San Francisco – Our Family Guide to SF

San Francisco – the family friendly city

Not even the rainy weather could stop us having a blast in the city of San Francisco.  We spent three full days here and still didn’t have enough time.

Golden Gate Bridge



SF can be an expensive city to sleep in and is a huge part of the budget.  We didn’t want to compromise on comfort and we wanted to be close to the action near the wharf.  We couldn’t justify staying right on Fisherman’s wharf so our next option was to stat near a tram stop so we could access the city easily.  We decided to stay at Beck’s Motor Lodge which ticked all the boxes.

  • free parking
  • retro styled rooms that are newly refurbished
  • the tram stop was right outside the hotel
  • 24hr front desk
  • security gated
  • in the heart of the Castro area
  • bars and restaurants within walking distance

Our 3-day itinerary

We didn’t use the car in the city and we were able to get around easily on trams, trains and buses.  We did use an Uber a few times in the rain.  The tram tickets can be purchased on board with the correct change given to the money box near the driver.  The tickets are a transfer within two hours onto another tram.  Keep those transfer tickets to use again.  If catching a traditional SF trolley you will need to buy a ticket for each rider from the ticket booth before you board.

  • Make Alcatraz top of you list.  We wrote about our experience here.  It was just an amazing half day, that every family member thoroughly enjoyed.  The ferry ride over to the island gave us a great feel for the bay area.  We spotted seals dancing in the water near the boat and the time spent at Alcatraz was enjoyed by all.

Alcatraz is a MUST SEE


  • Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia.  And it was the perfect stop for lunch.  The area of Chinatown is filled with Chinese shops and groceries and unusual goods to buy.  We ate at one of the many Dim Sum restaurants.  Ask around the area for the best Dim Sum and get a local’s opinion for the best place to eat in.


  • The Golden Gate Bridge is so icon and you will wont to get as many photo opportunities as you can.  We took many from a distance and from Alcatraz.  We also drove over the bridge (beware of the expensive $7.50 cashless toll) and parked SF side where there is a parking bay and lots of photo spots.


  • The Painted Ladies are stunning examples of San Francisco architecture. We walked around the area and looked at all the houses surrounding the iconic Painted Ladies. You may recognise the houses from the TV series Full House and the movie Mrs Doubtfire. We love watching related movies and TV shows before travelling as it makes it much more exciting for the kids.  There is a large park opposite the Painted Ladies area that has a playground and large grassed area for the kids to let loose in.

The famous Painted Ladies

  • Union Square is a great central point of the city. There are lots of places to shop such as the Flagship store of Old Navy and many other fashion labels. At Christmas there is an ice rink and Christmas tree. Union Square is also where many trams run through. The traditional trollies can be caught here as well.


  • Pier 39 is the place to watch the entertaining sea lions.  We visited the sea lions numerous times as the kids loved watching the sea lions.  The kids made up stories as to why the sea lions were wrestling and sleeping and jumping on and off the wharves.

Yes they smell but it is worth the watch


  • Sports fans will want to head to the baseball stadium of the SF Giants. It is a magnificent stadium that has a great gift store and you can access the stadium tours from here. Baseball tickets during the season can be purchased at the gate or from

SF Giants Ball Park

  • Haight and Ashbury was made famous in the 60’s for its hippie vibe and relaxed atmosphere. We loved walking the main street and visiting the alternative shops including a fantastic t-shirt shop, a huge sock shop and Billy loved the record store. In summertime I can imagine it to be a lively scene with buskers and people hanging out.
  • A perfect rainy day activity that we regret not going to but we ran out of time is the California Academy of Sciences. Our kids were museum-ed out and we were tired but I really regret not pushing them harder to go to the California Academy of Sciences.  I have only heard fantastic things.
This was our second visit to San Francisco and it will not be our last. You can read about our last visit here.

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