San Francisco is one of the most family-friendly cities in the United States, with hundreds of playgrounds, parks, educational experiences and fun museums to explore. Start your day at the Exploratorium at Pier 15, a science museum-slash-experimental laboratory where kids can immerse themselves in more than 600 interactive exhibits. When it’s time for lunch, head to the SeaGlass waterfront restaurant for a multicultural menu and fabulous views.
Fisherman’s Wharf may well be the most touristy part of San Francisco, but the mirror maze, bungee trampolines, colourful carousel and famous sea lions of Pier 39 are a big draw for kids of all ages. Other highlights include the thrilling DarkRide 7D Experience and the locally focused Aquarium of the Bay, where you can watch naturalist-led animal feedings or attend an up-close animal encounter. For simpler pleasures, head to the charmingly retro Musée Mecanique at Pier 45; a vintage penny arcade with games ranging from the fun and frivolous to the downright freaky.
Older kids will love the spooky night tour of Alcatraz, which is often less busy and more atmospheric than the daytime tours. The trip includes a guided tour from the dock to the prison building; a self-guided Alcatraz audio tour of the prison itself, and access to special programmes and activities only laid on at night. And if you’re lucky enough to visit on a clear night, the views back towards the San Francisco skyline are spectacular. Once back on the mainland, head to the vibrant, lantern-bedecked streets of Chinatown for an affordable dim sum dinner.