San Francisco Kids
826 Valencia St., Mission
The powerful brainchild of Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia is the flagship for his childhood literacy project—and also home to the pirate store. Here, you'll find after-school writing programs for under-resourced kids, along with all the gear you need for any Peter Pan/Captain Hook fantasies. There are similar concepts—all wonderful, all life-changing—all over the country.
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park
This is an incredibly rich and well-staffed resource for everything science-related, from informative exhibits on the future of our planet, to an incredible planetarium, to a scaled-down rainforest complete with all sorts of live critters. On Thursday nights, they do a really fun adults-only party with numerous bars and amazing guest DJs.
Children’s Creativity Museum
221 4th St., Financial District
Block out a good chunk of hours for a trip here: Depending on your little one's interests, it's likely that they'll fall into a creative vortex. There's an animation studio, where they can build clay characters and create stop-motion videos; a community lab full of physical puzzles that will enlist all of their different creative problem solving skills; an innovation lab where they get a box of materials and have to invent something specific; a music studio where they can make their own music videos in front of a green screen and edit in GarageBand; and then our favorite, which is a tech lab where young coders learn how to build simple video games.
19th & Dolores St., Mission
The recently re-opened Helen Diller Playground is the stuff of children's fantasies. For one, there's a 40-foot long slide, built into a hill, rock climbing walls, sand pits, and a shipwrecked boat; for two, there's a separate zone for the littlest ones, so everyone can run around without fear of collisions. If playground-ing isn't your thing, there's also a soccer field, six tennis courts, and a basketball court.
Golden Gate Park Playground
Kezar Dr., Golden Gate Park
The Koret's Children Quarter is one of the city's oldest (it was established at the end of the 19th-century, though refurbished many times in the intervening years), and it's also one of the most compelling, thanks to a hand-carved carousel, proximity to the California Academy of Sciences, rope-climbing walls, a huge concrete slide, and all kinds of play structures.
Julius Kahn Playground
West Pacific Ave. & Spruce St., Presidio
Inspired by the playgrounds in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, this beloved spot is particularly good for older kids, as much of the climbing equipment is more challenging than your typical slide structure. That said, there's a designated spot for smaller kids that's not as intimidating. There are also hiking trails throughout the Presidio (with views of the Golden Gate Bridge), along with tennis and basketball courts and playing fields.
Gough St. & Washington St., Pacific Heights
Inarguably one of the city's nicest parks (complete with epic views), this 12-acre spot in the middle of Pacific Heights also boasts a pretty kick-ass playground. There's also an off-leash dog run, tennis courts, and a picnic area.
Lovejoy’s Tea Room
1351 Church St., Noe Valley
Lovejoy's Tea Room is adorable and eclectic, making it the perfect spot to host a small group of children for a tea party. If you're looking to take some of the magic home with you, there are shelves full of antique-looking china sets, teapots, and of course, tea.
Mollusk Surf Shop
4500 Irving St., Outer Sunset
This beloved surf spot in Outer Sunset sells boards and gear for the whole family, but we think their kids stuff is the cutest, whether it's pint-sized bathing suits or pennant-adorned hoodies. They also host surf-centric gallery shows and are a great resource for those looking to learn.
2185 Fillmore St., Pacific Heights
Specializing in gorgeous clothing and gifts for babies as well as beautiful accessories, toys, furniture, and make-believe items for kids, Mudpie makes every present feel special. It's bright space is classic and magical feeling, and they also do gorgeous gift-wrapping.
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