1. Exploratorium

    Kids can experience one of the finest, uniquely San Francisco interactive days at this superb science museum. They’ll learn all about their senses and how they work, as well as delve into all the laws of physics through first-hand experiments. The top draw, however, is the Tactile Dome, a totally dark sphere in which you feel your way along, touching a range of sensorially stimulating objects and textures .

  2. San Francisco Zoo

    Direct encounters with farm animals at Family Farm, and visits with zoo babies, which may include gorillas, snow leopards, rhinos, or alpacas, make this a must-do for the youngsters. Although perhaps not the biggest or best zoo in the world, its attention to top-quality children’s programs, such as the many feeding times and the creepy-crawly insect denizens, make it one of the tops for budding zoologists. The whole landscaping of the place, from quirky castles to natural habitats, is also designed for maximum fun .

    Crazy Castle, San Francisco Zoo
  3. Aquariums

    Part of Golden Gate Park’s California Academy of Sciences, the Steinhart Aquarium is a big hit with kids. The darkened corridors are filled with softly glowing tanks in which some of the weirdest creatures on the planet disport themselves. Then there’s the Touching Tidal Pool if kids want to get up close and personal with their finny friends. At Fisherman’s Wharf, UnderWater World gives an even greater undersea experience, with walk-through transparent tunnels surrounded by sea life.

  4. Zeum

    This elaborate complex, aimed both at entertaining kids and spurring their creativity to the max, is part of the greater Yerba Buena Center. There’s a wonderful old-fashioned carousel, a labyrinth, a studio where they can script, produce, and star in their own videos, art studios and galleries, plus lots more to keep them busy and productive all day long. Ages 5 to 18.

  5. Randall Museum

    Perched above the city, in Corona Heights Park, this small, welcoming complex is primarily a petting zoo, with farm animals, raccoons, reptiles, and birds. But it also offers hands-on experience with woodworking, pottery, painting, theater, photography, model railroads, storytelling, gardening, and more. The aim is to teach children respect for nature and the environment.

    • 199 Museum Way, off Roosevelt Way, Buena Vista

    • 415 554 9600

    • Open 10am–5pm Tue–Sat

    • Free


  6. Alcatraz

    “The Rock” is always a hit with older children, particularly boys, who relate to the grim, quasi-military aspects of the place. The wildness of the island’s natural beauty, as well as the ferry ride out and back, will also delight. Smaller kids might find it a bit frightening .

  7. Bay Area Discovery Museum

    This hands-on museum is aimed directly at children. Kids will be able to enjoy an under water sea tunnel, an art studio, a science lab, an engineering lab, the “Maze of Illusions,” and a media center.

    • 557 McReynolds Rd, Sausalito

    • 415 339 3900

    • Open 9am–4pm Tue–Fri, 10am–5pm Sat–Sun; closed public hols & last two weeks in Sep

    • Dis. access

    • Adm


  8. Golden Gate Park Playground

    At the southeastern corner of the park, kids will love the old carousel, a treehouse, and some great swings, slides, and other kid-driven rides. In the summer, there are often Punch and Judy shows to tickle and delight children of all ages .

    Golden Gate Park playground
  9. Angel Island State Park

    An ideal place for a full-day family outing. You can picnic, swim, hike, kayak, camp, or take the tram tour that goes all around the island, with a guide who points out sites of historic interest – dating from the days when the place was a rather forbidding immigrant clearing station .

    Angel Island State Park
  10. Metreon

    Intended as a lively, high-tech, multilevel amusement arcade for adolescents, so far the only thing that seems to have clicked is the superb cinema complex. Here you can see the latest Hollywood blockbusters with full digital sound effects amped up to the highest possible level. Otherwise, the Metreon’s darkened rooms, designed for checking out the latest video games, are largely abandoned by the teens who were supposed to be flocking.

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