Although San Francisco is small in size, it has a lot to offer those looking for big-city travel. Its famous cable cars zip up and down the hills in the northern part of the city. When you are traveling with teens, you will never run out of things to see—from bridges, beaches and parks to museums and concert halls, there is always something happening. In such a busy place, you and your teens will never run out of places to explore.
The coastline on the west side of the city runs along the Pacific Ocean instead of the bay, so you may not want to sit on the beach here. It is often very cold and the winds can pick up, making it an unpleasant place to swim. Instead, visit Mar Vista Stable a few miles south of Ocean Beach to take a horseback ride along the coast. They will match your experience level with the demeanor of the horse so you don’t have to worry about wild rides if you or your teen is a beginner. You will start your family ride on a cliff overlooking the ocean, head down a plant-covered valley and end up riding next to the waves.
Up on the cliff top
For a real culinary treat, head to Cliff House Restaurant, which of course, sits atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Stop here for an upscale, yet casual meal cooked with fresh seafood and local produce. The panoramic windows in the Sutro Wing will give you the perfect view of the Sutro Bath ruins, the remains of what was once a collection of public indoor swimming pools. If you time it right, you can also get the best view in San Francisco to view a beautiful sunset.
Another thing teens will love is the historical Camera Obscura located outside the restaurant. If your child isn’t excited about photography, this landmark may just peak their interest. It uses giant mirrors and natural light to provide visitors with a 360-degree view of Seal Rock, a common resting place for local seals.
Alamo Square is the place to go to see some classic San Franciscan architecture. The Painted Ladies—the well-known houses that line the square—are painted in pastel pinks and yellows, which draws the attention of visitors. The beautiful downtown skyline serves as a backdrop and really makes you feel as though you’re in the heart of the city. As this part of the city tends to be warmer than the west, it is a great place to take a stroll with your teens and soak up the sun.
The hippie haven of Haight-Ashbury is quite unique. Colorful paintings line the buildings and amusing signs sit on the sidewalks in front of some of the most eclectic shops and restaurants in the city. Stop by Amoeba Music, a well-known record store that teens may never want to leave. It is filled with music and movies from the past and present. You can also take the Flower Power Walking Tour to learn about artists that started the hippie culture in San Francisco in the 1970s. You will see the historical Victorian homes of Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix.
Head downtown to check out the shopping. Union Square is the most popular destination, but there are smaller stores lining every street in the area. Hop on a cable car at Market and Powell streets and ride it up the hill to Chinatown. It will feel like you’ve gone to a different city entirely. You can find little trinkets and souvenirs for decent prices in the shops here or explore the Chinese bakeries for sweet treats. If you are in the city during February, you can catch the festivities for Chinese New Year. They throw a parade and the streets are decorated with cultural lanterns, banners and lights. It will provide teenagers with a unique cultural experience that they won’t soon forget.
A view to remember
End your night by driving up to Twin Peaks. These two hills, which are located in the center of the city, give you fantastic views of the downtown area. At night you can see the lights of the buildings, cars and trams as they move and shine on the streets below. The dazzling view will take your breath away as you sit above the busy city, far removed from the hustle and bustle below, giving you teen some time to think about their big-city experience.