Travel | USA

Family Friendly Attractions in San Francisco

Looking for Family Friendly Attractions in San Francisco? Last Fall my family embarked on a Disney Wonder Cruise, with a two-day stop in San Francisco as we made our way down the West coast.

First of all, when docking from a cruise ship in San Francisco, you really are in one sweet spot. There’s so much to see in the immediate area, but other family-friendly attractions are only a shot cab {or trolley ride} away.

If you haven’t been before, ‘San Francisco’ really does bring about the image of trolleys and colorful row houses lining steep hilly streets. Fact is, it’s completely true and it’s a very beautiful city.

There’s so much to see and explore, especially for travelling families. Not making too many concrete plans before we took the trip, there were a few particular must-see attractions on our list. Included are some tips from our family, for future travellers taking in this iconic city.

 

Walt Disney Family Museum

As soon as we arrived at the port, we took a cab to The Walt Disney History Museum {at The Presidio}. There you’ll learn all about the complete life {and death} of Walt and his entire family. Family roots, growing up, work, friends … this is one complete museum.

There are awards, artifacts, clippings, drawings to full models of the Disney Parks. As you walk through, you start at the beginning and you are truly taken into the world of Walt and by the end, you’ll leave in tears as it’s a story that you are immersed in, until his death.

Leaving the museum we took the Presidio free shuttle to Union Square. Well, it stops a couple blocks away, but it was a great chance to wander a bit and see just how climbing those steep streets is painful after a while {my kids are such troopers!}. I can only imagine how strong those San Franciscans legs are, wow!

Interesting fact, city natives have to replace the parking brakes on their vehicles approximately every 4 months, as the average incline is 29% grade. Think of that next time you try to drive, stop, parallel park etc!

 

San Francisco Union Square

Simply put, every shoppers dream! Union Square in San Francisco is the premier shopping district is actually 14+ blocks to dine, wander and people watch. Shoppers rejoice, choose from stores like Saks 5th Avenue, Betsy Johnson, Tiffanys, Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Guess and much more!

Featured is a large central plaza with a terraced performance stage, and just a great area to explore, have a picnic or relax.

We decided to take another cable car {so much fun for the family!} back to the port area and on the way back we spotted famous Lombard Street.

Located between Hyde and Leavenworth is Lombard Street, which is known as the steepest street in San Francisco, although it is not actually the holder of this title. Every day hundreds of tourists come to the street to take pictures of its 40 degree incline arranged in zigzag

 

The Golden Gate Bridge

Needing no explanation, you just have to visit the most famous bridge in the world. You can even walk on the bridge, but even just seeing it from afar is pretty spectacular.

One of the most photographed things on Earth yet I have to note that the Oakland Bay Bridge {with its 10 lanes of traffic} is a wonder in itself as well!

Alcatraz

The next day we wanted a closer look at Alcatraz so we took the ferry boat ride from the Wharf thanks to Blue & Gold Fleet. It was relaxing, and very educational since on it you learned all about the history of San Francisco from the great earthquake that pretty much destroyed the city in 1906, to information on Alcatraz.

I love that you can see the Disney Wonder docked in this picture above. Yet, the highlight of the photo is of course, Alcatraz. I loved looking at this island, each and every building, window, tower – everyone gazed in almost a trance.

Looking back, we regret not taking an actual tour of Alcatraz, yet my girls were probably too young to enjoy it. Still on my must-see bucket list, that just means we’ll have to plan a return to the Bay Area!

 

Aquarium of the Bay

Right near the entrance to Pier 39 is San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay features exhibits that highlight the sea life and marine environments of the Bay Area.

We loved the 300 foot tunnel that you walked through, with marine life all around you. The kids were in awe!

San Francisco Bay Aquarium

We got to see jellyfish and a giant Pacific octopus, which was really amazing to watch. There was a guide there that told us all about octopus, very educational.

We also spent a lot of time at pools which you can actually touch sharks, rays and starfish {I didn’t}. Yet, the girls did befriend a turtle!

