A 4-day itinerary of San Francisco and the best places to go when traveling with kids. Fill the day with fun activities and delicious food that will be loved by the whole family.
1. Award Winning Pizza in the North Beach | 11:30 a.m.
1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Winner of the World Championship of Pizza, start the trip off with a stop at the always fun and always delicious Tony's Pizza Napoletana. Serving a class pizza out of the coal oven, the vibe is relaxed, casual, and kid friendly while serving world class pizza. The famous winning pizza was the Margherita, but they serve a number with different toppings. Just be sure to show up early to not wait in line. If you are stuck on the wait list, use it as an opportunity to walk around the North Beach neighborhood, which is filled with Italian restaurants and culture.
2. Ferry to Alcatraz Island | 1:30 p.m.
Take a 5 minute car ride (or 15 minute walk) to Pier 33, where you can get onboard the ferry to visit Alcatraz Island (Yelp), the legendary ex-prison. Kids will love the boat ride to the island, which provides a scenic view of the San Francisco skyline. Once onshore, it is a 10 to 15 minute walk to the main prison where you can take a guided tour to learn about its history. You can also take the time to just relax and enjoy the sunshine while on the island.
3. Pier 39 - San Francisco's Boardwalk | 4:30 p.m.
Back in the city, walk a few blocks up to Pier 39 (Yelp), which is the San Francisco version of a boardwalk. Similar to Chicago's Navy Pier, the area is filled with restaurants and a lot of fun shops including ones specializing in socks, crazy hats, left handed items, and many more. There are also the more typical ones focusing on souvenirs, candies, and chocolate. The boardwalk is designed for activities for kids, with things like an aquarium, a virtual reality experience, a carousel, as well as places to look at sea lions. It's a great place to spend the afternoon.
4. Dinner of Clam Chowder and Sourdough | 6:30 p.m.
160 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Stay in the area for dinner and walk down to Fisherman's Wharf, which has a lot of restaurants. For a place that kids will love, go to the main restaurant of Boudin, which specializes in making sourdough bread. Their signature is the bread bowl which comes with clam chowder in the middle. Make sure to go to the flagship store at the Wharf (rather than the one at Pier 39). You can't miss it, as it's a huge warehouse and you can actually watch the production of the bread and the bakers behind the glass windows. You can also see how they shape and bake a lot of the sourdough bread into cute animals.
5. NorCal Burger in the Ferry Building | 11 a.m.
1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Start Day 2 in the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero, which offers not only amazing views of the Bay, but also tons of amazing food. On weekends, there is a large farmer's market for buying fresh produce with over 50 stalls outside the building. On other days, there are still lots of storefronts inside the building to keep you occupied - from places like Dandelion Chocolate, a local chocolate shop, to Acme Bread, to Blue Bottle. A great place to eat that kids will love is Gott's Roadside (Yelp), a NorCal diner that serves amazing burgers. It's a fun place with a retro vibe and an outdoor seating space. Afterwards, head back into the Ferry Building to get some ice cream from Humphry Slocombe (Yelp), which has unique flavors like Brown Butter & Jam and Honey Graham.
6. Exploring the Exploratorium | 1 p.m.
Pier 15, San Francisco, CA 94111
After lunch, walk down the Embarcadero to the Exploratorium. A science "museum" for kids, it has a ton of interactive and hands on stations to learn about all things science. From biology to gravity to electricity, it is filled with fun activities to not only keep the kids occupied, but to also teach them about the earth. It is also a fun place for adults, who can participate in the exhibits as well.
7. Take a Ride on the Cable Car | 5 p.m.
Walk back to the Ferry Building and find the cable car stop on Market street. This is the final stop, and is much easier to get on the cable car instead of the main stop in Union Square. There is almost never a line, and you get the same experience. The cable car is one of the classic San Francisco experiences that you see in all the films and tv shows, and is a fun way to take a look at the city in an open-air trolley while going up and down the steep hills. This is definitely a must-do when visiting SF.
8. Endless Choices for Dinner at Japantown | 6 p.m.
Post And Buchanan, San Francisco, CA 94115
A quick car ride or a 15 minute walk from the final cable car stop on California St. brings you to Japantown, which comprises of a few blocks focusing on Japanese culture and cuisine. There are specialty shops in the plaza as well as the two indoor malls focusing on things from Japanese pottery, books, toys, make-up, and snacks. There are also lots of restaurants with choices ranging from high-end sushi to ramen to udon shops.
