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Find fun and engaging things to do with your kids in San Francisco. This city welcomes you to a landscape of steeply slanted hills, beaches, the Golden Gate Bridge and quaint Victorian homes called The Painted Ladies. San Francisco teems with family-friendly things to see and do. The best times to visit are spring and fall. The city has lots of transportation options, making navigation a breeze. Escape your busy daily life and have some fun and folly in this gorgeous city by the sea.

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Bay Area Discovery Museum

This museum, across the Bay in Sausalito, is an exciting hands-on experience for kids from six to 10. Inquiry-driven experiments help to develop their creative talents and enhance critical thinking skills with both indoor and outdoor activities. Kids can ride a Harley-Davidson on a simulated road or get messy making cakes and pies in the Mud Kitchen. The Lookout Cove is ideal for curious youngsters. They can find plenty to do along the tide pools, in the gravel pits and exploring caves. There is also a safe and entertaining Tot Spot for infants and toddlers.

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Aquarium of the Bay

Go with the flow in this sprawling aquarium on Pier 59. This aquarium embraces the ecosystems of the Bay. Kids learn how seven different habitats create homes for the inhabitants. Sharks of Alcatraz, rays, octopus, jellyfish and river otters are among the 20,000 local marine animals. Walk through the glass-enclosed tunnels for face-to-fin encounters with creatures of the deep. The aquarium has a variety of Northern California aquatic life, including the Garibaldi, the bright orange California state marine fish.

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Exploratorium

You can find all things scientific in the Exploratorium at the Embarcadero. Light, bubble and sound exhibits fascinate kids. They can experience a tornado from inside its whirling winds and count the rings on a 300-year-old tree. There’s time for science experiments like building an electrical circuit. You can encourage them to determine how 100,000 toothpicks became a sculpture.

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Presidio National Park

There are lots of easy hiking opportunities for kids at the Presidio. The natural environment boasts sculptures made from fallen trees, a compelling example of nature becoming art. They can wander through massive tree groves and discover hidden forts. There’s a Batter’s Box with a digital pitcher to challenge Little Leaguers. Other energy reducers for active kids are the beach, the trampoline park or crafting at the Officers’ Club. There’s a stargazing party at night for budding astronomers and future astronauts.

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Cable Car Museum

Observe cable wheels and working models at this free museum on Nob Hill. A huge deck overlooks the engine and wheels that power the cables. Downstairs, you can see the channel where lines enter the Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse. Explore the three antique cable cars and check out the detailed models and historical photographs. Pick up some souvenirs in the store where you can find books, clothing, memorabilia and genuine cable car bells.

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Julius Kahn Playground

This Parisian-style playground is designed to impart the elegance of the Luxembourg Gardens in France. Kids love making interactive wet sand sculptures. Climbing, swinging, and sliding are also quite popular. School-age kids can hone motor skills on spinning sculptures. Mom and Dad have a magnificent panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais on the Marin Headlands.

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Children’s Creativity Museum

This imaginative museum is made for kids who love to create multimedia with their own hands. Kids of all ages can design motion animations from clay. If being a rock star is a desired occupation, they can practice in their own studio. Kids of all ages have a blast inventing new machines.

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The Butterfly Joint

What better souvenir to place on a shelf at home than something made by hand – their hand. After punching a time clock and donning a work apron, they get to work. An instructor teaches traditional joining techniques in a safe, no-power-tool environment. Popular items to make are keepsake boxes, stools, and wooden cars.

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Stow Lake

Stow Lake is a great place to do some birding with the kids. Canadian geese, Anna’s hummingbird, red-winged blackbirds, and Mallard ducks are only a few of the 24 species at the lake. Salamanders, newts and painted turtles are showstoppers as well. You can rent a family-sized rowboat, electric boat or paddle boat for some water fun. The boathouse is a kid-friendly café, and there’s also adult beverages for worn-out, older family members.

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Pirate Supply Store

Ahoy mates! If you’re looking for kitschy, amusing iconic pirate gear, this is a great place to find it. There’s a map to help the kids find hidden treasures behind every door and in every drawer. Eye patches give kids an authentic look. Pegleg sizing charts and hooks are popular fare, and the kids can take home some gold doubloons to show the gang.

pirates peg leg eye patch joecicak / Getty Images

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