 

Pier 39

It was so convenient that the Disney Wonder docked right next to Pier 39, an entire waterfront pier with everything from shops to dining, arcades and more.

You can spend an entire day of your San Francisco vacation at Pier 39 which is at Fishermans Wharf, even if it’s just wandering aimlessly and taking in new scenery.

Fresh Food Fruit Fishermans Wharf Pier 39

Stay tuned for another travel San Francisco post, specifically on Fishermans Wharf and more on Pier 39, I told you there was so much to do in San Francisco – and we were only there for 2 days on this trip. And what a 2 day family adventure it was!

I would suggest getting a San Francisco CityPASS ticket booklet for each member of your family. You can save big on admissions and attractions like trolley rides, with free coupons too. Even if you don’t use all the tickets in the booklet, you still save money.

 

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135 Comments

  1. How fun!! Two things I love! Disney Cruises and San Francisco! Looks like you and your family had an amazing trip!!! šŸ™‚

  2. I grew up in the Bay Area and recently took my husband & Boys back down and we did the Pier and Alcatraz-ate at Bubba Gumps. It is worth the trip to do SF with kids!!

    1. We didn’t have a chance to eat there, but someone else we should have done. Next time!

  3. I lived in San Francisco for a while, but haven’t been in years. I am really missing it now. It’s such a wonderful place to be. Enjoyed your pics!

  4. This looked like a fantastic vacation. I do hope to visit San Francisco some day and I loved watching the pictures you posted. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have been to San Franscisco once when I was younger. I would love to go back with hubby and the kids! We did see the winding road and the Golden Gate bridge. We even saw the Full House house!

  6. How cool is San Fran eh! Did they kids see the Sea Lions @ Pier 39 Isn’t that the funniest thing. Love the trolly cars and a great reataurant called The Sushi boat where you sit around a giant lady river of dishes going by you to pick and the guy making them is in the middle. If you go back Berkey (very close) is lovely little shops great restaurants. Oh and must go tour Napa and eat at CIA (Culinary Institute of America) I am just getting started so you better plan a much longer trip next time if I am doing your itinerary. šŸ™‚

  7. Looks like you all had a great time. I love San Francisco. If you like burgers, a must-try is “In-N-Out Burger”. It is near Pier 39, just down on the main road.

  8. We’re planning a trip there this Summer once school is done, great timing for the tips and advice. If I have any specific questions, can I send you an email?

  9. I was fortunate to spend much of my childhood sailing the San Francisco Bay area, docking at Pier 39 before the sea lions took over! Your pictures bring back memories. I, too, need to revisit and smell that wonderful ocean air. For those that have never been, San Francisco is a must visit.

  10. Thanks For sharing! I hope to take my family on a vacation some day down to California!

  11. I grew up about an hour north of San Francisco & used to go quite often but I have never been to or even heard of The Walt Disney Family Museum! Is it open to the public or is it a cruise ship exclusive thing?

    1. It’s open to the public, and even though it is a museum, the kids loved it. Lots to learn there!

  12. Thanks for sharing the photos and information, I’d love to visit San Francisco and go on a Disney Cruise its on my to do list.

  13. I visited San Francisco as a little girl and badly want to go back! It is a beautiful city! You took some gorgeous photographs, they brought back some amazing memories!!

  14. We not myself sheesh my iPad is really screwing up. What I meant to say I’m quite envious, we never went on vacations.

  15. I am still trying to wrap my head around that they have to get their breaks replaced every 4 months lol Beautiful place though would love to go on one of those trolleys I think it would be a great way to see the city.

  16. Wow what a fantastic vacation. I am so jealous. I have never been on a cruise before and would love to go back to San Fran.

  17. I so enjoyed your review of your vacation. My daughter and I went when I had a business seminar. We saw as much as we could fit into a day and a half. We saw so much, but I wish I had done more research, sounds like you saw some great attractions. We loved the seals on the dock and around the pier. We did take the boat ride to the prison. It’s amazing that the guards and other workers had their family living right there around the prison. I have noted all the places, I wanted to go to Ghirardelli Chocolate Company , but time flew so fast. I want to go back and take my husband and granddaughter. This time I will go on a vacation and not try to slide in a vacation on a business trip.

