City Guide: San Francisco
We're back with our third city guide series (you can read about Nashville here and Cincinnati here) featuring San Francisco! We invited Nicole to share with us her top picks on food and fun when traveling with little ones in San Francisco. Take it away Nicole!
Summer is here and it’s time to plan those family trips! If San Francisco is on your list of places to visit, here are a few of my family’s favorite things to do in the city.
Normally there are a variety of transportation modalities that can be taken including bus, MUNI (the local light rail), BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) a subway system within the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Caltrain (the train), as well as uber, lyft, taxis, and your own personal vehicle. Each location will mention some element of parking as many people choose to drive in the city for convenience sake when they have a young child.
A little Italian brunch venue nestled in the outer richmond. A real hidden gem! We like it because it serves a variety of sour dough pizza for both kids and adults. But if you just like cheese, like our son, then you’re equally good to go. An excellent place to eat including with a variety of food including grilled grapefruit with crushed pistachios, waffles, “green eggs and ham” pizza and more. The decor is very typical of San Francisco, modern yet interesting. The wallpaper is made up of Bay Area icons eg. Angela Davis, Joe Montana, and Alice Waters to name a few. We attended during Sunday Brunch, which as a busy time, but we still got seated fairly quickly. Friendly staff and family friendly vibes which was excellent for out family. Although it may be difficult to get to, there is local bus transportation if you’re taking public transportation or you can easily drive there by private vehicle. There is metered parking on Clement street, and a local paid lot across the street. The restaurant does not have designated parking.
There are several districts within San Francisco and one with particular history is the Mission District. One of our favorite child friendly places to eat is Tartine Manufactory in the mission. Located at 595 Alabama St., San Francisco, CA 94110, Tartine Manufactory is a bakery/bread shop that also serves locally grown organic food. There’s an option to buy fresh breads and pastries for take out, or the option to eat at the restaurant. This is an excellent place for kids to see how bread is actually made as there is an area where they can see the actual production of fresh bread. They can watch in wonder as they see bags of flour being crafted into the bread they will eat later. All bread and pastries are made at the facilities. If you’re here with your little one for breakfast (which starts around 7:30AM PST), options include cracked barley porridge with coral cherries, maple coconut flakes, cinnamon and yogurt or a roasted strawberry tartan with laychee cheese, toasted hazelnuts, basil, and olive oil. If you’re here with your child for lunch, options include an assortment of warm sandwiches and fresh garden salads. Dinner portions are more hearty and include dishes of swordfish, porschetta sandwiches, and roasted chicken. The line can be somewhat long during busy hours, especially lunch since there are a lot of tech companies located close by. Located in the mission district of San Francisco, it is close to public transportation via the 16th and Mission BART station. There is no designated parking for the restaurant but there is street parking available, although it may be more difficult to park during peak hours. So public transport or Uber is highly recommended.
Salt and Straw Ice Cream
What better way to celebrate summer than with ice cream. Although its often cold in the city (even in the summer), ice cream like Salt and straw is just as enjoyable. Try their lavender ice cream if you’re open to trying something new.
Ocean Beach is an excellent place to bring your young ones if they love the sun, sand, and water of the famous San Francisco coastline. Of note, there is no lifeguard on duty and public restrooms are sparse and few between. You can bring a blanket to sit on and enjoy a picnic in the sun with your family. Often times the beach is quite cold, so be prepared (bring coats), especially if it is cloudy. Options for older children can include horseback riding or surfing, although the surf at Ocean Beach is notoriously choppy, and the water is cold, and hence a wetsuit is recommended. Ocean Beach rests along the great highway, which is the west-most street in San Francisco and runs between Sloat and Geary Ave. For those with older children and want a walk, you can walk the length of ocean beach and hike to fort fusion via the sand dunes to the south of Ocean Beach. There is ample free parking along the beach, either at the south end at the corner of Sloat Ave and Great Highway, or at the north end by Fulton Ave and Great Highway. If these parking lots are full, there is parking along great highway as it ascends the cliffs and becomes Geary Ave. When you arrive you will encounter great swathes of sand and beaches for your little one to run around in. There is no parking fee and no fee to use the beach.
Stow Lake is one of the most beautiful places to visit with your young child in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Stow lake is located in the heart of golden gate park and is accessible via public bus (no MUNI or BART access) or by private vehicle. Options include hiking around the path surrounding the lake or hiking up the small mountain in the center of the lake. Your younger ones will love watching the ducks, turtles and fish swim in the lake. For older children, you can rent a paddle boat or row boat from the boat house during business hours and boat around the canoe. There is easy access to a public restroom by the boat house. If you come during the spring, there may be a chance you can see baby ducklings in the water! There is a small parking lot next to the boat rental house and there is ample free street parking around the perimeter of the lake. The lake is located off of Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy Drive.
The Academy of the Sciences
The Academy of the Sciences in San Francisco is a natural history learning extravaganza for your children. It’s a combination of a zoo, aquarium, rainforest, museum, planetarium all mixed into an educational enriching environment. This treasure trove of exploration include an imax planetarium with various programs showing throughout the day (included with admission). You can walk into a live rain forest and explore each layer of the canopy with live butterflies and birds flying around you, and even dive underneath the water and watch the rainforest fish swim above you. The roof of the actual building is an eco-garden and is alive. There is an area to explore the coral reefs and depths of the ocean as the entire basement of the academy of sciences is an underwater adventure with live fish. The coral reefs will remind your little one of many pixar films such as Finding Nemo (TM), Finding Dory (TM), and Little Mermaid (TM). There is paid parking directly underneath the facilities, or free parking along the street of JFK or MLK drive, but do require a short walk. The academy of sciences is located at 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118. General admission for adults is $34.95, $24.95 for children ages 4-11, $29.95 for children ages 12 to 17 as well as students and seniors. A cafe inside serves food and there is easy access to bathrooms.
De Young Museum
The De Young Museum and excellent area for young children. Located across the main quad of Golden Gate Park, directly across from the Academy of the Sciences, the De Young Museum has easy access to bathrooms, and has a cafe to get food for your young ones. Unknown to many, certain parts of the museum are free of charge. The observation tower, as well as the main lobby, main foyer, cafe, and outdoor sculptures are all free of charge. There is a fee to go upstairs to the galleries and to go underground to visit the special exhibits. Parking and public transport are similar to that of the academy of the sciences since they are so close to each other. The outdoor sculpture garden is interesting and allows your little ones to spread their legs and run around a bit to explore the area.
The San Francisco Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo is an excellent place for your young ones to explore some animals. Parking is available at the zoo for a fee, or you can park along the street for a limited amount of time and walk to the zoo (which may be a bit far for young children). We recommend parking within the zoo lot and paying the fee. Public bus is available for those wishing to take public transportation. The zoo has ample access to bathrooms, and food is served in several locations within the zoo. There is a small train where your children can ride around, as well as various fun activities they can engage in. Animals including a rhinoceros, giraffe, monkeys, hippos, gorillas, and tigers and lions can be seen. There is also a petting zoo and area to feed farm animals with easy access to sinks so your kids can wash their hands afterwards.
Nicole lives in San Mateo, California with her husband and son. You can find her on instagram @eatsleepplayblog or her blog www.eatsleepplayblog.com.