Camera Obscura

Plan a family weekend trip to San Francisco and explore interactive science exhibits, make your own art or record a music album. Take the kids catamaran sailing to enjoy incredible views of the San Francisco skyline, visit an aquarium, stop at the zoo, and have the best ice cream in town. Our list of best things to do with kids in the Bay Area includes ideas for both younger and older children. Most offer indoor and outdoor areas where you can interact with animals, play hide-and-seek, crawl through tunnels, and admire scenic city views.

»Exploratorium

Exploratorium

The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is a 330,000-square-foot interactive science museum with 600 indoor and outdoor exhibits, a public plaza, bayside restaurant and amazing views of the San Francisco waterfront. You can spend your day learning about physics, human behavior, tides, marine animals, art, the environment and other topics. Children will be able to use their five senses to interact with engaging exhibits.

The South Gallery lets you “think with your hands” by constructing a Marble Machine from reusable materials, or turn knobs which animate characters on Tinkerer’s Clock. The West Gallery encourages children to experiment with feelings, social behavior and thoughts. The East Gallery is home to living systems where you can observe plankton, stem cells and fruit flies using research-grade microscopes.

Pier 15, San Francisco, California 94111, website, Phone: 415-528-4444

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Getaways: From NYC, Ohio, TX, PA, CA, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago

»Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay is home to beautiful exhibits featuring thousands of aquatic animals, including Moray Eels, anchovies and newborn Skates. Under the Bay exhibit was designed to give you a scuba diver’s perspective of the San Francisco Bay, complete with Moon Jellies and Sea Stars. You can watch sharks and rays swim in the crystal clear tunnel exhibit above your head.

Kids love Touch the Bay, an interactive area which houses Leopard Sharks, Big Skates and Juvenile Bat Rays. If you arrive before the 12:30 lunch feeding, you can often touch the tips of playful Bat Rays.

Embarcadero & Beach St., San Francisco, California 94133, website, Phone: 415-623-5300

Next read: Best Time to Visit San Francisco, California & Other Travel Tips

Points of interest in: Sanibel Island, Newport Beach, Orlando, Boston, Houston

»Children’s Creativity Museum

Children’s Creativity Museum

Children’s Creativity Museum is a multimedia arts and technology museum where children learn in an interactive environment. The Animation Studio lets kids create their own characters from clay and animate them on screen, guided by professional educators. Design Studio teaches how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a poster, album cover or an advertisement.

The Mystery Box Challenge in the Innovation Lab invites children to invent something using just the materials provided in the box. The Music Studio lets visitors play dress-up, perform in front of a green screen and record the performance on DVD. If you want to paint, draw and create unique art with a diverse selection of materials, head to the Spiral Gallery.

221 Fourth St., San Francisco, California 94103, website, Phone: 415-820-3320

More ideas: 18 Best Things to Do in Oakland.

Fun places to visit & what to do last minute: Great Attractions & Free Activities

»The Bay Area Discovery Museum

The Bay Area Discovery Museum

Set on 7.5 scenic acres with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area Discovery Museum offers hands-on activities designed to awaken creative thinking in children. Imagination Playground, designed by architect David Rockwell, lets kids engage in unstructured free play using giant foam blocks, slides and fabric.

Art Studios 5 and 10 encourage visitors to express themselves through art while learning about collaboration. Bay Hall simulates the busy Ports of San Francisco and Oakland. There is an underwater tunnel, a lift to lower containers, and a vintage train set. The 2.5-acre outdoor space features an authentic fishing boat, a scenic trail, the Sea Cave and many other exciting activities.

557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, California 94965, website, Phone: 415-339-3900

Overnight trips with kids: 50 Best Family Vacations in California.

Best things to do in: Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, Denver, Dallas, San Diego

»The Ice Cream Bar

The Ice Cream Bar

For lunch, head to the Ice Cream Bar and eat delicious sandwiches, organic greens, soup and ice cream. Everything at the Ice Cream Bar is made in house using locally sourced organic ingredients. Kids will love the waffle cones, cookies, brioche, breads and handmade ice cream.

815 Cole St, San Francisco, California 94117, website, Phone: 415-742-4932

Great California weekend destinations: San Diego, Newport Beach, Santa Cruz and Healdsburg.

