San Francscio this week with older kids
November 9, 2021 11:26 AM   Subscribe

We are heading to San Francisco from Wednesday through Saturday with our 12 year older son and 15 year old daughter, staying at the Marker in Union Square. Need your ideas for fun things for kids that age in this pandemic era. Everyone fully vaxed.

We were supposed to go for spring break 2020-but, well, you know. Husband and I have been though not for years-kids have never been. Only things we have booked is night tour to Alcatraz-anyone know how long that takes. It says 2 1/2 hours but does that include the boat ride? Things we like-daughter wants to shop for cool clothes, son loves medieval stuff/swords, D&D and anime. Husband and I love good food. Husband wants dim sum. We won’t have a car. Would like to do some of the classic sites and any offbeat things you might suggest-we’ve been swamped and I haven’t done nearly the planning I normally would do.

-what cool things would kids this age love
-what offbeat shops would you recommend
-where’s your favorite dim sum place? Nice kid friendly dinner restaurant? Breakfast close ish to hotel?

Thank you!
posted by purenitrous to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Downtown feels like kind of a shitshow right now. The last three times I’ve been on Market street I’ve been pursued, harassed or swung at by someone having an episode. I’m not generally a paranoid person and have lived in major cities for 10 years but I’ve been avoiding the area. Just an FYI.

My favorite dim sum is Good Mon Kok (bakery, not a sit down place). You can get a bag and take it to the park if you’re prepared. It’s getting a bit colder out now, however. I also like Mama Ji’s for sit down, which is a bit more of a homey neighborhood place.

My memory of Alcatraz was that once you get there you can hang out as long as you want and go to various talks, etc. That was pre-COVID so not sure how things are now.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

In Berkeley at the corner of Durant & Telegraph there's a board games/rpg shop and a vintage clothes shop right across the street & lots of food options, might be a nice afternoon to walk around there.
posted by bleep at 11:50 AM on November 9, 2021

I bet your son would love Japantown. Lots of great Japanese food and a little mall with shops/bookstores selling anime merch and other knickknacks. Plus a few little grocery stores that are fun to walk around. (Note: heard it got hit hard by COVID so you might want to make sure there are some stores still open). Easily accessible by bus but a little out of the way of downtown.
posted by clarinet at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Way out in the Sunset is Kingdom of Dumpling, which might be a good combo with Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach/Land's End activities. There's cool clothing and home stuff at General Store not far away, on Judah. Across the park, I like to go to Green Apple books, and there's a neighborhood take-out dim sum spot right across the street that is pretty delicious. Down the street, among other things, is Park Life, a gallery/art bookstore/clothing spot.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sounds like fun! I haven't been there since covid. Outdoor things: Alcatraz is good. Angel island is also interesting, but it will take half a day. Seward Street slides will fill 10 minutes, but they'll be fun minutes. The palace of fine arts. Twin peaks. Anything in the Presidio. The ferry to Oakland. Sutro Baths and Land's End. (The Albany Bulb if you feel like a trip across the bay and a walk.)

Offbeat shops: Paxton Gate. 826 Valencia. Sometimes The Lab, though whether or not it's a shop depends on what they're doing right now, or at least it did. Borderlands books. City lights. Across the bay, The Bone Room. None will be good for fashion. Only the first has a chance at swords. There are places that sell fancy battle axes within a few blocks of the Willie Woo Woo Wong Playground, but figuring out which one is the good one is hard to do online. (Sadly, it looks like the giant candles and holiday kitsch shop in the Mission that I loved has closed.)

Dinner: Puerto Allegre. Khan Toke. Across the bay and a walk, Viks Chaat. (Looks like both my favorite dim sum and the best bahn mi in the world are also closed now. Damn.)

I started writing some things that might be fun for teenagers, but most of them also seem to have closed. Musée Mécanique is still around, it seems.
posted by eotvos at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hot new place for Dim Sum is the Palette Tea House. If kids like the Alcatraz vibe, Fort Point is a great visit - it's our civil war era fortress underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Walking up Grant St. or Stockton St. through Chinatown to North Beach will probably be interesting to the kids. For 'cool clothes' you could visit my neighborhood, the Haight-Ashbury, though the [in]famous street life can be unsettling or unnerving if you're not mentally prepared. Alternately you could take a long walk down Valencia St. in the mission, probably skewing older than your kids but an interesting vibrant place nonetheless. The Divisadero commercial corridor between Haight & Golden Gate is great for food - you can get take out at Soulva or Buy-Rite (or many others) and head to Alamo Square for a picnic with a view of the painted ladies you know from the postcards. Golden Gate Park, particularly the eastern end, is really a treasure - the conservatory of flowers, the carousel (even big kids love it), the roller-skating party (along JFK drive, you'll hear it), the deYoung Museum and Academy of Science/Steinhart Aquarium, the botanical garden, and so on. The 9th and Irving commercial area is just south of an entrance to the park near the museums & botanical garden and is a great place for lunch and slice of genuine SF life.
posted by niicholas at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Weather looks good! With no car you should all rent e-bikes to get around. Sports Basement and Blazing Saddles are the typical outfitters.
posted by TDIpod at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2021

sears fine food for breakfast and the exploratorium
posted by brujita at 2:26 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

