San Francisco is a city full of amazing sites, culture, and activities for every person’s interest. A list of all the adventures in the city would be pages long, but there are a few hidden gems seldom mentioned in guidebooks that cater specifically to families you might not want to miss. They entertain kids of all ages, don’t cost a thing, and, most important in this particular city, have parking easily accessible!
Marin Headland Bunkers
While our family only ever calls them “The Bunkers,” the Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate, are polka-dotted with old buildings technically called batteries. These old outposts were used for watching and arming the coast during the early 1900’s. Many of them still have tunnels and staircases open for exploring. Not to mention the fabulous views of the city and bay you’ll catch along the way. You can follow the road around the headland, stopping at any of these strangely shaped structures that pop up. The first and most populated looks almost directly over the Golden Gate Bridge and gives you a different perspective of the city. Because parking and the building are usually busy, we generally skip right to Fort Cronkhite much further along the road. There is plenty of parking and space to roam, not to mention, other more sporadic buildings to discover.
While you’re there: Walk down the path to Point Bonita Lighthouse. Be careful it has extremely limited hours. You can also find The Marine Mammal Center which does have a fee but is fun to experience!
It’s easy for a fort that never saw any military action to be glossed over, especially if you have kids that aren’t all that interested in history. But don’t skip this little gem! Inside you can find information on the troops living there as well as a video on how they build the Golden Gate Bridge. More importantly for active families, the brick building is fun to explore. The best part is the top of the fort that gives a unique view of the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge. Bring a jacket as it is always windy and chilly on top of the building!
While you’re there: You can wander the beautiful Crissy Field with a bayside path and rolling hills. You can also walk up the hill to stroll across the bridge you just admired from beneath.
Across the Bay Bridge from the city, you will find Little Farm in Tilden Park. The name doesn’t lie . . . this is a little farm. But if you stop by the store and buy lettuce or celery, you can feed cows, sheep, goats, and ducks! Even my teen loves this place. Make sure to go early. You’re allowed to feed the animals all day, but attendance rises as the day progresses.
While you’re there: Tilden Park is packed with other fun activities for families. Down the path, there is a pond where turtles like to sun themselves, as well as a train and a carousel in the park.
Only Berkley could come up with this kind of playground. Yes, it has things to climb, slide down, and balance on but not like any you’ve seen. These structures are built by kids themselves! At Adventure Playground, kids are given building materials and free reign to construct whatever is in their imaginations. If they want to add to the play area they can. Or, they can build something smaller to take home. You might be imagining something dangerous or uncertain, but the staff is diligent about keeping things clean, picked up, and safe.
While you’re there: Take a few minutes to sit at the end of the marina and watch the other side of the bay. You can also drop by the UC Berkley area right down the street for a college vibe.
San Francisco offers plenty of beaches for you to enjoy. Our favorite is Baker Beach. It’s easily accessible with good parking and a postcard-worthy view. It’s almost always cool plus we usually meet a lot of friendly pups out for a walk.
While you’re there: Check out the other battery that displays giant turrets and staircases.