CoolKid About Town: Things To Do In SF With Kids

We are always on the hunt to explore – whether getting lost in Muir Woods or at a small bookstore in the city.  We live about 30 minutes from San Francisco, and there are so many opportunities to immerse yourself in art, architecture, nature, and history around us.  I have rounded up some of our favorite CoolKid field trips that have been fun for kids of all ages and adults too.  I am including insider tips and reviews so you know EXACTLY what to expect, and you aren’t lead astray by pretty websites and unreliable reviews.  You know you can trust CoolKid to give you the scoop on how these activities really stack up.  If they made this list, they are worth visiting.

1. Alcatraz – Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing San Francisco, California 94111 – This is a must when spending any time in or around San Francisco.  The ferry ride, the audio tour, the gift shop!  All of it creates quite the historical depiction of what life may have been like living on the rock.  We have yet to try the night time version of the tour, but it is on our list!  Alcatraz is VERY windy, be prepared with lots of layers.  Also, be prepared to walk quite a bit including uphill.  Nothing too strenuous but just a heads up.

2.  Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum – 1660 Park Avenue San Jose CA 95191 – Quite a nice selection of authentic and replica artifacts from Ancient Egypt.  The real mummy was a crowd pleaser.  I would say avoid peak times when visiting, and come toward closing to avoid the lines.  The way the tours are set up prevent free roaming and cause for some waiting.  Definitely worth the visit.

3.  Berkeley Marina Adventure Playground – 160 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710- Good old fashioned {Dirty} fun.  Kids can swing hammers and build using wood scraps and nails.  There are drop in classes held weekly free of charge, which are really great.  Kids get to explore and are  really taking a step back in time to what kids free time used to look like!  I am interested in the summer boating classes for my 12 year old, but have yet to enroll due to our schedule not properly lining up with class offerings.  Do: bring lots of water, sunblock, a change of clothes, towels/rags that you don’t mind getting muddy, snacks, and maybe a chair for yourself if you don’t want to get involved in the play.  My advice?  GET INVOLVED!

4.  Musee Mécanique – 45 Sausalito – San Francisco Pier 41, San Francisco, CA 94133- I’ve done a blog post on this before, but can’t help but add it to this list as well.  Such a great way to spend some time with kids!  The games are fascinating for adults too!  Most games are $.25 but they do have some newer games in the back which cost a little more.  There is no bathroom so be sure to take potty breaks before you arrive.

5.  Books Inc.  – 2251 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123 – This is the perfect book shop to pop into for a break and some great books for both children and adults.  There are benches for hanging out and reading to kids in the back, and the staff doesn’t mind “squatting” as long as its done respectfully.  Usually we find incredible books we cannot leave without.

6.  San Francisco Zoo – 1 Zoo Road, San Francisco, CA-  This old zoo is a favorite stomping ground because of its spacious and natural walking paths lined with large eucalyptus trees.  The animal enclosures allow for great visibility of the animals and the varying feeding times are informative and captivating.  Do not skip the Big Cat talk with the lions or the Grizzly Bear Feeding.  Both are such neat experiences.  Food prices are good at the cafes, and souvenir shop is reasonable as well.  The Carousel and children’s petting zoo are also a must!  It is always 10-15 degrees colder here than anywhere in SF, so bring layers.

7.  California Academy of Sciences – 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118-  With so many exhibits, this is tough to do in one day when crowded.  From the planetarium show to the biosphere, the rooftop garden to the Steinhardt aquarium, they are all wonderful!  There is also a toddler play/discovery area for when the littles need containment and a break from pace.  Cafe is a bit expensive but food is good.  I love to bring a picnic and take it to Golden Gate Park either before or after the aquarium visit.

8.  DeYoung Museum – 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118 – Visit the museum Wed-Sat from 1-5pm for the Artist-in-Residence studio time.  This is for families and allows young ones some hands on art creation under the instruction of an Artist-in-Residence.  This experience is FREE.  However, I highly recommend visiting the current exhibits and permanent collections with children.  I love introducing art/theatre/music into my children from a young age, definitely a lesson in art and also behavior.