A few recommendations which are tasty and unique are Shabu-sen (Yelp), which serves shabu shabu (or hot pot) as well as sukiyaki. It can be a fun experience cooking the meat and vegetables on the table yourself. Tenroku (Yelp), which is inside the mall, is also fun as it is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where you can pick the dishes you want to eat as they float around the water moat. After dinner, be sure to grab some mochi donuts from Mochill (Yelp), which are especially delicious when it's piping hot from the oven.
9. Huge Sundaes at Ghiradelli | 8 p.m.
900 North Point, San Francisco, CA 94109
After dinner, go back to the waterfront near Fisherman's Wharf to Ghiradelli Square. Named after the famed San Franciscan chocolate, there is actually a chocolate festival held here one weekend each year. For the other 51 weeks of the year, be sure to go to the Ghiradelli store in the square. There's a shop in the front, but the main attraction is the sit-down ice cream parlor in the back where you can order huge sundaes featuring their famous chocolate. Just be sure to come with a big appetite.
10. Authentic Dim Sum in Chinatown | 12 p.m.
662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111
For Day 3, start the day in Chinatown which is one of the largest in the U.S. There are a lot of stores selling souvenirs and also many photo opportunities. Have a traditional dim sum lunch at Cityview, which is one of the few restaurants in the city which still uses the carts to push out the dim sum. Kids will enjoy the experience of being to look at all the food choices and to make their pick. Adults will love the authentic taste and freshness of the food.
11. Endless Choices at Golden Gate Park | 2 p.m.
After lunch, head all the way west to Golden Gate Park. Here, you'll have a number of choices depending on what you like to do. The Academy of Sciences is here, which is like a continuation of the Exploratorium except larger and with a broader focus. It has an aquarium and planetarium. Right across from this is the deYoung Museum, which focuses on more traditional art pieces. Also near the plaza is the Japanese Tea Garden as well as the SF Botanical Garden. For those looking for something more relaxed, many people like to just take a walk around the Park and around Stow Lake, where you can also rent a rowboat or a paddleboat. The choices are endless here to relax and to spend the afternoon.
12. Fun Food Truck Dinner | 6 p.m.
601 Mission Bay Blvd N, San Francisco, CA 94158
For dinner, take a car or the N Muni tram back to the east side to the Mission Bay neighborhood. Here, there is a small area called Spark Social that has a number of rotating food trucks or stalls set up in an outdoor dining area. There are a lot of choices here, some permanent such as pizza, poke, rotisserie, and shaved ice, and also some trucks that rotate occasionally so there is also always something new. It has a relaxed environment that is great for the kids with outdoor seating.
13. Evening Round of Mini-Golf | 7 p.m.
1379 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94158
Right across the street from Spark Social is an outdoor mini-golf center with 18 holes centered around San Francisco or California themes. It is super fun for both adults and kids and can also get competitive as well. The courses are set up with unique challenges that can make it very fun and exciting.
14. An SF Based Burger Chain | 12 p.m.
783 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Begin the last day with another San Francisco based burger chain, Super Duper. A fan favorite of many locals and kids, it serves a classic no-frills burger with crisp fries. The location right by the Metreon is in central Downtown and has a seating area upstairs.
15. Shopping and Browsing in Union Square | 2 p.m.
Spend some time in Union Square, which is the shopping center of San Francisco. It has all the international brand name stores as well as the Westfield and San Francisco Shopping Center, which have a ton more stores inside. For those looking for activities, you can go to the Ice Cream Museum (Yelp), which offers a lot of interactive exhibits and cool photo ops perfect for Instagram.
16. Afternoon Break with Boba Guys | 5 p.m.
429 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Take an afternoon break in midst of the shopping to try another Bay Area based favorite. This time, it is Boba Guys, a chain with its roots here which serves boba or bubble tea. With many different varieties such as Hong Kong style milk tea, Chai tea, matcha, etc., there are a many choices to try and share. They also typically serve some unique snacks as well such as mochi muffins or pineapple cakes from Taiwan.
17. Dinner with a View at Cheesecake Factory | 6 p.m.
251 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Stick around in Union Square for dinner and go to the top floor of Macy's, which has a Cheesecake Factory. This may not sound terribly exciting as there are tons of them around the country, but how many of them offer an unobstructed view of Union Square and is the perfect place to people watch? The loud and exciting environment also makes it easy to have kids around without worrying about them causing a scene.
For those that haven't been to Cheesecake Factory, they have an extensive menu of American fare including salads, burgers, pastas, and entrees. However, always be sure to leave room for dessert, as their namesake, the cheesecake, is simply amazing. Eating it will also mark the perfect sweet ending to the trip in San Francisco.