san francisco with kids

a few weeks ago, the kids and i joined sean on a business trip to san fransisco.  we left early on a thursday morning, did homeschool for a couple hours in the car, sat in morning traffic for a bit, then arrived in san francisco in time for a full day of fun!

we almost always use priceline to get hotels, and we’ve never been disappointed.  we wanted to go cheap this time, since we knew we’d be spending a chunk of money for the next couple days, so we ended up with a room in a holiday in by fisherman’s wharf.  after seeing our family of 5 that we were going to squeeze into a room for 4, they upgraded us to a suite for free!

*tip: if you need an extra bed for a small child – most hotel rooms have pairs of chairs.  we push them together and it makes a nice little bed!  we just get extra bedding and we’re all set.


we decided to get city passes for the kids and i since sean would be in meetings most of the 2 days we would be in the city.

have you ever heard of city passes?  you can get them in several cities: seattle, philadelphia, chicago, beverly hills, and more.  basically, you buy 1 pass for several different attractions, all at a discounted price.


lucky for us, our city passes included public transportation – street cars, cable cars, muni buses.  the kids were so excited since this is totally out of the norm for us!  we did an awful lot of walking, but it was really nice to be able to hop on public transport (and not have to figure out the right amount for fare) when we needed to (since sean had the car).  figuring out the buses was a little tricky for me, but eventually we figured it out.


our first stop was the exploratorium, and it was amazing!   there was so much to see and learn about, definitely something for everyone.  we could have easily spent a full day there.  the kids were having so much fun, that they forgot all about lunch until i begged them to go so we could get some food!


how amazing is this?  this entire thing was made of toothpicks and elmer’s glue!


lily was learning how color affected her mood. IMG_3378

once i was able to pry the kids away from all things magnetic, balance focused, or dealing with microscopes, we went straight for clam chowder on pier 39.  there were plenty of options, but we just went to boudin bakery and were completely happy.


right next door to pier 39 was the aquarium of the bay.  we have been to huge aquariums, but we loved this little one!  it had everything we wanted to see, but no crowd!

*tip: only touch the rays with 1 finger, or the docent will scold you ;)


apparently, another fun thing we do when we go to the city is get sick.  on our last trip here we all had the stomach flu.  this time, gracie had a fever spike and knock her down for an evening.  thankfully, she’s the world’s best patient and it was a treat to get to stay in with her.

*tip: always pack ibuprofen or acetaminophen for kids.  it stinks to have to find a drugstore in an unfamiliar town.  ice cubes wrapped in a damp wash cloth helped to cool her hot forehead, and a coolish shower finally lowered her fever down.  by morning she was feeling great!


while gracie and i snuggled in for the night, sean and the littles hit the town!


i’m not sure what they did while they were out, but they sure came back wired ;)

*tip: when you’re on a trip, spoil your kids with a few treats they don’t normally get.  most likely, they’ve been troopers, walking all day and generally going with the flow.  they probably deserve it.  if they don’t, at least you’ll be the cool mom for a few minutes and whining will stop until they’re done ;)


the next morning, after our free hotel breakfast, we went to the california academy of sciences.

*quick tip – staying in slightly cheaper hotels saves you money in more ways than just room fees.  usually, the parking charges are cheaper, you almost always get free internet (upwards of $25 in fancy hotels!), and often get free breakfast.

ok, back to the academy of sciences… this was our second time there (first time we spread our flu-y germs around – oops!), and its a pretty amazing space as well.  the picture above is from their giant rainforest exhibit, where there were butterflies fluttering all around us!

*tip: right when you get to any attraction, check the schedule for any tours or shows you want to see.  we wanted to see the penguin feeding and the divers in the huge aquarium tank.


we spent a ridiculous amount of time watching these rays, mostly because there was this one ENORMOUS  ray that looked like it had leopard skin!  you can see it up on the top left.

sean finished work and picked us up from the academy, then we were off for a drive through the city.  i could drive through different towns and cities all day long!  i love looking at the architecture of the buildings and houses. IMG_3364

lombard street is always a must do in san fran.  the kids loved it.  sean and i just talked the whole way down about how hard it would be to live (and park!) on that street!


best thing i found in the city were the concrete slides (thank you instagram, Facebook, and google!).  we found a small set in a park crammed between 2 apartment complexes.


these suckers were steep!  we grabbed a piece of cardboard from the pile at the bottom and hiked up the hill.  gracie and i went together for some extra weight and speed.


even though the signs at the park said to stay quiet out of courtesy to the neighbors, i was screaming so loud!


the kids love china town, and we happened to be there for chinese new year!  we bought a few packs of little poppers for the kids to throw on the ground to pop and they were happy!


sean and the girls went into a tea shop while silas and i looked at the knick knacks in nearby shops.  the tea shop was actually really fun!  the kids got to smell different teas and then they picked out a caffeine free one and we bought a bag of it.  its been a fun reminder of our trip for the kids to drink “their” tea!

then we went out for a forgetable dinner and headed home late (so the kids would fall asleep, duh).

*tip: knowing we’d be driving home late, when we packed our luggage in the car after leaving the hotel, we pulled out pj’s for the kids and set them next to their seats for our trip home.  we also always pack a cozy blanket and pillow (or the hideous pillow pets) and that makes for better sleepers.

do you like to travel with kids?  we love to!  this trip was a timely reminder for me of how wonderful my kids are, and what great ages they are at.  it was a fun couple days to soak them up and savor them!


  1. 1

    I loved all the great ideas on ur trip to San Fran. My hubby n I just talked about taking the kids there. We LOVe traveling with our four kids-absolutely awesome ages right now. They appreciate what we get to do, they learn a ton, and we have family memories and stories that could talk about for hours. Keep the great ideas coming!!

  2. 2

    Enjoyed the post – we’re heading to San Fran in April. I will be sure to check out the City Pass.

  3. 3

    Oh absolutely! We travel with the kids several times a year (a ton of road trips and a plane trip or two) . Its priceless! It was neat to see your photos and what you did, as we were just in SF with them in June. And now we’re planning a trip to DC with them in April.

  4. 4

    I love San Francisco! What a fun trip you had! I love the slides. I had never heard of those before and now I will definitely search those out the next time we are there!


  5. 5

    I live just across the bay from San Francisco and have yet to venture out to the slides… one of these days we’ll make it! One of my favorite places in the city is the Mission District. It’s full of colorful murals, an exciting mix of foods, Mission Dolores and Dolores Park! Also, just on the Marin side of the Golden Gate are the Marin Headlands… which give sunning views of both the Pacific and the Bridge with the City as the backdrop!

    It really is fun to explore another city with kids… we did this in Europe last spring. So many cities and I had worries about how my littles would do… but they were so fun and up for the discoveries! I can’t wait for many more adventures with them!!!

  6. 6

    Ok, we’ve been here almost 4 years and I totally have never done the slides. I think this must happen soon!

  7. 7
    Gina Nathan says:

    I am just rediscovering the joy of travelling with kids with my 5 yr old grandson Jake. I kidnap him in the school holidays and we go on a long train ride (the latest being to York) and stay for a couple of nights, just the two of us. We have the BEST fun!!!

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