We took over my sister’s apartment this past weekend in San Francisco and had the best staycation. (I’m just realizing that it was our first SF trip as a family of four!). We gave Willow her first beach day and Rex his first Discovery Museum and California Academy of Sciences visits. All were so much fun! I remember loving the Discovery Museum as a young girl, so it’s been on my list to take Rex for some time now and he can’t stop talking about it. That outside play area is just so great.
I know some of my girlfriends find trips into the city very overwhelming with kiddos now, so I wanted to share a few of the easy kid-friendly activities we like to do when Rex is tagging along. I typically love any chance to mix fun for me with kid-stuff and always plan out the day revolving around good food and good coffee near anything for Rex, obviously! I also avoid touristy areas at all costs and prefer more of the nature and various parks and beaches the city has to offer. That said, of course the museums and zoo are all amazing perks SF has to offer. I also asked for additional recommendations from you over on Instagram and have included some of them here with asterisks next to those I haven’t done.
Bay Area Discovery Museum | This was one of my favorites growing up so I have been wanting to take Rex for some time now. Sure enough, it was the highlight of Rex’s weekend for sure. Rex loved the outside play areas especially, and they have fun art activities/days I want to bring him back for soon (like messy play in August which sounds fun). A few things of note that I found nice: strollers are allowed and you can bring in your own food and drinks. I always find this to be really nice even if they have food for kids as they seem to always be hungry, and the more snacks you can bring along the better. I was pleasantly surprised that they had oat milk lattes here as I was needing my coffee fix by the afternoon and wasn’t anticipating great coffee. So that was a bonus!
* Marine Mammal Center
Cavallo Point | Perfect spot to take in the city views with a picnic, let the little ones run off some energy or fly a kite.
Walk the Golden Gate Bridge | I plan to wait until Rex is a bit older to do this one but if you haven’t ever done this I think it’s one of those check off the box type things. I have some special childhood memories walking the bridge!
Muir Woods | A walk through Muir Woods in Marin (For older kids this is a cute trail guide quest.)
Ferry Ride to Angel Island | (You can catch the ferry in the city and Tiburon)
California Academy of Sciences | Personally that albino alligator is the highlight for me at the Academy of Sciences. That and the living garden on the roof with that gorgeous view. But Rex also loved the aquarium and all of the fish. (You can also bring in a stroller and outside food as well although they have a cafe and indoor/outdoor seating.)
Golden Gate Park + Koret Playground | It’s become part of my regular routine when I come to the city with Rex to take him to this great playground in GG Park. We enter across the street from Whole Foods and Flywheel Coffee so you can grab lunch for a picnic or coffees before entering. We then walk under the bridge and it’s only a couple minutes to Koret Playground & Carousel. It’s a great play area… a few play structures, a giant cement slide that Rex loves (the kids ride down on pieces of cardboard–and apparently BYOC, bring your own cardboard is a thing, ha!), lots of sand and plenty of grass to plop down for a picnic nearby. We usually go in the morning before heading back home so Rex can run off some energy.
De Young Museum | Apparently there’s a free observatory tower and kids area that is great but I have yet to take Rex. I have been a bunch without Rex though (as fun fact my sister worked at the De Young for a while.)
Botanical Garden | So magical… my sister and her husband go on Sunday dates here all the time! And I know a bunch of you mentioned it’s your happy place as well!
Conservatory of Flowers
Japanese Tea Garden | This one always reminds me of my childhood! *(Free before 10am on M/W/F)
* Stow Lake | Go for a boat ride
Legion of Honor Museum
*Park Chalet | How did I not know about this beer garden?!
* Randall Museum | This was a reader recommendation and I’m so glad it was because this museum is in my sister’s neighborhood. I have passed by wondering what it was all about but have yet to visit. Adding to our list to visit soon!
Dolores Park | Picnic in one of the various parks–Dolores is always easy if you’re in the Mission. I like to grab food at Souvla, Tartine or Bi-Rite and put out a blanket. Then grab a scoop of ice cream at Bi-Rite for dessert.
Tartine Manufactory | Tartine is one of those easy spots to go with kids. It’s big and loud and a yummy win for you! I personally try to get my Tartine bread fix whenever I can so this is a must on my list when in SF. Parking is usually decent, and if you go early (kid eating time) you can usually just walk right in without a line. Another bonus is that it’s next door to Heath Ceramics.
Exploratorium + Ferry Building Farmers Market | My girlfriend told me she likes to get up early and drive into the city on Saturday mornings–they hit up the Ferry Building farmers market, grab brunch and then head to the Exploratorium (Pier 15) for a few hours. They’re back on the road (back to Sacramento) by the early afternoon. Such a great morning / day trip idea! We have yet to take Rex because I think it’s more for a bit older kids. My girlfriend said her son started to really love it around 3 1/2.
Crissy Field (+ Beach) | Pretty views of the GG and parking is usually easy.
Fort Mason Sunday Farmers Market
Presidio | Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line and a bunch of great spots and ideas here
Baker Beach | Personally one of my fave beaches
Ocean Beach | Another fave spot to take Rex is Ocean Beach. I love the Outer Sunset so much as it’s not touristy and always easy to find parking and just a nice slow pace. In fact I mainly hang within the Outer Sunset and the Mission when I come now to visit my sister as it just feels way less touristy and more easy going. Next time we head to OB we want to bring a kite to fly. When in this area, I always stop by my favorite stores, General Store and the General Home Store. Of course there’s Outerlands which is a must to eat but easier spots with kids would be: Judahlicious (a fave of mine for yummy vegan dishes) and Hook Fish Co. (for amazing fish tacos). Oh and Rex loves the cute little bookstore next-door to General Store. They have an outside patio too that he likes to run around.
San Francisco Zoo | Of course the SF zoo is a must. They have a great park, and it’s also located across the beach so you can do both in one day.
* Creativity Museum | Great for a rainy day downtown
Cable Car Ride | (California Street line)
*Barebottle Brewing Company | A popular recommendation from many of you although I have yet to go. Kids welcome before 7:30pm.
* Tilden Park in Berkeley | I received multiple recommendations for this park in Berkeley (with a petting zoo and merry-go-round) which makes me really want to go soon. Tip was to bring romaine and celery to feed the animals and grab lunch to go at Tacubaya to eat there.
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