What's Fun for Teenagers in San Francisco?
August 5, 2009 9:00 AM   Subscribe

What are fun things for teenagers to see and do in San Francisco?

My niece (13) and nephew (16) are coming for a week-long visit. What would be fun for them to do? Would something like going to Alcatraz, be cool, boring, or boring now but cool when they remember it later?

We're already planning trips to the King Tut exhibit, Santa Cruz boardwalk, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I thought of a Giants or A's game but they don't like baseball.
posted by kirkaracha to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
if they like science, the Exporatorium is cool. The Asian Art Museum is a favorite of mine, and they have a neat-sounding exhibit on now.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:06 AM on August 5, 2009

Seconding the Exploratorium.
posted by Nick Jordan at 9:12 AM on August 5, 2009

posted by you're a kitty! at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2009

Rent a bike and ride across the bridge to Sausalito (or Tiburon) and take the ferry back, and do it on a T/Th/Sa for the farmer's market at the Ferry Building.

The MoMA gift shop is great if you stop by the Avedon exhibit (spectacular!).

Alcatraz is worth doing but the night tours are the best - but they fill up early.

The Seward St slides are unique. Walk through the Mission and get a burrito. Take MUNI. Eat at the Cliff House and enjoy the view. See Muir Woods. Drive up through Google's campus coming back from the south bay. Eat crab at PPQ and then get milk tea at Toy Boat. Take the cable cars from Union Square to Nick's and get crispy tacos.

This is a city of developmentally-stunted adults. You shouldn't be lacking for things to do with kids. :)
posted by kcm at 9:18 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also: If they like outdoorsy stuff, I have a list of suggestions (limited to public transportation) that a friend put together for me earlier this year. Some of the suggestions (wineries) are obviously not useful to you, but, if you memail me, I'll be glad to share it with you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:21 AM on August 5, 2009

Without knowing when they're going to be here, or what they think is fun, there's got to be something on the Squidlist they would like.

Chutes at the Beach?
Derby Girls?
Hit and Run Hula?
posted by gingerbeer at 9:25 AM on August 5, 2009

I came here to say Exploratium too, so I guess you damn well better take them there. If you're going to be in Santa Cruz, I'd also recommend stopping at Marianne's on River Street for ice cream on the way into or out of town. If it fits your schedule, note that the Boardwalk has some great specials available after 5 PM on weeknights. Whenever you go, plan for traffic and parking to be horrendous.
posted by contraption at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2009

When my then 14-year-old niece came to visit a few years back, it was actually pretty torturous; she was at the height of her bratty teen years, and had a total attitude about all the tourist things (cable cars, beach, GG Bridge, Ferry to Jack London) we did and spent most of the time texting her friends about what was going on back home. Hopefully your experience will be less painful.

Depending on where they're from, they may or may not get a little culture shock; my niece grew up in a small midwestern town, so Chinatown & the Haight were both fun and also a little much for her to take in. Her experience with Chinese food was limited to P.F. Chang's, so dim sum brunch didn't go well.

That said, she really liked shopping. We spent quite a bit of time at Amoeba on Haight St, and also at Ghirardelli Square (blech, but she thought it was cool). My other niece, who's also visited several times as a teenager, is more comfortable in the big city and wanted to spend lots of time browsing the shops in Chinatown and North Beach.

If they tend geeky, you could also go to the Cartoon Art Museum. It's close to MOMA and downtown, so it could be part of a visit there of a trip to the Ferry Building.
posted by chbrooks at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2009

If they're into music at all take them to Haight Street for the scene and specifically to Amoeba Records. Teenage boys I know think it's heaven.

I think at that age I wouldn't have been interested in Alcatraz.
posted by tula at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2009

Take the ferry - either to Alcatraz or Sausalito. Even if they're not into the final destination, just being out on the water is fun.

Also, what about a Sunday stroll through GG Park? Over the past few months I took both of my teenaged nieces from Wisconsin people watching in the park and they loved it.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:21 AM on August 5, 2009

13 and 16 are too old for the Exploratorium, no? I went once and most kids were in the 8 to 10 range. At this age they are probably developing adult interests. Also note that a 13 year old girl and a 16 year old boy would not necessarily be interested in the same things.

If the kids are into history or architecture there is so much to see that you'll have no trouble (Alcatraz, Sutro Baths and WWII gun emplacements, old Victorian houses everywhere), but if they're not, these things will be of no interest. You could perhaps ask them. If someone had asked me as a kid if I enjoy exploring old ruins, I probably would have said no when I was 12 but hell yes when I was 16.

Do they read books a lot? Go to the Mcsweeney's / pirate store on Valencia, maybe they'll see a book they like; Mcsweeney's publishes a lot of really cool books. Also they can buy awesome pirate regalia there.

Also, there is this really awesome place called the Jejune institute. It would take about two hours to do it. You show up to their office in the financial district. It's very mysterious. Memail me and I'll tell you exactly what it is, I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:27 AM on August 5, 2009

I'm in my 20s and I still go to the Exploratorium whenever I can. So no, they're not too old.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2009

Shopping on Haight street is what my teenager girls and their friends would universally suggest. Renting roller skates and skating in GG Park (closed for cars on Sundays) is also fun for teens.
posted by jasper411 at 10:35 AM on August 5, 2009

The Japantown mall, perhaps? It's sort of cultural and sort of shopping, with all kinds of interesting stores and food to check out.
posted by c*r at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2009

Musee Mecanique might be cool. I guess it could go either way. Either they'll be blown away by the old arcade machines, or they'll be so jaded by their Wiis and Xboxes and whatnot that they'll roll their eyes. But I still think it'd be worth a shot.

A tip for the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which is a GREAT destination): If you're going on a weekend, ticket lines can be long. An excellent shortcut is to stop in at one of the major hotels in downtown Monterey and buy your tickets there. There's no surcharge. Not only will you not have to wait in line, but a) the tickets are good for two days, and b) you can go straight to the members' entrance.

I generally pull into the driveway of the Portola Hotel and buy tickets there. It's the easiest place to just run in without having to park downtown.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:53 AM on August 5, 2009

I always recommend the Cable Car Museum. It's not just a museum, it's the nexus of all the cable car lines, where the huge motors are that run all the cables. You can look at everything, and the place is filled with the hum of huge machinery and the smell of pine-pitch cable grease. It's badass. And free!
posted by autojack at 12:01 PM on August 5, 2009

When I was their age I used to love hanging out on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley - visiting the street vendors, unique shops, getting a slice at Blondie's pizza...
posted by The Gooch at 12:10 PM on August 5, 2009

When I was a 16-year-old girl visiting San Francisco, I thought Alcatraz was surprisingly cool (not just an old prison, but an elaborate ruin with radical history that I hadn't heard about) and Chinatown was surprisingly boring (same things in every tourist shop).

If they're from a place where they don't get to see the ocean all the time, that itself is a nice thing to do. I liked looking at the Golden Gate Bridge from different points of view, and I liked walking around Sutro Park.

I thought the Exploratorium was great at age 20, but I think I would have been a little bored there as a younger, more self-conscious teenager.
posted by dreamyshade at 11:35 PM on August 6, 2009

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