Fun Things for Families To Do In San Francisco
The city of San Francisco is a destination just bursting with activities for families with kids of all ages. Whether you are in town for a week or just a weekend there is more than enough to keep the kids entertained.
Here's a short list of attractions we really enjoyed:
Situated on the Embarcadero on Pier 15 in San Francisco, the Exploratorium offers hundreds of exhibits to visitors. The best part is that you are invited to touch and manipulate them! Filled with hands on fun for all ages, the science museum boasts activities which focus on geography, arts, ecology, photography, astronomy, biology, and countless more subjects of interest.
2. California Academy of Sciences
Based in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is a destination like no other and a must-see San Francisco museum. It’s the only place on Earth to house an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one living roof. Guests of all ages are welcomed to explore the wonder of life on earth.
From the splashing penguins in African Hall to the wildflowers on the roof, the building is bursting with life. A four-story living rainforest and awe-inspiring coral reef ecosystem showcase Earth’s biodiversity, while immersive planetarium shows offer a new perspective on the planet we call home.
Rain ponchos are highly recommended to protect visitors from the mist on the lower deck during the spring and summer seasons. During other times of the year the lower deck is closed as it ices up. The upper deck, however is well protected and remains open year round. The entire experience takes about 30-45 minutes.
3. Muir Woods
Muir Woods National Monument is a scenic, forested park featuring giant redwood trees, long hiking trails, a visitor center & more. Muir Woods is a unit of the National Park Service on the Pacific coast of southwestern Marin County, California, 12 miles north of San Francisco. Linger at the beautiful wayside signs throughout the park and learn about redwood ecology and cultural history of Muir Woods. Families with children enjoy participating in the Junior Ranger or Redwood Discovery. Got a few more hours to explore afterwards? Continue over to Stinson beach along HWY 1 to add beach to your day trip.
4. Coit Tower
View the beautiful city of San Francisco with a birds eye view! Built in 1933, the Coit Tower offers stunning 360 degree views of San Francisco and the surrounding bay area. Ride the elevator to the top and enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the Bay! Half the fun is getting there - take some time and hike up through the stairs and gardens of Telegraph Hill and see if you can catch a glimpse of the famous wild parrots that live there amidst the beautiful foliage.
5. Japanese Tea Garden
The oldest Japanese Garden in the United States can be found within San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Created for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition as part of the fair's Japanese Village exhibit these gardens are home to 5 acres of beautifully kept plants and trees of a variety of species. There is a pagoda, a Zen Garden and more to be explored in this relaxing space; and of course a real tea house where you can drink traditional Japanese tea and sample genuine Japanese refreshments.
6. Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square
The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is located on the Niagara Parkway only about a 10 minute drive from the Falls. Families can take a self-guided walking tour through the conservatory which features over 2000 colorful butterflies floating freely in the tropical setting. Plan to visit the butterflies for about an hour. There are also horse and carriages that provide relaxing rides through the Botanical Gardens.
7. Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island, once home to the maximum security prison during the early 20th century, is now a member of the National Park Service and a beautiful destination for all those interested in history. Located just outside San Francisco Bay and accessible by boat, Alcatraz Island offers access to the interior of the former prison and breathtaking views.
All of the tours allow you to wander around inside the prison. You'll be able to walk the halls where Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly did their time, and see the solitary cells where the Birdman of Alcatraz sat out most of his sentence.
Alcatraz prison tours leave about every 30 minutes from Pier 33, daily from 8:45 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. The return boats leave Alcatraz every 30 minutes; the last one leaves Alcatraz at 6:30 p.m. and you can take any of the boats back (slightly shorter hours in winter).
8. Aquarium of The Bay
If your kids like midway rides and games then they will love Clifton Hill, known as the world-famous street of fun. Attraction highlights in Clifton Hill include:
The Clifton Hill area is also home to a number of chain restaurants popular with families including The Rainforest Cafe and The Hard Rock Cafe. The kids will also enjoy shopping on Clifton Hill where they can browse for novelties at The Fun Factory, satisfy a sweet tooth at The Fudge Factory or find a Canadian souvenir at Canada Trading.
Visitors can access this 305 metre (1/4 mile) boardwalk along the Niagara River via elevator and tunnel. There are also stairs to two observation decks which provide a close up look at one of the world's fastest stretches of white water. The water rushes through the rapids here at speeds around 30 miles/hr making it a "Class 6 rapids" which is pretty rough indeed.
The White Water Walk is open seasonally from late April to mid-November. Free parking is available. Admission may be purchased separately or as part of the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass. Children 5 and under are free.
If you are in Niagara Falls you it's quite fun to visit the quaint village of Niagara-on-the-Lake located just a short drive away. It's a charming little village with unique shopping and boutiques, lovely hotels and world-class theater at The Shaw Festival. The village also has the only Ontario outlet of COWS Ice Cream, the world-famous ice cream from Prince Edward Island. It is very easy to spend an afternoon in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Niagara's Fury is a family-friendly multi-sensory 4-D attraction that requires ponchos - which means you will most likely be getting wet. The experience starts with a cute animated character named Chip the Beaver who is working on a project about how Niagara Falls was formed during the Ice Age.
When this pre-show is over the audience moves into a specially-designed 360 degree theater with drains in the floor where the multi-sensory aspect of the experience becomes clear. The temperature drops, the floor moves and the drenching begins - a few minutes later you will feel like you have gone over Niagara Falls! Niagara's Fury is located in the Table Rock Welcome Center at 6650 Niagara Parkway is open year-round - hours vary depending on time of year.
This recently-renovated museum has two permanent exhibits and one temporary exhibit space which provide a great introduction to the history of the area and many opportunities for interactive hands-on learning experiences. Kids will enjoy trying on a replica uniform while exploring the Gale Family War of 1812 Gallery which houses a collection of important artifacts relating to the war. The Community Gallery on the 2nd floor highlights various aspects of the community of Niagara Falls and also offers several fun interactive exhibits.
13. Stay at a Water Park Hotel
There are a number of choices of family-friendly accommodations in Niagara Falls which include water parks and are very popular with kids. You can make the the water theme complete giving the kids lots of splashy evening fun while grown ups kick back and relax. They include:
Now you have your itinerary set, it's time to visit the Falls. Don't worry if you don't get to everything on the list - if there is one thing for certain it's that your kids are going to want to come back.