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Top Tips For Visiting San Francisco With Kids

I think most people would agree, when I say that San Francisco is one of the best cities in the USA for families. There are dozens of free activities that kids will love, some fantastic interactive museums, and a relaxed and friendly vibe. And the excruciatingly steep streets? Well, that’s when the fun cable car comes into play! To help you plan your family trip to San Francisco, I have put together a list of our top tips for visiting San Francisco with kids.



Being one of America’s most popular destinations for visitors means that traffic, both vehicular and foot, can be heavy, so try to visit the most crowded places (like Lombard Street) early in the morning, before the hoards of tourists arrive. We didn’t manage to do it as we were staying in Woodacre (45 minutes away) and had to ‘commute’ into town every day, and consequently struggled with the amount of people around.

Purchase tickets to Alcatraz with plenty of time if you want to see one of SF’s biggest attractions, as they sell out like hot-cakes. We didn’t manage to get any, and were really disappointed!

Visit Fisherman’s Wharf during the day. We found the atmosphere changed dramatically and felt a little sleazy after dusk.

Take a sweater or two as San Francisco can get chilly, even during the Summer months. The famous fog is both beautiful and cold!




Walking: San Francisco is a fantastic city to explore on foot. The streets of some of the city’s most popular areas are walking-friendly. You can download San Francisco walking guide maps straight to your phone on this website.

Public Transportation: San Francisco’s subway is called BART and connects the centre of the city with the Bay Area cities. To get around in the city you should use MUNI, the city’s network of buses, cable cars, trolleys and street cars. They have a nice little app you can use to buy tickets and check schedules. The famous cable car is the world’s oldest manually-operated system. It’s rickety, but a lot of fun.

Driving: If you’re driving in, visit the hilly neighbourhoods and then park your car in one of these free parking spots as parking can be hellish and hotels charge a fortune. The city is fairly compact and flat, bar for the obvious, and it’s easy to explore by foot.


Exploratorium San Francisco via @onetinyleap


First and foremost, walk the Golden Gate bridge! Your kids will love the thrill and you’ll get a kick out of some of the best views in town.

Let their imagination run wild at the Exploratorium. A huge creative space filled with interactive science experiments.

And for a full-blown experience, take them to the gigantic Academy of Sciences. The planetarium, aquarium, Natural History Museum and rainforest (!) are sure to keep your little ones busy, engaged and incredibly happy.

Slide down the epic concrete super-slide at Seward’s Park. Don’t forget to bring some cardboard and touch trousers for the ride!

Blow off some steam and burn energy at the Golden Gate Park, a huge space perfect for energetic little ones to run around, plus it has a fantastic playground, a buffalo paddock and a Japanese tea garden.

If the weather is forcing you to find alternative plans, then check out these tips for what to do in San Francisco when it’s raining.



exploratorium san francisco restaurant

Unfortunately we didn’t eat out as much as I would’ve liked to when we were in San Francisco, but I’ve scoured the internet for you and found some fantastic articles full of inspiration and tips from San Francisco locals.

Rigolo Café in Laurel Heights is a ‘kid-centric eaterie’ and features a toy area to keep little ones busy as you tuck into the French bistro’s delicious food.

Ciao Bambino has great tips for eating out with baby in San Francisco.

Parenthoods has a great list of child-friendly restaurants all over San Francisco.

We found the Exploratorium Seaglass Restaurant a great spot to eat after a morning spent experimenting with science. It’s a large food court style space that offers delicious locally-sourced menus full of child-friendly options, which even includes sushi!

Or.. you can just pick up a delicious clam chowder or fish & chips at Fisherman’s Wharf.



San Francisco Family Friendly Pin


If you’d like some more tips, including a guide to the best eateries in San Francisco to famous movie filming locations, we have a bunch of ideas on our San Francisco Pinterest Board


Follow Maria ♢ One Tiny Leap’s board TRAVEL • SAN FRANCISCO on Pinterest.



If you have any tips you think I should add, just get in touch or leave a comment below 🙂


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  • Marianne @ Mum on the Move

    Looks fab, I would love to visit San Francisco with the kids one day. Beautiful photos too 🙂

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Marianne, it’s absolutely fantastic for kids (and adults!) x

  • great run down Maria always wanted to go to Alcatraz and ride the cable car you see in the movies. looks like a great destination

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Mark, It really is an awesome place. So much to do, a great vibe and beautiful too – I can’t wait to go back.

  • Why didn’t I read this a week ago!! We’ve just returned from a weekend in San Fransisco. The hills were definitely a killer with toddlers and strollers, even a two block walk to the cable car resulted in tears! And agree with comment it can be a bit sleazy around the wharf, a lot of development since we last visited in 2008 but some unsavoury elements too. Top tip if a restaurant has a toilet or change table, use it. The main public toilets were a disgrace and a few of these elements soured our experience, in warmer weather we’d love to hire bikes and explore more of the parks

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks for the great tip!

