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A two-story gingerbread house with lights, frosting, and edible bricks in the middle of a hotel lobby. Fairmont San Francisco

The 30 best things to do in San Francisco with kids

Where to take your wee ones in the city

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Known around the world as a first-rate destination, San Francisco has carved out an enviable reputation for its steep rolling hills, pastel-painted Victorians, cable cars, and iconic Golden Gate Bridge. But the city is also a mecca for families, with a laundry list of kid-friendly attractions that go way beyond the cliched tourist destinations (we're looking at you, Alcatraz).

From historic theaters to museums with dozens of hands-on experiences, San Francisco offers both locals and visitors a never-ending list of things to do. And while there's plenty of activities if rain forces your family inside―like the de Young Museum and the Exploratorium―the city really shines when the clouds clear and you can play outside.

Gorgeous beaches will entertain kids for hours, and the 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park and the Presidio national park offer families the opportunity to row boats, play in tree forts, and explore innovative playgrounds. Perhaps the best part of the city is how easy it is to navigate; most kid-friendly spots are in a concentrated area with access to public transportation.

So without further ado, here are the 30 best places in San Francisco to visit with kids. Have another favorite spot that didn't make it onto our list? Let us know in the comments.

Traveling to other cities with your kiddos? Don’t miss Curbed’s maps of the best family activities in Washington, D.C., Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, Austin, and New York City.

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Bay Area Discovery Museum

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Yes, you have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to get to this children's museum, but we promise it's worth the trip. 

Located on the bay near Sausalito, the Bay Area Discovery Museum boasts a plethora of hands-on, indoor/outdoor experiences for kids aged 6 months to 10 years. 

Don't miss the Lookout Cove, a 2.5-acre outdoor area with tide pools, gravel pits, fishing boats, shipwrecks, caves, and spider web installations.

Aquarium of the Bay

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Kids of all ages will like this sprawling aquarium located on the waterfront at Pier 39. You’ll see more than 20,000 marine animals like sharks, rays, octopus, jellyfish, river otters, and more.

House of Air

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If you need an indoor option, check out this trampoline park in San Francisco's Crissy Field. 

Located in a converted airplane hanger, families can take advantage of open trampoline jump time, trampoline dodgeball, and even sometimes catch Olympians training on the trampolines.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

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There are many reasons to avoid the tourist-afflicted Fisherman's Wharf, but one spot we can recommend is the San Francisco National Maritime Park. 

Kids can see the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, where a three-masted cargo ship and a paddle steamboat are docked. There's also a sandy beach and many kids also like to watch the boats in action from Aquatic Park.

A post shared by Be Positive (@positive_wang) on

Coit Tower

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This 210-foot white concrete tower—built in 1933—nestled into the top of Pioneer Park might be on a lot of tourist must-do lists, but trust us when we say your kids will be happy here too. 

The tower is accessible by elevator and you'll get amazing 360-degree views of the city. Pro tip: check out the murals inside the tower's base, which depict California life during the Depression.

A post shared by Andrea Mendez (@yeamendez) on

Exploratorium

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Head to the Embaracdero and experience this ode to all things science. 

Hands-on exhibits allow kids to step inside a tornado, count the rings on a 300-year-old tree, and even build their own electrical circuits. Adults will love this place too.

Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center

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Located in the Presidio, the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center is home to Lucas Film. 

Star Wars fanatics will love the life-size Yoda sculpture and the Star Wars costumes located inside the lobby, and the center's surrounding grounds (complete with meadows, a lagoon, and sitting areas) offer an ideal spot for a picnic.

City Lights Bookstore

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Since 1953, City Lights Bookstore has been an icon in the literary world of San Francisco, the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S. and the birthplace of the Beat movement. 

But there's also a great children's book section, especially if you're inclined to introduce your children to books that specialize in social justice and activism.

A post shared by Liem Le (@septembersky269) on

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

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Machine-obsessed tots look no further: the free Cable Car Museum in San Francisco's Nob Hill should be your first stop. 

Not only will you get valuable info on the city's favorite means of transportation, but also kids can see the cable wheels and working models in action.

A post shared by Kinuko Yasuda (@kinukovv) on

Baker Beach

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Located below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach is a good choice for picnics (there are tables, restrooms, and grills at the east end of the parking lot) and sand castles. 

Note: The northernmost end of Baker Beach is frequented by clothing-optional sunbathers.

