Visiting San Francisco With Your Kids

by Christina Vercelletto

Visiting San Francisco With Your Kids

A kid-friendly guide to a family weekend trip to San Francisco. Plus, get more family travel ideas for New York City and Chicago

Friday, 5:45 p.m.

Check into Kimpton Hotels’ Argonaut in Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s right next to a bike-rental shop, a Ben & Jerry’s, and the Maritime National Historical Park, where kids can take the wheel of a 19th-century vessel. The Neptune’s Adventure Package includes, among other treats, cable-car rides, bathrobes, and a snack pack. All that and a view of the bay…plus free wine in the lobby each evening! It even welcomes pooches.

Saturday, 10 a.m.

You might have heard that San Francisco has hidden staircases, but did you know that there are hidden slides? Grab a piece of cardboard big enough to sit on and head to the park on the corner of Seward and Douglass, in the Castro District, where you’ll find the sky-high chutes built into the side of a hill. There are stairs to take you to the top. If you don’t happen to have a pizza box handy, no problem. You’ll likely find some cast-off cardboard (or maybe even a fast-food tray, which makes you go faster) on-site. Spend a morning sharing good cheap (free, actually) thrills and an adrenaline rush with local families.

Saturday, 1:45 p.m.

Hurtle down 22nd Street, one of the steepest in the world, and get lost in 826 Valencia, a pirate-supply store housed in an airy space with exposed beams, trapdoors, and a plank to walk. The marvelous array of booty makes it impossible to leave without a little something. Choose from bottles of “scurvy begone,” a Belly of Whale escape kit, even mermaid bait (it’s just glitter inside the tin—but still!).

Saturday, 4 p.m.

Quick, what’s a Bitter Queen doughnut? Find out at Dynamo, in the Mission District, where quirky pastries are handmade every day with organic, often locally sourced ingredients. This fantasy factory of curious cream-filled and candied concoctions is a must-visit. “I make the trip on weekends for a Maple Apple Bacon,” says Emily Deans, a mom of two in Palo Alto, CA. Across the street is the nearly 100-year-old St. Francis Fountain, for milk shakes. Sugar rush, anyone?

Sunday, 11 a.m.

Before the trip home, let the kids literally bounce off the walls at the House of Air, a trampoline park with 67 submerged rubbery surfaces in a restored airplane hangar. The unique structure of the trampolines makes it impossible to fall off. Visitors 7 and up can jump, leap, and dive in the main section, while tots 3 to 6 will be set in their own Junior Bounce House.