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San Francisco Walking Tour for kids 8 to 68

Full day family-friendly urban trek of SF Waterfront and Bay up Telegraph Hill through North Beach and Chinatown.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 2.3 miles
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

Overview :  The new Exploratorium on the waterfront completes this classic walking tour of downtown San Francisco. This walk will take you through... more »

Tips:  San Francisco can be foggy and cold so dress in layers (a base T-shirt layer, a middle shirt layer, and a wind-resistant jacket). But ... more »

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Points of Interest

The Ferry Building was built 1898. It was THE hub of transportation back then as the only way to get to San Francisco from East Bay cities was by ferry.

The building with its iconic clock tower (modeled after the Seville cathedral in Spain) survived the 1906 earthquake with little damage. However, it could not survive the construction of the Bay... More

2. Blue Bottle Coffee Ferry Building

Begin your tour with coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee -started in Oakland with a promise to only serve coffee roasted within the last 48 hours. If the line is too long, check out Peets Coffee round the corner, started by Alfred Peets in Berkeley. If you have kids, they might prefer the Humphry Slocome ice cream store right across the hall instead.... More

Hands down the best hands-on science museum for all ages, a "learning lab to explore and tinker" -- well worth the $25 admission. Expect to spend 2-3 hours here so pack a lunch or grab Welsh Rare-bit and fresh sushi at the SEAGLASS restaurant. If the weather is nice, choose a table in the back to enjoy the marvelous view of the Bay.

15/... More

4. Levi's Plaza

Continue along the Embarcadero and and wave at tourists riding on the vintage "F" trolley cars passing by. Cross safely at the crosswalk to Levi's Plaza and walk towards Coit Tower (up on the hill) on Filbert Street.

Levi's Plaza houses the HQ of the famous company that invented and patented the first "riveted men's work pants out ... More

5. Filbert Steps

The Filbert Street steps allow visitors to scale the 280 feet up Telegraph Hill -- one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco. Vegetation abounds, from wild poppies growing at the base and wild blackberries for picking against the hillside, to carefully landscaped flowers in privately owned gardens by the stairway.

Look for the wild parrots... More

Make your way up the steps to Coit Tower, a National Historic Site. The tower was constructed in the 1930s as a memorial to San Francisco's volunteer firemen (yes -- they were all men in those days). Note the distinctive murals and enjoy the views from the top of the tower ($7 fee).

1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA ‎(415) 362-0808

Come back down from Coit Tower, passing all the cars waiting for parking, and continue on Filbert Street. Gaze past the most puzzling fenced up empty lot. Why hasn't anyone built a house here yet? The views are to die for.

50 Telegraph Hill Boulevard

This catholic church started by the first Salesians to America has an unfortunate "666" address. The original church ministering to immigrant Italians was built in the 1880s but was lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The current structure was built in the 1924 and is impressive from the outside. It's even more impressive inside and... More

If you need energy after the walk up Telegraph Hill, take the cannoli with a cup of Lavazza-bean espresso. Stella Pastry has been baking traditional Italian pastries since 1942.

446 Columbus Ave, San Francisco CA (415) 986-2914

If Italian pastries are not your cup of tea, how about some fresh oysters? Just don't be taken aback if you encounter gruff service: that's part of the charm for this fairly new restaurant.

552 Green St, San Francisco, CA ‎(415) 398-3181
Closed Sundays

11. St Francis of Assisi National Shrine

A weird oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of North Beach. Check out La Porziuncola Nuova next door, a scaled replica of Saint Francis's Porziuncola in Assisi. A good restroom stop for those who need it.

610 Vallejo Street, San Francisco, CA (415) 986-4557

North Beach used to literally be a beach. However, the surrounding land was "reclaimed" later in the 19th century and Italian immigrants settled down soon after.

The Beat generation of poets hanged out around North Beach in the 1950s and the term "Beatnik" was coined afterwards to refer to the stereotypical guy with a beard... More

13. Barbary Coast Trail and Grant Ave

Walk down Grant Ave (the oldest street in SF) and cross Pacific Avenue -- one one of the more notorious streets of the old Barbary Coast (the former seedy red-light district).

Imagine what it was like in the 1850s in the midst of the Gold Rush where sailors were shanghaied and prostitutes roamed.

Look down for street markers that guide visitors ... More

As you walk down Grant, you will know you've entered Chinatown because of the bright red lanterns hanging overhead and the little shops along the way. Stop for the famous egg custard tarts (dan tart in Chinese) at the Golden Gate Bakery. It's not always open -- check to see at http://www.is-the-golden-gate-bakery-open-today.com/

1029 Grant Ave,... More

Who invented the fortune cookies is a matter of debate. But what is clear is that fortune cookies did not originate from China, and the first automated fortune cookie machine was invented in San Francisco.

Although the bulk of fortune cookies are no longer manufactured in SF, the original machine is still churning out cookies in Chinatown at Ross... More

16. Waverly Place and Tien-Hau temple

Continue on and look in on Waverly Place with its colorful balconies and the 天后 (Tien-Hau or Tin-Hau which literally means empress of heaven) Buddhist temple. Tien-Hau is supposedly the first and oldest Buddhist temple in the US but is more of a tourist destination today.

If that's too touristy for you, there are temples from other sects nearly.... More

Where else can you get a haircut for $5 in the United States? Sure, you may have to communicate via hand gestures but isn't that part of the adventure? There are several salons offering $5 haircuts in Chinatown. Check them out and drop in for the ultimate tourist souvenir of your visit. And if you don't like it -- just wait 3 weeks for it to grow ... More

Continue down Grant Ave to California Street. California's first cathedral, built in 1854, is an active church with daily mass. Make a mental note of the noontime concert programs for the future and inspect the red bricks that were shipped all the way from New England. Take photos of the Chinatown gateway arch two blocks further down and make your... More

Make a left on Montgomery Street towards the Transamerica pyramid. On the right, hidden away, is the Wells Fargo History Museum. It is worth dropping in to see an original Wells Fargo stagecoach and learn about California's gold rush history. See real gold nuggets and real bank notes from that era. Kids might like sending messages via telegraph --... More

20. Transamerica Pyramid and Redwood Park

The 853 foot (260 m) high Transamerica Pyramid is a SF landmark and the tallest building in all of Northern California. Unfortunately, the observation deck was closed after the 9/11 attacks -- though a visitor center and gift shop is now available. Visitors can also enjoy the tranquil and serene park at the Pyramid Center that has tall redwood... More

21. Original SF Shoreline Historical Marker

Hundreds of people step on this historical marker without realizing it. It denotes the original shoreline. Everything from the marker to the ferry building is landfill.

End the tour with dinner at One Market - a San Francisco favorite of food critics and people on expense accounts for 20 years.

If you decide to skip One Market because it lost its Michelin star recently, there are many choices nearby for almost every taste. Alternatives to One Market include Boulevard, Waterbar, Tadich Grill, Kokkari, Slanted... More