Looking for more Bay Area beaches? We’ve got you covered, over here.

A post shared by Sema Yörüsün (@sema_yorusun) on

Gingerbread Victorian at the Fairmont San Francisco

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On November 30, the Fairmont San Francisco’s gingerbread house will take shape inside the hotel’s lobby. It will feature thousands of house-made gingerbread bricks and gallons of royal icing adorned by hundreds of pounds of candy.

A two-story gingerbread house with lights, frosting, and edible bricks in the middle of a hotel lobby. Fairmont San Francisco

Julius Kahn Playground and Clubhouse

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This heavily used spot got a reboot in 2003 to transform it into a "Parisian-style" playground that aims to transport locals to the Luxembourg Gardens. 

Children will love the interactive wet sand play sculpture and climbing equipment, while adults can relax to views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais.

Children's Creativity Museum

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The Children's Creativity Museum is a hands-on space that allows children to imagine and create in a multimedia environment. 

Kids can design their own clay motion animations, pretend to be a rock star in the music studio, or invent a new machine. There's something for all ages here.

South Park

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Created in 1852, South Park remains one of San Francisco’s oldest yet lesser known parks in the city. The park underwent a $3.8 million renovation, opening this year new features: grass, benches, tables, swooping meadows, cement walkways, and a custom universal play area that boasts undulating forms both in structure and in the mounded surface.

Children play on playground equipment. The playground is surrounded by city buildings in San Francisco. Photo by Patricia Chang

Ocean Beach

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On the city's westernmost side, adjacent to Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach is a getaway with 3.5 miles of white beaches next to two giant windmills that are sure to fascinate the littles. 

The water is cold and the currents can be hazardous, but Ocean Beach is a top pick for walks and beach time picnics.

A post shared by Alan Dunkin (@avdunkin) on

Land's End Trail Hike

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This fairly flat hike (with just one big hill that has stairs) is a good one for older kids discovering their hiking legs. 

The hike starts and finishes at the ruins of the Sutro Baths—a former public bath house that burned to the ground in 1966—and there's also a visitor's center. The out-and-back hike is a total of 2.9 miles, but you can always turn around any time.

A post shared by Sherry Heck (@photocurean) on

De Young Museum

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This fine arts museum in Golden Gate Park has plenty to entertain adults, but kids can also have a grand time here with a bit of effort. 

Visit the warrior masks upstairs, explore the sculpture garden outside, and take the elevator to the museum's free observation tower for views of the city. 

The museum also boasts an artist studio where kids can talk to an artist-in-residence and holds free Saturday classes with guided tours and art studio activities.

A person holds the hands of two children while staring out of floor to ceiling windows overlooking a view of San Francisco.

Spreckels Lake

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Set on the northern side of Golden Gate Park, Spreckels Lake is home to the San Francisco Model Yacht Club

Head to the lake and watch enthusiasts sailing their remote controlled model yachts or bring a picnic and enjoy the sunset beside the beauty of the Monterey Cypress trees.

Stow Lake

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In the heart of Golden Gate Park, Stow Lake is a gorgeous spot to rent rowboats, electric boats, and pedal boats that seat up to 6 people. 

Families can spot a variety of different (and friendly) birds, and if you're lucky you'll see a turtle or two. The boathouse also has a kid-friendly cafe and serves alcohol.

A post shared by Rena Hu (@korakollection) on

California Academy of Sciences

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As one of the largest museums of natural history in the world, the California Academy of Sciences has something for everyone and is well-located in Golden Gate Park. 

Don't miss a fantastic aquarium, planetarium, and a domed, four-story rainforest that boasts animals in three distinct ecosystems.

Koret Children's Quarter Playground

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Called the Koret Children's Quarter, the children's playground at Golden Gate Park is a magical space with concrete slides, climbing walls, a playground, and plenty of grass for picnics. 

But the park's most unique feature is a gorgeous carousel—originally built in 1914—with 62 animal figures to ride.

A post shared by Jane Illin (@janeillin) on

In Chan Kaajal Park

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This new park in the Mission debuted in 2017 as the In Chan Kaajal Park—meaning “My Little Town” in Mayan.

The alfresco space measures 31,850 square feet and features a sprawling lawn, an outdoor stage and performance space, an adult fitness equipment area, a children’s play area, and an interactive water plaza to help keep you cool whenever San Francisco has an unusual heat wave.

