Tap in to your inner child
While San Francisco has never been known as a city for children, it’s full of options for actual kids and the young at heart. So tap in to your inner child, and let go of the stress of being an adult. If you’re looking for activities that are entertaining for both adults and little ones, we’ve got you covered.
Museums are cool and all, but they’d be a lot better if we could touch the artifacts and learn from them, right? Head over to the Exploratorium, “a museum of science, art, and human perception dedicated to learning through the power of play.” It’s like Burning Man but without the sand. Look for experiences like the Tactile Dome, where visitors use their sense of touch to guide themselves through total darkness (pro-tip: reservations are required). The museum also offers the adults-only After Dark event, with food and drinks. The Exploratorium is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets cost $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for children between ages 4 and 12, and it’s free for children under the age of 4.
Pier 15 (Embarcadero) | exploratorium.edu
2. Musée Mécanique
Located on Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf is the Musée Mécanique, an antique penny arcade that boasts a collection of more than 200 coin-operated mechanical games and musical instruments. The vintage games, ranging from coin-operated fortune tellers to pinball machines, hail from the 1900s to the 1980s, bringing a slice of everyone’s childhood to the present day. While you have to schlep through the craziness of Fisherman’s Wharf to get there, the games awaiting you at the end are totally worth it. It’s one of the coolest spots in San Francisco. Admission is free, and the arcade is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Pier 45 (Fisherman’s Wharf) | museemecaniquesf.com
Photo: Bren C./Yelp
3. Disney Sing-Alongs at the Castro Theatre
Yeah, Disney is busy remaking all their classic animated musicals as live-action versions, but the new ones can’t compare to the originals. The Castro Theatre regularly holds musical sing-alongs, ranging from The Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast to more recent films, like Frozen. (It also holds sing-a-longs for live-action musicals, including The Sound of Music and Grease.) Take part in the all-ages costume contest, then relive your favorite childhood moments. Just be ready to belt out “Under the Sea” or “Be Our Guest” with a theater full of kids and adults. You might not be able to hold a tune, but no one will notice. Tickets are $16 for adults and $12 for kids.
429 Castro Street (Castro) | castrotheatre.com
Photo: Jesse T./Yelp
4. The California Academy of Sciences
With an aquarium, a planetarium and dinosaur fossils, the natural world thrives at the California Academy of Sciences, located inside Golden Gate Park. Curious kids at heart can explore the underwater tunnels filled with sharks and tropical fish flashing by, traipse through a rainforest surrounded by butterflies, or say hello to Claude, the famous albino alligator. The Academy also throws the Nightlife event every Thursday night for those ages 21 and older, featuring live music, cocktails, and dance parties. You might even learn something too. The California Academy of Sciences is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ticket prices vary each day, so the museum recommends that you buy your tickets online at least one day in advance to ensure that you get the lowest price. Tickets for children under age 2 are free.
55 Concourse Drive (Golden Gate Park) | calacademy.org
Photo: Steven W./Yelp
5. The San Francisco Zoo
A 100-acre slice of heaven for all animal lovers, the San Francisco Zoo is located in the southwest corner of the city, near the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can see 2,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals, ranging from adorable red pandas lazing about to majestic giraffes peering over trees. The zoo also holds adult-oriented events, like the monthly Mimosa Mornings and Oktoberfest, complete with live music. Pro-tip: bring a sweater due to the chill from sea breezes and the Sunset’s famous fog. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and costs $23 for adults and $17 for children between ages 4 and 14, and it’s free for kids under age 4.
Sloat Boulevard and Great Highway (Southwest SF) | sfzoo.org
Red panda at the San Francisco Zoo. Photo: Chang L./Yelp
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