Downtown San Francisco With Kids
Exploring downtown San Francisco with kids can be fun for the whole family. With plenty of family-friendly things to do with kids, we’d like to highlight a few of the many things you’ll find in and around downtown with children in tow.
Let's start at the top with the tallest building in San Francisco, the Transamerica Pyramid! While there is no public observation deck or tours inside this quintessential structure, no visit to the “City by the Bay” would be complete without a gander at the city’s second tallest skyscraper. Rising to 853 feet (260 meters), the 48-story building was the largest in San Francisco from its completion in 1972 until it was eclipsed by the Salesforce Tower in 2018. Its iconic size and shape have defined the city’s skyline for decades, and it's a must for any visitor. Insider tip: while the building itself is located at 600 Montgomery Street (between Clay and Washington Streets), there’s a great vantage point if you walk about two blocks towards the bay to the Hinckley Walk, you can snap some amazing selfies and shot of the wower from the middle of that bridge walkway.
When visiting the Transamerica Pyramid, if you need a few moments of downtime to reorganize the stroller, grab some wipes, check Google Maps or call the grandparents to touch base — there’s a lovely pocket park aka a POPO (privately owned public spaces) next to the building’s base called Transamerica Redwood Park. It’s open Mon - Fri, 7am - 5:30pm and features a reflecting pool and fountain, bronze statues of children playing, frog and lilypad sculptures that kids just love, and perhaps coolest of all, this park is home to over fifty gigantic redwood trees from the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Nothing is more “San Francisco” in nature than riding the cable cars. We’ve been doing it to get around since the 1870s, and visitors to downtown San Francisco are in luck. There are three different lines, and two start at Powell and Market Streets. Invented over 150 years ago, these seminal vehicles run off of cables routed under the surface of the streets. Not only are they fun to ride for kids of all ages, they're practical, efficient and affordable! If you plan to make use of the cable cars for getting around downtown, you may consider an all-day visitor Passport, but single rides are fun for kids and adults just-the same. Get all the pertinent details of where and how to board, pricing and hours of operation for the San Francisco cable cars on the SFMTA website.
If you're looking to get in some steps and have two hours with which to entertain the kiddos, (read: tire them out so they sleep tonight), may we suggest one of the wackiest and most uniquely San Francisco walking tours — The Emperor Norton Tour. This self-proclaimed "Norton I, Emperor of the United States" (he also coined his own title as “Protector of Mexico”) was an outrageous character, just one of many in San Francisco's long and storied history. Take the tour to learn more. Norton was such a card that we honored him as part of our “Trash Talk tribute to the city’s wild and wonderful historical beginnings.
And speaking of history, there’s plenty for kids to do and learn at the San Francisco Historical Society. Located at 608 Commercial Street and just a 2-minute walk from the Transamerica Pyramid, you’ll find one of the largest collections of art, artifacts and realia from the early days of San Francisco. Open Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, the museum is housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings; formerly the site of the first U.S. Mint in the West, and visitors can peer into an underground vault where gold was once stored. The San Francisco Historical Society also hosts regular events and tours, and you learn captivating facts about the city’s early beginnings. Tap into your kids imagination by exploring the former Barbary Coast waterline, and the buried ships below our district’s streets! Inspire your children with vivid details about the California Gold Rush, the Old 49’ers, the Pony Express, the infamous 1906 earthquake, and many other aspects of San Francisco’s fascinating past.
From the Gold Rush to Silicon Valley, take the kids to explore the Wells Fargo Museum at 420 Montgomery Street. Wells Fargo is more than just a bank we know today. It’s an integral player in the history of San Francisco and plays an outsized role in how our downtown, financial district and even the streets we walk on today took shape. Open Monday through Friday (except bank holidays) from 10am to 5pm, the Wells Fargo Museum is a must-stop for visitors traveling with kids, and with free admission, parents will love it even more. You’ll learn about trailblazers, women in industry, funding a solar revolution and more. Much of the information is available en Español, and the Wells Fargo Museum is perfect for individuals, families and even field trips.
Prices, hours and details are subject to change. Please check with each attraction for the most up-to-date information.