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California: Down by the Bay, Where the Little Ones Grow

By November 12, 2013October 17th, 20172 Comments

With its eclectic architecture, the ringing of vintage trolley bells and endless places to visit, San Francisco will fascinate toddlers. The city’s unique culture makes it the perfect place to escape the monotony of everyday life and have some fun with your little one.

AT&T Park


Embark at the Embarcadero

Begin your trip at a very popular destination—the Embarcadero. This area starts at AT&T Park, the home of San Francisco’s major league baseball team, the Giants. Toddlers love the excitement of baseball games—from foam fingers and hot dogs to stray balls and home runs. Get tickets to a day game and enjoy the view; the stadium is right on the edge of the bay so you can watch the wind catch the waves during the game.

Golden Gate Bridge


Science and sea lions

After a few hours at the ballpark, head up the Embarcadero to the Fisherman’s Wharf. The walkway will be lined with piers, but make a stop at two special ones.

The first is Pier 15, the new home of the Exploratorium. This museum is perfect for toddlers. Each exhibit teaches visitors—both young and old—about science or perception with a hands-on approach. Whether your little tyke is running his or her fingers along a table with magnets that shift inside when you touch it, or wandering through a room that appears to shrink the further you go, he or she will be giggling. And so will you! With exhibits focusing on human behavior (perception and memory), seeing and listening, the local environment and creating something, you will be having just as much fun at Pier 15 as your toddler.

Travel a little further to Pier 39 to catch a glimpse of some California sea lions. As you walk along the left side of the pier, you will come to an area that overlooks the floating docks where these cute creatures like to rest. As they soak up the sun, they sometimes bark noisily at one another, which is sure to delight the kids. As you continue further up the Embarcadero, watch for street performers who will be singing, posing or doing various physical stunts to please the crowds.


Appetizing attractions

Once you reach Jefferson Street, take a left and stop by Cioppino’s Restaurant. Locals will tell you that cioppino, a stew made from various kinds of seafood, originated in San Francisco in the late 1800s when Italian fishermen would return to shore after a day’s work. They would all toss something they caught into the pot of stew. Although their cioppino is what they are known for, their extensive menu offers you a chance to introduce your little one to new kinds of food. Stop by Ghirardelli Square for dessert. You can grab some chocolate from the Ghirardelli chocolate store and sit next to the fountain below the red Ghirardelli letters that loom over the plaza.

Ghirardelli Square


Setting sail

While you’re in the area, why not venture out on a boat? Pass under the Golden Gate Bridge to see the famous landmark from a different perspective. Toddlers will have a blast drifting across the choppy waters of the bay, and the view of the skyline from the water will give you the perfect photo opportunity.

For more information visit:
AT&T Park
Pier 39
Cioppino’s Restaurant 
Ghirardelli Square
Boating on the Bay

Ashley Ryan

Author Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan is a southern California native with a background in journalism and anthropology. She loves learning about other cultures and combines her passions for traveling, writing and photography in her professional work. To learn more or get in touch, visit

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Emi says:

    Come visit the Napa Valley on your next trip up here. Lots of stuff for kids to do. I take my kids (now 4) into the City on the Vallejo Ferry and that is exciting for them. At Pier 39 we walk over to the next pier and visit the Musee de Mechanique which has old coin operated games (mono color) and pinball machines and some very, very old coin operated machines. My kids love this place. I also highly recommend the Ghiradelli ice cream parlor where you can get that same Ghiradelli chocolate on your ice cream. I have been doing this trip since they were 2 years old. With a double stroller, I can make it to Ghiradelli by walking. There are also other touristy things that they like such as watching the sourdough bread being made and visiting the Rainforest Cafe. The sea lions at the pier are also interesting. They like the Aquarium by the Bay and it is very short which is great for short attention spans (but rather expensive for tourists).

    • Shauna Armitage says:

      That all sounds great! I’m looking forward to a Napa Valley trip with my littles. Any advice for wine country?

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