Design

Babymoon Trip for the Older Child

This Friday, Alex, Toby and I are taking a much-anticipated trip to San Francisco! We’ll be visiting my sister for a week, and we’re thinking of it as a babymoon trip for Toby. Since his world will be turned upside down when the baby arrives this summer, we decided to front-load all our vacations this year and take one last trip as a family of three, during which we’ll dote on him, have tons of mommy-daddy-Toby time, and do everything he loves most: planes, trains, playgrounds, a million tacos for lunch:)

I’d love to ask: Do you have any family-friendly advice for San Francisco? Any yummy restaurants, ice-cream shops, playgrounds, museums, toy stores, or overall kid-friendly activities? We want to make it really special for Toby and would be grateful for any insider tips. Thank you so much!

P.S. Toby’s first trip to San Francisco, and grown-up San Francisco advice.

(Illustration by Kevin Dart; photo by Alan Levine)

  1. everything you need right ??? :) and those destinations must be soooo awesome, belive you’ll enjoy it ! :)
    xinfo

  2. Information about trip is good to read. I enjoy to go such a nice trip. Thank you for your experience.

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  3. It’s just so easy for you.

  4. It’s just so easy for you.

  5. Miette for a sweet treat, and the most beautiful little store.

  6. I’m a toddler nanny in SF and the Randall museum has a beautiful view of the city as well as a bunny petting zoo and an interactive train play area. The Academy of Sciences is also fun. The little girl I watch loves the aquarium section and the rainforest exhibit complete with actual butterflies and birds. There is a beautiful live Rooftop as well. And the conservatory of flowers is close by in Golden Gate Park and perfect for photos on a sunny day. It looks like a floral Taj Mahal. There is also a cable car museum that I went to as a child and loved. Definitely take Toby on a cable car ride. My parents finally took me as an adult as we always by passed it visiting the city in my childhood and it was still as exciting as I thought it would be as a child. And Mama’ s in Washington Square Park has an amazing brunch and makes all of there own bread. If you go on a week day closer to closing there is hardly even a line. And Tartine by Bi-Rite has amazing breads and chocolate croissants. By far the best bakery in town.

  7. jm says...

    Have a great time! I love that San Francisco poster!

  8. When we lived there, my 2 yr old loved getting a cupcake on chestnut and eating it at the palace if fine arts grounds, you can feed ducks there too. It’s just gorgeous and relaxing. Take a blanket. And the best cupcake shop was called susiecakes.

  9. Beignet Sundays at Devil’s Teeth Baking Company in the Outer Sunset. Beignets made to order. Yummy breakfast sandwich. Surfers. Perfect Sunday mornings.

  10. these tips are all so amazing! thank you so much. alex and i spent ages going over every single one and now we’re psychotically excited for the trip. thank you again!!!!!

  11. Make sure to visit Noe Valley… sweet family friendly neighborhood next to the Mission: Farmers Market on Saturday, FroYo at Easy Breezy, and a nice stroll down 24th street. For burritos, I have said it before and I’ll say it again… El Farolito for the BEST burrito in SF (and most authentic, Papalote doesn’t count :) )

    A quick visit across the bay in Sausalito to the Bay Area Discovery Musuem and lunch at Cavallo Point (crab sandwich and the burger). Make sure to bring some goodies to enjoy on the grass and take in the view.Cant recommend this enough!!

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  13. I’m in love with San Francisco! For children and adults it’s nice biking to Presidio to play with comets and tasting chocolate from Ghirardelli’s.
    The Golden Gate park is awesome for children too.

  14. Joanna- Some ladies mentioned Tilden, and while I think the train is awesome and little farm is cute I would recommend if you go, go EARLY! Its hot and bright in the east bay mid-day (even late am) and its not nearly as lovely as early, so there is that.
    Also, I am not sure if anyone mentioned Crissy field (you must know it). The weather is amazing right now and if it holds Crissy is such a local spot but also epic. Right under the GG bridge, hop skip from the Presidio and a super fun (chilly water) calm beach. Likewise, if it stays warm, and you want beach and yummy food and cute stuff, go out to ocean beach to hang out – maybe brunch at Outerlands when it opens Sat am, then check out The General Store and other beauty in the neighborhood. Sunset an awesome time to be out there but don’t plan on eating without a long wait…
    Also, the Academy of Sciences certainly was mentioned somewhere above right? In the park, good food, TONS to see, better on a weekday…
    emily
    tinyatlasquarterly.com

    • I agree that Outerlands is awesome (especially the eggs in jail, but the Dutch pancake is also a wonder). Still, with Toby in tow you’re probably not going to want to wait the hour+ to get a table for brunch.

