100 things to do around San Francisco and the Bay Area that showcases the beauty, originality and downright fun that makes our city a great place to not just visit, but also live
We’ve revamped our epic list of 100 best Bay Area activities the whole family will love, and bonus? You’ll definitely discover somewhere and something new that you and the family can explore, even for those in-the-know locals. Whether you’re looking for stroller-friendly hikes to try around the Bay Area, must-go museums in SF that delivery epic and learning, or family-friendly dining with a twist (we are a foodie destination after all), we’ve got something for you. Pro Tip: Bookmark this page for easy access for things to do during unexpected days off, summer and winter vacations and for when the grandparents come to town to visit.
1. Play tourist for a day and explore PIER 39 including riding the carousel which is hand painted with famous San Francisco landmarks. Don’t forget to visit the sea lions and grab some edible raw cookie dough from DOUGHP! Also check out The Flyer, an epic virtual flight that takes you on a tour of San Francisco.
2. All aboard! Ride the rails through the redwoods on a real steam train in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Roaring Camp. This is a fun trip anytime, but is especially exciting during the days of the year when Thomas the Tank turns up.
3. Keep it simple with a day at one of San Francisco’s innovative playgrounds, like Hilltop Park in Bayview. Bigger kids will love the thrilling concrete slides (bring cardboard for extra speed), while little ones will enjoy the tree-shaped merry-go-round.
4. No matter the season, it’s always ice cream weather in the Bay Area. Whether you love the high-tech creamy creations from Smitten or prefer a traditional experience at Fenton’s (the ice cream parlor featured in Pixar’s Up), there’s always room for a frozen treat.
5. Get your STEM fix at these museums where science is all around you like our fave, The Exploratorium. Channel that kid energy into creating art, making mega bubbles or even creating a mini-tornado by running around.
6. There’s more to Monterey than just the aquarium. Take a road trip south and visit the Pacific Grove, where you can see Monarch butterflies in their winter home, or stroll around the storybook cottages of charming Carmel.
7. Do you detect a chill in the air? Then grab your camera and take the fam to these gorgeous Bay Area spots where you can see fall foliage in all their glory.
8. Level up family game night with a trip to a family-friendly arcade bar! One of our favorites? The Detour in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood on Sat. afternoons when the bar opens its doors to kids of all ages.
9. Did you know your library card can get you free entry to 200 state parks across California? Visit your local library and check out an entry ticket to outdoor fun all year long.
10. If your little ones love petting zoos, they’ll go wild for a nearby farm stay. Here you can hit the hay (literally and figuratively) at these local farms where you can also spend time with goats, alpacas and even giraffes for a memorable mini break.
11. Spend some time on the islands—Alcatraz and Angel Island, that is. A quick ferry ride will get you there and you can learn all about the history of these amazing spots in San Francisco Bay. Be sure to book Alcatraz way in advance though—it’s one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco and weekends often sell out.
12. Cross the majestic Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands, where you can have a blast exploring Kirby Cove and stunning Sausalito. Plan to stop by Lappert’s Ice Cream for a taste of Hawaii in the Bay.
13. San Francisco might be all about that sourdough, but there’s plenty of neighborhood bakeries for those with a sweet tooth. Grab a giant donut (like, bigger than your head giant) in classic flavors from Bob’s Donuts or another one from our list of favorite donut spots around the Bay Area.
14. Don’t let the weather get you down. We love indoor play spaces when it rains, especially Peekaboo Factory in San Francisco’s Richmond district. This amazing multi-level indoor playground is suited to kids from babies to 12-year-olds—and offers date-night drop offs!
15. Go visit the whimsical sculptures at Cayuga Park. This is one of our favorite hidden gems in SF that only locals know about.
16. You don’t need to splurge on expensive gear to take the kids camping. Book a weekend at one of these glamping spots that offer campfires without having to pitch your own tent. We especially love Wildhaven Sonoma, which has comfortable tents available right on the Russian River.
