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Top 10 Best Things to Do in San Francisco this Weekend with Kids

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Ready to make the most out of your weekend in San Francisco with the little ones? San Francisco, a city bursting with culture and scenic views, offers a treasure trove of activities that can keep any family entertained. From exploring the hands-on science exhibits at the Exploratorium to enjoying a leisurely stroll across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, there’s something in the city for kids of all ages.

Top 10 Best Things to Do in San Francisco this Weekend with Kids
Top 10 Best Things to Do in San Francisco this Weekend with Kids

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the top 10 best things to do in San Francisco this weekend with kids. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, prepare for a weekend packed with fun, learning, and unforgettable memories in one of the world’s most vibrant cities.

Let’s explore the best the city has to offer to make your family’s weekend truly special!

See also: 21 Best and Unique Things to Do in Los Angeles California

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t just an iconic structure; it’s a journey through history and breathtaking beauty. This 1.7-mile suspension bridge, painted in its signature “International Orange,” connects San Francisco to Marin County and has been a symbol of engineering marvel since its completion in 1937. Walking or biking across the bridge offers unparalleled views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline. Driving across is also an option, but to fully appreciate its grandeur, a walk is highly recommended.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

For the best experience, visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM, except on major holidays, it provides historical insights and stunning exhibits. If you’re into photography, the early mornings or late afternoons are perfect for capturing the bridge in its full glory without the heavy fog that often envelops it.

For a bit of adventure, rent a bike from nearby shops and cycle across the bridge, continuing into the scenic trails of the Marin Headlands or the charming towns of Sausalito and Tiburon. Public transport is a smart choice given the limited parking at the bridge.

Pro tip: San Francisco’s weather can be unpredictable. Layer up to stay warm against the bridge’s famous chilly winds, especially in the summer when fog is most common. And if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, weekdays during the early hours are your best bet.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, known as “The Rock,” is a must-visit spot in San Francisco with a rich history as a former federal prison. Once home to notorious inmates like Al Capone and “Birdman” Robert Stroud, this island offers a peek into America’s most infamous prison’s past.

Alcatraz Island San Francisco
Alcatraz Island San Francisco

Visitors can choose from day or night tours, each offering a unique experience. The day tour includes a ferry ride to the island, a visit to the prison cells, and an informative audio tour that brings the stories of Alcatraz to life. Highlights include exploring Al Capone’s cell and the eerie isolation cells. If you’re looking for something spookier, the night tour adds an extra layer of thrill with special programs and presentations under the cover of darkness​.

Booking tickets in advance is crucial since Alcatraz tours sell out quickly. Tickets include the round-trip ferry from Pier 33 and the audio guide. The island’s rugged terrain means comfortable shoes are a must, and layering up is wise due to the often chilly and windy conditions. Expect to spend at least a few hours on the island, soaking in the history and panoramic views of San Francisco Bay​.

Planning ahead ensures you don’t miss out on this captivating slice of history. Get ready for an unforgettable trip to one of America’s most legendary prisons​.

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is a wonderland of science and nature. This place is a blast for families, with its planetarium, aquarium, and indoor rainforest. Imagine standing under a 75-foot digital dome in the planetarium, zooming through space, or walking through a four-story rainforest, complete with birds and butterflies fluttering around.

California Academy of Sciences San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco

The exhibits are top-notch. You’ll marvel at the T-Rex skeleton and gasp at the sight of Claude, the rare white alligator. The Steinhart Aquarium is another highlight, housing over 1,000 species in vibrant, living displays.

For a seamless visit, plan ahead. The Academy is open daily from 9:30 AM to 5 PM, and ticket prices vary, typically ranging from $36-$40 for adults and less for kids. It’s smart to book tickets in advance online to save a few bucks and ensure your spot, especially on busy days.

Getting there is easy, with public transportation being a great option to avoid parking hassles. Make sure to wear comfy shoes, as there’s a lot to explore. Trust me, this place is not just educational but super fun for everyone.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street in San Francisco is renowned for its steep, zigzagging one-block stretch, which has earned it the nickname “the crookedest street in the world.” Originally designed in 1922 to make the steep 27-degree incline more navigable for vehicles, this unique section between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets features eight sharp hairpin turns and picturesque red brick paving.

Lombard Street San Francisco
Lombard Street San Francisco

Experiencing Lombard Street can be thrilling, whether driving or walking. Driving down the street is a slow but fun adventure, with a speed limit of just 5 mph. It takes about two minutes to navigate the turns, but expect a longer wait during peak times, especially on weekends. If you’re up for a walk, the sidewalks offer a leisurely way to soak in the stunning views and beautifully manicured gardens lining the street. Walking also allows for plenty of photo opportunities without the pressure of traffic behind you.

