This post contains affiliate links. All activities and meals were paid for by myself.
Back in the day (pre-kids), I was in San Francisco all the time. Checking out new restaurants, going out to the bars and having fun exploring the city. Then, kids happened. We found ourselves going less and less. But, as we have started to explore our own backyard more, we have been going up more. Read on for a fabulous one day itinerary for exploring San Francisco with kids.
1. Start off with an exploration: Angel Island
Start off your San Francisco adventure with something where kids will enjoy both the destination and the journey: Angel Island State Park. You will need to take the ferry from San Francisco’s Pier 41 (Blue & Gold Fleet) or Tiburon (Angel Island Ferry). Buy tickets ahead of time to ensure you get your preferred departure time since ferries are still running at reduced capacity.
On the island, you have many options for recreation. For hikes, consider doing the moderate hike to Mt Livermore for incredible views. For those preferring something with less elevation, there is also a paved perimeter trail spanning around the island which is stroller-friendly. Additionally, you will find bike rentals, a tram tour and segways. It is also quite nice to simply have a picnic at one of the island’s many picnic tables or splash around in the water at Ayala Cove.
Due to ferry timing at the moment, you will likely find yourself on the island for lunch. While the restaurant is closed, there is a snackbar. It is highly recommend to pack a picnic lunch, especially with kids in tow.
Read my full post on tips for visiting Angel Island as well as common questions here.
2. Explore one of San Francisco’s Beautiful Staircases
After you are back on mainland, begin driving west towards the Presidio to Lincoln Park Steps. Located in a quiet neighborhood with a few parking spaces, you can marvel at this beautiful art display. Feeling more ambitious? Try to seek out some of the others in town – they are everywhere! Either way, kids can explore, you can get some gorgeous photos and you usually get to get a glimpse into some of the non-touristy San Francisco spots.
Tip: Need a bathroom break? There is a clean bathroom at Rochambeau Park just a few blocks away. Or, for little ones, keep the Kalencom Potette Plus 2-in-1 Travel Toilet. It is a gamechanger for toddlers and preschoolers.
3. Enjoy Time at a Playground
After your stairs photo shoot is done, head around the corner to the Lincoln Park Playground for a great all-ages playground with a parking lot as well as a huge grassy lawn.
If you’re feeling a bit hungry, grab some takeout to enjoy at the park. We opted for burritos from Gordo (Clement Street location).
4. Continue West to the Pacific Ocean
Just a short drive from the park is Lands End, home to many hiking and lookout spots. The Lands End Main Lot on Point Lobos Avenue has two lots plus street parking. Be prepared for crowds, especially closer to sunset as this is a very popular spot for photo shoots. Depending on how much time you have here, you can consider:
- Walking down the trail to the Sutro Baths
- Checking out the famous Lands End Labyrinth
- Exploring the Coastal Trail
- Heading slightly south to Ocean Beach (would recommend driving down this spot unless you’re prepared to walk back uphill to your vehicle)
We walked down the trail/stairs to the Sutro Baths. My husband and son (in stroller) stayed up top and walked along the Coastal Trail. The baths are interesting but not in the best shape with lots of trash and graffiti. It is unfortunate that so many people have trashed this iconic spot. Nonetheless, it was cool to explore but definitely for a slightly older child. I would not recommend bringing babies or toddlers down.
5. One last stop before you bid farewell to San Francisco
After our action-packed day in San Francisco, we decided to grant one of the wishes we knew our girls had secretly made back at the park while blowing on dandelions: getting ice cream. I found a cute spot called San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery. With delicious, homemade flavors (including some vegan options), everyone got a sweet treat. They also has freshly made churros which one of my kids added on.
We reluctantly got back to our car and prepared for the drive back to San Jose but not without full bellies and happy, family memories exploring the City by the Bay.