Get up early! Pack some snacks for the hikes. Consider throwing in a spare outfit for your kids (if they're the "get my hands dirty" kind) and a plastic bag for holding dirty clothes.
Good to know
Start your day off with a bathroom trip before heading to the first stop.
Get up early as the sunrise on the peaks is breathtaking. Watch for foggy days that will impede the views.
About This Day
Looking for things to do in San Francisco for kids? Check out this full-day family itinerary that explores San Fran's natural beauty. The city boasts many beautiful parks with striking views of the Bay Area. To begin, get up early and catch the sunrise at Twin Peaks. Then, head over to Billy Goat Hill Park. Enjoy the easy hike up for more great views and a fun photo op. Afterwards, drive over to Lands End to see the old bath houses and explore the trails. From Lands End, make your way to the Cliff House lookout and beach. The kids will like watching the surfers as well as the big waves that crash onto the rocks. By now everyone will have worked up an appetite, so grab some pizza at Pasquale's Pizzeria. This is a great chance to rest the legs and recharge the batteries for the last two stops. After the pizza fest, drive over to the Golden Gate Park. The kids will have fun running off the pizza at Koret Children's Quarter. Lastly, and still within the park, check out the roaming bison at the Bison Paddock. As you can see, this day is jam-packed with great stops that offer your kids a break from the typical city sightseeing. These fun family activities in San Francisco are brilliant ways to get the kids out in nature and snap some of the best photo opportunities in the city.
At Twin Peaks, there is a lower parking lot which can be convenient for a quick view if you only have time to pass through or if it is a rainy day. If you choose (and I recommend it), drive over to the small lot between the two peaks. From that lot, there are short dirt paths that lead up each peak. From the top of the peaks, you have a 360-degree view of the city. The hike is easy; my 2-year-old made it on his own.
DIRECTIONS I recommend routing your way up by way of the streets Haight-Ashbury (the hippie capitol of the world). It makes for an artsy, scenic route that can be enjoyed from the car window. The road up to the peaks is windy and steep, so I recommend an automatic for a safe stop and go on the hills.
TIP There are no ropes or guardrails, so watch your kids.
Billy Goat Hill Park is a fair-sized green space in a neighborhood of San Francisco. There is a short rope hanging in a tree where people can swing over the city for a cheesy but effective photo souvenir of you swinging into the city. This photo op has become famous for locals and visitors alike. It is challenging to get the right grip on the rope to swing and the right angle for the shot, which made this stop fun for the whole family to try over and over again. Our 7- and 5-year-old kids really loved it.
DIRECTIONS We parked on 30th Street and walked a short distance down to the swing, but you can also park at Beacon Street.
This place is both historical and beautiful. It is the type of place you see engagement or "trash the dress" pictures being shot. The ruins of the old bath houses sit right on the coast of what feels like the end of the world. The hike down to the baths is very short and easy. We just explored the baths, but Lands End has many more trails that we would love to go back and visit when our kids are older and able to hike more. The trees surrounding the baths are unique, like something from a Dr. Seuss book.
DIRECTIONS There is a free parking lot just across the street and about halfway between the Cliff House and Lands End.
TIP Make sure to use the bathroom at the visitors center. Hold your young ones' hands, as some of the ruins sit right on the water's edge. The paths can get muddy, so throw a change of clothes in your car with some spare plastic bags if your kids like to explore.
Art deco and Californian history adorn this lookout point. It is the perfect place to watch surfers walk along the beach, swim out to sea and catch waves. Our kids enjoyed walking around the balconies and watching the waves crash on the rocks out at sea. If you want, you can keep walking down to explore the sand and waves, as the beach is only a few more steps down the hill.
DIRECTIONS Just a few steps down the road from Lands End is the Cliff House. We walked while my husband drove the car down the hill, so we didn't have to hike back up at the end.
TIP Move your car as you walk down the hill, so you don't have to hike back up it.
This is a charming mom and pop place with plenty of room for kids to wiggle around. As you walk in (or even from the street), you can watch the cooks spreading out the dough and tossing it in the air. If you want, you can order ahead of time and it will be ready when you arrive. The pizza is big and delicious! All the portions are large enough to share. Plus, they bring out bread appetizers for hungry kids. After a morning of hiking, this place hits the spot.
TIP On your way over to the restaurant, you can swing by the west end of Golden Gate Park where the Dutch windmill replicas tower the corners of the park.
After you've refueled with the delicious pizza at Pasquale's, let the kids burn off energy at the Koret Children's Quarter at the Golden Gate Park. There is also an indoor carousel and some street food vendors selling things like pretzels and ice cream if you are looking for a quick dessert or extra snack.
DIRECTIONS Golden Gate Park is huge, so we definitely recommend driving. You can park anywhere along Martin Luther King Drive for free.
TIP If you bring cardboard boxes, you can slide down the cement slides. It is a favorite pastime of the locals, but the slide really isn't that fun without the cardboard.
For animal lovers, this is a must-see. Right in the middle of Golden Gate Park is a huge roaming ground for bison. These animals were nearly extinct before San Francisco opened a space for them to roam free.
DIRECTIONS Golden Gate Park is very long, so we recommend driving and parking near the paddocks.