  15. I had a babymoon with my daughter in SF when our roof suddenly sprung a leak so we left home for the repairs. Of all the recommendations, the Bay Area Children’s Discovery Museum was the keeper. It’s immediately over the Golden Gate, so you’ll need a car. It’s a collection of old army buildings with free form art going on, aimed at the very young. I watched my daughter paint on clear panels and then squeegee off, and snip and tape fabric around stuffed animals on a group sculpture, and she was so deeply into it she didn’t say a word for over an hour. I learned a lot about mothering that day, inadvertantly.

    Skip the Exploratorium. It’s too old for your guy, and it’s very expensive. We went on a lucky free day and enjoyed a few things, but largely it was me being intrigued and her not. It’s very pricey for that. Do it when he’s eight. The zoo is like zoos everywhere. The cable cars, kids love. Enjoy and hope the bumpy bits are few!

  16. Fairyland in Oakland
    New Exploratorium
    Monterey Bay Aquarium

  17. ok i didn’t read everything so could be repeating other people – but yes to Dolores Park, and definitely a trolley ride. Can you go across the bay bridge to Oakland? If so they have a great zoo, a park called Tilden Park that has a real functioning steam train that you can ride, and a little play land called Fairyland that is totally weird and awesome – it’s basically a big alice in wonderland park with tons of things to ride and play on. have fun!

  18. tk says...

    Flora Grubb Gardens http://www.floragrubb.com

    Park Chalet Garden Restaurant (beach end of Golden Gate Park) for brunch on a sunny day (you can eat picnic style on a huge lawn…kids can run around)

    Tennessee Valley trail walk to beach (Mill Valley)

    Children’s Fairyland (Oakland)

    Explore the bunkers around the Marin Headlands (Rodeo Beach)

    Ferry ride to Marin

    Ride Bart to East Bay

  19. I second PAXTON GATE FOR KIDS. Awesome place. Also, The Ice Bream Bar is very cool.

  20. Toby’s such a lucky boy. Have tons of fun!

  21. I’m sort of surprised at all the recommendations for the Exploratorium. Yes, it’s amazing. And it’s one of my favorite places in San Francisco. But it’s not toddler-friendly. My kids are 2.5 and I doubt I’ll take them there for at least another year. The Bay Area Discovery Museum (just across the GG Bridge) is a slam dunk for the under-4 set. We love Dolores Park, Tartine, Bi-Rite (if it’s sunny, everybody else in the city will also be there). An amazing short excursion is CuriOdyssey down near the airport. It combines a small science museum & a little zoo that’s perfect for small children. Also the steam trains in Tilden Park (Berkeley) are a big hit for little ones. Check out the Creativity Museum. And Cal Academy is great for toddlers (though expensive)! The aquarium is amazing, there are penguins, there’s lots of space for running & exploring, and it has a nice toddler room where you can sit down and relax while Toby plays! The cafe also has wonderful food. Have fun!!!

  22. A great little bike adventure, start at the Exploritorium (fun, kid oriented, hands on science!) then head to Marina Greens on Marina Ave. It’s only a couple blocks away and you can have a picnic and watch kites and people all day. Bring sunblock there are no trees. Then head out into the bay along the pier that Van Ness Ave dead ends into. It curls around the Aquatic Park and gives amazing views of the whole north side of the bay all the way to the Golden Gate. The benefit is that it is huge so you are not elbowing other people trying to see the views. Then head to either Ghiradelli Square or to North Beach for some ice cream or gellato before dinner. Have a great trip.

  23. I LOVE reading everyone’s recommendations since I’m a SF native! Everyone is spot on with Bi-rite, Delphina, Dolores Park, and Chrissy Field. Loved the recommendations to head over to the conservatory, and p.s. there are small hills of grass in front of it that my sister and I LOVED rolling down (like logs) when we were little. Hours of free fun for Toby, and the perfect spot for a picnic. The tulips are probably still in bloom too!

