San Francisco is an awesome location for a family vacation and we loved the variety of things to do in San Francisco with toddlers. From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to living the toddler dream in a vintage red fire truck, our kids love spending time in the city.
For those of you planning your own visit, we’ve put together this list of our favorite things to do in San Francisco with toddlers!
9 Best Things to do in San Francisco with Toddler
From exploring its amazing museums to crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, these are our 9 best things to do in San Francisco with toddlers:
Where to stay in San Francisco with Toddlers
With so much selection it can be difficult to narrow down where exactly to stay in San Francisco. We always stay around Union Square or close to Fisherman’s Warf. Both areas are a great base for exploring the city:
- Hotel Zephyr: fantastic location close to Fishermans Wharf/Pier 39, Hotel Zephyr features nautical themed rooms, a games room and a fantastic outdoor courtyard filled with games – check prices here!
- Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf: with two bedroom suites which can accomadate up to 6 guests, the Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf is a great option for families. Rooms include kitchenettes and the loctation, next to the Hyde Street Cable Car stop, is unbeatable – check prices here!
- Palace Hotel: our San Francisco luxury favorite, our toddlers are always greeted with a warm welcome at the historic Palace Hotel. Located close to Union Square, the hotel highlights include the beautiful atrium where breakfast is served and the rooftop pool – check prices here!
1 | Ride a vintage Fire Truck
Top of our list is our tour aboard a shiny red vintage fire truck which was by far the highlight of our toddlers’ time in San Francisco!
The open-air fire truck tour of San Francisco is a fantastic way to see the city. The 90-minute tour starts at Fisherman’s Wharf and passes by historic Presidio, Union Street, Fort Point, and Sausalito. Crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge and a fun photo stop at Fort Baker are among the highlights.
Our 2-year-old was in his absolute element riding the fire truck and we loved the tour, especially crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in the fire truck – check ticket options here!
2 | Lombard Street
A walk down Lombard Street, which holds the title of the second most crooked street in the world, is a San Francisco must-do. The steep and winding street has 8 corkscrew bends lined with colorful flowers and the beautiful townhouses of Russian Hill.
3 | Ride the Cable Car
Toddlers will love taking a ride on one of San Francisco’s historic cable cars. The cable cars have been in operation since 1873 and are the last manually operated cable car system in the world.
There are 3 lines in operations: Powell/Hyde (which you can use to visit Lombard Street or to take in some awesome views of Alcatraz at Hyde and Lombard), California/Van Ness and Powell/Mason (convenient for Fisherman’s Wharf, one of our favorite things to do in San Francisco with toddlers, and for a great view from the bottom of Lombard Street).
The cable car turnaround, where the cable car turns around on a revolving wooden turntable, was also a huge hit with our toddler: you can check it out at the corner of Powell and Market Street near Union Square or at Powell and Mason Street, near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Things to do in San Fracisco with toddlers tip: there are usually long queues for the cable cars and the cars themselves are crowded. The cable cars run from 7am to 10:30pm – it can be easier to ride the cable car first thing when its less crowded especially when you have a toddler!
4 | Fisherman’s Wharf / Pier 39
One of the most popular tourist spots in San Francisco, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf are packed full of great things to do with toddlers.
The sea lions at Pier 39 are a San Francisco with toddlers highlight! Outside of the summer months (the sea lions typically leave to breed in June and July), hundreds of sea lions lounge on the docks at Pier 39 and provide endless entertainment for adults and kids alike. The sea lions are often in high spirits and our 2-year-old was transfixed as they grunted, jostled, and sunbathed on the docks, playfully pushing each other into the water.
Aquarium of the Bay
Aquarium of the Bay is home to over 20,000 marine animals including stunning jellyfish, the bright orange Garibaldi fish, bay rays, sharks, and the Giant Pacific Octopus. The walkthrough glass tunnel is a highlight – check ticket prices here!
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers tip: the Aquarium of the Bay can get really crowded so try and visit early or late when it tends to be quieter.
If you are planning to visit the Aquarium and some of the other sights we’ve listed (a Bay Cruise, the California Academy of Sciences, and Exploratorium) then a Citypass ticket is a brilliant purchase for the adults. It covers these 4 attractions for $76 so will save you over $50 on separate entrances. You won’t need a pass for your toddler as most of their entries are free – check prices now!
Ride the San Francisco Carousel
If your toddlers are anything like ours they will love riding the traditional carousel at Pier 39. The beautiful double-decker carousel features sea lions, dolphins, pandas, horses, and carriages and twinkles under 1,800 LED lights.
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers tip: it costs $5 to ride the carousel at Pier 39.
Aquatic Park Cove
Aquatic Park Cove was a surprise hit with our toddlers. With its picturesque setting along the San Francisco waterfront, the small sandy stretch of beach at Aquatic Park Cove is the perfect spot to enjoy some beach time adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Take a Cruise/ Visit Alcatraz
Our toddlers love some water time and a Bay Cruise is a great opportunity to take a boat ride and check out some of the famous San Francisco sights from the water.
We loved our Escape from the Rock cruise which circled around Alcatraz and sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge – check tour prices here!
If Alcatraz is on your San Francisco bucket list, toddlers can happily accompany adults on the day tours of the island. Alcatraz is located on Alcatraz Island, 1.25 miles off the shore of San Francisco and the island was once the setting for a maximum-security federal prison that housed some of the most notorious prisoners in the USA. The content of the tour is not likely to be of interest to a toddler but our 2 year old loved the boat ride, wandering around the island, and imagining a cops/robbers/jail scenario in the cells.
