiring the showcase of the passionate model builds.

    Location: Spreckels Lake, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA


    photo by Allie_Caulfield (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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