    If you guys have a car (or rent a zip car), I’d also head over to Sausalito. HIGHLY recommend Rodeo Beach – beautiful beach and mild hiking around there, and after a bit of beach fun, you can head into town for some Bocce and Pizza. Bar Bocce in Sausalito has great food, and fun outdoor patio which is completely kid friendly, and blue skies (when the city is foggy).

    Have a FABULOUS trip!
    Becky

    http://cuphalffull-sf.blogspot.com/

  24. ooO i just visited SF somewhat recently, like most big cities, a ton of places to eat, here were a few of my favs. hope Toby has a fan.tastic babymoon :)
    Chili Pie for pie and ice cream, worth the stop, it’s near Alamo park
    Mama’s for brunch – the wait is ridiculous get there early!
    Sweet Maple for brunch – they have “millionaire’s bacon” that was yum.
    Hog Island Oysters :)

  25. If you have a car and want a little side trip I bet Toby is at just the right age for Train Town in Sonoma.

    http://www.traintown.com/#!

    I grew up in San Francisco and we really LOVED this place when we were kids.

    Mountain Lake park in the city is also great. We used to call it the Rolly Slide Park because it has some cool and different slides.

  26. I am a fan of the Oakland Zoo – amazing animals and exhibits (the Bats are way cool). I use to hit the San Francisco zoo but then discovered the Oakland one. The animals are actually awake!! Check out the new Exploratorium on Pier 15 – amazing!!! Also, The California Academy of Sciences is fantastic. My god-daughter is now 7 but I have been taking her to all three since she was a baby – she never outgrows them. Just be sure to go early.

    If it is warm, hit Bi-Rite market, grab a picnic and head to Dolores Park. Great fun for little ones (has been Maggie’s fave park for years), and amazing people watching for the big kids. Afterwards, hit Bi-Rite creamery for the best ice cream!!

    Have fun in our city!!

    Denise

  27. We rented a houseboat in Sausalito, and my kids loved exploring the docks, which you can totally do as a visitor; map Liberty Dock” and you’ll find it. Plus it’s right near the beautiful Heath Ceramics factory and shop. Also, the Ferry Building for great food.

  28. Go to Frjtz restaurant on Valencia in the mission. Get the singapore burger and thank me later lol. They have amazing fries and like 20 different dipping sauces to choose from. There is a window seat available that toby might get a kick out of, it is up in the display window with pillows and you have to kinda climb up, its hard to explain but you would be sitting kind of asian style as though you are on the floor but you are up above the rest of the restaurant (only a few feet up) not dangerous or anything lol if that is not your thing though there are normal tables and chairs too :) Bi-Rite creamery is around the corner as well as dolores park

  29. My nephew loves the Academy of Sciences. It’s so fun for toddlers.

  30. If you need a chill place for brunch with incredible food & drinks (and very kid-friendly), my friends took me to Slow Club while I was visiting SF recently and it was just perfect! http://www.slowclub.com/

  31. Giants games at AT&T Park are always a must! Even if you don’t watch the actual game, there’s plenty for young kids to do. A lot of the park is designed for young kids, about Toby’s age. Also, the new Exploratorium just opened up!

    If you’re in the Mission, you HAVE to go to “The Pirate Store,” aka 826 Valencia: http://826valencia.org/store/, as well as Paxton Gate Kids: http://www.paxtongate.com/kids.aspx. You also need to try Tacolicious: http://tacolicious.com/ and Salumeria: http://www.salumeriasf.com/, if you haven’t already.

    Have fun, you guys!

  32. I am kind of surprised no one has mentioned this yet, In Oakland there is a park called the Dennis the Menace Park. Its really cool! And it has a train you can climb on!

    • I said Oakland, but I meant Monterey. Monterey is GREAT if you havent been I highly suggest it! You should rent bikes and go for a family bike ride and eat clam chowder out of bread bowls!

    • awesome park! but its in Monterey not Oakland.

  33. If the weather is still amazing, which is obviously wont be, then stick to parks and beaches. I’m a North SF girl so I love Chrissy Field, Ocean Beach, Lands End… Then you can eat at Pizzetta 211, a tiny tiny pizza place that is so good and always has at least a few little kids with their parents. But Golden Gate park never fails to amaze me. Have you seen the bison? Your little boy would love it!

