Stuff to do in San Francisco With a Kid
February 6, 2012 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a week in San Francisco with my six-year old.

My daughter and I are going to travel with my wife to San Francisco in late March. She's going to be at a conference for most of the time, so I'm looking for stuff to do with the kid. We will not have a rental car.

We're staying near 4th and Folsom. The last time I was there I had a car; how's the public transportation? Where can the kid and I go?

She likes the usual kid stuff like zoos, parks, book stores, hiking trails. She's normally a pretty picky eater (and she's militantly vegetarian), but she's usually willing to try new (veggie) food on trips, so I'm open to any restaurant suggestions as well. Oh, she's also a big fan of museums and galleries. Childrens' museums are a welcome suggestion as well (looks like the Children's Creativity Museum is within walking distance).

Mostly I just want to get her out of the hotel (she loves hotels) and into the city. I don't know when we'll have a chance to get back to San Fran, so I'd like to get as much out of this trip as possible.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I read this question and found it helpful. The kid is kinda geeky, but she's still six.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: The San Francisco Zoo is magnificent, and accessible by public transportation. It's also right near Lake Merced, which has great little trails, and right near Ocean Beach.

The California Academy of Sciences is great fun for kids. $3 off when you come by MUNI, too!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: You're close to the MOMA, it a fantastic museum (don't know her age or interests) but even apart from that the gift shop is worth a stop. From 4th and Folsom you can get anywhere you need to go on public transit.

I have a feeling you'd enjoy a walk down Valencia to see the boutiques and galleries and then end up with a bite to eat at Cha-Ya (veggie japanese/sushi). Take the MUNI J train to 20th and Church - at the top of Dolores Park, admire the view of the city, then walk east until you get to Valencia and explore.
posted by kcm at 12:41 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: Exploratorium
posted by elsietheeel at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, California Academy of Sciences, you can do Golden Gate Park on the same trip, and eat in the Inner Sunset -- Park Chow might be a fun place for a kid.

Land's End is cool. You can climb around on the rocks.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: I came in to say the Exploratorium, too. It's pretty much the greatest place ever to take a smart, inquisitive kid. Or adult...
posted by chatongriffes at 12:47 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: Cal Academy (which has a great food court), Exploratorium, Zoo as mentioned above.

Also check out the Bay Area Discovery Museum - it's in Marin but right across the Golden Gate in Marin. The website suggests taking the ferry then a quick cab ride. The ferry is a lot of fun too, and you might have fun wandering around in Sausalito too.

Golden Gate Park has a GREAT playground, with these huge cement slides, and a carousel.
posted by radioamy at 12:55 PM on February 6, 2012

Depending on when you're going, I'd keep an eye on this website for interesting events:

It's not all kid-appropriate, but usually a couple things are. (For example, this weekend there's a ballet at City Hall. In the past, I went to an event to make homemade pickles, which had alot of kids.)
posted by tinymegalo at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: Things to do:
- Take her on a ferry ride, because ferries are awesome.
- Walk across the Golden Gate bridge, ditto.
- Do go to Valencia street as suggested above. Then make sure to go to the pirate store, both the grown-up and kids Paxton Gates, Borderlands Books (look for the hairless kitties). Eat at Cha-Ya or Udupi Palace for yummy veggie food.
- Ice cream! Oh my god you could structure the whole trip around ice-cream, really, but if you did only one do Smitten because watching them make the stuff is awesome.
- Concur with the Academy of Science / Golden Gate park playground / eat at Park Chow plan.
- The Randall Museum is up on Corona Heights so you get an awesome museum with animals and a huge model train setup (if you go on a Saturday) and the walk around the museum and views are great.
- Get some kites and fly them on Ocean Beach.
posted by feckless at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: --Yes, take the ferry to Angel Island. You get the whole panoramic view of the Bay for pretty cheap.

--Go to Precita Eyes and take a Mural Tour

--Seconding the Pirate Store. Its where my wife and I met.

--Just walk around Chinatown which even after living in San Francisco for 15 years still feels like a magical place with all its little alleys. Dont miss the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory.
posted by vacapinta at 1:31 PM on February 6, 2012

Fairyland, for crying out loud.
posted by rhizome at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: We have fantastic playgrounds, don't forget those!

Here are some easily accessible by public transit: Alta Plaza, Hamilton, the brand new one up the hill from Hayes Valley on Hayes, Alamo Square. All good for 6-year-olds! The one downtown at Yerba Buena is really fun but gets old quickly (IMHO).

If she is into Star Wars, my girls that age are, go see Yoda's fountain in the Presidio, at the Lucas campus. There is a Starbucks there for snacks and it's a close walk to the Exploratorium and Crissy Field (awesome beach any time of year).

Have a blast!
posted by mamabear at 2:03 PM on February 6, 2012

the house of air trampoline park is really fun
posted by askmehow at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2012

You'll be very close to the Cartoon Art Museum. if you end up near Fishermans Wharf / Pier 39 you could hit the Musee Mechanique which is free except for the quarters you feed the machines.
posted by oneear at 3:22 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: +1 to everything already mentioned, especially GG Park/ Cal Academy/ Park Chow. My 6yo also loves the Cable Car Museum (free, and accessible by cable car) and we just this weekend discovered the amazing, utopian Adventure Playground in Berkeley.
posted by rdc at 7:53 PM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: Buying a MUNI Passport can relieve at lot of the stress around transit. 7 days, all the bus you can handle (including cable cars, but NOT the Bart), $21!