We did a combo tour which included a morning city bus tour and an afternoon Alcatraz tour – check ticket prices here!
You can also book the Alcatraz tour separately as a standalone tour.
Remember to book your Alcatraz tickets in advance as they tend to sell out. Kids aged 4 and under are free, adult tickets are $41.
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers tip: there are a few steep paths on the Alcatraz tour so, if you think your toddler might get tired during the tour, bring a carrier to pop them in for a rest. Strollers can be used but must be left on the first level and it can be a challenge to navigate the crowds and the narrow paths.
Infinite Mirror Maze
Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is a psychedelic Pier 39 experience. Expect to get lost and confused and keep your toddlers close by as you navigate the endless mirrors and neon lights. The Infinite Mirror Maze brought many giggles as we tried to escape!
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers tip: the Infinite Mirror Maze is free for kids aged 5 and under and $5 per person otherwise.
5 | Muir Woods
Less than 20 miles north of San Francisco, Muir Woods is an amazing day trip to explore the trails through the giant old-growth redwoods. Muir Woods, a National Monument, is home to some of the oldest and tallest trees on earth. Our toddlers love running along the trails feeling tiny among the magnificent redwoods – check Muir Woods tours here!
6 | Cycle Across the Golden Gate Bridge
A San Francisco icon, the instantly recognizable Golden Gate Bridge is the world’s tallest and longest suspension bridge. The burnt red bridge is visible across the city and crossing it is a fantastic experience – we rented bikes with kids’ seats and rode to Sausalito then returned on the ferry to Pier 41 (from Pier 41 it took another 20 minutes or so to ride back to the bike store). Our kids loved crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge by bike and it was one of our favorite things to do in San Francisco with toddlers!
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers tip: we started out early in the morning as the bike path is quieter first thing. The bike path is completely separate from the vehicle lanes.
7 | Baker Beach
One of our favorite things to do in San Francisco with toddlers is to spend time outdoors exploring the beaches and parks near the city. The mile-long Baker Beach is a stretch of sandy beach located to the southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge and is set against the wonderful backdrop of the iconic bridge.
Things to do in San Francisco tip: the northern end of Baker Beach, as you walk up the beach towards the Golden Gate Bridge, is clothing optional.
8 | Golden Gate Park
The abundance of green space and kid-friendly attractions make a visit to the Golden Gate Park one of our favorite things to do in San Francisco with toddlers. Some of the highlights include:
- Koret Children’s Quarter: located close to the west entrance of the park, the Koret Children’s Quarter is home to a traditional carousel and an awesome playground equipped with swings, sandpits, a climbing wall and concrete slides.
- Stow Lake: rent a pedalboat and hit the water on the charming man made lake which has its own island, waterfall and Chinese Pavillion.
- Japanese Tea Garden: the oldest public Japanese garden in the US, the Japanese Tea Garden is an oasis of tranquility in Golden Gate Park. There are colorful pagodas, koi ponds, Japanese maples and stepping stone paths. Kids under 5 have free entry, an adult ticket costs $8.
- Botancial Gardens: the gardens showcase 8,000 plants from around the world. Adult tickets cost $10, toddlers aged 4 and under can enter for free.
- SkyStar Observation Wheel: take a fun ride on the 150 foot SkyStar Observation Wheel. On a clear day there are awesome views of San Francisco. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $12 for kids 3 and over and entry is free for 2 and under.
- The Windmills: there are two windmills, the Dutch and the Murphy at the west side of the park. We love the Dutch Windmill in spring when the tulips are in bloom.
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers: it’s relatively easy to visit Golden Gate Park (and most of the other attractions in our list) using the hop on, hop off bus tour – check tour prices here!
7 | Visit one of the amazing San Francisco Kids Museums
San Francisco has some of the best toddler-friendly museums we’ve visited during our travels. Our toddlers loved the interactive exhibits, creativity, and play-based learning that they offered. Our favorites include:
Exploratorium is an interactive, exploratory children’s museum that focuses on science, art, and human perception. The museum has hundreds of exhibitions that are incredibly hands-on although many of the concepts are geared at older kids – our 2-year-old was fascinated with the colored shadows, bubbles, sand, water and the wind tunnel – check ticket prices now!
Things to do in San Francisco with toddlers: kids age 3 and under can enter Exploraturium for free. Adult tickets cost $29.95.
Bay Area Discovery Museum
Located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area Discovery Museum is one of the best museums for toddlers in San Francisco. There are indoor and outdoor exhibitions and the views of the Golden Gate Bridge are magnificent.
Children’s Creativity Museum
Aimed at kids aged 2 to 12, the Children’s Creativity Museum is located in the SOMA district. Toddlers will love the Imagination Lab, the Music Studio, Storybook Park and the Play Patio.
California Academy of Sciences
Located in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Science is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. From the gigantic t-rex fossil which greets visitors upon entry to the Rainforest, Aquarium and the Discovery Tidepool, there are lots of exhibits to interest older toddlers – check ticket prices here!
Museum of Ice Cream
With its bright colors, giant ball pit, plentiful ice cream samples, and fun displays, the Museum of Ice Cream is a candy and ice-cream themed toddler dream!
Note: the Museum of Ice Cream has permanently closed in San Francisco. It was a real highlight for our toddlers so we’ve continued to list it in case you are planning to visit New York – if you are, then make sure to include it in your NYC itinerary!