Girl playing on the park, using the new water element on a hot day. Photos courtesy of SF Rec and Park Department

Castro Theatre

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Adults love the Castro for its stylish shops, popular bars, and bustling restaurants, but there's plenty to do for families too. 

Catch a movie at the historic Castro Theater—built in 1922—where sing-alongs and movie theater classics often play, or head to the adorable playground at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center.

A post shared by Guido Rosso (@guidorosso) on

Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park

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This playground in between the Castro and the Mission has a loyal following of families who come for the 38-foot mega-slide, plethora of swings, bouldering rocks, and wooden boats. 

Throw in the first-rate city views and its often sunny weather, and this playground is a sure bet.

The Randall Museum

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Reopened after a $9-million renovation, the Randall Museum offers hands-on science, live animal, and art experiences for school-aged kiddos. 

The remodel will feature a brand new STEM lab, an enlarged ceramics studio, and a sculptural tree that will house raptors in its branches. Pro tip: check out the old playground at the foot of the hill for amazing views.

A post shared by Randall Museum (@randallmuseum) on

Seward Street Slides

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This mini-park near the Castro—built in 1973—boasts a community garden and loads of native plants. 

But the main attraction is two steep concrete slides that are a thrill for older kids and adults alike. Bring a piece of cardboard and wear sturdy pants.

A post shared by Joelle (@nicertremaine) on

Urban Putt

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Older kids will love this wacky indoor miniature golf course, featuring 14 holes of putt putt with many designed to look like iconic San Francisco locations. 

Bonus for parents: there's a full-service restaurant and bar upstairs, so adults can enjoy a beverage while the family plays.

The Butterfly Joint

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The Butterfly Joint is a woodworking and design studio for children 2 and up. Kids get to clock in with punch cards, put on work aprons, and learn traditional joinery techniques to create gorgeous pieces of art.

Bernal Heights Park

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This grassy hill park in Bernal Heights doesn’t disappoint. An easy 30-minute walk up a dirt path will earn you 360-degree views of the bay, downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge, the East Bay, and San Bruno mountain. 

There's also a rope swing at the top of the hill and a dog park for Fido. Pro tip: After the park, stroll down Cortland Avenue for fun bakeries and kid-friendly restaurants like Bernal Star.

A post shared by Olivia Peek (@oliviapeek) on

Fort Funston

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If you're looking for more sandy walks on the beach, check out Fort Funston, a former harbor defense station from the early 1900s that also boasts sand dunes. 

Steep cliffs meet the shoreline for picture-perfect scenery, and dogs and older kids alike will have fun chasing the waves (warning: the undertow is dangerous, however, so we don't recommend swimming). 

Fort Funston is also a great place to watch hang-gliders take off from the cliffs above. The walk down to the beach is steep, so this one is better for the older kiddos.

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Yes, you have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to get to this children's museum, but we promise it's worth the trip. 

Located on the bay near Sausalito, the Bay Area Discovery Museum boasts a plethora of hands-on, indoor/outdoor experiences for kids aged 6 months to 10 years. 

Don't miss the Lookout Cove, a 2.5-acre outdoor area with tide pools, gravel pits, fishing boats, shipwrecks, caves, and spider web installations.

Aquarium of the Bay

Kids of all ages will like this sprawling aquarium located on the waterfront at Pier 39. You’ll see more than 20,000 marine animals like sharks, rays, octopus, jellyfish, river otters, and more.

House of Air

If you need an indoor option, check out this trampoline park in San Francisco's Crissy Field. 

Located in a converted airplane hanger, families can take advantage of open trampoline jump time, trampoline dodgeball, and even sometimes catch Olympians training on the trampolines.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

There are many reasons to avoid the tourist-afflicted Fisherman's Wharf, but one spot we can recommend is the San Francisco National Maritime Park. 

Kids can see the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, where a three-masted cargo ship and a paddle steamboat are docked. There's also a sandy beach and many kids also like to watch the boats in action from Aquatic Park.

A post shared by Be Positive (@positive_wang) on

Coit Tower

This 210-foot white concrete tower—built in 1933—nestled into the top of Pioneer Park might be on a lot of tourist must-do lists, but trust us when we say your kids will be happy here too. 

The tower is accessible by elevator and you'll get amazing 360-degree views of the city. Pro tip: check out the murals inside the tower's base, which depict California life during the Depression.

A post shared by Andrea Mendez (@yeamendez) on

Exploratorium

Head to the Embaracdero and experience this ode to all things science. 

