San Francisco, also known as the Golden City, is home to steep hills, sourdough bread and sleepy seals. If you’re spending summer in San Fran with the whole family in tow, we’ve lined up loads of budget-friendly attractions to help you plan your days. Take a look at our top picks…
CROSS THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
This famous San Fran attraction is a g-oldie, but a goodie. The huge copper-coloured bridge is the perfect place to take a family selfie on your trip and, while you’re there, you might as well walk across it too. Make sure everyone wraps up warm as it can get windy up there. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, take the kids down to the Fort Point National Historic Site just below to learn all about its history.
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: North Vista Point / Golden Gate Bridge
SPOT THE SEA LIONS AT PIER 39
Forget the aquarium – you can see wild sea lions right on San Francisco Bay. The slumbering creatures famously took over Pier 39 back in 1989, and have lived there ever since. You’re almost certainly guaranteed to see a few – at one point over 1,700 were officially living on the dock. And, volunteers and staff at the nearby Marine Mammal Center are on hand to answer any questions about the cute residents too.
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf
WALK DOWN CRAZY LOMBARD STREET
San Francisco is known for its windy weather and hilly inclines, and is also home to one of the strangest streets in the world – Lombard Street. It basically looks like a long, squiggly line, and is made up of eight tight turns. The road was first designed to reduce the hill’s 31.5° incline and make it easier to drive along, but has now become a top tourist attraction. There are footpaths on both sides so you can walk up or down. And, if you want to take the perfect snap, head to the Leavenworth side for the street’s best angle.
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Lombard Street
WATCH SOURDOUGH ANIMALS BEING MADE
Sourdough is San Francisco’s famous savory snack, and you can watch the bread being made from scratch at the Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf. Enjoy the sights and smells of freshly-baked sourdough being kneaded and baked, and browse the impressive animal-shaped bread creations around the store. See how many creatures you can spot – there’s turtles, crabs, bears, alligators, rabbits and more. We wouldn’t normally describe bread as ‘cute’, but these animal-shaped rolls have to be seen to be believed!
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Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf
San Fran boasts some amazing play areas which are so much more than your average swing and slide combo. The Koret Children’s Quarter Playground in the Golden Gate Park has a huge slide carved into the concrete, loads of climbing frames for all ages, and a carousel which costs just $1 to ride. Over on 19th and Dolores Streets, there’s the Helen Diller Playground which is right opposite a gorgeous view of the city. Here, there’s a massive 45-foot-long slide, to entertain both kids and adults, plus a rock climbing wall and sand pit.
For Helen Diller Playground:
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Alamo Square
For Koret Children’s Quarter Playground:
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Haight Ashbury
SPOT THE STREET ART
There’s no need to drag the kids to an art gallery – the streets of San Francisco are full of vibrant and colorful outdoor murals to spot. Head to the Mission District neighborhood to explore the famous art-covered alleyways and gorgeous graffiti for free. Far from boring old paintings, all of the murals are amazingly detailed and colorful, and some even have 3D elements and cover entire houses.
RIDE A CABLE CAR
San Francisco’s cable cars are the most fun way to get around the city, and an attraction in themselves. Each single ride costs around $7, or you can buy a passport pass and zoom up and down the hills as you please. Once you’ve had a go on the cars, visit San Fran’s Cable Car Museum for free to learn all about their history. Inside you’ll find three antique cable cars and see how they’re made. You can even buy your very own cable car bell from the gift shop as a cool souvenir.
Day Tour – Red Route: Portsmouth Square / Chinatown
And that’s not all. You’ve got gorgeous parks to picnic in, the Bay Lights Display on the Bay Bridge every evening, and loads of other museums and galleries to explore. You can even check out Mrs Doubtfire’s House at 2640 Steiner Street if you’re a keen film fan. Click here to start planning the full itinerary for your family trip.