San Francisco is a haven for tourists, for young professionals, for families and for children of all ages. Because our hometown boasts world-class educational experiences, decades of important history and one-of-a-kind entertainment facilities, you won’t have a hard time finding educational, fun and valuable things to do with kids in the city.
To help you entertain your children all year long, we rounded up 24 places, businesses and organizations that will have everyone laughing, exploring, learning and playing in no time. Enjoy!
Photo courtesy of Children’s Creativity Museum
Focused on innovations in art and technology and tailored for children ages 2 – 12, this SoMa museum strives to nurture both creativity and innovation. The building offers four different hands-on labs, an Animation Studio, a Music Studio, the Spiral Gallery with both landscape and art views, and the famous LeRoy King Carousel.
This historic movie theater was originally built in 1922 and has been the premiere setting for shows, cinema and entertainment ever since. Today, the theater hosts Sing Alongs throughout the year alongside indie films and throwback hits. Bring the whole family to enjoy a viewing of classics like Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid and be sure to warm up your vocal chords because the audience gets to sing along!
Urban Putt is San Francisco’s first and only indoor miniature golf course. The Mission District facility offers a fantastical and high-tech 14-hole mini-golf course as well as a full-service restaurant and bar that offers a menu of upscale foods crafted using organic and locally-sourced ingredients.
Photo courtesy of San Francisco Arts Commission by Ethan Kaplan Photography
With drop-in activities, classes, summer camps and exhibits suited for children, teens and adults, Randall Museum is an outstanding hands-on educational destination for all ages. And admission is always free! Topics cover science, nature and art and include live animal encounters, the Toddler Tree House, and a Model Railroad with replicas of real Bay Area trains.
The Bay Area Discovery Museum features seven exhibition spaces and more than six daily drop-in programs for children between 6 months of age and 10 years old. Just across the Golden Gate on 7.5 acres of National Park land in Sausalito, children can enjoy research-backed, STEM-focused, inquiry-driven experiences to encourage early learning and skill development.
Located on the waterfront in SoMa, AT&T Park is the home of the San Francisco Giants MLB team and you can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire facility! Public tours will bring you to the warning track on the field, inside a major league dugout, to the visitors’ indoor batting cage and the visitors’ clubhouse, and more. For full pricing and information, click here.
Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Bay
This famous San Francisco aquarium is located on the waterfront of Pier 39, is a Smithsonian affiliate, and is home to more than 20,000 marine animals. As you explore walk-through tunnel exhibits, transparent touch pools and a bubbling mountain stream exhibit, you’ll meet sharks and rays, octopi, jellyfish, anchovies, river otters and more.
The San Francisco Zoo is open 365 days a year and is home to over 2,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals and majestic, peaceful gardens full of native and foreign plants. A regular trip to the zoo is a classic kid-friendly activity, but here, you can also participate in specialized children’s programs and watch zookeeper talks and feedings!
Located in the Presidio, this nonprofit organization and museum celebrates the life of Walt Disney and his transformational entertainment, animations and stories. It’s the perfect destination for families and anyone who loves Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the gang!
Off the Grid is a Bay Area organization that hosts food truck events in San Francisco, East Bay, the Peninsula, South Bay and even Sacramento. Occurring on a weekly schedule, you can usually find an Off the Grid event every day of the week. Bring the whole family along to taste food truck fare and hang out with the community!
Plankton Populations. © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu
The Exploratorium was opened in 1969 by artists, educators, developers and one man with a passion for education. Today, the museum is located on Pier 15 along San Francisco’s Embarcadero and still serves to bridge the gap between formal and informal education through immersive experiences, hands-on investigation and fascinating exhibits.
Tucked in Golden Gate Park’s southeast corner, this playground has been a favorite for generations of children. Often considered the nation’s first public playground, the open space offers great play equipment that includes a climbing wall, a rope structure and a historic concrete slide as well as the famous Herschell-Spillman Carousel which costs just $1 for children to ride and $2 for adults.
Located in Golden Gate Park, Cal Academy is the only place in the world to house an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education — all under one living roof. Exhibits include educational displays on gems and minerals, coral reefs, space, the rainforest and more.
The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park is the oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America and is constructed in beautiful Victorian style. The interior is home to tropical plants of all kinds, aquatic plants and the famous Amorphophallus Titanum, otherwise known as the corpse flower which blooms only once every few years and emits an odor of rotting flesh.
Photo courtesy of House of Air
House of Air opened its first facility in 2010 in San Francisco and today they have four locations (and one in Poland!). Their original SF location boasts open trampoline jump time, aerial and physical training on trampolines, trampoline dodgeball, a trampoline basketball dunk zone, rock climbing, kid play zones, ninja obstacle courses and fitness classes.
Located in the Mission, In Chan Kaajal Park is the first new neighborhood park to be acquired and built by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department in over a decade. The space offers open lawns for picnics, a raised stage for events and plenty of play equipment for the kids to play!
The famous and picturesque Coit Tower has been a part of the San Francisco skyline since 1933. When you purchase tickets, you can ride the elevator to the observation deck located at the top of the 210-foot tower to see 360-degree views of the city and bay. Children 4-years-old and younger are admitted for free!
The Presidio’s Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center is home to Lucasfilm Ltd., Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. You’ll know you’ve arrived at Lucasfilm headquarters when you’re greeted by a life-sized bronze fountain and statue of Yoda. Step inside the lobby which is open to the public and you’ll get to see Star Wars props, memorabilia, costumes and life-sized Darth Vader and Boba Fett statues too!
The Presidio is where you’ll get your best view of the Golden Gate Bridge and you’ll also get to see landmarks like the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, Crissy Field and Baker Beach. These historic places are surrounded by 12 different walking and hiking trails and eight scenic overlooks!
Photo courtesy of Natalie Ngo via San Francisco Botanical Garden
A living museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco Botanical Garden offers 55 acres of landscaped gardens and open spaces which showcase more than 8,500 different kinds of plants from around the world. Thanks to the city’s unique climate of wet winters, dry summers and coastal fog, the gardens provide a range of conditions found in very few other botanic gardens across the globe.
This free museum in Nob Hill presents San Francisco’s cable car history, the technology behind the machines, other fascinating information and a gift shop!
Located in the heart of SoMa, South Park is an oval park space that offers picnic tables and benches, a hummingbird garden and two fenced play areas complete with sand pits and climbing structures for the kids to play. It’s just steps from AT&T Park and is surrounded by kid-friendly cafes and restaurants.
Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, de Young isn’t just a destination for painting, sculpture and textile art-lovers. From the top-floor observation deck, you can take in an iconic 360-degree view of the entire city which is a piece of art in itself. On the lower levels, collections encompass American art, art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, as well as textile arts.
This manmade lake in Golden Gate Park dates all the way back to 1893. Around the banks of the lake, families can enjoy hiking, biking, wildlife viewing and picnicking. Then, we recommend fueling up at the Stow Lake Boathouse café before renting a row or pedal boat to get on top of the water!
Do you know a local San Francisco kid?
Tell us about their favorite activities and destinations in the comments below!