If you follow the 1-day itinerary above and have a day to spare, use it to get familiar with other famous landmarks around the city. Start with breakfast, a science lesson, and a pleasant bayside stroll in the Marina District. Next, cross the famed Golden Gate Bridge on foot; then take a bus to Golden Gate Park. After exploring the city's beloved park, it's time for lunch and power shopping on Haight Street, followed by dinner and cocktails back in the Marina District. Smashing. Start:Bus nos. 22, 28, 30, 30X, 43, or 76.
1. Good Morning Marina District
The area that became famous for its scenes of destruction after the 1989 earthquake has long been one of the most picturesque and coveted patches of local real estate. Here, along the northern edge of the city, multimillion-dollar homes back up to the bayfront Marina, where flotillas of sailboats and the mighty Golden Gate Bridge make for a magnificent backdrop on a morning stroll.
Start the day with a good cup of coffee on Chestnut Street; then get some postcard perfect snapshots at the stunning Palace of Fine Arts, built for the Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915, and then walk over to Crissy Field, where restored wetlands and a beachfront path lead to historic Fort Point and to the southern underside end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
2. The Grove
If you can’t jump-start your brain properly without a good cup of coffee, then begin your day at The Grove (2250 Chestnut St.; tel. 415/474-4843), located in the Marina District—it’s as cozy as an old leather couch and has big, killer breakfasts, too.
3. The Golden Gate Bridge
It’s one of those things you have to do at least once in your life—walk across the fabled Golden Gate Bridge, the most photographed man-made structure in the world. As you would expect, the views along the span are spectacular and the wind a wee bit chilly, so bring a jacket. It takes at least an hour to walk northward to the vista point and back.
When you return to the southern end, board either Muni bus no. 28 or 29 (be sure to ask the driver if the bus is headed toward Golden Gate Park).
4. Golden Gate Park
Stretching from the middle of the city to the Pacific Ocean and comprising 1,017 acres, Golden Gate Park is one of the city’s greatest attributes. Since its development in the late 1880s, it has provided San Franciscans with respite from urban life—offering dozens of well-tended gardens, museums, a buffalo paddock, a Victorian greenhouse, and great grassy expanses prime for picnicking, lounging, or tossing a Frisbee.
Have the bus driver drop you off near John F. Kennedy Drive. Walking eastward on JFK Drive, you’ll pass five of the park’s most popular attractions: Stow Lake, the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Sciences (p. ###), and the Conservatory of Flowers.
5. Cha Cha Cha
By now you’re probably starving, so walk out of the park, past the throngs of young squatters (don’t worry—they tend to be harmless) and into the Haight to Cha Cha Cha (1801 Haight St.; tel. 415/386-7670). Order plenty of dishes from the Caribbeantapas-style menu and dine family-style. Oh, and don’t forget a pitcher of sangria—you’ve earned it.
6. Exploring the Haight-Ashbury District
Despite the overall gentrification of San Francisco, the birthplace of the Summer of Love and Flower Power remains gritty. The several blocks of Haight Street lined with inexpensive restaurants and shops are popular with young and old nonconformists, who congregate on the sidewalk over beers, bongos, and buds. Spend at least an hour strolling up Haight Street, browsing the cornucopia of used-clothes stores, leather shops, head shops, and poster stores. There are some great bargains to be found here, especially for vintage clothing.
When you get to the intersection of Haight and Masonic streets, catch the Muni no. 43 bus heading north, which will take you through the Presidio and back to the Marina District.
7. Dinner & Drinks
After such a full day on your feet, you deserve a memorable San Francisco dinner, and Nopa is a great place to get it. Located nearby but off the tourist path, it’s got a vibrant bar scene, killer cocktails, and a fantastic menu offering “urban rustic” food—which translates to contemporary American cuisine with seasonal, farm-fresh influences.
Best of San Francisco with Kids in 2 Days
On Day 2, it's time to leave Fisherman's Wharf and get familiar with a couple of the other famous spots in the city. Start with a tour over that big orange bridge, lunch in Sausalito, and a ferry ride across the bay. Next, stop to play a few old-fashioned video games, and then it's off to a working museum. End your tour at the crowded, colorful world that is Chinatown. Start: Historic F-Line Streetcar to Fisherman's Wharf.1.
1. Guided Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tour
The perfect way to start your day is a pedal across one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. Don’t worry, you are not alone! You’ll have a great guide from one of the Fisherman's Wharf area bike shops to show you the way.
Bring a jacket and meet a few minutes early for a safety briefing. Follow your guide up and over the bridge, then down into Sausalito.
Say goodbye to your guide and stop for lunch or refreshments anywhere along Bridgeway (the main drag through Sausalito). Two of my favorites are Barrel House Tavern (660 Bridgeway; tel. 415/729-9593; www.barrelhousetavern.com), which has spectacular bay-front patio seating, and the beachside bocce ball and fire pits at Bar Bocce (1250 Bridgeway; tel. 415/331-0555; www.barbocce.com). Explore the town, and then take the ferry from Sausalito back to the city. It is a quick ride back to ditch the bikes.
Walk 3 blocks to the corner of Taylor and the Embarcadero at Pier 45.
3. The Musee Mechanique
Give the kids a roll of quarters and let them run free at this antique penny arcade where everything works. Capture the moment in black and white at the classic photo booth. Located at Pier 45.
Walk back towards the corner of Beach and Larkin sts.
4. Ghirardelli for Ice Cream
Aptly located in historic Ghirardelli Square, this ice cream parlor of the same name is pricy, but it’s one of the best places to grab a sweet treat in the city.
Walk back to the corner of Jefferson and Hyde sts.
5. Powell–Hyde Cable Car to Nob Hill
Take a cling clang over the hills; kids of all ages really can’t get enough of it. Stay on long enough and the spot they’ve been dying to sit or stand in is sure to open up.
Hop off at the corner of Washington and Mason sts. on Nob Hill for the:
6. Cable Car Museum
After riding these moving landmarks, kids will love this quick museum that shows how the cable cars work. The actual cables that pull all the cars through the city are right here spinning on giant wheels.
Walk a few blocks down Washington St. to:
The perfect way to end the day is a stroll through this very colorful neighborhood. Kids will love the shops selling everything from air guns to kites to fireworks to live animals. For a detailed tour itinerary. When it’s time for dinner, the possibilities are endless.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.