To avoid the crowds and get the best photos, visit early in the morning or late in the evening. Early mornings typically offer fewer crowds, and the soft light is perfect for capturing the street’s charm. If you’re planning to drive, set your GPS to 1099 Lombard Street and be prepared for a wait, as this popular spot can attract a significant number of tourists.

Lombard Street is easily accessible via public transport, with the Powell/Hyde cable car stopping nearby. Parking can be challenging, so it’s best to walk or take public transit if possible. Visiting Lombard Street is free, making it a budget-friendly and memorable San Francisco experience.

Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies in San Francisco is a stunning example of Victorian architecture, famous for their vibrant colors and intricate designs. These houses, located at 710-720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square Park, were built between 1892 and 1896 and have become an iconic symbol of the city. They gained additional fame from their appearance in the opening credits of the 90s sitcom “Full House”.

Painted Ladies San Francisco
Painted Ladies San Francisco

Viewing the Painted Ladies is best done from Alamo Square Park, where you can capture the perfect postcard shot of the houses with the San Francisco skyline in the background. The park itself is a great spot for a picnic or a leisurely walk, offering expansive views of the city. Early mornings or late afternoons are ideal times to visit for the best light and fewer crowds.

Nearby, you’ll find several attractions and amenities. Alamo Square Park has an off-leash area for dogs, and the surrounding neighborhood features other beautiful Victorian homes worth exploring. For dining, head to Divisadero Street, just a few blocks away, where you’ll find local favorites like Bean Bag Cafe for casual bites, Little Star Pizza for some of the best pizza in town, and the cozy Alamo Square Seafood Grill for a more upscale dinner option​.

Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or just looking for a quintessential San Francisco photo op, the Painted Ladies are a must-see. Their historical significance and cultural impact make them a highlight of any visit to the city​.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach is a hidden gem in San Francisco, offering spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Nestled at the foot of rugged cliffs within the Presidio, this mile-long beach is perfect for a relaxing day out. With the stunning backdrop of the bridge and the Marin Headlands, it’s a favorite spot for photography, picnics, and leisurely walks along the shore​.

Baker Beach San Francisco
Baker Beach San Francisco

Although swimming isn’t recommended due to strong currents and cold water, there’s plenty to enjoy. Bring a picnic and settle at one of the tables near the cypress grove, or simply lay out a blanket on the sand and soak in the views. On weekends, especially sunny ones, arrive early to snag a parking spot as it fills up quickly.

For a quieter experience, consider visiting in the early morning or late afternoon. The beach is accessible by car, but public transportation options include the 29 Sunset bus and the free PresidiGo Shuttle, which makes stops throughout the Presidio.

Nearby attractions include the historic Battery Chamberlin, where you can see a 50-ton cannon and participate in demonstrations on the first weekend of each month. If you’re exploring further, the Presidio also houses the Walt Disney Family Museum and offers trails with breathtaking views​.

Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, spanning 24 square blocks. Established in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush, it remains a vibrant cultural hub, offering a unique blend of history, cuisine, and commerce​.

Chinatown San Francisco
Chinatown San Francisco

Start your adventure at the Dragon Gate on Grant Avenue, a classic entry point adorned with stone lions and green tiled pagodas. From there, explore bustling streets filled with traditional markets and historic landmarks. One must-visit spot is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where you can see fortune cookies being made and even customize your own​.

Food is a highlight in Chinatown. Head to Good Mong Kok Bakery for some of the best dim sum in the city. For a more immersive experience, visit China Live, a massive marketplace and restaurant that offers a variety of Chinese dishes and specialty teas. If you’re in the mood for something more upscale, Mister Jiu’s offers a modern take on Cantonese cuisine in a stylish setting​.

Shopping in Chinatown is a treat. Stop by Red Blossom Tea Company for artisanal teas or The Wok Shop for authentic cookware. For unique gifts, Canton Bazaar offers a wide range of traditional Chinese items, from silk scarves to porcelain figurines​​.

For a richer understanding of the area’s history, visit the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum. This museum, housed in a building designed by Julia Morgan, offers deep insights into the Chinese-American experience​.

Chinatown is easily accessible by public transportation, with several Muni bus lines serving the area. It’s a vibrant, colorful neighborhood that captures the essence of San Francisco’s diverse cultural tapestry.

San Francisco’s Cable Cars

San Francisco’s cable cars are not just a mode of transportation; they’re a moving piece of history. Established in 1873 by Andrew Hallidie, these manually operated cable cars are the last of their kind in the world. Riding one is like stepping back in time, offering a unique way to experience the city’s famous hills and scenic views.

