Headed to San Francisco? Want to plan the best family activities in San Franciso? Wondering what to do in San Francisco with kids?
You are in the right place!
You might have some questions like should I take my kids to San Francisco? Is a San Francisco family vacation a good idea? What if it rains? The answer is, YES! There are a lot of things to do in San Francisco with kids when it rains!
After going on a Girls' Trip to San Francisco I really wanted my family to see this awesome city. It was a totally different trip going to San Francisco with kids compared to an adult-only trip, but that doesn't mean it was bad. Just different!
In this post, we are going to list all of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids, things to do in San Francisco when it rains because that is exactly what happened to us, and a lot of indoor things to do in San Francisco and family-friendly San Francisco activities and tours.
When traveling with a family, I think it is important to mention all the ways you can save money, so in this post, you will find lots of money-saving tips for things to do on a rainy day in San Francisco.
Let's explore all the best things to do in San Francisco with family when it rains!
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How Much Time Do I Need In San Francisco With Kids?
Traveling with children tends to slow the pace of a trip down just a little. Especially if you have little ones that need naps or breaks during the day.
As you plan your San Francisco family vacation itinerary, I feel like 2-3 days was a good amount of time to get done everything we wanted to do.
Outside of the time you actually spend in the city, I would recommend making this a week-long vacation exploring a little more of the awesome California cities near by.
We went to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom which is about an hour outside of San Francisco.
You could also venture south to Monterrey Bay Aquarium near Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both would be great to add to your San Francisco with kids trip.
Is San Francisco Safe For Kids?
As I was planning my San Francisco family vacation I was a little worried about safety.
My Experience on my San Francisco Vacation with Kids
I felt very safe with my family in the touristy parts of the city. San Francisco has a homeless population that could be disturbing to little ones, but we didn't see this too much (although we did see it).
Choosing the right hotel will make a big difference in how you feel! Like any city, there are good areas and bad. Stick to the good and you will feel safe!
Where to Stay in San Francisco with Kids
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf. We really liked it. I think this was a perfect area to stay in for a family vacation in San Francisco. Another good option is Marriotts Vacation Club the Pulse.
Watch Out for Fees
But here’s a word of warning. Hotels in San Francisco will not be shy in adding fees. Resort fees and parking fees are common fees. I loved having a car to get around in San Francisco. But it cost me.
San Francisco Kids Activities When it Rains!!!!
There are so many fun things to do in San Francisco with kids. Like I mentioned early, it rained while we were on our San Francisco family vacation.
My kids had a blast even in the rain! San Francisco rains a lot so we made sure to pack ponchos and still had a fun time!
SF with Kids
We hit a lot of the major tourist attractions plus many museums since it was raining!
Visiting San Francisco with Kids
One way to save a little money when hitting the kids' activities in San Francisco is to get a GoCity Pass. This pass saves money overall if you are planning on doing lots of Kid friendly activities San Francisco has to offer.
Let's explore some of the things to do in San Francisco when it rains.
1. Pier 39
Pier 39 would be my first stop in San Francisco with kids! As you step onto Pier 39 your kids will get excited. There are shops and restaurants all around. Walking on the pier will be an experience all of its own.
As you come to the very back of the pier, this is where the sea lions live. There is a colony that showed up after the earthquake of 1906 and never left.
Pier 39 is one of the best things to do with kids in San Francisco!
2. Pier 39 Candy Shop (Candy Baron)
We made a few stops while on the pier. There is a candy store located near the sea lions. My kids were in love. They wanted everything in sight and had a blast looking at all the different kinds of candy.
This was one of the best things to do with the family in San Francisco.
3. Joke Shop/ Houdini's Magic Shop
Grandma and Grandpa joined us on this trip. My dad is a trickster! There was a joke store located on the pier. My dad said he was going to the restroom and instead went into the joke shop and bought a fake mouse.
My mom is terrified of mice. You can imagine what he did later on in the hotel! He put it on her pillow before bed. The kids thought that it was funny that grandpa played tricks all the time.
My dad added more fun for kids in San Francisco.
Sadly, the joke shop is no longer located on Pier39 there is another fun store called Houdini's Magic Shop. You can go in and watch magic tricks. It is one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids.