Hands-on exhibits allow kids to step inside a tornado, count the rings on a 300-year-old tree, and even build their own electrical circuits. Adults will love this place too.

Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center

Located in the Presidio, the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center is home to Lucas Film. 

Star Wars fanatics will love the life-size Yoda sculpture and the Star Wars costumes located inside the lobby, and the center's surrounding grounds (complete with meadows, a lagoon, and sitting areas) offer an ideal spot for a picnic.

City Lights Bookstore

Since 1953, City Lights Bookstore has been an icon in the literary world of San Francisco, the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S. and the birthplace of the Beat movement. 

But there's also a great children's book section, especially if you're inclined to introduce your children to books that specialize in social justice and activism.

A post shared by Liem Le (@septembersky269) on

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Machine-obsessed tots look no further: the free Cable Car Museum in San Francisco's Nob Hill should be your first stop. 

Not only will you get valuable info on the city's favorite means of transportation, but also kids can see the cable wheels and working models in action.

A post shared by Kinuko Yasuda (@kinukovv) on

Baker Beach

Located below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach is a good choice for picnics (there are tables, restrooms, and grills at the east end of the parking lot) and sand castles. 

Note: The northernmost end of Baker Beach is frequented by clothing-optional sunbathers.

Looking for more Bay Area beaches? We’ve got you covered, over here.

A post shared by Sema Yörüsün (@sema_yorusun) on

Gingerbread Victorian at the Fairmont San Francisco

A two-story gingerbread house with lights, frosting, and edible bricks in the middle of a hotel lobby. Fairmont San Francisco

On November 30, the Fairmont San Francisco’s gingerbread house will take shape inside the hotel’s lobby. It will feature thousands of house-made gingerbread bricks and gallons of royal icing adorned by hundreds of pounds of candy.

A two-story gingerbread house with lights, frosting, and edible bricks in the middle of a hotel lobby. Fairmont San Francisco

Julius Kahn Playground and Clubhouse

This heavily used spot got a reboot in 2003 to transform it into a "Parisian-style" playground that aims to transport locals to the Luxembourg Gardens. 

Children will love the interactive wet sand play sculpture and climbing equipment, while adults can relax to views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais.

Children's Creativity Museum

The Children's Creativity Museum is a hands-on space that allows children to imagine and create in a multimedia environment. 

Kids can design their own clay motion animations, pretend to be a rock star in the music studio, or invent a new machine. There's something for all ages here.

South Park

Children play on playground equipment. The playground is surrounded by city buildings in San Francisco. Photo by Patricia Chang

Created in 1852, South Park remains one of San Francisco’s oldest yet lesser known parks in the city. The park underwent a $3.8 million renovation, opening this year new features: grass, benches, tables, swooping meadows, cement walkways, and a custom universal play area that boasts undulating forms both in structure and in the mounded surface.

Children play on playground equipment. The playground is surrounded by city buildings in San Francisco. Photo by Patricia Chang

Ocean Beach

On the city's westernmost side, adjacent to Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach is a getaway with 3.5 miles of white beaches next to two giant windmills that are sure to fascinate the littles. 

The water is cold and the currents can be hazardous, but Ocean Beach is a top pick for walks and beach time picnics.

A post shared by Alan Dunkin (@avdunkin) on

Land's End Trail Hike

This fairly flat hike (with just one big hill that has stairs) is a good one for older kids discovering their hiking legs. 

The hike starts and finishes at the ruins of the Sutro Baths—a former public bath house that burned to the ground in 1966—and there's also a visitor's center. The out-and-back hike is a total of 2.9 miles, but you can always turn around any time.

A post shared by Sherry Heck (@photocurean) on

De Young Museum

A person holds the hands of two children while staring out of floor to ceiling windows overlooking a view of San Francisco.

This fine arts museum in Golden Gate Park has plenty to entertain adults, but kids can also have a grand time here with a bit of effort. 

Visit the warrior masks upstairs, explore the sculpture garden outside, and take the elevator to the museum's free observation tower for views of the city. 

The museum also boasts an artist studio where kids can talk to an artist-in-residence and holds free Saturday classes with guided tours and art studio activities.

A person holds the hands of two children while staring out of floor to ceiling windows overlooking a view of San Francisco.