17. The best things in life are free—especially these cool and quirky local museums! Learn about the space race at The Space Station Museum in Novato, cable cars at the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco, or even play vintage coin-operated arcade games when you visit San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique.
18. Speaking of free, there are loads of free things to do, right in Golden Gate Park. Home to the first public playground in the country, Koret Children’s Quarter still provides plenty of fun with slides, play structures and an ocean-inspired climbing wall. While you’re there, search out the secret waterfall, spot ducks on the lake and check out the authentic Dutch windmill.
19. Make your way to wine country with the kids for a family adventure the whole family can enjoy. These wineries are all set up to welcome everyone, tots included. Early fall is the best time to visit, when many wineries host family-friendly events like grape stomping.
20. We’re always excited to find a restaurant offering more than chicken tenders on the kids menu. The mini bento boxes from Oh Baby Sushi in Redwood City, and the kid-size curry and rice burritos from Kasa Indian Eatery in San Francisco are easy ways to introduce your kids to new flavors.
21. Muir Woods isn’t the only grove of old-growth redwoods in the Bay Area (although it’s also a must-do). Take the little ones for a hike in the tall trees at one of these Bay Area parks.
22. Meet some animals up close and personal at these 22 wildlife centers across the Bay Area. Animal adventures also await at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences (check out the amazing albino crocodile!), or learn about farming life at Tilden Park Environmental Education Center.
23. Sleep in the trees! This San Jose treehouse has views of the Bay Area—you will not be disappointed.
24. Swimming’s not just for summer! Grab your goggles and dive into one of these indoor pools that are open year round. We love Silliman Center in Newark for its lazy river and water slides, or the Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca if you want a weekend of splashing.
25. Take a San Francisco Big Bus Tour and get to know the city better. Our guide includes the best stops for young kids, including fun playgrounds, museums and, most importantly, where to get the best coffee.
26. Cast your fishing line at these local lakes and piers where dinner is waiting. If you’re a newbie, the Golden Gate Park Anglers Club offers lessons once a month to anyone who wants to get started.
27. Kids love dim sum and who can blame them? These hot spots are where dumplings are king. YUM.
28. Where’s the only place you can visit an aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum, all under one “living” roof? Our California Academy of Sciences guide is all you need to make the most of your visit.
30. Take some time to smell the roses at these worthwhile botanical gardens. We love Bean Sprouts Family Days at San Francisco Botanical Gardens, where kids can get stuck into gardening activities and bug hunting.
31. Help your children become Junior Park Rangers at a nearby national park like Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz Island or at Point Reyes National Seashore. These fun and educational programs get kids learning about nature, with a badge as a reward.
32. Visit Japan without getting on a plane. You can get all the ramen, taiyaki and Sanrio you want in San Francisco’s Japantown. Plus an ice cream in a waffle cone shaped like a fish!
33. Spend the afternoon exploring these bike paths and bike parks that are perfect for the tiny two-wheelers. There are plenty of safe, car-free bike paths across the Bay Area—Shoreline at Mountain View is especially popular with families.
34. Ding ding! Hop on a cable car and explore San Francisco’s neighborhoods with our guide to exploring Main St. Our top tip: hop off the Powell Mason line at Columbus Ave. and grab a slice at Golden Boy Pizza.
35. Learn how to meet the lemurs and other animals with our insider’s guide to the San Francisco Zoo—especially great on hot days, as it’s always comfortably cool at this ocean side location.
36. Make your next meal out a memorable one (in a good way!) at a themed restaurant where there’s more than just burgers and fries. Embrace the retro-kitsch vibes at the Fairmont’s Tonga Room where you can sip cocktails (mocktails for the kids) around a lagoon while listening to a live band for a tropical staycation.
37. Every kid deserves a spot where they feel welcomed. These playgrounds and play spaces offer resources for special needs kids so that they can join in the fun with their peers.