4. Aquarium of the Bay
On Pier 39, The Embarcadero and Beach Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
Daily: 11 am- 6 pm
Admission: (Not part of ASTC)
Is available at Pier 35 but parking can not be validated.
Located right on the pier is the aquarium. This is one of the perfect things to do in San Francisco when it rains.
The Aquarium at the Bay sometimes offers discount tickets so be on the lookout for that.
It is one of the best things to do with Family in San Francisco. Also, one of the best things to do on a rainy day in San Francisco. The kids loved seeing the sealife!
The aquarium is small and takes about 90 minutes to walk through. I wasn't blown away by the aquarium and if I had paid full price I may have been disappointed.
Getting a discount ticket made my experience worth it. We thought it was one of the best children's activities in San Francisco on Pier 39.
5. Fisherman's Wharf
My kids will not eat seafood, but mom and dad love it. Fisherman's Wharf is a great place to quickly stop and get fresh seafood.
There are locations where you can order at a window and have the seafood in minutes. No sitting down. No squirming kids (other than squirming when they see you bite into that sumptuous crab sandwich!)
These quick locations are sidewalk stands, but if you do prefer to sit down at a restaurant, Fisherman’s Wharf has you covered (although that may be for when the kids are back at home).
6. Boudin's Bakery
Boudin's Bakery is also located near Fisherman’s Wharf. This location is the home of the “mother dough.” Yes, that sour bread you bite into is baked using the same dough cultivated from a gold miner’s sourdough starter.
Our kids aren’t fans of sourdough, but they were fans of the sourdough creations visible through the windows — an alligator, turtles, lobsters, and more. This store is worth walking through and eating if sourdough is your thing.
Visiting Boudin is one of the best family activities in San Francisco!
7. San Francisco Bay Cruise
What is a San Francisco trip without Alcatraz? When we hear people go to San Francisco for the first time, a boat ride to the famed prison is a must.
The reason people don’t go seems to be they failed to get tickets in advance, not that they didn’t want to go.
But for kids, especially young kids, we decided to skip on Alcatraz. We wanted to wait until they were a bit older. But we still wanted to get them out on the bay.
You can get tickets in advance, or you can buy them the same day (beware of the time of year you go, as sometimes are busier than others).
We went to the Blue and Gold Fleet located at Pier 39. A Cruise of the San Francisco Bay is really fun.
It was a little cold and windy but there is a nice indoor area which still allowed for a great view. (You get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a history lesson (there is a guide with a microphone).
8. Maritime Museum
2 Marina Boulevard, Building E, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94123
8:00 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Free for the indoor exhibit; $15 per person to visit the historic ships
The Maritime Museum is the premier resource for San Francisco and the Pacific Coast maritime history. This museum is very close to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square.
My kids really enjoyed this museum as it had very hands-on interactive exhibits.
We literally stumbled into this museum when we were walking around Fisherman’s Wharf and the surrounding areas. The indoor exhibit is not massive but is well done.
There are enough interactive images and models to keep kids’ attention. We spent about 45 minutes exploring.
Fun For Kids San Francisco
There is also a game for children called “Agents of Discovery.” Your child becomes an agent and is challenged to complete missions. If successful, the child collects a prize.
It is recommended to get e-tickets in advance, especially during busy seasons.
When visiting San Francisco with kids the Golden Gate Bridge is a must. We were able to see the Golden Gate Bridge a few times on our trip.
We crossed over it when driving to Muir Woods. Also, we were able to get a great view from the Discovery Bay Children's Museum.
It was very rainy day in San Francisco when we went so taking a bus tour or biking tour was not an option for us. This may be a really fun San Francisco kid activity, especially if you have older kids who can ride bikes.
There is a toll when returning back to San Francisco. There are no toll booths, so we had a momentary panic when our rental car got scanned (what do we do??!!?). No worries. You should have 48 hours to go online and pay the toll.
10. Ghirardelli Square
Ghirardelli Square is a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf (about 7 minutes). As a fair warning, this is a shopping center. There is mini Golf and arcade and three different areas where you can get ice cream.
The Kids Activities in San Francisco
There are a few places to eat and visit. What matters is one place and one place only. The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
We waited in line to get in, but the line moved quickly. We received a piece of chocolate on our way in.