  34. Children’s fairy land in Oakland

    Gather restaurant in Berkeley

    Comal in Berkeley

    Ferry building for yummy things

    Tartine bakery SF

    The general store

    Moma is a must they have a play room kind of space for kids

    Gracious madre SF for vegan food

  35. house of prime ribs is excellent for steak! tommy’s joynt has the most delicious sandwiches in san francisco! and i’m sure toby will looooove the academy of sciences! have a great trip!

  36. For the adults at trip to Alcatraz is amazing.

  37. Bay Area Discovery Museum
    cable car ride
    ferry to from sausalito with lunch at ferry building
    exploratorium is great but I would recommend the Discovery museum for his age.
    “Hike” in muir woods

  38. we took a trip to sf for easter weekend! it was so lovely. although my little man didn’t really sleep… we had a lot of fun finding parks to play in. and we love the cable car museum!

  39. I strongly suggest going to the FREE cable car museum. Its fascinating for kids and adults since its the hub for all cable car lines in the city. Even better take the cable car to and from.

    If the weather inside the city doesn’t cooperate consider driving down South about 20 min to a historic home and garden called http://www.filoli.org/ (Filoli stands for “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”) Kids can run through the mazes of incredible gardens and orchids set beneath the mountains. Its stunning there and many SF people have never heard of it.

    For free walking tours by SF local enthusiasts try http://www.sfcityguides.org/. Pick a neighborhood you want to learn about (the Haight, Victorian architecture, mansions in Pac Heights, the beat era in North Beach) and just meet the guide at the designated time and corner. They usually last about an hour. Always interesting.
    ~CarOline (SF resident)

  40. Have fun! Here are a few things we did over this past winter while we were in the SF Bay Area with our two kids:

    1. SAUSALITO / MARIN HEADLANDS
    Bay Area Discovery Museum (amazing/not to be missed!)
    http://www.baykidsmuseum.org/
    +
    eat nearby at FISH (at the marina in Sausalito near Heath Ceramics Outlet):
    http://www.331fish.com/

    2. ALAMEDA (East Bay)
    U.S.S. Hornet Museum (aircraft carrier) in Alameda, CA
    http://www.uss-hornet.org/
    +
    could time with the Alameda Flea Market
    http://www.alamedapointantiquesfaire.com/
    (held on the first Sunday of every month)
    +
    Eat at Pappo
    http://www.papporestaurant.com/

    3. BERKELEY (East Bay)
    Codornices Park w/playground and awesome rock slide!
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/codornices-park-berkeley
    (across the street from Berkeley Rose Garden)
    +
    Gordo Taqueria
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/gordo-taqueria-berkeley
    +
    Ici Ice Cream
    http://www.ici-icecream.com/
    +
    Shop at Tail of the Yak
    http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tail-of-the-yak

    4. OAKLAND
    Ride from S.F. to Oakland on BART train (train adventure)
    +
    Shop in Temescal Alley (Book/Shop http://book—shop.com/)
    +
    eat lunch at Bake Sale Betty
    http://www.bakesalebetty.com/locations.php
    +
    grab a sweet treat at Doughnut Dolly
    http://www.doughnutdolly.com/site/page/home
    +
    stay for Dinner (or lunch) at Pizzaiolo
    http://www.pizzaiolooakland.com/

    OR

    Museum of Children’s Art
    http://mocha.org/
    +
    Walk around PopUpHood in old Oakland and visit shops
    http://www.popuphood.com/oakland.html
    (Umamimart!)

    4. SAN FRANCISCO
    California Academy of Sciences (Natural History Museum / Aquarium)
    http://www.calacademy.org/
    +
    Pack a picnic in Golden Gate Park just outside of museum

    OR

    Eat at the Ferry Building
    http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/
    +
    Walk down piers to Pier 39 to see the sea lions who live on the K-dock
    http://www.pier39.com/home/the-sea-lion-story/sea-lion-webcam/
    +
    Take a Ferry to Angel Island (rent bikes to bike around island)
    +
    Pack a picnic lunch to eat on island

  41. There is an entire other set of cities on the other side of the bay with wonderful kids activities!

    – If Toby likes dogs, taking a walk at the Point Isabel Park will be an absolute dream.

    – Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, right by Lake Merritt, is a hit with the toddler crowd.

    – There is a real (but mini) steam train in Tilden Park that my preschool students raved on and on about.

    – Hiking in Joaquin Miller Park among the redwoods is quite serene and beautiful (with spectacular bay views!!)

