Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San Francisco

by Margaret Wong / Jul 31, 2011 / 0 comments

As a native San Franciscan and mom to a 2 year old, I am constantly traveling around the city looking for kid-friendly places in San Francisco. My friends with children love to visit because the city offers so many educational and kid-friendly options. You can hike along the Pacific coast, eat the best dumplings and noodles in town, and relax with your family in a Victorian-style San Francisco vacation rental … all in the same day!

Here are my top 5 picks for places to take kids in San Francisco:

#1 Golden Gate Children’s Playground

Golden Gate Children’s Playground. From Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San Francisco

The Golden Gate children’s playground is a popular destination for kids ages two through twelve. Older kids and adults will love the one-of-a-kind cement slides; toddlers can play in their own separate jungle gym, sand box, and swings; the entire family can enjoy the newly renovated carousel. The playground is located in Golden Gate Park near the Inner Sunset and Cole Valley neighborhoods, where there are lots of budget-friendly restaurants (Park Chow for organic food in Inner Sunset, Café Zazie for amazing brunch in Cole Valley) and many affordable and family-friendly vacation rentals in the area.

#2 Land’s End

Land’s End. From Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San Francisco

Land’s End has fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific coast. The trail is paved and is well suited for strollers and toddlers for the first mile in. Native California plants and trees line the path and serve as a unique educational opportunity for the kids. Land’s End is a vast and beautiful park, so if you are traveling with little ones make sure to go to the entrance at Point Lobos and 48th Avenue. Nearby restaurant options include Cliff House, which has spectacular views but is a little pricey, and Shanghai Dumpling King, which is very kid-friendly and has the best “Xiao long bao” in town.

#3 Ferry Building

Ferry Building Sandwich. From Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San FranciscoFerry Building. From Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San Francisco

The Ferry Building has tons of tasty artisan shops and restaurants – a foodie’s dream! The best time to go is on Saturday between 10am and 2pm, during the farmer’s market. I have tasted some of the best peaches, strawberries, and blueberries of my life at this farmer’s market, and a lot of the time they are given out as free samples! If you’re in the mood for something savory, try the Porcetta Sandwich at the Roli Roti stand, or share a beef brisket sandwich at Il Cane Rosso. Street parking here is pretty miserable, so it might be a good idea to take the Muni to Embarcadero for $2/person.

#4 Pier 39

Pier 39. From Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San Francisco

My son loves this place – he dances to the street music, watches the carousel with awe, and waves at the yachts as they whiz by. Most of all, he adores the sea lions that lie on wooden planks and bask in the San Francisco sun. The seals are almost always a must-see for out of town visitors. If you get hungry, the most economical (and yummy) option is to buy some clam chowder from a bread bowl from any restaurant there. Or, if you’re willing to spend a little more, then try the Crab House on the second floor. Pier 39 is within walking distance of many kid-friendly destinations including Ghirardelli Square and the Ferry Building, so this neighborhood is an ideal location to stay for the weekend.

#5 San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo. From Top 5 Kid-Friendly Destinations in San Francisco

The San Francisco Zoo is entertaining and educational! If you get there when the zoo opens, head over to the penguins to see the morning feeding. Make sure to visit the rad tarantula exhibit, and visit the hippo that likes to do laps around the pool. Try to get to the bear exhibit about 10 minutes before feeding, and watch the bears scavenge for carrots, apples, and fish for an exciting show that kids will go gaga for. For lunch in the zoo, the best place to eat at is the Lemur Café at the center of the park, where options include a delicious clam chowder in a bread bowl, or a taco salad if you’re watching your figure.





Margaret Wong is a mom and the founder of, a revolutionary alternative lodging search engine devoted to the modern traveler. With her one-year-old son in tow, she and her husband have trekked through the Swiss Alps, sampled strawberries and champagne atop Wimbledon grass courts, and hang-glided through the clouds of Oahu, all the while staying with locals who know the area best.




All photos courtesy and copyright Margaret Wong