San Francisco is a hip, cool destination that has something for the whole family. San Francisco is often overlooked in favour of Los Angeles. You will find plenty of things to do with teenagers in San Fransisco.
A great destination for travelling with teenagers is somewhere that has a great mix of culture, history, fun and adventure for the whole family.
Let’s explore some things to do in San Francisco with kids.
Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic attraction in the city and one of the most recognisable in the USA. Renting a bike and riding across the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the best outings when visiting San Francisco. Tweens and teens are at a great age to take part in such outdoor activity.
There are great views the entire way across the bridge taking in the harbour and the bay area. It’s an opportunity to see one of the world’s most iconic landmarks up close bolts and all!
Rent a bike at fishermen wharf and cruise across the bridge. You can catch the ferry from Sausalito to fisherman’s wharf to return your bike. It is a great activity for kids in San Francisco
Locals Tip: Our Friend Sally from Little Hiccups is an expat living In San Francisco. We asked her for some do’s and donts’s of her new home town.
Avoid driving in San Francisco. SF is not an easy city for parking and the hills can make it trickier – not that I’ve ever driven here! There are rules about which way to leave the steering wheel turned when parking on hills to avoid run away cars should the hand brake not work.
The Walt Disney Museum SF
The museum bearing the famous Disney name displays the life and legacy of the man who created the empire, Mr Walt Disney. The Walt Disney museum SF was set up by the descendants of Walt Disney. The museum is housed in a 40,000 square foot space across three buildings.
As you enter the lobby you will see the 248 awards that Disney won for his movies, tv and animations. This main building showcases the man behind the legend .
You will experience interactive galleries, early drawings and animation, movies, music, and audio stations. You will wander through ten galleries, starting with Walt Disney’s early days and inspirations, through to his death on December 15th, 1966.
The museum is located in The Presidio of San Francisco, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. A great add-on to your bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.
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San Francisco Hop on hop off bus
The Hop on hop off bus tour allows you to explore San Francisco’s most iconic attractions in a comfortable and hassle-free way. Your double-decker coach will inform you with live commentary on passing highlights and city history.
There are 24 different stops, including Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Haight-Ashbury and North Beach. Much more than just a bus tour there is options for a cruise across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and trips to Alcatraz. Choose from several 1- or 2-day pass options.
The San Francisco Dungeons
The San Fransisco Dungeons follows the successful formula of the other Dungeon sites across the world. The concept is half history and half horror as you are taken through the gory history of San Francisco on a 1-hour experience with actors, lighting displays, props and much more, If your teenagers like a bit horrors, shock and awe then the Dungeons in San Francisco is just the attraction for them.
Visiting Alcatraz Island
A visit to Alcatraz or the Rock as it is called is always on the top of many things to do in San Francisco lists. This former prison was once home to many of the worst criminals in the United States Penial System. The most famous being Al Capone, the notorious gangster.
A visit to Alcatraz these days includes a ferry ride the island and an audio guide that lets you explore the cell house. The audio tour will guide you through the Alcatraz Prison and tell you all its history. Once the audio tour is over, you can finish taking pictures and explore the Island,
Ripleys Believe it or Not
The Ripleys museum in San Francisco occupies over 10,000 square feet across 2 floors and features over 400 exhibits. For those who don’t know Robert Ripley or Ripleys believe it or not, it was a travelling show and later a TV show that displayed oddities and things of amazement. Shrunken heads, machines of medieval torture, illusions, wax figures and much more. Things that you will find unbelievable!
The kids will love the laser race and Mirror Maze attraction at Ripley’s. In the Laser Race, you must navigate through the web of lasers. Going over and under lasers as quickly as possible to reach the end of the Maze. Think mission impossible here. The Mirror Maze will have you searching in all directions trying to find your way out.
Ride the Cable Cars
San Francisco is known for its cable cars, they are iconic. They are used in tourism pictures, movies, tv shows…you name they have appeared. Don’t be fooled though, they are not just for tourist they do actually move locals up and down the hills every day.
They head out at 6 am every morning and run until midnight. For the best views make sure you are on the side that faces the bay area. There are 3 different routes the San Francisco cable cars run on.
The two main lines, Powell/Hyde and Powell/Mason leave from the intersection of Powell and Market and head towards the popular destination of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. California/Van Ness line, which starts at California and Market and continues on until Van Ness. Don’t miss the great shots of Alcatraz on the Powell/Hyde line. The cable cars are the number 1 thing to do in San Francisco with kids.
Locals Tip from Sally
My favorite tip for tourists wanting to ride the cable car is to skip the busy Powell Street line and take the California line instead. It rarely has a queue and we’re always able to get a seat outside or standing on the side. The views down California Street towards the Bay are pretty spectacular. It doesn’t go to the same touristy spots (the Powell line ends near Fisherman’s Wharf) but for tourists just wanting to ride a cable car it’s a much better option, as you avoid the really long queue for the Powell line. At busy times the queue for the Powell line can be at least 40 minutes to an hour!
Things to do in San Fransisco with teens Boomerang Bay Water Park
Now, do tell, who doesn’t love a good water park especially in the summer months? Water parks these days are fun and comfortable. Yes comfortable at Boomerang Bay you can hire a cabana and relax while the kids splash, slip and slide their way to happiness. Boomerang Bay borrows its name from all things Australian.
Some of the rides include the Digeridoo falls, the Down Under Thunder, the Tasmanian Typhoon and the Screaming Wombat. The park includes 6 water slides and 3 pool areas and a true family favourite the lazy river.