The shop itself was a bit of eye candy. You first walk past a location full of chocolate to purchase. Once past those selections, you walk into a two-level eatery. The machinery is visible.
We ordered ice cream. Our kids had such a good time, this is the place they wanted to return! And we did!
Ghirardelli Square was the perfect thing to do in San Francisco when it rains! Your kids will love you!
Museum and National Parks In and Near San Francisco
My first recommendation is ASTC. This is a museum program that allows you to enter museums for FREE when you are traveling.
You purchase a membership at your local participating museum and can use it at museums across the country. You can Learn All About The ASTC Program before you go.
National Park Pass
Another program to consider is the National Park Pass. If you have a 4th grader your family can get a pass for free. We had a 4th grader when we went on our first family San Francisco vacation and we were able to take advantage of this as well!
Museums are perfect for those rainy days in San Francisco. There are so many I cannot list them all here. However, my Top Things to Do in San Francisco has many more ideas of great museums.
I will give you an idea of what we did and some recommendations for you to consider when traveling to San Francisco with kids. Especially if you have an ASTC membership.
11. Children's Creativity Museum
221 4th Street
San Francisco, CA
Wednesday – Sunday
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Admission: (Included in ASTC program)
$20 per person
Going to the Children's Museum is a San Francisco kids attraction you shouldn't miss.
My kids love children's museums. This was no exception. Out of all the museums we did, I would say this one was our kids' favorite.
We stayed for a few hours and thought it was a great thing to do in San Francisco with kids when it rains. We really couldn't do too much outside in the rain.
They do have a carousel in the plaza adjacent to the museum that is protected from the rain. My kids were really excited about this. They loved going on a ride!
The exhibits are immersive. The Animation Studio let our kids play with clay. (Got to admit on this one that I’m not sure they understood the animation concept as much as they were enthralled with all of the clay!).
The Tech Lab allows you to program robots with iPads. Think of robots set on a table with obstacles, and you program the robots so they know where to go.
The Making Music Studio allows you to dress up and jam out. Our kids also had the chance to get kits and build. I can’t remember if they were trying to build a functional “spaceship.”
But I do remember our kids loved it so much we had to coax them to move in so that we could see the other exhibits.
As a warning, parking is tough here. We parked in a parking garage. The big dollar number on the sign made it look cheap, but that was only for the first 30 minutes! Try to plan ahead on this one.
Image courtesy of exploratorium.edu
at Pier 15:
17 Pier Ste 100
San Francisco, CA
Tuesday – Sunday
10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Admission: (Included in ASTC Program)
$39.95 per Adult
$29.95 per kid
Parking Fee $15
If you are in San Francisco with kids this is a must-see! It is a great hands-on science museum. We did not get a chance to go on our trip. But I would highly recommend checking it out if you have kids who love science.
You can get tickets ahead of time Viator.
13. Bay Area Discovery Museum
557 McReynolds Road
Tuesday – Friday 10:00 am -4:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Admission: (Included in ASTC Program)
$39.95 per adult and $29.95 per kid
This museum does not want to turn away families that can not afford it so ask about the open door policy to receive a lower admission cost. It is one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids.
This is a great stop after (or before) visiting Muir Woods National Monument. It is across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito.
The view of the Golden Gate Bridge is really nice from this museum and my husband enjoyed hiking around near the bridge with my dad for part of the time we were there.
This is another children's museum that has lots of outdoor activities. What is nice about this children’s museum is that the parking is free, it is easy to get to, and the surroundings are fabulous.
But there are only a select number of activities offered and we finished up within an hour. If you have time for only one children’s museum, we preferred the activities at the Creativity Museum versus this one.
14. The Walt Disney Family Museum
Image courtesy of Walt Disney.org
104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio
San Francisco, CA 94129
Daily (except Tuesdays)
10:00 am – 6:00pm
Children (ages 6-17) $15
Okay, so I mention this one only because I am a big Disney fan. This museum is not going to house Peter Pan’s Flight, or even have the interactive queue you walk through at Disney World, so I don’t think this is for most families with young kids.
This is more for those who have some interest in Walt’s life. The museum is close to the Golden Gate Bridge, on the San Francisco side.
You can get your tickets ahead of time.
