san francisco with kids

Old Sep 12th, 2007, 06:23 PM
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san francisco with kids

I am dashing up to San Francisco for an overnighter with my 10 year old son in 2 weeks on September 22nd. We are staying at the Sir Francis Drake and will have all of Saturday and overnight. Please recommend activities that would be great to do with kids....he is not the athletic type, more the creative, artistic, literary type. I have never done the golden gate park but it looks like there are some nice museums there. Alcatraz? Fisherman's wharf? that really kid centric? seems like just a maritime location. Maybe the curvy lombard street? We definitely will want to ride a cable car and do Chinatown. It would be fun to see the steep hills and architecture of San Francisco. He would appreciate that. We will not have a car and will rely on public transportation. Thanks.
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 07:02 PM
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My son enjoyed Alcatraz, the cable car and museum, and having dim sum in Chinatown.

Another option is the Exploratorium, a really good children's museum. We didn't have time to go there, unfortunately. has a 511 trip planner link; plug in the places you want to go and you'll get all the information you need.

Lee Ann
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 07:04 PM
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The Exploratorium is a GREAT place for a creative kid.
Old Sep 12th, 2007, 07:56 PM
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If you are using public transportation a lot, consider getting a Muni passport:
Pick up a $3 route map at the same time.

While the passport price looks high, consider that one cable car ride is $5, so it can pay off itself quickly as well as not having to worry about having exact changes. To save time, don't start a cable car ride at Powell station during the day, unless very early or very late -- it is a long wait on weekends. Travel other direction or take the less crowded California street line.

The Golden Gate park is huge. You need to decide what part of park you plan to visit. From your hotel, buses #5 (north side of the park) and #71 (south side of the park) and #21 (convenient to NE corner) are useful. #71 goes through Haight Ashbury: a cultural experience - it is about 30min one way, so it chews up time.

I have taken the #3 bus (runs by your hotel) to the top of Pacific Heights to look at Queen Ann style homes (and the hills, of course.)
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 09:20 PM
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Awesome, thanks for the detailed information. I'll check out the Exploratorium as well!
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Old Sep 13th, 2007, 12:47 AM
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Go to Peir 39 in Fisherman's Wharf and walk all the way back past the shops.
You will have a lovely view of Alcatraz and an up close experience with Sea Lions!
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Old Sep 13th, 2007, 01:32 AM
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For artsy events, you might check out, and then just plug in a search based on the date you are visiting. The listings are not complete and you should verify any info you find here (the site provides links to the events listed, which makes this easy). It looks like on September 22, there is a free lecture and performance of Chinese opera at the SF Main Library from 2 to 4 p.m.; there is a Tugboat Festival in front of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park/Aquatic Park near Fisherman's Wharf; there is a free evening performance of Shakepeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream on the lawn at the Presidio, and more.

I was born and raised in SF (live in Marin now) and as a child I always enjoyed visiting the art museums, the Palace of Fine Arts(which was designed by famed California architect Bernard Maybeck, and where the Exploratorium is located), the zoo, and the aquarium. Unfortunately the aquarium is currently housed in a relatively small temporary space downtown while its new home in Golden Gate Park is being rebuilt (the new one was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano). It will reopen next year. Meanwhile you can still visit the de Young art museum in Golden Gate Park, which is only steps away from the Japanese Tea Garden and only a short walk from the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Arboretum. I wouldn't visit the zoo as it is way out near the ocean, far from the center of town where you will be staying (plus, I am sure your son has seen zoos before).
As a child I also enjoyed just walking around the neighborhoods and people watching in Chinatown and North Beach (I enjoyed sitting in Italian cafes). San Francisco was, and still is, a great town for people watching. That's a great idea Lee Ann mentioned--dim sum in Chinatown--terrific atmosphere (though, personally, my favorite dim sum places are not in Chinatown).

Everyone, young or old or in-between, loves the Cable Car and the Golden Gate Bridge. Though on a cold foggy day, a visit to the bridge can be miserable.