Everyone enjoys the lazy river as the current helps you drift around the river course. The great thing about Boomerang Bay is that it’s attached to the Great America Theme ark. Entry ticket includes access to both areas
Where to stay in San Francisco
There is San Francisco accommodation to suit everyone. Being a big city you will find hotels, hostels, apartments and more to suit everyone and every budget. Some of the area’s worth considering staying in with teenagers are as follows
- Fishermen’s Wharf – A popular area for tourists, where you can walk along the beach area, see wildlife and have the most amazing seafood. in town
- Union Square – Most of the hotels are located in this area. You will find great transport options and the best retail shopping in the city.
- Embarcadero – A great location for those who like to get up early for a walk or a run. Fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge await
Locals Tip from Sally .My top tip for what to avoid would be the Tenderloin! It’s such a central location and looks good on maps as it’s so close to a lot of touristy stuff, but it’s really seedy with a lot of homeless people and drug crimes. A lot of tourists make the mistake of staying there because it looks good on paper, there are lots of hotels and it’s cheaper than other touristy areas, but it’s not the safest area to walk around in at night.
Fun places to eat in San Francisco
Urban Putt had a dream indoor miniature-golf in San Francisco. Throw in awesome food and drink, a great Mission location, and an unswerving commitment to fun and you’ve got a formula for something unique and wonderful.
Address: 1096 South Van Ness Avenue (at 22nd Street, in the Mission
Shopping in San Francisco with teens
Downtown San Francisco encompasses two shopping hot spots: Union Square and Market Street. Union Square features an electric mix of luxury stores, local boutiques, and major department stores. Market Street encompasses The Embarcadero District which has been famous since the gold rush days
No shopping experience in san Fransisco is complete without a visit to Westfield San Francisco Centre. Westfield San Francisco Centre is a place to lose yourself in an epic shopping experience with its hundreds of stores.
Escape rooms in San Francisco
For those new to Escape rooms, this is a quick run down.
An escape room, also known as an “escape game”, is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives at hand.
Escape rooms may consist of a large, single room, or span multiple rooms. Players are given a set time limit to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms. If your teen likes this stuff it is definitely one of the top fun things to do with teenagers in San Francisco
You will have 60 minutes to solve the puzzle and find the truth. Below you will find a map with locations of San Francisco Escape rooms.
Cinemas in San Francisco
A perennial favourite with teenagers in San Francisco weather visiting or residents is the cinema. San Francisco like any major city in the USA has a wide range of cinema’s for you to attend.
Some of the best-rated cinemas in San Francisco for teenagers are as follows
- AMC Metreon 16, Address: 135 4th St Suite 3000, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States. Home of the latest blockbusters in 3D and Imax
- Grand Lake Theatre, Address 3200 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610, United States. Named one of the top ten vintage theatres in the USA
- Alamo Draft House Cinema, Address 2550 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110, United States. Small-sized theatres that have direct-to-seat food and beverage service
10 pin bowling in San Francisco
Why not get a bit of family competition going with a game of 10 pin bowling. Bowling is a great evening or rainy day activity. Teenagers vs adults is always a fun competition.
You can find some of San Francisco’s best bowling alleys below
- Lucky Strike bowling, Address 200 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107, United States. More like a night club than a bowling alley with stylish booths, food and drinks.
- Albany Bowl, address 40 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706, United States. A very cool modern feel filled with local college students
Places to eat in San Francisco with teens
Urban Putt had a dream indoor miniature-golf in San Francisco. Throw in awesome food and drink, a great Mission location, and an unswerving commitment to fun and you’ve got a formula for something unique and wonderful
- Address: 1096 South Van Ness Avenue (at 22nd Street, in the Mission
Do I need to tip in San Francisco?
Tipping is not optional, employees in the service industry earn very low wages and rely on tips for a large part of their income. Only withhold tips in cases of truly horrendously bad service.
- Airport & hotel porters $2 per bag, minimum per cart $5
- Bartenders 15% to 20% per round, minimum per drink $1
- Hotel housekeepers $2 to $5 per night, left under the card provided
- Restaurant servers 15% to 20%, unless a gratuity is already charged on the bill
- Taxi drivers 10% to 15%, rounded up to the next dollar
- Valet parking attendants At least $2 on the return of the keys
Weather in San Francisco
- The best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. Autumn or the fall period provides San Francisco’s warmest temperatures during the year. A bigger plus is fewer crowds than summer.
- September is the hottest month in San Francisco with an average temperature of 21 and the coldest is January at 10°C (50°F).
- Looking for those long sunny Californian days well, July is your month. The most daily sunshine hours at 14 in July.
- The wettest month that will have you running for your raincoat and umbrella is January with an average of 119mm of rain.
- The best month put on the boardshorts and bikinis to swim in the bay area and all its amazing beaches are in August. You will find the average sea temperature is 15°C (59°F).
How to get to San Francisco
- San Franscisco Airport is located 21 kilometres south of the downtown area. In 2017, it was the seventh busiest airport in the United States and the 24th-busiest in the world by passenger count
- The BART ( Bay Area Rapid Transport System takes people directly from the airport into the city. Alternatively, we recommend a private transfer with suntranfers
- You can easily drive to San Francisco. The USA Highway system is of high quality. Car hire is readily available from the airport. For more information on car hire bookings and costs, we recommend Rental Cars
- You can travel to San Francisco by train. The busiest train stations in San Francisco are 425 Mission St, Beach St and The Embarcadero Pier 39 – Fisherman’s Wharf and 5 Embarcadero Ctr – Corner of California & Drumm St. 425 Mission St is the busiest train station in San Francisco.
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About the Author
Mark Wyld is a father, husband and traveller. Having been to over 30 countries worldwide I think I know a thing or 2 about travelling with kids. I have been writing about travel on our website for the last 4 years and have featured on numerous other websites. When I am not talking, dreaming and planning travel I can be found working in disability support .