38. Kids, the dinner is on you! Let the kitchen pros teach them the ropes at these local cooking classes. Make your own single-origin dark chocolate from scratch at San Francisco’s Dandelion, or make farm-to-table pizza at Hidden Villa in the Los Altos Hills—all great ways to teach kids about where their food comes from.
39. Elevate your camping experience: these 35 glamping spots near San Francisco are a must-know for locals.
40. Head to Corona Heights and check out the must-visit Randall Museum. With a model railroad, toddler playground, art studio and LEGO building, it’s fun for kids of all ages. Bonus, admission is always free!
41. Visit the shore at low tide and explore the sea urchins, sea stars and crabs that live in coastal tide pools near San Francisco.
42. Visit CuriOdyssey for its interactive museum and zoo, climb the dragon-themed playground at Coyote Point and enjoy the uniquely-delicious waffles at Eggettes when you visit kid-friendly San Mateo.
43. These spots are perfect for your next mom getaway to recharge your batteries—whether you want a wellness retreat or a wine-tasting weekend—you deserve a break.
44. Did you know you can explore SF’s local waterways on a kayak? There are guided tours and self-guided adventures available and dventurous kids as young as three can head out on the water at Elkhorn Slough, the wildlife haven near Monterey.
45. Looking to gift memories instead of more stuff? Here are our recs for experience gifts for Bay Area kids. Included are gifts for adventurous kids who want to try climbing or skydiving (indoors!), tech aficionados, animal lovers, and more.
46. Seek out all of the secret fairy houses hidden across the Bay Area!
47. We absolute love our San Francisco Bay Area independent toy stores! Stop by one of these beloved small businesses like Wooden Horse in Los Gatos, where assistants will not only help you find the perfect gift, they’ll wrap it for you too.
48. Plan a trip to Santa Rosa and book a night at Safari West, an animal park where you can stay overnight in safari tents for a wild weekend away.
49. Head to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco for a history lesson on the water. Here you can visit a World War II ship and submarine, plus take a ranger-led tour aboard a 1907 steam tug for an educational day out.
50. Bring Fido along when you dine out at one of our favorite dog-friendly eateries. Good to Know: Not only will 7 Mile House in Brisbane welcome your furry friend, the historic eatery offers a dog-only menu and a “yappy hour” where they can score a free peanut butter biscuit.
51. The Children’s Creativity Museum located in SOMA is ideal for kids ages 2-12. With a mission to nurture creativity and collaboration, the highly interactive exhibits encourage kids to make music, animate, innovate, build and learn in order to develop creative confidence. Of course the LeRoy King Carousel is a must stop for everyone in the family.
52. Hit the trails for a family adventure at these hiking spots that are good for the littlest hikers. From ranches to redwoods, we’ve rounded up all our favorite stroller-friendly trails to get your family outdoors.
53. Get your little guppies in the water to learn how to swim at these favorite swim lesson spots.
54. Take your kids to a playground they can build themselves! Shorebird Park Nature Center & Adventure Playground in Berkeley is built by and for kids. This unique space is best suited for six years and older. Check out this plus all these other awesome parks in the east bay.
55. Settle in with a good book at one of our favorite independent bookstores in the Bay Area. We love the children’s bookshop Linden Tree in Los Altos, especially on author visit days, when kids can meet their favorite writers.
57. San Francisco’s first bike park, McLaren Park, is pretty epic. With beginner, intermediate and advanced bike tracks, it’s perfect for families who want to learn BMX or mountain biking.
58. Meet baby animals at these local Bay Area farms that offer tours. Spring is the best time for a farmyard field trip, where kids can learn about where their food comes from. Hidden Villa offers a ton of great classes for everyone, including the opportunity to milk a cow!
59. When the temperature soars, grab your swim gear and enjoy some outdoor water fun at a local favorite Bay Area beach. Cull Canyon in the East Bay is one of our favorites for young kids, with plenty of shade, a shallow gradient and lifeguards in summer.
