Visiting San Francisco with Kids Tips

As part of our mini-series on the City by the Bay, we are covering the top Visiting San Francisco with Kids Tips! In this post, we cover San Francisco Travelers Safety tips, the things to skip in San Francisco with kids, where to stay in San Francisco with kids and the top places to eat! For the sister post that goes along with this one click – The Ultimate Things You Have to do in San Francisco with Kids!

*For even more San Francisco fun, see our downloadable coloring pages and our San Francisco Scavenger Hunt Printable that go along with our San Francisco posts!

Coloring page of San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

We love San Francisco and think it is surprisingly child-friendly! While the streets are super steep, the sidewalks are wide and can be easily navigated with a stroller. Also, we have found that people in San Francisco are so patient and so nice to kids! Obviously, you get some people everywhere who hate kids (booooo) but for the most part, everyone was incredibly nice and patient with Beckham. It didn’t matter if we were in a kids museum or a nice restaurant, almost everyone was so patient and went out of their way to be kind to him.

free san francisco for kids coloring pages
Download your own San Francisco coloring pages now!
San Francisco Scavenger Hunt for Kids
These super cute printables are part of our San Francisco with kids series!

Visiting San Francisco with Kids Tips

Travelers Safety in San Francisco when Traveling with Children

San Francisco currently has a large homeless population and at times, this can be quite shocking. While we were there we saw a man and woman administer drugs to themselves via syringe on the sidewalk, and we saw another man pooping off to the side of the road. We have all been to San Francisco and we knew what to expect, however, for first-time visitors we suggest doing your homework before you go and make sure you are aware of the issues.

We have traveled to San Francisco many times and have never felt threatened. Like traveling anywhere else, safety always needs to be in the back of your mind and being aware of your surroundings is a must. I made sure to go over and over and over and over what Beckham what to do if he got lost and employed the “safety-pin” method every day – If you don’t know what this is, you can check out our most recent Disneyland post where we go over it in detail. I also made sure that I knew where Beckham was at all times and if he was with another adult, I verbally communicated that that adult was in charge of Beckham until they had let me know otherwise.

The Diversity of San Francisco Provides for Some Excellent Teaching Moments

We really tried hard to make the things Beckham was seeing teaching moments and to help explain certain situations to him. If this is something you are not quite ready to do with your children, San Francisco might be a destination that is better saved for a later date. We had no problem taking Beckham and had the absolute BEST time but we do want to present you with some things we noticed and think everyone should be aware of. All in all, we wouldn’t hesitate to go to San Francisco again with little children, we think this diverse city is a fabulous place to learn and explore! 

best places for kids in San Francisco
There is so much to learn, see, and do in San Francisco! Becks loved the colors of the street art in the Mission area!

The Best Places to Stay with Children in San Francisco

The Ritz Carlton San Francisco

Our top recommendation is a bit pricey and if it isn’t in your price range, don’t fear there are lots of other family-friendly options that are a little bit more economical. The reasons why we love this hotel so much is that the staff is excellent with children, the rooms are spacious, the amenities are fantastic, and the location is perfect. It is close enough to be in walking distance of most things but out of the city center enough that we were able to get away from the craziness that is Market Street. They offer super fun kids activities and we just think it is fab! We stayed here the last two times we have visited and have loved it each time.

One thing that we DON’T love about the Ritz Carlton SF

Something to note, the food is very expensive. I am talking $32.00 for some cheerios and milk from room service. NO THANKS! After the first day paying for breakfast we stopped at a CVS on the way home and asked the hotel to clean out the minibar so we could stock it with our $2.00 milk instead of having to pay $32.00 plus tip every day.

Other Family-Friendly Options

We have not stayed at any of these locations but have heard fabulous things and they were recommended to us by several of our guides. They are all a bit cheaper than the Ritz Carlton. These might be some great options if you don’t know where to start and need something a bit more economical.

The Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf

Courtyard Marriott San Francisco Downtown

Handlery Union Square

The Best Places to Eat with Kids in San Francisco

Each of these restaurants is SUPER yummy, super casual, and kid-approved!

The Melt

Get the chicken sandwich and the snickerdoodle shake. Hello, yummy!

A16 Pizza

The best margarita pizza in the whole city!

La Taqueria

Tacos, burritos, and chips and salsa? Yes, please!

The Ferry Building Marketplace

Self-described as a Mecca for farmers, vendors, and food lovers we can’t recommend the Ferry Building enough. Anything we have ever eaten in here has been divine and the casual and laid-back atmosphere is perfect for children. With a vast patio out back where the littles can watch boats and ferries pass by, it is such a fun place to rest and grab a yummy bite to eat!

Best Sweet Treats for Kids in San Francisco

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream (If they are not serving the Harvey Milk + Honey Graham when you visit, you deserve to shed a tear or two)

Johnny’s Doughnuts (The Citrus Orange Doughnut is life changing!)

Ghirardelli Chocolate at Ghirardelli Square (Chocolate – enough said :))

Trish’s Mini Doughnuts (The doughnuts are delish but the lemonade should be skipped)

Snickerdoodle Shake at The Melt (Yes, we are putting it on here twice – it is just that good!)

