How to enjoy 24 Hours in San Francisco with Kids

Introducing guest blogger Preethi from Local Passport family

Explore my City San Francisco

There are few more family-friendly cities than San Francisco. With an abundant mix of historic sites, outdoor recreation, excellent food, and world-class museums, there’s truly something for everyone. Read on for how to spend a perfect day in the City by the Bay!

This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents


San Francisco Stop 1: Cable Cars

Start your day by heading to the end of the Powell/Mason line at the intersection of Market Street and Powell Street. Be sure to get there early so you can hop on the cable cars before they get too crowded.

If you find there’s already a long line at the turntable and you don’t mind skipping a stop or two, you can board a stop or two further north. Just look for the brown and white Cable Car Stop signs. You probably won’t have a seat, but half the fun is hanging on the side, anyway!

When boarding at the terminus, you must purchase your ticket in advance, but if boarding at another stop, you can purchase your ticket on board.

Tickets are $7 for all ages, one-way. You can also purchase a day pass for $20, which will allow unlimited rides. The route down from Powell/Market will take you down toward the Bay with views of Alcatraz on the water, a perfect introduction to the city.

San Francisco Stop 2: Maritime National Historic Park

Once you’ve ridden down the hill, you’ll exit the cable car right near San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. The visitors’ center has an excellent exhibit on historic San Francisco waterfront neighborhoods, which is perfect for getting a feel for the city.

If you have kids in tow, grab the (free) Junior Ranger books to help you learn a bit more about the city’s maritime history, and to earn a fun badge.

After exploring the museum, head out to board the historic ships. Find out what kinds of imports and exports made their way to San Francisco over the decades, and adventure around the different decks.

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Admission is $10 for adults, or free if you have a National Parks annual pass. It’s so fun imagining San Francisco of yore!

Maritime Museum San Francisco


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San Francisco Stop 3: Fisherman’s Wharf / Ghiradelli Square

After exploring the ships, stop for some lunch.

Head over to Fisherman’s Wharf for some fresh seafood, or just walk around and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the active market. Or check out one of the many restaurants nearby. Both The Codmother and Taqueria El Farolito (the Wharf branch of one of the San Francisco Mission District’s best taquerias) are reliable, less-touristy options.

If you’re not ready for a full meal, head to Ghiradelli Square to have a giant sundae or milkshake instead – dessert before lunch is totally acceptable while on vacation (or when living in an excellent vacation destination), right?

San Francisco Stop 4: Pier 39

Once everyone’s been fed and watered, head over to Pier 39. Hopefully some of the morning fog will have burned off by this point, and the sea lions may be perking up (and squawking) a bit.

Be sure to stop into Boudin Bakery to pick up some excellent, original San Francisco sourdough. It’s fun seeing all the various animal shapes they create out of the bread.

If you haven’t eaten lunch yet, don’t miss the clam chowder or tomato soup in a bread bowl!

San Francisco Stop 5: Exploratorium & Ferry Building

After you’ve had your fill of San Francisco dining, take the Trolley (different from the cable car!) down the Embarcadero.

trolley in San Francisco

If you’re still feeling energetic with much of the day left, stop into the Exploratorium. This hands-on science museum meets mental playground is a blast for kids and adults alike. Don’t forget to drink from the toilet bowl drinking fountain!

When you’re done, if you’re looking for a bit of a break, head straight to the Ferry Building to pick up provisions for a picnic dinner. Our favorite is Cowgirl Creamery for their fancy grilled cheese sandwiches (using their own cheese made just north of San Francisco) and raspberry milk! Acme Bread Co. also has their excellent sourdough available here if you missed Boudin (or just want to compare!).

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San Francisco Stop 6: Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, Land’s End

Picnic supplies in tow, catch an Uber over to the Golden Gate Bridge. (If you have a folding packable backpack, this is a perfect time to pull it out. Check out this post on the ultimate packing list with kids!)

Walk part way and get a view of the city from the bridge, then head back and over to Land’s End for a sunset hike. (If you skipped the museum and have some extra time near the bridge, Fort Point is a truly excellent stop with a unique perspective of the bridge from underneath.)

The short, kid-friendly trail at Land’s End has spectacular views of the water and the bridge, and is a perfect spot for a picnic dinner. Stroll along the water’s edge and pause by the benches to eat, or head down to the Sutro Baths to explore the now-closed public baths at the edge of the water. Take in the cool breezes and evening glow on the bridge, and reflect back on your amazing day in San Francisco.

If you have additional time in this incredible city, check out this guide on how to best spend 4 days like a local in San Francisco, or this post on 101 off-the-beaten-path things to do in San Francisco.


About the Blogger

My name is Preethi, and I write about learning through travel with kids. My husband and I have 4 children 8 and under, with a 5th on the way!

We love exploring around our home in California, as well as all around the world (we’ve currently visited 55 countries, 38 of those with kids). We feel passionately about global education, and love sharing our learnings with our friends and followers. We hope you stop by!

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With thanks to Preethi for her contribution to our guest series.  You may also like to read about the Best of Seattle (other than the Space Needle), or how about Top 5 Things to do in San Diego with Kids.  


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