Itinerary 2: Perfect Visit for Families with Kids

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ADDRESS Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf

Bringing your family to San Francisco? Great! There are plenty of kid-friendly activities and neighborhoods, and of course, places to eat. San Francisco is a photogenic paradise and the best possible backdrop for family photos.

Begin Day 1 in Union Square, where shopping abounds. From here, it’s a short walk to the South of Market (SOMA) area, home to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Center. Kids under 18 are always free. Afterward, head north on Third St. to Geary Blvd., hop on the #38 Muni Bus and head to Japantown for lunch. After lunch, you have a couple of options. To the northwest, after passing through more shopping spots in Haight Ashbury is Golden Gate Park with its many museums and natural wonders or to the south of San Francisco, where family fun can be had at the San Francisco Zoo and then further South of San Francisco are the beaches of Pacifica, the Winchester Mystery House, and go-carts.

Day 2 begins at Fisherman’s Wharf, with its variety of great eateries and activities for everyone.  Then hop on a cable car, which will take you to the top of Lombard Street, where you and the kids can marvel at the Crookedest Street. After your ride, shop for souvenirs in Chinatown or sample some Italian food in North Beach. Either way, be sure to squeeze in a visit to Coit Tower – the kids will love the murals! Nob Hill is close by and is an excuse to ride a different cable car line. Another option is Embarcadero Center, home to the Ferry Building and the Exploratorium. Had enough of shopping and other urban pleasures?  If you opted for a southern jaunt on Day 1, today you can relax and enjoy the variety of sights (including museums) at Golden Gate Park. Finish the day with a Pacific sunset viewed from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Day 1

Union Square

Highlights

aerial view of union square

Union Square is San Francisco’s No. 1 shopping destination.

Shop department stores and boutiques or sip coffee in the square. Walk one block to Market Street to visit Westfield Mall, a multi-level complex of hundreds of retail stores, specialty shops, restaurants, and more.

SOMA / Yerba Buena

Highlights

  • AT&T Park (Home of the SF Giants)
  • Yerba Buena Gardens
  • Metreon
Yerba Buena Park

Yerba Buena Gardens’ beautiful outdoor park.

Kids will love this stop on your journey. If you’re coming from Union Square, it’s a short walk to Yerba Buena Gardens. This downtown San Francisco public park boasts hundreds of free outdoor performances, public art displays, an ice skating rink, a bowling alley, a carousel and the Children’s Creativity Museum. Check out the gorgeous ballpark where the San Francisco Giants play.  Nearby is Metreon, a four-story shopping and entertainment center. In addition to shopping, Metreon has a 16-screen AMC Theater with the largest IMAX in North America. Dine inside or out at twenty restaurants and eateries, with everything from Japanese, Filipino, Korean, American, Vietnamese, and a variety of other snack shops. Then head just a few blocks east to AT&T Park, with its premier Bay views, glittering city lights, and a state-of-the-art stadium. Home to 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series winners the San Francisco Giants, and seating over 42,000 fans, this 2014 “Most Vegetarian-Friendly MLB ballpark in the country” is a must-see.

Japantown

Highlights

  • Manga comics in Japanese and English
  • Crepes and ice cream
  • Anime
  • Sushi and Soba Noodles
food

Enjoy flavorful green tea ice cream in Japantown.

Explore San Francisco’s Japantown the largest and oldest Japantown in the United States!  This six-block district is known for its sushi, traditional massage, shopping and Japanese culture highlights! Visit in April for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, or visit any day of the year for authentic Japanese Tea. Located on Post Street, Japantown is a unique cultural destination.

Haight Ashbury

Highlights

  • Alternative, punk and goth clothing, shoes, and accessories
  • Amoeba Records
  • Murals
haight street

Historic intersection that came to define a movement in the 1960s.

Eclectic and funky, the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco unapologetically marches to the beat of its own drum. Hippies, bohemians, tourists, and locals come to the district for a taste of something a little different from the mainstream stores and music of downtown San Francisco. The Haight’s quirky combination of eastern-religion inspired boutiques, smoke shops, and vintage clothing stores illustrate how the past still influences the Haight of today. Even now, dreadlocked hair, hippie-style clothing, and communal living lifestyles are a visible aspect of the Haight’s contemporary counterculture.

Golden Gate Park

Highlights

stow lake

Pedal boaters enjoy the tranquility in Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park’s 1,017 acres make it bigger than New York’s Central Park! Watch bison cavort, rent a pedal boat on Stow Lake, or take a Segway Tour while learning about the park’s history. Where else can you see carnivorous plants, centuries-old artwork, and year-round concerts? Golden Gate Park has something for everyone.

San Francisco Zoo

Highlights

SF Zoo

Explore animal habitats from around the world.

In the Southwestern reaches of San Francisco is the San Francisco Zoo, with 100 acres of gardens, animals, and activities. It is home to more than 1,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals. Kids will expend lots of energy in the park playground, riding the miniature steam train or the colorful carousel.

South of San Francisco

Highlights

Winchester Mystery House

This house was built to appease the ghosts who haunted it.

To the South of San Francisco are many diverse communities, from fishing piers in Oyster Point to the suburbs of South San Francisco on to the beautiful beaches of Pacifica. There are many activities for the whole family, shopping at the Serramonte Center, racing electric go karts at K1-Speed, wandering the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, or driving down to San Jose to visit the famous Winchester Mystery House.