  18. Looks like a fantastic trip! We did the Disney cruise to the Bahamas back in 2006 and they sure know how to treat families!

  19. I can’t wait until my son (3) is a little older and we can do these trips! I want him to be old enough to remember them (I wasn’t for many of my childhood trips), and I want to be a little more settled so we’re not so worried about money – the trip is useless if I’m stressing over finances the whole time – but this trip looks awesome.

  20. Never been on a cruise before but would love to one day šŸ™‚ Looks like you guys had an unforgettable trip!

  21. This looks like such a fun place to visit. I would love to see San Francisco some day and even though I am not a fan of water I would love to take the Alcatraz tour. That would be interesting. Haven’t seen street cars in years so they would be fun to take a ride on too.

  22. What a lovely trip. I desperately want to visit Alcatraz. I might have to go now.
    Looks like you all had a great time.

  23. Wow, amazing pictures. My husband has been to San Francisco but I haven’t šŸ™ He visited Alcatraz and told me all about it. I would love to shop Union Square! Prada, Guess, Gucci, oh heaven help me! I really am amazed at the picture of the Jelly Fish. Seems like you guys had a fantastic time. Lucky you!

  24. Wow, you guys packed a ton into two days. Incredible! I love visiting San Francisco and you’ll definitely have to go back and visit Alcatraz. It’s crazy amazing to see it up close.

  25. My family went to San Francisco last August and we visited all those attractions. I especially liked Alcatraz.

  26. San Francisco is truly a lovely city, we visited there 2 years ago. I fell in love with the Cable Cars so much we rode them 4 times..lol. The weather is awesome and the people are so friendly. My husband loved Chinatown and he took the Alcatraz tour. I would go back for a visit anytime!

  27. San Fran is such a unique city it is one of my favorites. I love pier 39 and remember the first time I saw the sea lions laying there. It has been a few yrs since I was there and your pictures reminded me that it is time to go back for a visit. Glad your family had such a wonderful vacation.

  28. Thanks for the heads-up. I plan on visiting the US someday (with the family), and this was a helpful guide to list down some destinations worth seeing in San Francisco, CA. Should I put that above or below, NY? And that cable car… I’d like to ride one…

    Cheers,
    Anne T.

  29. thanks for sharing the awesome photos and fantastic scenery of site you visited. I so need a vacation.

  30. Wow, what a great holiday. I wish I could be there some day with my family. Thanks for sharing some great pictures šŸ™‚

  31. On our vacation there, after the scary ride down the crooked st. we almost hit a car trying to park there!

  32. Love to go to San Francisco. My dauaghter went a couple of months back and called us from the park near the golden gate bridge.

  33. San Francisco is a place I have always wanted to visit! It looks like such a beautiful city!

  34. Wow you are so lucky to visit the most beautiful city with your lovely family

  35. Wow! You took some amazing pictures, I love the one of the girls in front of the heart. Shopping district! My favorite!

  36. Love all the hills in San Francisco, lived there as a kid, while my dad was stationed there. Lots of great memories. Hope to go back sometime soon.

  37. I loved our trip to San Francisco this summer, but it was much cooler and foggier than I had liked. Loved the sites of the city.

    1. Maybe it’s the wind coming off the ocean, but I agree – I thought it would be warmer. Definitely a place to bring a light coat, better to be prepared!

  38. I love all the adventures you go on with your kids! The fish aquarium looked like so much fun, great ideas if I ever go there

  39. We’ve never been to SF but would love to take the kids. What would you think is a good age?

    1. Never been with babies, but I don’t why not. You just might not want to walk up too many of those steep streets with a stroller or carrying a little one. My girls are 4, 4 & 8 and they all found something to love. So much to do, for all ages!

  40. San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities to visit, if I ever moved to the USA it would be in my top 5 choices. I loved the Fishermans Wharf, we spent hours there!

