fun to do kids fishermans wharf san francisco california   Travel for Kids
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San Francisco - Fisherman's Wharf

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
At Fisherman's Wharf, the smell of salt air and breezes blowing off the ocean makes you want to hop on the first boat and sail across the Pacific, but a cruise around San Francisco Bay with kids is great fun (no sailing experience required). On land, explore historic sailing ships or a World War II submarine. Around Pier 39, you'll find a different sort of marine life – California sea lions. Round out your visit to Fisherman's Wharf with a visit to "The Rock," Alcatraz Island.
San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Photo Album
  Pier 39
  Bay Cruises Take a boat cruise around San Francisco Bay. In the hour-long cruise, you'll sail past the San Francisco waterfront, Sausalito, Alcatraz and Angel Islands. The most memorable highlight – sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge.
  Alcatraz Island – Cruise out to "The Rock," site of Alcatraz prison and home of gangsters such as Al Capone and "Machine Gun" Kelly. It's a short boat ride, but cold water and strong currents made Alcatraz inaccessible. On the island, start with the short video presentation, an overview of the long history of Alcatraz Island, from a military fort to the Federal Penitentiary, a prison for the worst criminals. Climb up the hill to the Cellhouse, the prison itself.
A gripping audio tour takes you through the cell house blocks, vividly narrated by previous inmates and corrections officers. The "hard-bitten" audio tour may not be appropriate for young kids. Prison uprisings are described with graphic recollections and sound effects. (Audio tour is in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese and French.)
In summer, there are Kids Tours of the Rock. For dates and more information about the tours, call (415) 561- 4926.
    Note: We visited Alcatraz on a bright sunny day, but Alcatraz is often damp and foggy. Bring jackets – there's no heat in the joint. Alcatraz is a popular destination, so buy your boat tickets in advance.
      Pick up cruises to Alcatraz at Alcatraz Landing, Pier 33. Click here for the cruise schedule. Tip: No parking at Pier 33 (nearest garage is across from Pier 39).
sourdough bread crab

Boudin Museum and Bakery Tour (Jefferson St.) – Nothing says San Francisco like sourdough bread, and the Boudin family has been making sourdough bread in the city since 1849. Step into the museum and demonstration bakery, a self-guided tour, to find out more about San Francisco history (the Boudin family rescued the "mother dough" in the 1906 earthquake), what makes sourdough bread sour, and watch bread being made – mixing the dough, rounded loaves on conveyors belts, and the finished bread. At the end of the tour, there's free samples of bread (try the raisin chocolate) and jam, and don't miss the bread in delightful shapes – crabs, alligators, bears and turtles. (The self-guided tour is free for kids 12 and under, with a paying adult.)


USS Pampanito Submarine – Take a tour of this World War II long-range cruising submarine. The "silent service" wasn't so silent – it was noisy and hot in a submarine, and it had very cramped quarters. Inside the submarine, you'll see berths in the torpedo room, the tiny galley kitchen, radio and engine rooms, and crew's quarters, with bunks stacked three deep (the crew took turns sleeping). The audio tour is free, informative, and you can take it at your own pace.

musee mechanique
  Musee Mechanique (Pier 45) – The Musee Mechanique is an antique coin-operated arcade, a collection of mechanical toys from the late 19th and 20th century. These charming mechanical toys feature a handmade miniature carnival and farm, gypsy fortunetellers, 3-D steroscopes of the San Francisco earthquake, player pianos, plus old favorites such as Whac a Mole, pinball machines and old video games. Great place to come on a bad weather day.

Sidewalk seafood (Jefferson at Taylor) – Stop to watch people cooking and cracking crabs. There are big steaming vats where the crabs are boiled, then the crabs are cracked open with mallets.

  San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park – Ships and the sea are very much a part of the history of San Francisco. The park along the waterfront has a visitor center, historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, sandy beach and grass at Aquatic Park.

