Family-Friendly Activities in the Bay Area, California

Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco, California, USA
Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco, California, USA | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Jake Hoffmann

If you’re visiting the Bay Area, California, for the first time, it can be hard to find activities that provide something that everyone – and not just your kids – will enjoy. Here are our tips.

1. Presido: Off the Grid

Market, American

Off the Grid is like a huge outdoor picnic area – with food trucks and a great big lawn. There’s a tent in the center where grown-ups can get a grown-up drink, while the kids play in the field. It runs every Friday to Sunday from noon to 6pm, April to October, and ideal for a great day outdoors.

2. Dolores Park: the Mission


The Mission has a ton of options to satisfy your hunger needs, and is home to one of the best daytime parks in San Francisco, Dolores Park. Most people like to hang here, listen to music, interact with the vendors and have a picnic. There’s a playground and lots of pick-up games of football, soccer, and frisbee. For an active day at the park where you can also relax, Dolores is ideal.

3. Highway 1


© Cameron Venti / Unsplash
A day trip from San Francisco offers the chance to escape the craziness of the city. and taking the California State Highway 1, north or south, is a blast. Head north and you’ll pass lots of picturesque small towns worth stopping at. Head south and you’ll be blown away by the scenery along the coast to Santa Cruz or even Big Sur.

5. Alcatraz Island


Alcatraz Island - San Francisco, California, USA
© Diego Grandi / Alamy Stock Photo
Alcatraz Islandclosed as a penitentiary in 1963, but these days it’s open to visitors. The island is loaded with beautiful flowers, and you can take pictures from the bay. Or take a ferry ride and spend a few hours learning about what prisoners went through when they were imprisoned here. If the whole family is feeling extra dangerous, try making it through the night tour.

6. Marin Headlands: Golden Gate Bridge view


The Marin Headlands has one of the most incredible views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge you’ll ever find. Making your way to the top can be difficult but is definitely worth it. Start by driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, then travel up to the top of the Marin Headlands, where you can explore the surrounding area. Sausalito and small beach towns are nearby, and there are plenty of great places to grab a meal after a day’s hiking.

7. Muir Woods

Forest, Park

Muir Woods National Monument
© Zachary Frank / Alamy Stock Photo

Take the family to the forest that featured in scenes from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Muir Woods is a huge redwood forest north of San Francisco, where the average age of a redwood is between 500 and 800 years old. You can hike to the top, which takes several hours, or visit the beach. The drive to Muir Woods is extremely picturesque, with plenty of opportunities to pull off the road and grab some family pictures. Remember to bring water and some snacks if you expect to be hiking for a while.

8. Whale-watching

Historical Landmark

Whale-watching in San Francisco is a fantastic family activity and there are multiple touring companies in the Bay Area that you can book a trip out with. Alternatively, if you make your way to Point Reyes Lighthouse, you might even get to see them migrating from the observation deck.

9. Golden Gate Park

Botanical Garden, Museum, Park

Exterior of Conservatory of Flowers with flowerbeds and lawns in Golden Gate Park
© Chris LaBasco / Alamy Stock Photo
Save Golden Gate Park for a nice Sunday stroll or bike ride. The park comprises different types of gardens, plus there are museums, recreation centers and off-the-trail paths here that will entertain all the family. On Sundays the whole park is closed off to motor vehicles, so the streets are wide open and exploring is much more fun. Take a ride through the park, enjoying all the fabulous scenes, then head off to Ocean Beach.

10. Pier 39

Market, Shopping Mall

pier 39, San Francisco
© Itsik Marom / Alamy Stock Photo
Pier 39, at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf, is a huge tourist destination – with good reason. There are shops, performers and other activities for the family to enjoy, including the Aquarium of the Bay, virtual 3D rides and the resident sea lions. The pier also provides action shots of Angel island, Alcatraz island, the Golden Gate and the Bay bridge.
landscape with balloons floating in the air


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