9.  Fort Point History Tour  – Fort Point National Historic Site Building 201, Fort Mason San Francisco, CA 94123 – Take a glimpse back in time to the military beginnings of this great city.  The free guided tour is packed with information and well worth it.  At times can get a little slow, but definitely interesting.  Have not taken the night tour, however it is on our list as well.  What a contrast night vs. day brings.

10.  Muir Woods– Muir Woods National Monument 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941 – With both beginner and intermediate trails, this is sure to please families of all ages.  There is a bluff trail that overlooks the ocean, but does not have much cover so prepare with sunhats and sunscreen.  The majority of the woods are shaded, but the longer loop trails do have exposure on many parts of the trail.  Kids can partake in a junior ranger program where they get a trail map at the visitor’s center and keep their eye out on the hike for various natural elements then write them down on their guide.  Turn it in at the end for a surprise! 

11.  Tilden Little Farm– 600 Canon Drive Berkeley, CA 94708-2396 – This farm is a great place for kids to get up close and personal with some friendly farm animals.  BYOL (Bring your own lettuce) as that is the treat of choice and only treat allowed the animals.  A bit of a drive through windy Berkeley hills, but definitely pays off.  The little farm also has plenty of spots to picnic and explore around the area for little ones.

12.  Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve – 5175 Somerville Road, Antioch, CA – the Hazel Atlas Mine tour is very informative, and a little known gem here in the East Bay.  Advance reservations highly recommended.  Also, no children under 7 allowed, which is kind of a bummer.

13.  Lawrence Hall of Science – 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley, CA 94720 – great science based children’s experience complete with many STEM subjects.  A touring exhibit, the dinosaurs, is a MUST SEE, though hard to catch.  There is a beautiful outdoor rooftop garden area with some water play, so bring appropriate change of clothes/shoes.  Carl the fog loves to make his way over to this Berkeley hills location, so dress accordingly.

14.  Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory – 56 Ross Aly San Francisco, CA 94108 – Chinatown is a given, but this little factory is off the beaten path and a little tricky to find!  Pay attention to the street signs and you will see Ross Aly.  There is only a tiny bit of standing room, but well worth the visit for the warm fortune cookie and glance into how such a familiar cookie is made.  They also sell giant fortune cookies which are super adorable.

15.  The Randall Museum – 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA – (TEMPORARY LOCATION?!? 745 Treat Ave. San Francisco, CA 94110) This kids museum is great for little kids, as it has some local wildlife and smaller exhibits about our community.  Free entrance which is always good.  There is a cute outdoor area for a picnic as well.  This is a good starting point before moving on to bigger and better attractions.

16.  USS Hornet Museum – Pier 3, Alameda Point, Alameda – A large collection of old aircraft, a flight simulator and many collections of memorabilia from historic military operations.  A great lesson that freedom isn’t free, and an amazing venue to learn about it.  Alameda point is super windy, so pack accordingly.

17.  Children’s Creativity Museum – 221 Fourth St. San Francisco, CA 94103 – This technology based hands on kids museum is all your tech obsessed kids will want.  There are claymation studios, television production simulation, computer labs to play around with photoshop, and much more!  Great for younger kids as well as older kids, there is something for every age.

18.  Sutra Baths – 680 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121 – amazing views and what’s left of Adolfo Sutro’s Sutro Baths which was a massive public swimming house for San Franciscans in 1894.  Great piece of San Francisco history, and beautiful hiking and walking areas here.

19.  Koret Children’s Quarter Playground – Martin Luther King Jr Dr & Bowling Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94117- This playground houses one of the oldest carousels (built in 1914),

20.  Exploratorium – Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street) San Francisco, CA 94111 – Per the website “The Exploratorium isn’t just a museum; it’s an ongoing exploration of science, art and human perception—a vast collection of online experiences that feed your curiosity.”  I would agree with this.  The kids ran around from exhibit to exhibit before really settling in and getting familiar with one particular activity.  So much to do and see, fun for kids and parents.


We hope this inspires you to get out of your comfort zone and try one or all of these field trip recommendations from your CoolKid experts.  We know you will have a great time and make amazing memories with your own CoolKids!



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