Visitor Center – In the visitor center, check out ships models of schooners, whaling boats, schooners, ferries, tugs and clippers ships, the sparkling Fresnel lens from the Fallalon lighthouse, and wreck of a full-size fishing boat that washed up on the rocks, plus a map of shipwrecks outside the Golden Gate.

      A new exhibit "A Walk Along the Waterfront" re-creates scenes of the San Francisco waterfront - from the first Native Americans in tule boats, to fur traders, Gold Rush ships, fisherman in Italian feluccas, and great steamships of the early 20th century.
  Hyde Street Pier – At Hyde Street Pier, run around on historic ships:
    -Balclutha – Take the helm of an 1886 big square-rigged sailing vessel that sailed around Cape Horn.
    -C.A. Thayer – A sailing schooner that carried lumber from Pacific Northwest, and was later a fishing vessel for salmon and codfish.
      -Eureka – A passenger and rail car ferry that operated between San Francisco and Tiburon. By day it carried passengers, at night it transported rail cars. Don't miss the beautifully restored 1920's cars, and the Ghiradelli Chocolate Wagon on the Eureka.
    -Hercules – A 1907 ocean-going tug that towed sailing vessels out through the Golden Gate to the open sea and hauled log rafts to the lumber mills.
    -Feluccas – From the pier, you can see replicas of the 1850's brightly painted Italian fishing boats, the feluccas.
    On the pier, there is a steam "donkey" engine, used to load and unload cargoes, and the stern wheel from the Petaluma riverboat that chugged up the Delta. Kids can go inside an 1890's houseboat (very homey, with lace curtains and a small organ) and practice tying knots (double half hitch, rolling hitch, bowline etc.)
      Aquatic Park – The Aquatic Park has a sand beach and calm water. It's the perfect place for kids to dig in the sand, or wade (but the water's always cold, even in summer). There's a small green park too, with park benches where parents can sit back and relax, while the kids run around. Go out to the end of the Municipal Pier for a spot to watch the boats go by.
      Fly a kite – At the San Francisco Kite shop on Jefferson St., pick up a kite, and fly it on the big grassy area next to the cable car turn around.
Ride the cable car – At the corner of Beach and Hyde Streets is the cable car turnaround for both the Powell-Hyde cable car. Riding up the hill, be sure to look back for views of the wharf and San Francisco Bay.
Lombard Street – Lombard Street looks like a child's drawing – a red brick road, planted with bright flowers, curving back and forth down the steep hill. Drive down the hill in a car for the full effect (but it is very crowded in summer.) Or, take the Powell-Hyde cable car, and hop off at Lombard Street. The view from the top of the hill is spectacular.

Fun food


Chocolate lovers (kids and parents) will want to head over to Ghirardelli Square, to the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop for gooey ice cream sundaes and chocolates, a San Francisco tradition. Also fun to watch is the mini chocolate factory, machines mixing that lovely chocolate, going round and round.



travel tools san francisco

Planning on a bay cruise? Get your tickets in advance for price savings and no waiting in lines. (During the holidays and summer season, the lines can get long.) Order your tickets online one week or more before you visit, and you'll "sail by" the ticket booth:

Blue and Gold Fleet
  For a special experience on the bay, sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz in a big catamaran! We had a great time on the cruise, and it's fun for everyone in the family - kids can be any age (the catamaran has an enclosed cabin and netting on the front deck area). Cruises are Feburary to November, bring a jacket (it can be windy).
kids books san alcatraz  francisco
Al Capone Does My Shirts

"Today I moved to a twelve acre rock covered with cement." Moose Flanagan was an ordinary 7th grader until his dad takes a job on Alcatraz. Now Moose lives on an island where Al Capone works in the laundry, J. Edgar Hoover gets his pocket picked, and a bunch of kids foil an attempted escape. Three funny, unforgettable adventures on Alcatraz! (Chapter book)


(More children's books on other San Francisco pages)
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