I've lived in the Bay Area off and on since the 1980s when I was a kid. Alot has changed since then! When I became a parent in 2011, we returned to the Bay Area (after a seven year stint in Southern California), and I realized I needed to figure out a way to get out of the house that would also be enjoyable for my little guy and enjoyable for me.
Whether you live in the Bay Area or are coming to visit San Francisco, here are some fun activities that go beyond the usual tourist spots (and maybe include a few of the tourist spots). I'll continue to add to this list as I fish up old photos of additional places we enjoyed while our son was ages 0-3.
This post is today's contribution to my Travel Thursday series. For more destinations, check out my full list on my collection of Travel posts, which includes future posts!
Lake Merritt / Fairyland (Oakland)Lake Merritt
Fairyland: 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610
You can stroll around Lake Merritt on a sunny day and then venture off to the Lakeshore and Grand Lake neighborhoods for a bite to eat. Another option is to visit Fairyland with your little one for a little whimsical fun. Fairyland is not very big nor is it new, but your little ones won't care.
Fenton's: 4226 Piedmont, Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
Fentons Creamery (Oakland)
A little drive from Lake Merritt, Fenton's Creamery is located on Piedmont Avenue, a charming neighborhood full of local eats. Fenton's serves up some of the best ice cream in the East Bay and the eatery is very family friendly. Be forewarned if you show up on a hot day or on a weekend around dinner time: there will be a wait!
SF Ferry Building (San Francisco)SF Ferry Building & Farmers Market: 1 Sausalito - San Francisco Ferry Bldg
Sue Bierman Park (playground)
The San Francisco ferry building is located on the water (the views!) and accessible by BART, MUNI, and the trolley cars. Start a stroll along the Embarcadero from this point, but not before you stop in for a meal or a small bite. The Ferry Building is home to some of the best food vendors in San Francisco -- whenever we are in town, we make a point of stopping here to eat. If your little one needs to get the wiggles out, across the street the Sue Bierman Park features a great playground. Bonus: the farmers market is held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Cable Cars & Trolleys (San Francisco)The San Francisco cable cars and trolleys are not only a way to get around San Francisco, but a fun adventure for your little one. The wait for the cable cars can be a bit longer due to the turnarounds, but they are conveniently situated near popular tourist areas, so they might be worth the wait.
Golden Gate Park (San Francisco)California Academy of Sciences: 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park
Stow Lake Boathouse: 50 Stow Lake Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
Golden Gate Park is the Central Park of San Francisco. A little tip: on Sundays, several of the main roads are closed to through traffic and cars and the people have free reign of many of the roads, so if you go on a Sunday, be prepared to park around the perimeter of the park and have to walk in. For little ones, I recommend the aquariums on the lower level of the Academy of Sciences and/or, if the weather is nice, a ride in a rental boat at Stow Lake.
Crissy Field & Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco)Crissy Field: 1199 E Beach, San Francisco, CA 94129
If it's not too windy and not too foggy, head out to Crissy Field where you can stroll with the little one in a stroller (or if he's a walker, just out on the path). If it is a bit cold, stop by the Warming Hut for a cup of hot cocoa or coffee or a bite to eat. On a clear day you can get some great photo ops with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Hiking Lands End Trail (San Francisco)Land's End, Land's End Trail
On the west side of the Golden Gate Bridge (still in San Francisco), opposite Crissy Field is Land's End. On a clear day you can catch an entirely different view of the water than what you can see from Crissy Field. A totally doable hike with your little one in a carrier.
Hiking North of San Francisco (Marin)Mountain Home - Muir Woods Hike
There are many, many beautiful hikes in Marin. I'm highlighting two that we've done. We hiked Tennessee Valley when my son was less than year old and then a Muir Woods Hike when my son was 18 month old. We did both hikes with him in a child carrier. There are books and websites you can consult to find a hike that does not have too much elevation gain if you are looking for an easy hike as well.