Things to Skip in San Francisco with Kids

These are some things that just did not live up to the hype and have no place on our Ultimate Things You Have to do in San Francisco with Kids list. In fact, we thought these were such busts that we decided to make a things to SKIP in San Francisco with kids list just for them (is that harsh??).

The Museum of Ice Cream

This Instagram Famous Museum is LAME. LAME. LAME. Save yourself the $38.00 per ticket + tax and a service fee and put your money elsewhere. Oddly a museum about ice cream was quite sexual (Beckham obviously didn’t get any of the innuendos) and seriously smelled like stinky feet the whole time. NOPE!

Riding a Cable Car

We know we might have people who disagree with us, but there are a couple of reasons why this is on our list.

  • 1) The price. It is $7.00 ONE WAY, per person, and there are other places in San Francisco that are far more fun and enjoyable.
  • 2) The crowds. Every other tourist has riding a Cable Car on their bucket list and the car we got on was packed to the max.
  • 3)The unreliability. Finding the cable car stops takes a masters degree to figure out. We walked up three different hills only to have to walk back down one and then up again to find a location that was operating cable cars and we could board. There is not a specific schedule, so you just have to wait for the next available and hope the car that comes by isn’t full. (We had to wait for over 40 minutes).

If getting on a cable car and snapping that famous San Francisco picture is on your list, we suggest heading down to Powell and Market street and seeing where many of the cable cars end their route. Visiting the Cable Car Museum is also such a fun and educational alternative.

The Aquarium of the Bay

Unless it is raining really hard and you need somewhere to hunker down for a while, this is somewhere that we can’t suggest when considering the price. There are far better things to do with your time and money. After visiting here, we decided to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in Presidio and we all enjoyed that so much more!  Even Beckham was incredibly disappointed with this aquarium.  On the way out he said “well that was lame.” He’s only 5 and recognized that it was a bust.

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where to eat, stay and what to do in San Francisco

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13 thoughts on “Visiting San Francisco with Kids Tips

  1. Great list, thanks for posting! I also love to travel and I’ve recently switched to a healthier lifestyle and training for a race with SportMe marathon training app, which calculates distance, time, pace and calories. Finding new running routes is always a challenge, such as sneaking in my runs into my destinations. Your blog posts are a true inspiration.

  2. I been to San Francisco but would never stay downtown. It is a huge rip off! And the thing about milk and cheerios costing $32! What the hell! I am godsmacked. How can they justify those prices. Sigh….otherwise great tips here. Love the city but cant wait to take my two children there for the first time soon 🙂

  3. I’ve heard so much about the Ferry Building Marketplace, and I’m glad to see it made your list. We don’t have kids, but it sounds pretty fabulous anyway. I also really appreciated your tips about what to avoid with kids (or avoid period). The cable cars have a romantic appeal to me, but not enough to try to hunt one down. I’ve heard quite a lot about the Museum of Ice Cream, but I had no idea how expensive it was! Thanks for posting!

  4. Loved Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay!!! Loved Trish Mi-Donuts and Girrardhelli chocolates, too! We skipped the Museum of Ice Cream, too. Did you also have a list of places that were great? Like the seals at Pier 39???

  5. I love riding the cable car! Everyone should do it. I haven’t been to the aquarium but I know lots of people take their kids there and love it! ANd I agree withyou on the $32 cheerios!

  6. Wow, I’m truly shocked to read about what you witnessed on the sidewalks of San Francisco. I really do hope the city is doing something about it. An interesting note about the ice cream museum. I’ve seen the Instagram pictures and good to know it is not as it has been portrayed. Love the honesty in this post and happy Beckham enjoyed himself.

    1. Hello Rosemary!

      Crazy right?! And for sure, skip the ice cream museum unless you want a few Instagram Pics! Sending hugs,


  7. Great post! I love that you started off with what can be expected to be seen in San Fran at the current time. I was traveling with 26 International journalists a few months ago and they were shocked and scared half to death. I agree, San Fran is very kid friendly. Loved your recommendations about what to skip. I’d have to agree about the aquarium (great rainy day activity if needed) and the cable car ride prices.

  8. I’ve been to San Francisco with my grandson, and all we had to do to keep him happy was to stay near the waterfront and piers. He loved seeing the seals, getting bread at the famous Sourdough shop and chocolate at Ghiradelli’s, plus exploring the different piers. Oh! And then there’s the free Musee de Mecanique, which entertained us all for over an hour!

  9. Awesome guide for travel to San Francisco with the kids. It’s a pretty wild city, considering! Riding a cable car and the Aquarium of the Bay would be on the top of my list too. Good call on the safety tips, there are far too many transients in that city and it’s gotten worse. However, it’s not just SF; Seattle, and I bet, most major metros in the US is faced with the same issue.

  10. Our nieces and nephew are finally old enough that we can take them all on a trip together, so I was wondering if San Francisco would be a good destination. They’re from a very non-diverse region, so it would be great to have opportunities for some discussion about diversity. And I had not thought to go over what to do if they get lost, so that’s an awesome tip!

  11. That is a great post. on San Francisco with Kids You have taken care of every small detail that what is good for kids and what it is not. I agree with you that the trip to any place should be a great learning for the kind otherwise save it for later. Loved that painting image and I would like to colour it for sure.

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