"Top Romantic Tourist Attractions in San Francisco & Oakland with Kids" Back to Top

Vacation ideas: Pigeon Forge, Columbus, Southwest vacations, From Dallas, Jacksonville, Last Minute, Spa

»Pier 39 & Adventure Cat Sailing Charters

Pier 39 & Adventure Cat Sailing Charters

Pier 39 is one of the most popular tourist stops in San Francisco, home to amazing attractions such as Aquarium of the Bay, Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, San Francisco Carousel, Sea Lion Center, street performers, restaurants and cafes (website). Adventure Cat Sailing Charters operates two family-friendly catamarans which take you on an exciting adventure with views of the San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Pier 39 Concourse, San Francisco, California 94133, website, Phone: 415-777-1630

Vacations for Couples, Packages & Date Night Ideas: Best Romantic Getaways

»Children’s Fairyland

Children’s Fairyland

Children’s Fairyland in Oakland is the place where your child’s favorite fairy tales come alive. Step into the Crooked House, play on the Jack and Jill Hill, see the live Olde English Baby Doll Sheep, visit the Alice in Wonderland Tunnel, climb on Willie the Whale, and ride the Jolly Trolly which dates back to 1954.

Play in the beautifully landscaped gardens growing Mary’s silver bells and cockleshells as well as organic vegetables used to feed the animals. In addition to the sheep, there is a pony, alpaca, two goats, donkeys, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens.

699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, California 94610, website, Phone: 510-452-2259

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»Devil's Teeth Baking Company

Devil's Teeth Baking Company

Devil's Teeth Baking Company is a small neighborhood breakfast place and bakery, located in the Outer Sunset area of San Francisco, that the locals would have liked to keep to themselves. The word is out that they make the best breakfast sandwiches in the world and their Beignets, which they bake only on Sundays, are a good reason to abandon the idea of a lazy Sunday morning at home and head for your share of sweet, powdery deliciousness.

The sandwiches are not complicated, just eggs and cheese in a biscuit - but what a biscuit! Freshly made every morning, flakey and soft, and big enough to keep the whole mess together. Their Beignets are so popular that they published the recipe online and people still keep coming in for their share. Don't look for a dining space, there is none, just a small cute park with a few benches in front of the store, or visitors can walk with their loot to Ocean Beach, which is only a few blocks away.

3876 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122, website, Phone: 415-683-5533

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»California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences


The California Academy of Sciences is an incredible museum with exhibits for children of all ages. Early Explorers Cove, designed for kids ages 0-5 features a miniature garden, toys, live animals and dress-up costumes. Discovery Tidepool lets children touch sea animals. Earthquake Shake House is meant for children 3 and up while Planetarium shows are suitable for children ages 7 and up.

55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, California 94118, website, Phone: 415-379-8000

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"Top 10 Family Attractions in San Francisco & Oakland with Kids & Free Things to Do on a Rainy Day" Back to Top

»Mocha

Mocha

Mocha is an interactive museum which lets children play, paint, sculpt and interact with one another. Open Studio, open on Fridays and Saturdays, lets you create art using diverse materials and technical instruction offered by the teaching artist. If you are planning a weekend trip close to a major holiday, you’ll be able to join an ARTventure, offered on Saturdays.

1625 Clay Street, Oakland, California 94612, website, Phone: 510-465-8770

More family destinations: Washington, DC, Portland OR, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Chicago.

Holiday ideas: Birthday, Anniversary Ideas, Secluded, Girlfriend Getaways, Valentine's Day, Easter

»San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

Take your children to the San Francisco Zoo where they can see unique animals, ride a miniature steam train, play on the playground, and explore beautiful year-round gardens. There are many exciting exhibits that let kids learn about animals and ecosystems from around the world, such as Australian kangaroos, bears and monkeys. The zoo is home to the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the country, Penguin Island, Lion House, Eagle Island, Insect Zoo, Gorilla Preserve and the Sea Lion Pool. Head to Greenie’s Conservation Corner where children can learn about energy conservation, and other sustainable practices.

Sloat Blvd., San Francisco, California 94132, website, Phone: 415-753-7080

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10 Best Things to Do in San Francisco & Oakland with Kids