The catch: they are impossible to find! Buy them at SFO when you land :)
posted by gregglind at 9:03 AM on February 7, 2012

Best answer: Golden Gate Park is lovely--I have especially fond memories of the carousel, and the Conservatory and the Japanese tea garden are great too. When I was about six, my very favorite place in San Francisco was Chinatown. It's one of the biggest in the country, and really fascinating, especially if she's never seen one. There are vegetarian places there (you might want to look them up ahead of time)--but watch out for dead window ducks, they're everywhere. Chinatown is also a great place for the kind of teeny, affordable toys kids like.

I also love Ocean Beach (the MUNI will take you right there). There's a cute little hippie cafe nearby where you can get lunch. The beach is cold in March, though, so bundle up!
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:28 PM on February 7, 2012

Fairyland, for crying out loud.

This. Yes, Oakland isn't in San Francisco, but BART to 19th Street is a quicker trip than the L all the way out to the Zoo. Plus, the weather is 100% guaranteed to be better.
posted by clorox at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2012

Exactly, not to mention that it's pretty much parental negligence to bring a 6yo within 50 miles and not go to Fairyland. It's kind of an age thing, much more than the Exploratorium (which is one of my favorite places on Earth). It's also very near the Oakland Museum, which is a fantastic oldschool museum quite unlike the gallery-style destination museums in SF like the De Young, Legion of Honor, etc. I also think the Oakland Zoo is better than the SF one, though it's pretty cool to be right out there at the beach.
posted by rhizome at 5:34 PM on February 7, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, what a trip!

We bought clipper cards in the airport, and while they were useful (well, for the adults at least), I think we would have better been served buying the MUNI Passport. We hardly ever rode BART.

Day 1: Land in San Fran, BART to the hotel, then off to see the bridge and just hang out and get adjusted to flying across two time zones. On our way we hit up parts of Golden Gate Park, which was totally amazing, and the kid got herself a righteous bruise from one of the playgrounds. The bridge was beautiful, incredibly foggy, and like a bad trip. The traffic was really loud, there were people everywhere, and the foghorn kept going off at regular intervals. You could barely see the water, and the top of the bridge was completely invisible. I loved it, in a "zomgthisiscompletelydisorienting" sorta way. The kid, not so much, at least at the time. She now looks back on it fondly. We wandered around and ate overpriced food, then hopped back to the hotel.

Day 2: After getting off MUNI Metro, I told the kid to walk a couple of blocks over and explore. We found THE PACIFIC FUCKING OCEAN! Her only experience with the ocean so far has been wading around on Galveston Beach, so this kinda blew her away. We scooped up dozens of sand dollars and avoided the jellyfish. Dogs were frolicking. People were flying kites. The waves were insane. Good times. Then we hit the zoo, went back to the hotel, and then finished our ongoing Slug Bug game from the lounge on the 39th floor.

Day 3: Exploratorium, getting lost around Point Lobos/Land's End, and Chinatown. This was the best day by far. The Exploratorium rocked our faces off, and then we hiked around for literally hours, taking these little side paths, until we became very lost. The kid was a trooper, not caring that we were wet, muddly, and hungry, and tromped on until we found the main path again. She wanted to see China Town after that, so we did, which was great, even with the dead ducks in the window (my wife and I are omnivores, but the kid is militantly vegetarian). We eventually picked a restaurant and then headed back for the nightly swim.

Day 4: Crazy rainy. We got breakfast and then stood in line, in the rain, for a cable car to go to the cable car museum. We found a great coffee shop for some hot chocolate as soon as we stepped off, and the cable car museum was a huge it with both of us. Seriously, very cool.

Day 5: Dolores Park (best. park. ever.), Valencia, the Pirate Store, Grub, back to Land's End, more food somewhere on Lombard, the Presidio, swimming. On this day the kid beat us 24-14-11 in slug bug, although I did get a triple in the span of two seconds, so yay me.

We DO NOT let her win. She's just really, really good at this.

Day 6: Back to the park near Yerba Buena (we went there almost every day since it was right by our hotel), then the carousel that's right there, MOMA, good food on Mason St, and then off to the airport.

It was a great trip. We ticked off a lot from the list, but we didn't get to see Fairyland (a bit of a bummer) or take the ferry to Angel Island, both of which we were looking forward to. We left the hotel each day by 9am and didn't return until around 6-7pm each day, however, so I think we got enough in. The kid was a trooper the whole time and never complained, and I'm really going to miss the weather. We might be back in October-ish.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. They were perfect.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, and cupcakes from Cako were great. We got off the bus right in front of their storefront, and suddenly getting four cupcakes to go just made perfect sense.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:46 PM on April 3, 2012

thanks for the writeup! hope you enjoyed the bike culture as well.

to add content to this post: the new playground just opened in Dolores Park so I'm glad you timed it right and enjoyed it so much. anyone reading this thread later should also consider it just for how the playground has turned out (since my first answer).
posted by kcm at 2:22 PM on April 4, 2012

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