  41. We plan on visiting California at some point while we are stationed here in Texas to go to Disneyland. šŸ™‚ I would LOVE to see some of those things, like Alcatraz, the Aquarium and the Pier. šŸ™‚

  42. I never visit San Francisco, I would love someday, maybe just like what you did, with Disney cruise too

  43. Wow, what an awesome trip this must have been, I don’t get to travel so this sounds like so much fun and such beautiful pictures. Thanks for all the fun stuff and insight.

  44. What beautiful pictures, I’ve always been interested in seeing San Francisco and that area of California. I went to Disneyland a long time ago but didn’t get to go to the upper parts of California.

  45. Amazing pictures! I have driven through San Fran on the way to Disneyland before, as a child, so didn’t appreciate all that it has to offer. This is on the top of my list to visit, you really captured some fantastic moments in your pictures!

  46. the place are very much familiar with me since my cousin live in L.A a lot of pictures taken from that place will send to her parents in the Philippines, I really like the photos because it’s clear perfect shot and very attractive, hope someday I will reach the place.

  47. I love the Aquarium and the SF waterfront! So fun, so many things to see and do. The best place to eat seafood.

  48. Wow! Looks like you got everywhere! I went to San Fran last summer and the weather was sorta gross, but Alcatraz was incredible! Super creepy!
    Loved the pier near Alcatraz also- awesome shopping

  49. Love the pictures! It looks like you had a fantastic time! Hoping one day I can do something similar šŸ™‚

  50. WOW! It’s so cool there! I remember growing up watching Full House and just the streets and the golden gate bridge in it were enough to awe you. These are some spectacular pics! I would get so sick driving down Lombard Street I think… Mind you if this were in Canada, we could close it off and use it as a tobagan hill (sort of like bob sledding style LOL)

  51. Wow! It looks like you and your family had an amazing trip! I loved looking at all the pictures and I would also love to tour Alcatraz someday!

  52. There is so much to do at the waterfront in San Francisco that you need a week to do everything. Glad you enjoyed it.

  53. What a fun & exciting trip. Wish I could go sometime, but I just don’t have the time šŸ™

  54. Looks like you and your family had a great time. I would not want to drive on Lombard Street ever!

  55. I lived in Cali for three years and I never made it to the Golden Gate bridge, how I wish I went and saw it!

  56. Wow, this looks like an awesome experience! I visited with family once, near San Francisco, but never really in the city. My mom loves it and talks about it fondly. Thanks for sharing this and the pictures!

  57. Wow I really need to go to San Francisco now! Your trip looks amazing and if I ever get the chance to go, I’m definitely going to have to add these trips to my list, particularly Alcatraz, the bridge, and the Walt Disney Museum. Super cool!

  58. I remember working for Walt Disney World in 1998-1999 and I have to say I never got tired of Magic Kingdom.

  59. Thanks for the tips! We are just in the process of scouting out locations for our next holiday. I think we’ll add San Francisco to the list!

  60. Wow! A Walt Disney museum at the Presidio. I’ve been to SF many times and visited many sites. But, I didn’t even know this was there. Next visit, this is a must-see. Thanks.

  61. My brother visited Alcatraz and his videos were amazing. Die hard fan of Clint Eastwood – watched the movie of the same name for years. My 9 year old son Evan thinks the adventure would be RADICAL – my feelings somewhat humbling in retrospect to all who imprisoned there. Looks like you had a great time, fantastic photos. Thanks for posting.

  62. That looks like one amazing city! I would love to visit San Francisco looks like its very kid friendly.

  63. Wow, so many amazing attractions to see! I want to go to San Fransisco! šŸ™‚

  64. Amazing photos, Tammi. I would love to relax on a cruise…although you and your family look very busy…looks like you had a lovely time.

  65. Me and my kids visited SF once, going to the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Union Square. Great city!

  66. This is somewhere I have always wanted to visit! I would love to see the coast as well as Alcatraz and that Disney museum! Now I want to go even more!

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