The cool people I see on the street seem to shop at thrift shops. Actual thrift shops, not boutiques with kitcshy decor. San Francisco is the oldest city in the U.S., because housing prices and schools make it difficult to raise a family, so it does lack that youthful exuberance. The good news is there is a ton to do for kids.

You've gotten a large number of great suggestions, but I would specifically point out the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, the Exploratorium on the Embaradero, and add the Yoda statue in the Presidio. I would dedicate a day to each of those areas, and tack on side excursions. For instance, if you're feeling like a hike, you could go up the Filbert Steps from the Exploratorium, enjoy the view from Coit Tower, and walk or bus down to Chinatown, which is worth seeing. There is dim sum there but it tends to be very inexpensive and not very good. While there are a lot of recent immigrants in Chinatown the good stuff (for my Anglo palate) tends to be in the Outer Sunset or the suburbs. The Musee Mechanique is incredible for all ages.

As far as food, San Francisco is pretty hard to have a bad meal in. Skip the obvious chains, and follow your nose. Restaurants tend to be pretty family-friendly, unless you're talking Michelin stars, I wouldn't worry about that.

I am usually a huge advocate of taking transit in San Francisco, because you see more. But in the pandemic service has been cut, at least one of the MUNI regional rail lines is being operated as a bus, etc. And where you are is kinda far to walk all the way down to Market to get on BART for a quick trip. I also don't recommend getting around on e-bikes for reasons of safety and also that the kids aren't old enough. I would take Lyfts.
posted by wnissen at 3:04 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Alcatraz Night Tour is about 2 1/2 hours. Unlike the day tour, when you can wander the island freely, for the night tour you are met at the dock by a guide and taken all over the island, including behind-the-scenes or normally-closed areas. They guide you in a group to maximize what you see, and to ensure you get to the last boat back to the mainland without issue.

All the feedback I've heard is that this is a very very good tour. (Disclaimer: I volunteer in NPS interpretation on the island, but I haven't been involved in the night tour yet.) My feedback from the day tour is that 10 and 12 year olds are perfectly engaged with the experience.
posted by blob at 7:07 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Lots of great suggestions although I would definitely recommend Green Apple or City Lights or Dog Eared Books or really any other bookstore in SF over Borderlands, whose owner has been accused of sexual assault and domestic abuse by his daughter. There are lots of other excellent bookstores in the city!

Also there is SPARK Social SF a food truck park with a mini golf course in Mission Bay that might be fun to check out. The mini golf course is a labor of love “designed by retirees Jane and Esther Stearns, who live in the neighborhood and are fanatical about the sport.”
posted by KatlaDragon at 9:14 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

You might like the Sky Star wheel in Golden Gate Park. Urban Putt was surprisingly fun when I went a while ago. Musee Mecanique is a classic, you could try to check it out before your Alcatraz tour if the timing works out. Even if you don't want to see the art at the De Young, you can still go up the Hamon Tower and look at the views of the city for free. The Presidio is nice for walking around, you can see some Andy Goldsworthy sculptures.
posted by vunder at 2:34 PM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had not realized just how close you were to the Tenderloin, definitely a neighborhood to avoid due to the open-air drug use. If you do go down to Powell St for BART or the cable cars, definitely head east on Geary (toward Union Square), then go down Powell. Similarly if you're heading down to Van Ness I would go straight west on Geary. Basically anywhere south of Geary in that area, across Market and several long blocks into SOMA is bad. I would also stay out of the Panhandle (just east of Golden Gate park) after dark.

Wanted to second the plug of the observation tower at the de Young. There are also some great Ruth Asawa sculptures, choosen by the San Francisco artist herself, on view for free. Don't think that just because they're next to the elevator, they're not worth seeing.

Hope you're having a great time!
posted by wnissen at 9:34 AM on November 11, 2021

This is my favorite thing to do in the city, and I live here. Free walking tours hosted by volunteers. They have great, very specific tours (Hitchcock film shooting locations, the Japanese Garden in GG Park, etc) and they're usually just a couple hours. Bonus is you can get great recommendations for restaurants in the neighborhood afterwards.
posted by egeanin at 12:24 PM on November 14, 2021

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