Spreckels Lake

Set on the northern side of Golden Gate Park, Spreckels Lake is home to the San Francisco Model Yacht Club

Head to the lake and watch enthusiasts sailing their remote controlled model yachts or bring a picnic and enjoy the sunset beside the beauty of the Monterey Cypress trees.

Stow Lake

In the heart of Golden Gate Park, Stow Lake is a gorgeous spot to rent rowboats, electric boats, and pedal boats that seat up to 6 people. 

Families can spot a variety of different (and friendly) birds, and if you're lucky you'll see a turtle or two. The boathouse also has a kid-friendly cafe and serves alcohol.

A post shared by Rena Hu (@korakollection) on

California Academy of Sciences

As one of the largest museums of natural history in the world, the California Academy of Sciences has something for everyone and is well-located in Golden Gate Park. 

Don't miss a fantastic aquarium, planetarium, and a domed, four-story rainforest that boasts animals in three distinct ecosystems.

Koret Children's Quarter Playground

Called the Koret Children's Quarter, the children's playground at Golden Gate Park is a magical space with concrete slides, climbing walls, a playground, and plenty of grass for picnics. 

But the park's most unique feature is a gorgeous carousel—originally built in 1914—with 62 animal figures to ride.

A post shared by Jane Illin (@janeillin) on

In Chan Kaajal Park

Girl playing on the park, using the new water element on a hot day. Photos courtesy of SF Rec and Park Department

This new park in the Mission debuted in 2017 as the In Chan Kaajal Park—meaning “My Little Town” in Mayan.

The alfresco space measures 31,850 square feet and features a sprawling lawn, an outdoor stage and performance space, an adult fitness equipment area, a children’s play area, and an interactive water plaza to help keep you cool whenever San Francisco has an unusual heat wave.

Girl playing on the park, using the new water element on a hot day. Photos courtesy of SF Rec and Park Department

Castro Theatre

Adults love the Castro for its stylish shops, popular bars, and bustling restaurants, but there's plenty to do for families too. 

Catch a movie at the historic Castro Theater—built in 1922—where sing-alongs and movie theater classics often play, or head to the adorable playground at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center.

A post shared by Guido Rosso (@guidorosso) on

Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park

This playground in between the Castro and the Mission has a loyal following of families who come for the 38-foot mega-slide, plethora of swings, bouldering rocks, and wooden boats. 

Throw in the first-rate city views and its often sunny weather, and this playground is a sure bet.

The Randall Museum

Reopened after a $9-million renovation, the Randall Museum offers hands-on science, live animal, and art experiences for school-aged kiddos. 

The remodel will feature a brand new STEM lab, an enlarged ceramics studio, and a sculptural tree that will house raptors in its branches. Pro tip: check out the old playground at the foot of the hill for amazing views.

A post shared by Randall Museum (@randallmuseum) on

Seward Street Slides

This mini-park near the Castro—built in 1973—boasts a community garden and loads of native plants. 

But the main attraction is two steep concrete slides that are a thrill for older kids and adults alike. Bring a piece of cardboard and wear sturdy pants.

A post shared by Joelle (@nicertremaine) on

Urban Putt

Older kids will love this wacky indoor miniature golf course, featuring 14 holes of putt putt with many designed to look like iconic San Francisco locations. 

Bonus for parents: there's a full-service restaurant and bar upstairs, so adults can enjoy a beverage while the family plays.

The Butterfly Joint

The Butterfly Joint is a woodworking and design studio for children 2 and up. Kids get to clock in with punch cards, put on work aprons, and learn traditional joinery techniques to create gorgeous pieces of art.

Bernal Heights Park

This grassy hill park in Bernal Heights doesn’t disappoint. An easy 30-minute walk up a dirt path will earn you 360-degree views of the bay, downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge, the East Bay, and San Bruno mountain. 

There's also a rope swing at the top of the hill and a dog park for Fido. Pro tip: After the park, stroll down Cortland Avenue for fun bakeries and kid-friendly restaurants like Bernal Star.

A post shared by Olivia Peek (@oliviapeek) on

Fort Funston

If you're looking for more sandy walks on the beach, check out Fort Funston, a former harbor defense station from the early 1900s that also boasts sand dunes. 

Steep cliffs meet the shoreline for picture-perfect scenery, and dogs and older kids alike will have fun chasing the waves (warning: the undertow is dangerous, however, so we don't recommend swimming). 

Fort Funston is also a great place to watch hang-gliders take off from the cliffs above. The walk down to the beach is steep, so this one is better for the older kiddos.