Weekend Getaway With a Toddler: San Francisco

Traveling with your little one isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit at home twiddling your thumbs until he or she is ready to explore the world. There is no better time than now to see all of the fun and exciting things that many major cities have to offer, including San Francisco. Known for its eclectic mix of art, music, lifestyle and tourist attractions, San Francisco has become a hotspot for travelers from around the world. While there are plenty of hipster, adult-friendly things to see and do in the city, there are also numerous opportunities for those with kids to have a good time as well.

Luckily, San Francisco is extremely pedestrian friendly, offering plenty of public transportation all around the city. For parents of toddlers, this can serve to be invaluable. Renting a car can get expensive, especially if you need one large enough to accommodate a car seat. Instead, many families choose to purchase a pass that allows for unlimited rides on buses, trolleys and even cable cars. All you have to do is strap your toddler into a stroller and you are ready to go.

Golden Gate, San Francisco

Golden Gate, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Must-See Hotspots

For many people who visit San Francisco, a stop a Fisherman’s Wharf is a necessity. There are so many things to see, foods to taste and activities to try that it just makes sense to bring a toddler along. Pier 39, the main section of Fisherman’s Wharf, offers a long stretch of interesting shops to check out, as well as a carousel and free entertainment. If you continue on to the end of the pier, you’ll find a gathering of seals sunning themselves in the bay. Nearby you’ll find the Aquarium of the Bay where you and your toddler can learn more about the plants and animals native to the Bay Area. A quick jaunt in the other direction and you’ll hit Musée Mécanique. This quirky museum features vintage arcade games and music boxes. Just be sure to bring along a pocket full of quarters.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ride on the city’s famous cable cars. Your child will marvel at the speed at which the cars climb up San Francisco’s famous hills, and the clang of the cars’ bells will keep him or her enthralled. Hop off in the Nob Hill neighborhood for a look at the Cable Car Museum. There are plenty of exhibits that will pique even the youngest visitor’s interest, but make sure to stop and look at the huge wheels pulling the four cables for three lines in the area. From the museum, you’re only a short ride away from Chinatown, which is the perfect spot to pick out a souvenir for your toddler, whether it’s a miniature cable car or an authentic Chinese outfit.  

San Francisco Cable car rides. Photo: HolidayInn

San Francisco Cable car rides. Photo: HolidayInn

The Best Places to Take a Family Photo

Hilly San Francisco is famous for its vistas and views of the bay, and there are plenty of places to stop and take a family photo. If you don’t mind carrying your toddler up a few stairs, you can get a great shot at the top of Coit Tower. Rising high above the city, Coit Tower will offer a backdrop that includes all of the sites you’ve experience on your San Francisco trip.

Perhaps nothing is quite as iconic in San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge. The striking red stands out in the fog and also beacons brightly on sunny days. No matter the weather, the bridge is perfect for a family photo opportunity. You can either take a snapshot as you drive, walk or bike across the bridge, or you can visit Crissy Field, located a little farther away, for a photo on the beach with the bridge stretching across in the background. While you’re at Crissy Field, don’t forget to stop for a treat at the Warming Hut and refuel for your next adventure.

Must Try Child-Friendly Restaurants

The Bay Area has some of the country’s best seafood, and while you’re in town you must stop for some fish and chips. While you’re in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, make a stop at Pier 23 Café. This spot features stunning patio views of the bay, as well as a wide selection of seafood for mom and dad, and more kid-friendly options, like cheese quesadillas or hot dogs.

If your family finds it hard to agree on one place to eat, find something for everyone at the Ferry Building. With long corridors of specialty food shops, there is a wide range of dining options to choose from. Plus, the casual atmosphere makes it so you don’t have to worry if your child is loud or bothering anyone else. Some of the most popular options in the Ferry Building include the following:

Farmers market hall inside the Ferry building

Farmers market hall inside the Ferry building

  • Cowgirl Sidekick, for life-changing grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Boccalone Salumeria, the ultimate meat-lover’s paradise
  • Humphry Slocombe, featuring unique ice cream flavors
  • Miete Patisserie, for a sweet treat

Special Items to Pack

Weather in the Bay Area is generally very temperate, but it can certainly live up to its reputation for being foggy and rainy. When travelling with a toddler, it is best to be prepared, so be sure to pack the following items for your weekend getaway to San Francisco:

  • Enough umbrellas for everyone
  • Rain ponchos
  • Good walking shoes
  • A folding stroller
  • Sunscreen
  • Jackets

Some days may start out cool and foggy and end up warm and sunny, so you’ll want to have layers to put on and take off depending on the weather and on the activities that you choose to do.

Planning ahead is one of the best ways to ensure that you have a good trip with your toddler. San Francisco can be a very family-friendly destination, especially when you have an itinerary in mind. Whether you ride a ferry to Alcatraz, rent bicycles and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge or simply walk along the piers and enjoy the street entertainers, you and your toddler will make memories to last a lifetime.

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