San Francisco, also known as the “City by the Bay,” is the second-most densely populated city in the U.S. and home to several family-friendly attractions. From Chinatown to chocolate shops to Alcatraz, here are a few things to see and do during your stay:
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world, attracting nearly 13 million visitors each year. Within it, The Golden Gate aquarium houses a living collection of animals and marine creatures from across the globe and features interactive activities including daily penguin feedings and coral reef diving. The de Young Art Museum, named after early San Francisco newspaper personality M.H. Young, includes a café, sculpture garden and easy access to the Japanese Tea Garden. For lunch, dinner and live music, visitors can stop by The Beach and Park Chalet, a historic brewery and restaurant located above the Golden Gate Park Visitor's Center.
Centered around Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and largest Chinatown in North America. After a meal at an authentic Chinese restaurant, visitors can embark on a tour led by locals through Chinatown’s historic alleyways and visit The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to see fortune cookies of all shapes and sizes being made up close.
The Cable Car Museum
The world’s first cable railway system, the Clay Street Railroad, opened in San Francisco in 1873. Today, cable cars still operate on three lines up and down the city’s streets. The Cable Car Museum, open daily, houses a collection of historic cable cars, photographs and mechanical displays. The short tour with free admission includes a trip through the gift shop to pick up memorabilia, including actual steel Cable Car cable and old admission tokens.
Located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, Ghirardelli Square was established in 1893 when Domingo Ghirardelli purchased a whole city block for his Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. The company headquarters has since moved, but the chocolate lives on through several Ghirardelli shops in the square. Whether you’re looking to sip on hot cocoa or indulge in a hot fudge sundae, the square has a chocolate treat for everyone and several restaurants open for lunch and dinner.
Not far from Ghirardelli Square is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations, Pier 39. Throughout the pier, visitors will find restaurants, street performers, exhibits, carnival rides, barking sea lions and much more. The pier’s Aquarium of the Bay boasts nearly 20,000 sea creatures native to the San Francisco Bay and surrounding waters. Parking can be a challenge due to the attraction’s popularity, but luckily the area offers several parking garages nearby.
Across the water from Pier 39 is Alcatraz Island. Renowned for its federal prison that closed in 1963, Alcatraz was also a military base during the Civil War. Open for tours every day except holidays, the island is a top destination for both tourists and locals. The only way to get there is by ferry, located on The Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street, just south of Fisherman’s Wharf. To ensure a spot on the tour, visitors should purchase their tickets at least a week in advance.