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Best for Kids in San Francisco

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In the late 1800s, California's first state engineer, William Hammond Hall, and his assistant, a Scotsman named John McLaren, transformed more than 1000 acres (405 hectares) of sand dunes into a wondrous haven in the midst of the city, christened Golden Gate Park after the eponymous strait nearby. Stretching over 50 blocks from Stanyan Street to the Pacific Ocean, the lush landscape is etched with numerous trails for walking, jogging, biking and horseback riding, alongside a golf course, bowling greens, a lake with paddle boats, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. From the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers to the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park encompasses a wealth of scenic beauty and cultural intrigue within is expansive embrace. There are also several playgrounds, a quaint carousel, an aquarium, a buffalo reserve and an outdoor bandshell where open-air concerts are hosted each summer.

Formerly Pac Bell Park, SBC Park, and AT&T Park, the Oracle Park is the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since Dodger Stadium in 1962. The name may have changed several times, but the game always remains the same here. The San Francisco Giants' home features an inspiring nine-foot (2.74-meter) statue of America's greatest living ballplayer, Willie Mays, at the northwest corner of the stadium. An 80-foot (24.3-meter) Coca-Cola bottle with playground slides and a miniature replica of the park, located behind left field, has become a magnet for kids of all of ages.

Since 1982, over 100 main stage children's productions have been presented by this non-profit theater organization. Young Performers Theatre is the only full-time children's theater in San Francisco, and has been successfully turning out well known classics such as Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, along with locally written pieces, like The Baker Street Irregulars by Sean Owens. The theater is also an academy, dedicated to teaching and encouraging Bay Area youth to pursue theater as a form of artistic expression and self-esteem.

San Francisco Model Yacht Club is located in Golden Gate Park. Established in 1898, it is one of the oldest surviving clubs in the country. Check out these tiny boats as they glide across the water. The club features a clubhouse and the artificial lake Spreckels Lake, that supports motor and sail model boats. Visit this club for its boating events and regattas, as well as for a glimpse of its unrivaled model boat collection.

The Circus Center in San Francisco is the only academic institute to train clowns and other circus professionals in the country. Beginning in 1984 as a part of the Pickle Family Circus' workshop that teaches children circus skills, the concept gained huge popularity. Soon regular classes started being conducted here. Till date, there are several training programs for adults and children training them in skills such as acrobatics, juggling and of course, clowning. The institute also serves as a venue for circus performances many times a year.

Developed by physicist Frank Oppenheimer and opened in 1969, this innovative and interactive museum is dedicated to art, science and human perception. Relocated from the Palace of Fine Arts to Piers 15 and 17, the modern space features plenty of new green technologies including the largest solar panel roof in San Francisco and offers over 600 hands-on exhibits. These hands-on displays unveil the mysteries of science and language, and present these theories simply and succinctly. Webinars, special events and seminars occur throughout the year. This San Francisco gem is a must visit.

If you want to know how a cable car works, the Cable Car Museum is the place to learn. The world's first cable car rests here and with it a concise explanation of how those little cable cars make their way up those famous San Francisco hills. In an underground viewing area, you can look at the system's enormous cable wheels, which pull 11 miles (18 kilometers) of cable at 9.5 miles (15 kilometers) per hour. Closely examine the steel cables, gears, and pulleys that bring this city's most famous transportation to life. Don't miss the gift shop, where you can purchase your very own length of used cable!

Tucked away amidst the houses of Seward Street is a set of concrete slides. The slides were built upon the designs of Kim Clark, who was only 14 years old at that time. What was once a vacant lot is today a mini park that thrills and delights children and adults alike. At the center of the park lies a pair of steep concrete slides that are perfect to be enjoyed by the entire family. Laugh till your sides ache and bask in the after-glow of the adrenaline rush that is sure to engulf you as you slide down the Seward Street slides. The park is open daily during daylight hours, and all adults must be accompanied by a child. You will find a few cardboard boxes at the park to ride down the slides, however you are always welcome to bring your own along.

A penny for your thoughts? In addition to a melange of penny structures, this quirky, offbeat museum has a variety of interesting gadgets and knick-knacks. A must-see is the toothpick amusement park, built by San Quentin inmates. Bring a handful of quarters to Musée Mécanique so you can play some of the antique games, including the miniature pinball machines. Visiting the museum is free of charge.

Wild sea lions have flocked to Pier 39 since the 1989 earthquake and the population has grown ever since. Every winter the number increases to almost 900, thanks to the availability of space and ample food. Although some of the sea lions choose to migrate seasonally, usually some still keep Pier 39 as their regular haunt. You can bring your kids over for free educational talks by the Marine Mammal Center, held on weekends year-round provided the weather is good. See these wild adorable creatures up close and personal at this family friendly spot.

Rocketboat takes thrilling half-hour rides on a highly maneuverable speed-boat across the San Francisco Bay while blasting a classic rock and roll soundtrack. The boat takes quick twists and turns, so passengers can expect to get at least a little wet. Deckhands provide ponchos to anyone who requests one. Shout with joy or scream your head off as the boat speeds from Pier 39, to ATT Park, under the Golden Gate Bridge and back. No reservations are required, and seats on the rocket boat are given on a first-come first-serve basis.

Get close to your favorite sea creatures and also some of the deadliest snakes. This aquarium in the revamped Academy of Sciences showcases piranhas, pythons, pipefish, penguins, moray eels and snakes. The Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit will have you marveling at the rainbow of tropical fish. At the Touch Tide Pool you can touch sea stars and hermit crabs. The newest addition includes the Snake Alley, which displays anacondas, African rock pythons, California king snakes and the Ball python. If you are studying biology, this is a good place to meet the aquatic biologists who look after and feed the animals.

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