DAY 2

Fisherman’s Wharf

Highlights

Pier 39

Fresh seafood, attractions and excitement in family-friendly Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf is San Francisco’s No. 1 tourist destination for good reason. It’s a bustling hub of activity from morning until after dark. Eat freshly caught Dungeness crab, purchase San Francisco memorabilia, or take a tour of the surrounding area on a Segway Nearby Pier 39 boasts shops, restaurants, a video arcade, street performers, the Aquarium of the Bay, virtual 3D rides, a two-story carousel, and California sea lions. You can view the former floating Forbes Island restaurant from here.

Russian Hill

Highlights

  • The Crookedest Street (Lombard Street)
  • Hop on a cable car
Lombard Street

The Crookedest Street is also one of the most beautiful.

Drive down Lombard Street’s eight world-famous hairpin turns and enjoy breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay! Lombard Street is often called the “crookedest street” in the world, but in reality, it is not even the most crooked street in San Francisco! Despite this misnomer, thousands of people drive or walk down Lombard Street every year.  Kids will love it! The crooked portion of Lombard Street is located between Hyde and Leavenworth Street, with Hyde being the top of the hill and Leavenworth being the bottom. For the best picture of Lombard Street, take a picture from the intersection of Leavenworth and Lombard Street.

Chinatown

Highlights

  • Authentic Chinese food
  • Low-cost souvenirs
  • Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
  • Dragon’s Gate
Chinatown

At the Dragon’s Gate, entrance to Chinatown.

Chinatown offers fascinating novelty items, inexpensive and delicious Chinese food, and a variety of cultural attractions that illustrate the uniqueness of San Francisco’s Chinese community. Chinatown spreads out from Grant Avenue and consists of Chinese language schools, temples, cultural centers, Mom ‘n Pop stores, and the largest Asian community on the West Coast. Get Buddha figurines, Chinese medicine balls, boxes of fake chirping crickets, and noise poppers here!

Head south to Grant Avenue and Bush Street to see the spectacular Dragon’s Gate of Chinatown, a jade-colored three-tiered roof with two dragons facing each other. This marks the entrance and exit to the eight blocks of Chinatown.

North Beach / Little Italy

Highlights

  • Italian food and gelato
  • Washington Square Park
Saints Peter and Paul Church

View of Saints Peter and Paul Church from Washington Square Park in North Beach.

North Beach is the premier destination for Italian food and culture in San Francisco! Visit for a taste of its famous Italian pizza or to window shop and explore the area. Experience the vibrant nightlife at a comedy club or at one of the many bars and dance clubs in the area. North Beach/Little Italy is still predominantly Italian in terms of restaurants and shop ownership but is no longer dominated by Italian-American residents. Asian-American families have spread out from Chinatown and settled in the North Beach/Little Italy area. The shifting demographics make for a diverse local culture that is unique to San Francisco.

Telegraph Hill / Coit Tower

Highlights

  • Coit Tower
  • Parrots of Telegraph Hill
  • Filbert Steps
Coit Tower

Hike up Telegraph Hill on Filbert Street to the Coit Tower.

Coit Tower is located on Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park. If you are feeling adventurous or want some exercise along with your view, take the Filbert Steps from Sansome Street up to Coit Tower. The stairs are steep and pass through a series of sculpted gardens as well as past incredibly beautiful homes. The stairs end near the base of Coit Tower in Pioneer Park. The steps on Greenwich Street are on the backside of Telegraph Hill, closest to the water. These steps afford beautiful views of the city from a perspective few will see on their visit to San Francisco. The steps are well-maintained, and benches sit in nooks to the side for people to pause and take in the view.

Nob Hill

Highlights

  • Cable Car Museum-FREE admission
  • hop on a cable car
Nob Hill

An architectural wonder, Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill.

As a historic neighborhood, Nob Hill is located at one of San Francisco’s 44 hills. There are many sights to take in here, but the free Cable Car Museum is a perfect spot for adults and kids alike.  It holds antique cable cars and displays the mechanisms and cabling for the cars in use today. Nearby, Grace Cathedral’s gothic architecture, stained glass, and meditative labyrinths are a beautiful and quiet respite from the noise of the city. Take your pick from among the varied restaurants in this neighborhood, and be sure to see the James C. Flood Mansion, the first brownstone building west of the Mississippi. The Powell Street cable car heading away from the bay will get you here from Telegraph Hill.

The Embarcadero

Highlights

The Embarcadero

“Cupid’s Span” at the Embarcadero.

The eastern waterfront of San Francisco is home to the Embarcadero, with its large sidewalks to accommodate runners, bicyclists, and walking groups. The Embarcadero has many restaurants, parks, and photographic views of the bay. Take the family on a tour of local shops at the Ferry Building and don’t miss the Exploratorium, where you can see science in action.

Golden Gate Bridge

Highlights

  • Walk, Drive, or bike across the bridge
  • Views
  • Crissy Field
The Golden Gate Bridge

Family jumping for joy having walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Just two miles northwest of Golden Gate Park is one of the most photographed bridges in the world, the Golden Gate. Finish your two glorious days with a walk, bike, or drive across it. Visitors can park for $0.25 per 15-minute period. Walking across is free. Crissy Field is a stunning place to walk or bike on a flat, hard-packed promenade with iconic views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Crissy Field offers beaches, picnic tables, tidal marsh overlooks, and windsurfing, as well as several places to pick up snacks.

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