  • Amy Butterfield

    It’s been a few years but we also loved San Francisco!! And you nailed it on bringing a sweater, it was June and it was absolutely freezing!

    • one tiny leap

      I know! Somehow I thought California + Summer = warm. 😛

  • Nicole

    Thanks for the tip on Alcatraz, I would have never thought! We have always wanted to visit San Fran, so I will keep your tips in mind when the time comes.

    • one tiny leap

      Nor did we 🙁 We’ll definitely will go back, one of our favourite places of all time.

  • Donna Wishart

    Such great tips – I would love to go to San Fran one day. Such a shame you missed Alcatraz! x

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Donna, it’s a brilliant city! I’d love to go back as I feel we didn’t have enough time x

  • Just seen this on full screen too, Do you mind if I ask what your pinterest widget is? looks great ; )

    • one tiny leap

      Haha, thanks! It’s just the embed board straight from Pinterest. Just go to the board you want to share, and click the button next to ‘edit’, then select ‘make a widget’ and voilá! xx

  • Great tips! San Francisco is a really great city.

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Karen!

  • This is so useful, thank you for sharing! We are going to be based in Berkeley so, like you, will have to factor in some ‘commuting’ time: I hadn’t thought about the crowds, but it’s great to know. I might leave the busiest places for later in the holiday: I have been dreaming about San Fran too long to get a less than spectacular first encounter with it 😉 I’d love to see Alcatraz but worry the kids might find it disturbing… I guess i’ll try get hold of tickets and think about it later: it does sound like they go crazy fast!

    • one tiny leap

      You’ll love it Marta, plus you have a good amount of time to explore 🙂 We were there in August, so it was pretty busy, but mainly because I go into photo-mode and dream of deserted streets 😉

  • Amanda Jenner

    This is a really useful post. We loved the Children’s quarter in the golden gate park. Sorry you missed Alcatraz – my husband went with our littlest as we thought our two year old wouldn’t get that much out of it. One thing to note is that it isn’t buggy/stroller friendly and so he was really pleased we took the baby carrier. x

    • one tiny leap

      Great tip Amanda! Thank you for sharing it. We were pretty upset we couldn’t go to Alcatraz, but heh – a great excuse to go back soon 😉

  • This is at the top of our teens travel wish list, he is dying to visit San Francisco, I must say I would love to visit Alcatraz it looks incredible, thanks for sharing this I love all the family options available x

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Sarah! I can’t wait to go back, we still need to tick off Alcatraz! 😉 x

  • I can imagine San Francisco must be the best place for kids. My husband and I lived there in our 20’s, and at some point we’ve got to take our girls there. I know they’d love Golden Gate Park, and the bridge of course, but also all the amazing hilltop views.

    • one tiny leap

      I can only imagine just how great it must be to live in San Francisco, especially in your 20s! I confess I did a lot of daydreaming as we walked the streets, wondering what it must be like to live in one of its beautiful houses – who knows one day 🙂 It was so windy when we went up to Twin Peaks, but oh so worth it, the views were fantastic!!

  • What timing! I am planning a trip to San Francisco (and along the Pacific Coast) for later this year, so this is perfect for working out what to do with my daughter – I’ve already been warned to get our Alcatraz tickets asap too. Starting to get very excited… Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • one tiny leap

      I’m excited for you planning your PC roadtrip, we had such a blast on this part of our travels. I’ll get some more posts on Cali soon xx

  • Wander Mum

    Fantastic tips! I was supposed to be going later this year as part of a California road trip but am going to have to postpone – great post for when we do go though! Thanks for linking to #citytripping xx

    • one tiny leap

      Thank you! Sorry to hear it’s been postponed, I hope you get to go soon 🙂 Such a wonderful part of the world, we loved it all x

  • Can you believe I have been to San Francisco and have not walked the Golden Gate Bridge? I used the sunny days for something else and then, the day I planned to walk around the Golden Gate, the fog was super thick. Hope to be back soon.

    • one tiny leap

      The fog is crazy, but it does make for some great photos! I hope the sun is out and you get to walk on the bridge next time you visit 🙂


    We visited California with the kids a couple of years ago but only had one quick day in San Fran – I’m desperate to go back. It really is such a fantastic city with so much for kids of all ages. Hopefully we’ll get to visit again soon!

    • one tiny leap

      It’s such a fun place, my son loved it! We were there for 4 days and it really didn’t feel like it was enough, I can’t wait to go back 🙂

  • Such a useful post!! I’ve been to SF when I was 16 years old and since then I’ve been dreaming about returning. I think it will take a while, so I will probably have kids by then 😀
    Amazing photos as always!!

    Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes 🙂

    • one tiny leap

      Thanks Allane! I’m still dreaming of going back even though we were there a few months ago, such a fantastic place 🙂

  • Clare Thomson

    This is a really useful post. I loved my trip to San Francisco pre-children and would love to take my two one day.

    • one tiny leap

      Thank you Clare, my son had a great time and we found it to be a perfect city for kids.

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