San Francisco's Cable Cars
San Francisco’s Cable Cars

Expect a charming ride with the clang of the cable car bells and a gripman expertly operating the controls. There are three main routes: Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and the California Street line. The Powell-Hyde line is particularly popular, running from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and passing by landmarks like Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square. The Powell-Mason line also starts at Union Square and ends at Fisherman’s Wharf but takes a slightly different route through North Beach. The California Street line traverses the Financial District and offers a less crowded, more relaxed experience.

To avoid long waits, hop on early in the morning or later in the evening. Another tip is to board at a stop along the route rather than at the crowded turnarounds at Powell and Market. Tickets cost $8 per ride, but if you plan to use public transport frequently, consider getting a Muni Passport for unlimited rides on cable cars, buses, and streetcars.

Enjoy the ride and make sure to hang on tight—it’s a classic San Francisco experience you won’t forget!

Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury is a legendary San Francisco neighborhood known for its vibrant history and unique cultural vibe. This area became the epicenter of the 1960s counterculture movement, attracting thousands of artists, musicians, and free spirits during the Summer of Love in 1967. The neighborhood still echoes that era, with colorful Victorian houses and a plethora of eclectic shops and cafes.

Haight-Ashbury San Francisco
Haight-Ashbury San Francisco

Today, Haight-Ashbury is a lively mix of old and new. Stroll down Haight Street to explore vintage clothing stores, record shops, and quirky boutiques. Don’t miss Amoeba Music, one of the largest independent music stores in the world, perfect for vinyl enthusiasts. Another highlight is the Red Victorian, a historic bed and breakfast that encapsulates the neighborhood’s bohemian spirit​.

For dining, head to Magnolia Brewing for a taste of local craft beers, or grab a bite at the iconic Pork Store Cafe, known for its hearty breakfast dishes. For unique shopping, Love on Haight offers an impressive collection of tie-dye clothing and Grateful Dead memorabilia​.

Visiting mid-morning on weekdays can help you avoid the crowds. Public transportation is convenient, with several Muni bus lines serving the area, making it easy to explore without worrying about parking.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a historic gem in San Francisco, renowned for its iconic chocolate shop and a variety of dining and shopping experiences. Originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico Ghirardelli in 1893, the site was transformed in the 1960s into the first successful adaptive reuse project in the U.S., preserving its rich history while introducing modern amenities​.

Ghirardelli Square San Francisco
Ghirardelli Square San Francisco

When visiting, a must-do is indulging in a decadent treat at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop. The shop offers an array of chocolate delights, from their famous hot fudge sundaes to rich chocolate squares. Make sure to try their classic World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae—it’s a crowd favorite!​

Ghirardelli Square isn’t just about chocolate; it’s a vibrant area filled with various activities. Enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants like McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood & Steaks with stunning bay views, or sip craft brews at San Francisco Brewing Co. & Beer Garden. For shopping, explore unique stores like Vom Fass for gourmet goodies and Elizabeth W for artisanal bath and body products​.

The best time to visit Ghirardelli Square is during the weekdays or early mornings on weekends to avoid the crowd. The square is open daily from 11 AM to 9 PM, and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shops are open from 9 AM to 10 PM​. Public transportation options include several Muni bus lines that stop nearby, making it easily accessible​.

See also: 15 Best Things to Do on Hollywood Boulevard

Final Thoughts on Best Things to Do in San Francisco

As our exploration of San Francisco’s top family-friendly activities comes to a close, it’s clear that the city has no shortage of exciting options for a memorable weekend with the kids. From the interactive thrills at the California Academy of Sciences to the historical adventures aboard the ships at Fisherman’s Wharf, each experience promises to enrich and entertain.

Whether you’ve decided to delve into the artistic wonders at the Children’s Creativity Museum or take a breezy bike ride through Crissy Field, San Francisco delivers on its promise of fun and discovery.

FAQS on Best Things to Do in San Francisco

What is the number one attraction in San Francisco?

The number one attraction in San Francisco is Alcatraz Island. Located about one-and-a-half miles from Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors can take a tour of the cell house to see where the prisoners lived, offering a fascinating glimpse into the island’s history.

Is 2 days enough for San Francisco?

Yes, two days are enough to visit San Francisco’s main tourist attractions and explore its unique neighborhoods. You can enjoy iconic sights like Alcatraz and Sausalito, as well as other must-see locations around the bay area.

Is 3 days enough to visit San Francisco?

Three days in San Francisco is ideal for both first-time visitors and returning travelers. With three days, you can experience the city’s highlights, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Golden Gate Park, ensuring a well-rounded visit.

What to do in SF for the first time?

First-time visitors to San Francisco should consider these must-see attractions:

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Coit Tower in Telegraph Hill
  • Riding a Cable Car
  • Transamerica Pyramid
  • Haight-Ashbury District
  • Chinatown
  • The Ferry Building
  • Alcatraz Island

These sites provide a great overview of what makes San Francisco such a beloved destination.

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