San Francisco has got to be one of my favorite destinations. The weather is cold, the people are warm, food is great and shopping is… well, don’t get me started!
Last year, I was fortunate enough to bring my whole family with me on my yearly trip. They loved the city too – so much so that Mia is already asking when we are going back. Our trip lasted for two weeks but it was still not enough for us to enjoy San Francisco!
If you are traveling to San Francisco, do not be disheartened by some reviews online that the city is not really kid-friendly. There are a lot of activities and places to see for kids (and babies!) – and I’m sure your kids will have loads of fun!
Here are some of the activities which we found both enjoyable and worthwhile to do:
Take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge
Never leave the city without taking a photo of the most photographed bridge in the world. Honestly, I have made the mistake of not visiting the Golden Gate Bridge when I was in the city the past years. The bridge is amazing. It’s very beautiful in photos but it’s more captivating when you see it “in person”.
Best to go in the early afternoon to enjoy the view because it may get VERY foggy when it’s nearing evening. There are even times when the fog covers the entire bridge and it will be a waste of time because you won’t be able to see any of it. If you are with very young kids, it may be impossible for you to cross the bridge by foot so better ride a cab or buy a ticket for the hop-on buses.
Ride the tour bus: Big Bus Tours
Whenever we travel, we usually get on one of those hop-on hop-off tour buses because it comes out cheaper than going around in a cab or other public transportation. For this trip I think we got the 2-day tour bus (and we got 1 day free!) and it let us go around San Francisco and even Sausalito for free. Luckily the bus stops in front of our hotel so we also made this bus as our shuttle when we need to go to Union Square or other parts of the city.
The kids liked riding on the top part of the bus because they can enjoy the view more, however it gets pretty windy and very chilly at night so be prepared to bundle up!
Visit the California Academy of Sciences Museum
Mia loves museums and we always include a visit to at least one during our trips. This time we chose to visit the California Academy of Sciences because they have an aquarium and we just love watching all kinds of sea creatures. Mia especially loved the watching the stingrays glide through the waters and Mika enjoyed watching the penguins.
I also felt giddy and proud seeing an aquarium containing sea creatures from our own coral reefs! I honestly believe it’s the most colorful and biodiverse aquarium in the museum. You can see our own Philippine Coral Reef featured in the museum’s website.
Ride the Cable Car
I do not know how many cities still have cable cars in their streets but San Francisco is definitely one them. The cable cars still go around and uphill streets, letting you enjoy the sights while going around in a leisurely pace. Our hotel was very near one of the end of the cable car’s line and on our last day in the city we took the cable car to go to our last shopping trip to Union Square. Mia was fascinated with riding the cable car and was not at all afraid when the car went uphill. We will definitely do this again when we go back!
If you are including this in your itinerary, you may want to check out the prices of the tickets:
|Tickets: can be purchased at turnarounds or from the conductor as you board.|
|Adult & Youth (ages 5-17): $5.00 each way.|
|Senior (ages 65+) & Disabled: $5.00 each way ($1.00 9pm-7am).|
|Passports: are perfect for visitors to the city, and allow riding on streetcars, buses, and cable cars.|
|One Day: $13.00.|
|Three Days: $20.00.|
|Seven Days: $26.00.|
|FastPasses: allow monthly unlimited riding for cable cars, streetcars and buses (within SF).|
|Adult (ages 18-64): $60.00.|
|Youth (ages 5-17): $15.00.|
|Senior (ages 65+) and Disabled: $15.00.|
Watch Sharks at Aquarium of the Bay
In the second week of our vacation, we opted to stay at the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf. The hotel is close to everything touristy and the kiddie spots. Since Mia again, is fascinated with sea creatures, we did not leave without going to Aquarium of the Bay. This attraction is like a mini-Ocean Park, with a tunnel that you can go into to watch sea creatures swim above you. There are also exhibits that let you touch small sharks, starfishes and sting rays and it was a hit with the kids!
Eat Ice Cream in Sausalito
For me, our day at Sausalito was the highlight of the trip. I fell in love with the beautiful, picturesque hillside community. I immediately felt that if I would be retiring in another country (and I had all the moolah I need) – Sausalito was the perfect place! The houses are all on the hillside, with an amazing view of the bay and the bridge. The place has a lot of small shops – bookstores, jewelry shops (I got a few charms for my Pandora here!), toy stores and restaurants. We enjoyed the relaxing afternoon sitting on a bench by the bay and trying out different ice cream flavors at Lappert’s Ice cream
See the Sea Lions at Pier 39
If you have kids who like to watch animals – then you have to visit the sea lions at Pier 39. These famous sea lions are everywhere, lying around the wooden planks, swimming around the bay, clapping, barking and making noise. There are wooden benches facing where the sea lions are so you can just sit down on the shade, eat ice cream or chips while enjoying watching these intelligent animals.
and of course do not forget to… shop in Union Square!
Union Square is one of my favorite places to shop. They have all the good stuff! You can shop at Macy’s, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse), Neiman Marcus for your clothes and apparels but if you want those standalone store, I’m sure you can find all of your favorite brands at Union Square. Around the square you will also find big stores of Uniqlo, H&M, Forever 21. If you are with kids, you’d be happy to know that there’s a big Disney store there! I must say, it is hard not to over shop in SF – I once had to buy another large luggage (for quite a deal too!) because the other luggage I brought had no more space.
You should also not miss eating clam chowder, going down Lombard street, go to the Golden Gate park but these are all given must-do for anyone who plans to travel even without kids in tow. We love San Francisco and we cannot wait to go back!