60. In the summer it’s u-pick berry season and then, in the fall, u-pick apples are on the menu. Create a new family tradition and go fruit picking at Gizdich Ranch and pick up one of their famous pies for dessert!
61. Celebrate Black History in the Bay Area and learn about the people who helped build our communities like Sam McDonald who donated 400 acres of land to the public on his death.
62. Go for some foodie family time at these kid-friendly Bib Gourmand spots. We’re lucky to have so many great restaurants in the Bay Area that are welcoming to parents, like Nopalito, which serves delicious Mexican dishes within walking distance of Golden Gate Park.
63. Pitch a tent at campsites where you can hear the crashing waves as you curl up in your sleeping bag. From the beautiful Big Sur coast to Bodega Bay, book these campsites when you need a night with cool ocean breezes.
64. Sometimes, you really can have it all. On those occasions when no-one can agree on what to eat, head to a Bay Area food hall and everyone can choose a dish. If you pick Public Market Emeryville, the kids can play on the ocean-themed playground before or after they eat.
65. Located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and set on 7.5 acres of National Park land in Sausalito, the Bay Area Discovery Museum is dedicated to imagination and where kids are encouraged to run wild. Perfect for kids 6 months-8 years old, it’s a kid paradise with so many things to discover and interact with.
66. Spend some time exploring California with these bucket-worthy California road trips with insider tips on the best places to stop for family-friendly fun.
67. Check out Bill’s Backyard, the awesome outdoor discovery area at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Kids love the playground and fort-building activities—all included in your admission to the museum.
68. San Francisco ain’t cheap but our constantly updated round-up of free things to do around the Bay Area is a godsend for parents and visitors alike.
69. Stanford’s famous fountains aren’t the only place in the Bay Area to cool down on a scorching day! Discover a full list of amazing urban fountains near San Francisco with our epic round-up.
70. Another way to get wet? Head to these nearby lakes for a day on and in the water. Lake Almanor is always fun for a weekend of swimming, or rent a paddle boat at nearby Lake Chabot.
71. Holiday splurge alert! Dress up in your finest and enjoy a holiday tea party. There’s fancy food at the Ritz, or you can visit the famous gingerbread house at the Fairmont, or step back in time at a historic house—all bucket-worthy.
72. Look to the stars and learn about the world beyond our atmosphere at these Bay Area stargazing spots for a nighttime family adventure. From the planetarium and powerful telescopes at Chabot Space and Science Center, to star parties across the Bay, stargazing is an amazing way to get kids interested in astronomy.
73. Calling all groms! These totally rad skate parks around San Francisco are ready for you. Check out the skate park in SoMa that legendary skater Tony Hawk helped build or the beautiful community-built park at 43rd Aven. that is perfect for littles.
74. Add another carousel to your list. Take a spin on an Alice in Wonderland-themed carousel at Children’s Fairyland—Oakland’s whimsical theme park.
75. Chase after waterfalls and let the kids explore on these amazing waterfall hikes in the Bay Area. (PS: Usually at their peak after springtime rains arrive).
76. Explore the Presidio Tunnel Tops, with 14-acres of space to play, is all the excuse you need to visit San Francisco’s national park site.
77. Italian submarine? Pastrami on rye? Classic BLT? Sandwiches are the perfect on-the-go lunch, park and picnic snack, not to mention, is a favorite meal option when you just don’t want to cook dinner that night. Good thing the Bay Area has some amazing delis.
78. Uncover Chinatown’s best kept (or most well-known?) secret: The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
79. Donuts are slowing becoming to the go-to dessert of the day. We’ve rounded up the best donut shops around the Bay Area so you can focus on eating and treating rather than googling.
