Here are a some things that Oliver seemed to really enjoy here in San Francisco:
- The Kidpower Park, in the Mission district, is a children’s playground that’s really nice. One one side there’s an area for younger kids, on the other one for older kids; Oliver (almost 5 years old) had fun on both sides. The entire play area is underlaid with a very bouncy rubbery surface that makes the gravel or wood chip protection of other playgrounds look barbaric. There’s lots of parent seating, a water fountain, and the entire playground is surrounded by a tall fence. There’s a community garden (for adults) that shares the same lot. Ride BART to the 16th/Mission station, walk one block down 16th to Hoff (you can see Hoff from the station), turn left and walk halfway down the block: Kidpower is on your left.
- There are very nice carousels (aka “merry go rounds”) on Pier 39 (take the F-line street car or trolley bus from Powell St. BART), Golden Gate Park (take the 71 bus from Powell St. BART, down Market and Haight until you get to the head of the park; get off and walk towards the Sharon Meadow) and Tilden Park (further afield in Berkeley, you’ll need a car to get there, but it’s arguably the nicest of the bunch and Tilden Park is a neat place in its own right).
- The Exploratorium is an interactive science museum that Oliver spent two very happy hours in. It’s a little hard to get to: from Powell St. BART walk east to Kearny and get on the #30 Stockton bus and ride to the end of the line; the driver can point you in the right direction from there — a short 2-block walk). Once you’re there, the bay is only a block away, and there’s a pleasant walk along the water to Fort Mason, and, if you’re enthusiastic, over a hill to Fisherman’s Wharf.
- FLAX Art and Design is the queen of all art supply stores, and it has a good collection of kid-specific stuff (crayons, paints, paper, markers, toys) plus lots of other stuff that Oliver really liked (handmade paper, myriad boxes, bags and portfolios). Think “Home Depot” but for artists. Right next door is Delessio Market & Bakery, a buffet-style restaurant with a selection of food that will please everyone (they even have a “chocolate bar” — think “salad bar, but with chocolate”). Take the MUNI M-line to Van Ness and walk two blocks west.
- Of course the cable cars are lots of fun. I think they’re best at night, when you get a great view. Remember that you can ride the cable cars with a multi-day MUNI pass: a $9 one day pass, for example, is a great deal if you’re planning to ride the cable cars both ways ($6) and do a little MUNI-ing around ($1.25 a trip).
- The Ferry Terminal has a great selection of (somewhat expensive) places to eat laid out food-court style. There’s also Book Passages, a nice little bookstore, and a Scharffen Berger outlet. You can catch the ferry to Sausalito for a cheap tour of the city from the water. To reach the Ferry Terminal you can ride the F-line streetcar or trolley, or take BART to Embarcadero.
- Although there are literally thousands of places to eat in San Fransciso and, in our experience at least, most will welcome kids, we did have one experience worthy of particular mention: Puccini & Pinetti, near Union Square on Ellis Street, advertises kids-friendliness and it delivered. They have the usual booster seats, high chairs, and colouring crayons that are entry-level requirements for kid-friendly status, but they co beyond that and have a real childrens’ menu that includes more than just the usual chicken fingers and fries. Oliver selected the “make your own pizza” (with my urging, visions of Maximum Fun dancing in my head) and, true to its name, the server brought Oliver a crust and little goblets of ingredients, sauce and cheese to make it up and, once his creation was completed, it was taken away to be baked and returned 5 minutes later ready to eat. On top of all that, they have free Wifi. Recommended.