Searching for fun things to do in San Francisco with kids? Look no further. From beautiful beaches and adventurous hikes to museums, theme parks, safari trips, zoos, and even a little train town, the Bay Area is exploding with fun, adventure, and learning opportunities.
Kid-Friendly Things to Do in San Francisco
With moderate temperatures year-round, families can share outdoor adventures in San Francisco any month of the year. But for those rare rainy days, check out unique attractions like the California Academy of Science, Aquarium of the Bay, The Exploratorium, or even a pinball museum. These are our favorite kid-friendly things to do in San Francisco.
1. The Zoo
The Bay Area has two fantastic zoos—the San Francisco Zoo and Oakland Zoo. Both offer a fantastic selection of wild animals, but the Oakland Zoo is bigger and has more animals. The San Francisco Zoo highlights include the children's playground, carousel, and Little Puffer Train. The Oakland Zoo has carnival rides, the Oakland Zoo Express Train (which takes visitors to Wild Australia to spot kangaroos), a gondola leading to the California Trail, and a playground. Both places have children’s zoos with plenty of goats just waiting to be brushed!
2. Safari West
Safari West is an African adventure in the heart of northern California's wine country. Named the “Sonoma Serengeti,” animal lovers can take an African-style safari around the 400-acre preserve to see zebras, giraffes, rhinos, gazelles, oryx, antelopes, Cape buffalo, wildebeests, and more. Guests can also walk around the property to spot monkeys, cheetahs, hyenas, the smallest fox in the world, and colorful birds in aviaries.
Surprisingly for an urban metropolis, San Francisco offers plentiful hiking trails. There are miles of trails in Golden Gate Park alone, including dirt paths, waterfalls, meadows, beautiful lakes, and even a bison patch. These seven popular treks in Golden Gate Park are a great place to start.
More fun places to lace up your hiking boots and explore San Francisco with little ones are Glen Canyon and the Presidio. The trails at Glen Canyon aren't paved, so strollers may be tricky, but older kids will love the dramatic rock formations, giant staircases, creek, and the smell of Eucalyptus trees. And with 1,500 acres to explore, the Presidio trails offer gorgeous bay views, some of which lead straight to the beach.
4. Aquarium of the Bay
Check out the Aquarium of the Bay for families looking for more things to do in San Francisco while visiting Pier 39. So many incredible creatures live in the bay, like the green Moray eels, different colored rockfish, and the bright orange California State Marine Fish, all of which are residents here. Highlights include the Sharks of Alcatraz Tunnel, the river otters, and the touch pools where you can feel sea stars, rays, skates, and anemones.
5. Cal Academy of Science
Easily one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids, a giant T-rex skeleton greets visitors as soon as they step inside the Cal Academy of Science. And it only gets better from there. This multi-level museum is home to many popular exhibits, including an aquarium where you can sometimes watch scuba divers feed the fish, a rainforest where you start on the forest floor and wander up to the treetops, a curiosity grove (for kiddos under 5), a planetarium, and so much more. The outdoor space is a great place for children to build forts out of branches and leaves and enjoy some time getting their hands dirty in nature.
6. The Exploratorium
With hundreds of indoor and outdoor exhibits, you're never too young or old to have fun at The Exploratorium. Located along the Embarcadero, kids can create colored shadows, learn about the science of bubbles, see themselves in giant mirrors, and explore the monochromatic room.
Crissy Field East Beach in San Francisco offers postcard-worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's the ideal spot for kids to splash in the cold but calm water, build sandcastles, or fly a kite. The nearby Warming Hut is perfect for parents who want a hot cup of coffee while watching little ones enjoy the sand and surf.
An hour away from San Francisco, Stinson Beach is great for families that love to hike. The cliff-side ocean views are spectacular. And the beach and nearby tiny town are an excellent way to spend the day.
The Bay Area has hundreds of playgrounds spread throughout the counties, but the Koret Children's Playground in San Francisco is one of the best and is believed to be the first
public playground in the U.S. Kids will love the climbing wall that resembles waves, a rope climbing tower, a giant concrete slide, and a nearby field perfect for ball games.
Cool off at one of the Bay Area's many waterparks. The Wave in Dublin is fairly new and has a 6-slide tower. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Concord has tons of scary slides, a lazy river, and a wave pool. Raging Waters in Jose is on the larger side. It has nine slides, a relaxing river, a wave pool, raft rides, and two children's play areas.
10. Children's Fairyland
Children's Fairyland in Oakland has entertained families for over 70 years. The park has ten acres of gardens and animals and almost 60 storybook sets. Best for children under 8, adults will appreciate seeing their favorite storybooks from childhood come to life. And walking into the wide mouth of Willie the Whale is always fun!
11. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
One of California's most popular theme parks, this one has it all! From death-defying rollercoasters and rides for little ones to visiting an animal nursery, getting up close and personal with dolphins, and spotting cheetahs, giraffes, lions, and tigers, families should get there early and stay all night.
12. Pinball Museum
For retro amusement, visit the Pinball Museum in Alameda. Pinball games range from vintage to modern, and kids (and their parents) can easily spend hours competing in old-school games. No coins are required. Admission to enter includes unlimited game time.
13. Sonoma's Train Town
For train lovers, this is the most exciting place to visit in the Bay Area. Entrance is free, and while it's fun to see the trains in Train Town, it's even more fun to ride them. Hop aboard for a twenty-minute journey over bridges, through tunnels, and for a quick pit stop to visit a mini town and petting zoo. There's a handful of other rides here as well, like a carousel and a Ferris Wheel.
14. Giant’s Stadium
A day at the ballpark is classic and exciting for the entire family. Treat yourself to hot dogs, cold beers, and cotton candy while you cheer for the home team. In addition to the game, there are lots of kid-friendly activities, like slides inside a giant 80-foot Coca-Cola bottle and a mini field where kids can hit a home run and sprint around the bases.
15. Tilden Park Little Farm
The Little Farm is free and no fuss. Stay as long or as little as you like. Bring celery and lettuce, and let the little ones feed the animals. Expect to see cows, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. It's open year-round and lovely to wander around and pause for a picnic. The Environmental Education Center is open Tuesday through Sunday and is a great place to throw in a little learning about nature.