Traveling in a pandemic is hard. Traveling with children in a pandemic is even harder. I’ve had a lot of time over the last few weeks to explore my home town, a city that relies heavily on tourism. San Francisco has always had a lot to offer but I never realized just how great of a city she is until I found myself toting around a tiny human in need of free entertainment. I wanted to create a list of safe (outdoor and socially distance) low-cost activities for families who are considering a trip to the Bay so that they have a quick reference guide to turn to. The below is a list of spots I’ve fallen more deeply in love with in recent months and can testify they are wonderful for kiddos aged 0 months to 100 years.
San Francisco has some pretty phenomenal playgrounds that are a blast for all ages. All of the below playgrounds (except for perhaps Helen Diller in Civic Center) are situated in beautifully lush parks great for packing sandwiches and sitting on the grass.
- Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park
*Make sure to bring a piece of cardboard to act as your sled down the infamous concrete slide (trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds)
- Alta Plaza playground in Pacific Heights
*Gorgeous views of the city at all hours
- Lafayette playground in Pacific Heights
- Helen Diller (more commonly known as Dolores Park playground) in the Mission
*Keep in mind this can get very crowded on the weekends so if this is a concern, schedule this stop mid-week
- Helen Diller Civic Center Playground
*An architectural joy nestled between San Francisco City Hall and the Asian Art Museum
NorCal may be the colder cousin to our SoCal neighbors but we know how to enjoy the beach even on a windy day. Make sure to pack plenty of layers even if the sun is out!
- Baker beach
*Just west of Baker lies China Beach. Check the tide charts and head over at low tide for a chance to see some sea anemones and starfish!
*There’s also great hiking in the area. Batteries to Bluff’s trail is a ~2mile coastal walk with great views
- Ocean beach
*A massive shoreline where you can sit and watch surfers brave the waves or rent bikes and cruise down the Great Highway which has been closed off to vehicles since COVID.
- Aquatic park cove
*A small beach near Ghirardelli Square. Visitors beware: There are posters for Ghirardelli’s ice cream sundaes everywhere. Godspeed.
Hiking might be the number one reason we live in the Bay Area. World class kid-friendly strolls can be found just across the bridge and within city limits.
- Marin Headlands
*I’m hesitant to recommend any one hike because there are tons but we love the Slacker Hill via SCA Trail for the lush hills and proximity to the bridge. You also have the Point Bonita Lighthouse, Rodeo Beach, Black Sands Beach and more!
- Tank hill
*Gorgeous views way up high with boulders for rambunctious kids to glob onto
- Corona Heights Park
*Similar to Tank Hill, this might be my favorite quick city hike for how easy it is to get to and see phenomenal views
- Hike to Sutro Baths
*Right next to the old Cliff House, give your kiddos a history lesson that they can jump all over!
- Lands End
*Easy path with nice views and a few historical markers along the way
If your children are animal lovers, they are going to love the below atractions.
- San Francisco Zoo
- Botanical gardens
*Redwood trees, a gorgeous pond surrounded by palm trees, and wide open fields for running
- Japanese Tea Garden
*A bit more serene than some children may like, but the space is magnificent and the rocks that allow you to hop across the coy ponds create a fun game for little ones
- Feed the ducks at the Palace of Fine Arts
*THE most underrated San Francisco attraction, the Palace of Fine Arts is a stunning display of what SF has to offer. Make sure to bring some bread to feed the duckies
- Wharf for sea lions
*Watch your little ones squeal as they listen to our sea lions bark their little snouts off. Grab some clam chowder in a bread bowl for the full wharf experience
*San Francisco is home to raccoons, coyotes, parrots, and yes, bison! Come see these wonderful creatures right here in Golden Gate Park
*For the more active young ones, check out the below activities that are primarily geared toward ages 7+ but can welcome little ones too!
- Take a paddle boat out on stow lake
*It can get pretty crowded so come early and check the hours of operation
- Frolf in gg park
*Frisbee golf, that is! We have a fabulous frolf course in Golden Gate Park that gets your kiddos moving. Note that you will have to bring your own discs
- Fly a kite in Fort Funston
*Bring a kite to Fort Funston or go for a walk, pet the dogs, and watch as hang gliders take the big leap!
- Rent bikes at Crissy Field
*Gorgeous trails through Crissy Field Marsh lead you to a great picnic area. If you’re feeling adventurous, take those bikes all the way across the bridge!
- Mini golf at Stage Coach Greens
*Amazing outdoor eatery fun for everyone. Make sure to book your mini golf tickets in advance!
There are hundreds of outdoor activities to do with kiddos in San Francisco and this is just a tiny portion. I hope you enjoy your next trip out to the Bay and feel free to reach out for further any recs!