Photo: A street in San Francisco’s Chinatown

A cable car passes through Chinatown, one of the distinct neighborhoods that characterize San Francisco.

Photograph by Susan Seubert, National Geographic

“The world thinks of San Francisco as a shining city on a hill, but it isn’t one bright light,” writes Andrew Nelson for Traveler. “It’s more a jumbled collection of neighborhoods.” This makes San Francisco a great vacation destination for families. With plenty of parks, museums, sites, and restaurants, you will have no problem keeping the whole family entertained. Kids will be fascinated by the sea lions at Pier 39 and other marine life at the Aquarium of the Bay. Relax at the Crissy Field beach, take a ride on the city’s famous cable cars, and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Some hotels—including the Hotel Del Sol in the Marina District and the Hotel Monaco near Union Square—offer activities for kids and babysitting upon request, so that you can explore the city after dark.

Where to Play

Ever wonder how the paper gets into the fortune cookie? Explore Chinatown, looking for the Fortune Cookie Factory. If your nose doesn’t point you in the right direction, a local will. After strolling the butterfly garden at the Yerba Buena Gardens, make your way to the rooftop, where there is a carousel and bowling center. Also on the roof at Zeum Children’s Museum, you can produce your own music video or create a clay animation.

At Day’s End

Take a narrated boat tour around Alcatraz Island, the infamous federal prison. Hear stories from Alcatraz, narrated by people who lived them, and take part in other programs offered only on the night tour.


Hotel Del Sol; Hotel Monaco;

Zeum carousel, $3 for two rides. General admission to the Zeum Children’s Museum is $8 for ages 3-18 and $10 for adults.

Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux

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