15. Muir Woods with Kids
Muir Woods National Monument
1 Muir Woods Rd
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Opens at 8:00 am and closes at different times depending on the season
$15 per adult (16 and older)
Children are free
Included in the National Park Pass
Muir Woods National Monument
I highly recommend taking your kids to Muir Woods National Monument. If you have a 4th grader don't forget to get your free National Park Pass and your family can enter Muir Woods for free.
If you like the outdoors, then this is a must if you have kids. That’s because Muir Woods has a main loop that is flat and scenic.
You can take the 30-minute loop, the 1-hour loop, or the 90-minute loop. We did the 60-minute loop (or maybe it was the 30-minute loop with lots of pictures, along with juice and snack stops). This was the perfect amount of time for my kids!
We still have this on our “things to do in San Francisco when it rains” list because if you have an umbrella or poncho it isn't too bad. The trees block a lot of the rainfall.
Keep in mind that there are other trails in Muir Woods. Some take you into the Mount Tamalpais State Park. These hikes can be steep and challenging.
We saw some people walking along them, and made mental notes for whenever we get around to doing a San Francisco couple’s trip.
16. San Francisco Tour Options
San Francisco Golden Gate Cruise
The Golden Gate Bay Cruise is similar to the one that we took our kids on. This tour will make your San Francisco family vacation a blast!
Big Bus Tour San Francisco
No San Francisco family vacation would be complete with a Big Bus San Francisco tour This is a hop-on hop-off tour.
There are many, many stops. This tour takes you around the entire city! If you do not want to drive in San Francisco then this is a great option!
San Francisco Cable Car Tour
The San Francisco Classic Cable Car Tour is iconic. When you are planning your San Francisco family vacation make sure to check into this because I think most kids would love it.
This tour is about 3 hours and has two start times: 9:00 am and 1:00 pm
The San Francisco Sightseeing Pass
Planning a San Francisco family vacation can be overwhelming. One thing I like about the San Francisco GocityPass is that it helps me decide exactly what I want to do.
It will save you a lot of money if you already had planned on doing the best family activities in San Francisco available on the pass compared to paying individual entrance fees at each location. I would check it out and see if this is something your family would enjoy.
San Francisco Guided Bike Tour
A Guided Golden Gate Bridge Tour is great for kids. You can choose a comfort bike or an electric bike. This is a San Francisco family vacation favorite.
Things To Do Near San Francisco with Kids
Before or after your trip to San Francisco proper, it’s worth mentioning that there is some traditional kid entertainment close by.
17. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Because my children are amusement park junkies (and because we had an annual pass), we actually started our trip about an hour outside San Francisco, at to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
This amusement park seemed comparatively small (based on our familiarity with Six Flags Great American which is located between Chicago and Milwaukee).
With that said, it still has quite a few thrill rides that we’ve come to expect with Six Flags, and also is unique with its animal focus. Dolphins, giraffes, seals, sharks, lions . . . yep, all of that and more.
Just make sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time if you know you’ll be going. You can save quite a bit.
We actually purchased season passes for Six Flags for a previous trip to Chicago. The great thing is the pass will get you into all of the parks across the country. We took advantage of this and had a lot of fun.
18. Monterrey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
10:00 am -5:00pm
$59.95 per adult
$44.95 per kid
This is a great San Francisco for families destination. It is located just outside of San Francisco.
This aquarium is known as one of the best aquariums, if not the best aquarium, in the United States.
We were able to go and loved it! There are lots of hands on exhibits and shows.
We ended up buying an annual pass because it was the same price as individual tickets. You could go multiple days if you wanted to.
If you have time, it would be worth the drive. Or better yet the Monterrey and Carmel Tour includes the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. (Great option if you did not want to rent a car.
What to Do in San Francisco with Kids
Hopefully, this helps you plan the perfect family San Francisco trip. And give you some fantastic things to do in San Francisco when it rains!!
We loved all the museums and had an incredible time, even in the rain. There are lots of kid activities in San Francisco. You will have a blast.
We decided to go back to San Francisco on another San Francisco family vacation. Our kids were older and it was a lot easier but still so much fun!
Also, join our Facebook Community and ask any questions you have about your upcoming trip. We have lots of members who would love to help you.