    – Hawker Fare has amaaaaaazing rice bowls adored by kids and adults alike.

    – Doughnut Dolly fills delicious yeasty doughnuts to order in the Temescal Alley (and there are many other cute little shops and businesses in there, as well!)

    Would be happy to share more East Bay gems if you consider a voyage over here!

    (also, note from a previous reader… Fenton’s is in Oakland, too!)

  42. For a relaxing day I have to recommend you take the 30 minutes drive south of the city to Half Moon Bay. It has great beaches and the best little Main Street with amazing shops and food. Grab a picnic from The San Benito House and take your family to the ocean or go tour some of the farms in the area.
    Also, the trolleys for your train loving son are a no brainer. So many good ideas on here already. Just had to make sure you heard about HMB.

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  44. Have a great time! I have never been to SF so hopefully you will get a lot of recommendations from other readers.

    XOXO
    Nancy

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  46. For a laid-back, less crazy San Francisco experience, stick to the inner Sunset and Golden Gate Park. Nice small-town feel, but a quick bus ride from pretty much everywhere. Arizmendi bakery, Beanery for coffee, restaurants like San Tun, Loving Hut, and Nopalito. And you’re just around the corner from the Academy of Sciences, and a quick walk from the carousel. There’s also a teensy farmer’s market on Sundays at 9th between Irving and Judah.

    Outside of that area there are the much-lauded Dolores Park, Tartine, Bi-Rite, and Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids; the Mission has many treasures!

  47. I agree with many above suggestions! Especially the Seward Street Slides. My recommendations are food related: 1) Nick’s Crispy Tacos in Russian Hill – if you’ve never been, you will love it and so will Toby if he likes tacos. They have my favorite fish tacos there. 2) Right around the corner from this is The Candy Store – OMG, please take Toby there. So, so much fun! There are lots of cool shops in this neighborhood too.

  48. The Randall Museum has a cute model train room open on Saturdays that is worth checking out for your train enthusiast.
    Also it is super touristy, but my kids love going on a Duck boat tour. It is a truck that drives straight into the water and becomes a boat! Crazy town for the under 10 crowd! Since you’re going to be down in Fisherman’s Wharf, be sure to stop in at Musee Mecanique. It is an old time arcade and we have a 12+ year family tradition of getting a picture strip from the old photo booths.
    Bi-rite Creamery, Dolores Park, Academy of Sciences, Smitten Ice Cream, and the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market are all favorites too. Stella’s Pastry in North Beach has the BEST tiramisu and cannoli!

  49. Head up to Sonoma to Train Town! Train themed little park for little kids! And you can do a bit of wine tasting before or after!

  50. Head up to Sonoma to Train Town! Train themed little park for little kids! And you can do a bit of wine tasting before or after!

  51. Exploratorium is definitely an agreed upon consensus, and it’s along the Pier front so you can check out the Saturday Farms Market and sample all the great summer fruits arriving. Make sure to get in line early for the Porchetta Sandwich from Roli Roti before the line becomes 1 hour wait.

    Checking out Golden Gate is fun, and the park near the Academy of Sciences. Then headed to the Inner Sunset 9th Ave for Nopalito Mexican Fare, or Arizmendi for pastries. Or head to the beach and go to Outerlands for an amazing lunch and enjoy their parklet, or the fun parklet of the neighboring coffee shop, Trouble Coffee (Its an enormous fallen tree branch that the kids love to climb while parents drink a cappuccino or fresh opened young coconut)

    Divisadero is the new corridor that is starting to boom. Wake up for neighborhood farmers market on Sunday, then get toast at The Mill, which has SF’s newest favorite bread and great coffee (with almond milk offered)!! At night check out Ragazza for delicious pizza, or head to Hayes Valley (slightly east of the Divisadero area) and scope the small boutiques and get SMITTEN ice cream (frozen before your eyes = most creamy ice cream possible).

    Tartine is great, but the lines are much too long on the weekends.. skip.
    Dolores Park has a really great newly installed Playground that kids are obsessed with! And its a beautiful late night view of all the city lights.

    Greens in the Marina is also a really great spot for a view of the bridge, and vegetarian fare (whilst in SF…) Marina is also a very kid friendly area!

    We are having our “heat wave” so weather should be perfect for you!

  52. The Exploratorium just opened up, Toby will love it!