As you mentioned your son's interest in museums, the four most visited art museums in SF are the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (downtown, not far from where you will be staying), the Palace of the Legion of Honor at Lincoln Park, and the Asian Art Museum at Civic Center. Although all of these museums have much to recommend them, the most interesting and practical for you would be the de Young--it has a wide range of exhibitions that should please both of you. And the new building is very impressive, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and Meuron (make sure to go up to its tower, the view is spectacular). Here's the deYoung link:
One bus will take you from downtown (Market St.) to within a block from the museum (8th & Fulton). The website has full directions on transportation and exhibitions and even activities for kids. When you get on the bus, ask for a bus transfer. If you present a MUNI bus transfer at the de Young, you'll get a $2 discount on admission!

If you find yourself at Fourth and Mission at some point, have a walk around Yerba Buena Gardens, and be sure to check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The Metreon center adjoins Yerba Buena Gardens and contains an IMAX theater. See this link:
Nearby SFMOMA also has a very interesting building built by Swiss architect Mario Botta and a good collection of contemporary art, which you might find interesting, but may bore your son. But it doesn't cost anything to pop into the lobby to have a peak at the building.

You won't have a lot of time, but on a sunny day, it's always nice to take a ferry from SF's ferry building to Sausalito or Larkspur.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 12:00 PM
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Wow, thanks so much diamantina and egret for your input. I am leaving this Saturday and feel well equipped to show my 10 year old a helluva weekend!
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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Do NOT miss the Exploratorium. It is cut out for your son. I don't know of a child you can pry out of that fantastic experience in less than 2 or 3 hours.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 04:11 PM
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My kids always LOVED the Exploratorium and the De Young Museum.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 04:59 PM
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My favorite, though, is the San Francisco Maritime Historical Part at Hyde Street Pier. You can climb the old ships and explore inside.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 05:08 PM
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We took our girls to SF when they were around 11-12 years old. Their favorite place was Chinatown. We did a walking tour with Wok Wiz. They were the only kids. Our tour guide's name was Dorothy. She was an older woman who was born and raised in Chinatown. They loved her! It really brought that part of the city to life for them. They also ate whatever Dorothy told them to try at the Dim sum lunch.
We definitely enjoyed many other things in SF as we were there a week. Also, the cable cars were so much fun for the kids. Alcatraz was more interesting to my husband and I. Their favorite place to eat was in North Beach for italian food.
Have fun.
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Old Sep 20th, 2007, 07:32 PM
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If you haven't seen it, here's my trip report from my weekend in Sand Francisco with my 10 year old tomboy.

(Hope that works!)

We had an awesome time!
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Old Sep 27th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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Thanks again everyone. We had an amazing time this weekend. The only two regrets were buying the muni passports since our intention was to ride the cable cars everywhere....we could not get on a single one! It was so crowded because it was a weekend. And my other regret was I forgot my camera in the hotel. There would have been some amazing pictures. We happened to be there the weekend of the August moon festival in Chinatown and the place was jumpin'! Our hotel was in Union Square and my son loved it for its old world opulence. The rooms were very small but perfectly adequate; it had everything we needed and a great location. We walked all the way from union square through Chinatown to North beach where we stopped for coffee and hot chocolate and then did curvy lombard street and walked on to the Hyde St. Pier. That was really amazing!! the views from the Balclutha are astonishing of the golden gate bridge, the bay, alcatraz and then the city and hills of San Francisco itself. It was really magical. We then went to Ghirardelli square and had a world famous hot fudge sundae. My son, quite the connoisseur at the age of 10, said it was the best fudge on a sundae he had ever had. We ended with dinner at a very elegant high end Vietnamese restaurant called Le Colonial in Union Square. We never even got to the Exploratorium!! I have to go back. We'll plan another outing in early November, I think he has Veterans day off. We hop to get to the Exploratorium then. Thanks again for all the advice.
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