80. Everyone knows that brunch is the best meal of the day. Bonus, these spots open super early so you don’t have to wait until mid-day to get your brunch fix. Your kids will love the Mickey Mouse pancakes from South Bay gem Los Gatos Cafe
81. Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center has great, free programs for mini artists. Check out their online craft-along videos for at-home fun, or visit in-person for their twice-yearly family fun days, which include guided tours and hands-on art making.
82. Discover the hidden staircases and colorful murals of San Francisco with our guided to scenic hikes that include colorful stairs and scenic murals. This is a fun, free activity that will provide you with spectacular family photographs as a souvenir.
83. Have the kids tried all of these iconic San Francisco desserts? Maybe you’ve heard the buzz about the cruffin at Mr Holmes Bakehouse but you should also try old-school favorites too like the Russian Honey Cake at 20th Century Cafe.
84. Check out the Junior Museum and Zoo, a playground, interactive museum and zoo all rolled into one. Ideal for families with a range of ages, there’s something for everyone at this beloved Palo Alto space.
85. To become a certified local, a visit to the Seward Street Slides is a must.
86. Bike rides, kayaking and awesome eats are waiting for you in family-friendly Healdsburg. This charming town is just over an hour from downtown San Francisco but feels like a world away from city life.
87. Take a micro-vacation to Mendocino to kayak, horseback ride on the beach and explore the gorgeous coastline just north of San Francisco. With a three-hour drive from the city, it’s ideal for a quick weekend away anytime of the year.
88. Check out our neighborhood guide to Outer Sunset—not just for surfers anymore and is a fun SF neighborhood.
89. Did you know you can go ocean crabbing from San Francisco? Generally speaking, kids under 16 don’t need a fishing license. You do, but the exception is fishing from a pier and that’s actually the best place to catch crabs. From any pier inside the San Francisco Bay, you can only keep red rock crabs. You will likely pull up some Dungeness but you have to throw them back — it’s their breeding ground. Outside the San Francisco Bay (Pacifica Pier, for instance), you can keep Dungies (in season only).
90. Got grandparents in town? Spend some time exploring these spots that please both the younger set and the older generation. The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a local favorite, but we’ve got more ideas for multi-generation days out.
91. Cheers! These kid-friendly bars around San Francisco are perfect for dining out with friends and kids. Relax in Steins Beer Garden in Redwood City, or play bocce and eat pizza at Campo di Bocce in Los Gatos—neighborhood gems that are ideal for a sunny afternoon.
92. If the days are warm and the kids want to get wet, head to one of these amazing splash parks in the Bay Area. If you’re in San Jose, Hellyer Park is the spot for hot days!
93. The Bay Area also has several fun water parks nearby. Whether you’re looking for something low-key for little ones like Aqua Adventure, or a day out the tweens will love at Raging Waters, water parks are a classic summer day out.
94. It’s always the perfect day for pizza and we have a list of the perfect pizza pies around San Francisco here. Whether you’re into sourdough crust, deep dish or New York-style slices on-the-go, the Bay Area delivers.
95. Batter up! These Bay Area batting cages will let you tune up your swing in no time. And, this being the home of Silicon Valley, you’ll find high-tech pitching machines with HD resolution video at Future Pro Baseball in San Francisco—but you can also book live pitching from a staff member at South Bay Sports Training if you’re looking for the real deal.
96. Want to dine with views of the Golden Gate Bridge? Yes, please! Here are the best outdoor dining spots, including ones with million-dollar views to impress visiting friends and family.
97. The next time you’re looking for that outdoorsy experience without straying too far from home, visit Rob Hill Campground, located just a hop, skip and jump away from Immigrant Point Overlook and Baker Beach.
98. No trip to San Francisco is complete without a stop at the iconic Ferry Building. And whether your just visiting or a local, there’s always something new, fun and exciting happening here.
99. Visit the totally-free deYoungsters Studio in Golden Gate Park, an interactive play space designed to spark kids creativity. Did we mention it’s free?