San Francisco Family Vacation Ideas – Attractions, Activities & Things to Do for Summer Vacation

San Francisco is at her best in the summer. The weather is the nicest, nature is thriving, and the best attractions are open and ready for business.

If you’re planning a family trip to San Francisco but aren’t sure which attractions are right for you, check out this list of our favorite family-friendly attractions.

Curated by industry experts, they’re the best activities, tours, and museums for family vacations in San Francisco.

The top San Francisco summer family vacation ideas include:

  • Big Bus San Francisco Sightseeing Tour
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • SFMOMA
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Madame Tussauds San Francisco
  • Bike Rentals
  • Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise
  • Exploratorium
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Muir Woods

Save on Family Vacation Attraction Ideas

Regular admission to a number of these family friendly attractions are available on the Go San Francisco Card.

Choose as you go from top visited attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Learn more about our San Francisco passes, attractions and prices.

Big Bus San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Tour

san-francisco-Hop-On-Hop-Off-Classic-Tour-2-Day-Ticket-1One of the best ways to introduce the family to San Francisco is with a guided bus tour of the city.

A hop-on hop-off option is both fun and flexible, allowing you to get off when something intrigues you, and get back on when the kids get tired.

This tour from Big Bus includes more than 20 different stops in all the city’s hot spots, plus a selection of free, guided walking tours that begin at selected stops.

Getting In: Big Bus San Francisco tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences Coral Reef Diver

Image credit: Will Love

Among the most popular family attractions in San Francisco is the California Academy of Sciences.

Both immensely educational and immensely entertaining, this institution really does have it all.

It’s part aquarium, part natural history museum, and part planetarium, with a four-story rainforest thrown in.

They have many special events and kid-centric programming that runs during the summer, so be sure to check their operating calendar before you go to see what’s on.

Don’t forget to say hi to their colony of playful penguins!

Getting In: California Academy of Sciences tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

SFMOMA-4This is one for the arts and culture folks. Introduce the kids to some of the best modern and contemporary art in the world with a visit to the newly expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The SFMOMA has expansive collections of art by both iconic figures and up-and-coming artists, so it’s a great place to really get a feel for the artistic movements of the last several decades.

Special summer exhibits are extra fun, too.

Getting In: SFMOMA tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Go San Francisco Card

Image credit: J. O’Neill

The northern waterfront neighborhood of San Francisco, this popular destination is a haven for visitors who want to explore many of the city’s top attractions.

Buy some delicious chocolate in Ghirardelli Square. Wander through the free (and a little bizarre) Musée Mechanique. Visit the USS Pampanito. Go shopping. Have a sumptuous seafood lunch. Explore Madame Tussauds.

The possibilities are practically endless!

Getting In: Fisherman’s Wharf is free to explore; attractions are individually ticketed. The Go San Francisco Card includes USS Pampanito tickets.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco

Madame-Tussauds-San-Francisco-1Speaking of Fisherman’s Wharf… Located in an area of the city we’re sure you’re already exploring, Madame Tussauds is a fun attraction for families.

It’s the only place outside of Hollywood where you’ll see so many celebrities!

A visit here is a good opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of San Francisco, too – their Spirit of San Francisco exhibit highlights famous figures from art, music, and literature.

Getting In: Madame Tussauds San Francisco tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Bike Rentals

Alamo Square - Blazing Saddles SFWhile San Francisco may be notorious for its hilly terrain, don’t let that stop you from renting a bike and pedaling your heart out around this incredibly bikeable city.

Bike riding is an ideal way to keep the kids entertained and to get out and be active while on vacation!

You can ride around Golden Gate Park, Presidio, the waterfront, or even up those hilly streets.

Rent a bike if you weren’t able to bring one, and keep it all day for the ultimate in convenience.

Getting In: San Francisco bike rentals are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise

Bridge-2-Bridge-Cruise-1You simply can’t visit San Francisco without hopping aboard a boat.

The San Francisco Bay is so important to the history and culture of this city that you simply have to head out and cruise around!

Choose an option like this Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise, while sails along under both the Golden Gate Bridge (a must-see) and the Bay Bridge.

This exciting 90-minute cruise is the perfect way to sightsee the waterfront, too! Don’t forget to keep those phones and cameras charged for that ideal Instagram shot.

Getting In: Bridge 2 Bridge tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card. 

Exploratorium

Exploratorium-5This is one the kids will adore. The Exploratorium is designed to be the most engaging and interactive museum out there, bar none.

Play around with and explore more than 600 (yes, that’s right) exhibits. Your kids will get to learn a little bit about practically everything at this amazing attraction, from science to art and beyond.

Be sure to check out their special programming calendar before your visit to see if there is something that especially interests your kids. They offer extended summer hours, too.

Getting In: Exploratorium tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium-of-the-Bay-4Animal lovers of all ages won’t want to miss out on the Aquarium of the Bay.

A marine institution dedicated specifically to the flora and fauna of the San Francisco Bay, it’s a distinctive attraction with a lot to teach visitors.

Walk through 300 feet of crystal clear tunnels that wind through a massive tank filled with thousands of critters in all shapes and sizes.

The kids will especially love the Touch the Bay exhibit, where they have the chance to interact with sharks, rays, and sea stars.

Getting In: Aquarium of the Bay tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

six-flags-discovery-kingdomA theme park is a great summer idea for families. And since you’re in San Francisco, why not take a quick drive a bit north to reach the delightful Six Flags Discovery Kingdom?

This popular park combines all your favorite amusement park rides – like roller coasters, bumper cars, water rides, and much more – with the educational fun of animal exhibits.

Visit the animal inhabitants of Discovery Kingdom all throughout the park, like the playful creatures of Dolphin Harbor, Seal Cove, and the Butterfly Habitat.

You also have the opportunity to upgrade to a number of animal encounters to make the day a truly special one.

Getting In: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Golden Gate Park

Image credit:Douglas Atmore / National Park Service.

Image credit:Douglas Atmore / National Park Service.

Easily among the most famous parks in the country, Golden Gate Park is a must-visit for your family vacation to San Francisco.

This massive oasis in the middle of the city is filled with opportunities for picnicking, biking, playing Frisbee, a round of golf, and so much more.

There are also a number of attractions within the park itself, from the serene Japanese Tea Garden to the artistic de Young Museum to the gorgeous Conservatory of Flowers.

There’s even a children’s playground that’s definitely worth taking your littler ones to.

Getting In: Golden Gate Park is free to explore; attractions are individually ticketed. The Go San Francisco Card includes de Young Museum tickets.

Muir Woods

Muir-Woods-and-Wine-Country-Tour-5For those families looking to explore the expansive natural world around San Francisco, a trip up to Muir Woods is non-negotiable.

Home to the majestic redwood trees, Muir Woods National Park is a wondrous place to explore.

You’ll immerse yourself in the peace and quiet of this ancient forest, and get to see an incredible diversity of plant and wildlife all throughout the park.

Remember to bring a camera to Muir Woods for pictures – you’ll get no cell reception and this may drain your phone’s battery.

Getting In: Muir Woods is operated by the National Park Service. Admission is separately ticketed and is not included with the pass.

Remember to Save on Family Friendly Admission

There you go. A few suggestions for attractions and activities for your upcoming San Francisco family vacation.

Regular admission to a number of these family friendly attractions are available on the Go San Francisco Card.

We hope you consider adding some of these fun ideas to your family vacation itinerary.

Go San Francisco Card

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