The city on the Bay has been the bae of travel destinations forever, but if there was ever a time for families to hit San Francisco, it’s now. A place with insane cultural prowess where the dress code consists of hoodies and yoga pants? Mommas everywhere, say it with me: “Yes, please!”
On every crooked street (via cable car, of course), there’s so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of awesomeness. So once you’ve booked your trip—hopefully including a stay at the drop-dead gorgeous Palace Hotel, San Francisco—grab some CityPASS booklets to get admission to all the kid-friendly hotspots at a crazy good price.
And whatever you do, take along our tips for the chillaxing San Fran-style vacay you’ll never forget!
The obvious historical highlight of any San Fran trip is Alcatraz, which is totally worth your afternoon. Tours sell out far in advance, so make sure you book this experience as soon as you know you’re heading to The Pacific. Looking for an even quirkier way to learn about the city’s edgy past? The San Francisco Dungeon has a haunted tour your teens (and you) will squeal for—literally.
Around sunset, head out to the heart of the city, The Presidio, where San Francisco essentially began. The scenery is beautiful, the buildings are historically brilliant and munching on comfort food and sipping on seasonal drinks at The Presidio Officers’ Club can’t be beat.
Have littles who like to run around? Plan for an entire day to explore the incredible Golden Gate Park. Redwoods galore, botanical, Japanese and rose gardens, Segway tours, bike rides, boathouses, beachfront views and more make this spot a California dream.
Speaking of California sunshine, PIER 39 is a major tourist draw that the locals also adore. Breathe in the bayside breeze, cruise the boutiques, candy shops and coffee kiosks and then hop on a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure to see the city in all its foggy glory from the water.
Strolling through museums might not be your kiddo’s favorite activity, but that’s because they haven’t experienced how San Francisco museums make the arts and sciences come to life. At the California Academy of Sciences, a “living, breathing, all-green museum,” you’ll learn about all of the innovative ways the West Coast is saving the world and experience an earthquake simulation room.
When planning your trek to the de Young Museum, be sure to check out the de Youngsters program for the scheduled family-friendly artistic activities. And possibly the coolest art museum to show your little Picasso is the SFMOMA, which houses the most interactive, funkiest modern art installations that side of the Mississippi.
But the absolute favorite stop for kids is the Exploratorium, a social learning, sustainable, scientific playground where tinkerers of all ages are more than welcome to investigate the mysteries of the universe.
Would any trip to San Francisco be complete without just a little bit of weird? The Madame Tussauds wax museum lives up to all of the strange and slightly eerie hype and is the red carpet of selfie spots.
And if you can steal away for a date night, Beach Blanket Babylon—the longest running musical revue in live theater history—is an outrageously fun variety show.
Let’s be real—the food is the best part of touring a spot like San Fran, and luckily, calories don’t count on vacation.
Although the Stinking Rose might not sound like the epitome of deliciousness, believe me, it is. As a restaurant that is entirely themed around garlic, this is an experience as much as it is yummy.
Swiss Louis Italian & Seafood Restaurant has a lovely view of Fisherman’s Wharf and the ocean, not to mention a fresh seafood selection that is like California in your mouth.
But on to the most important part of life: the chocolate. Ghirardelli Chocolate, the pride of San Francisco, has sundaes that will make your entire year sweeter. So go ahead, get two.
See more of Emily's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.