15 Best Things to do in San Francisco with Kids

When you think of San Francisco you may not think of it as being a family vacation destination, but, did you know that there are actually heaps of awesome family-friendly activities available in the golden city. For one, there’s the Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco Zoo and the Exploratorium all within a short distance of downtown. And not forgetting that no visit to San Francisco is complete without exploring Alcatraz or cycling across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge! Two activities which kids seem to love!

In this blog post, I will share with you all the best family-friendly activities in San Francisco as well as the best hotels in the city. This guide is all you’ll need if you’re visiting San Francisco as a family at any time of year!

1. Muir Woods

muir woods san francisco

Just 45 minutes from downtown San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument which is very popular with families especially, in fact, it attracts thousands of tourists daily. A visit to Muir Woods offers the opportunity to see giant redwood trees – one of the few areas to see these trees in the Bay Area. There’s a range of hiking trails at Muir Woods all varying in difficulty and length. Worth noting is reservations are required for all vehicles and tourists to the Woods – you can catch the Route 66 Shuttle from Sausalito, Marin City, or Mill Valley if you don’t fancy driving here. Entrance to Muir Woods can work out pretty costly, current rates are as follows:

  • $8.50 per vehicle
  • $3.25 per person for a space on the Route 66 shuttle
  • $15.00 per person entrance fee to gain entry to Muir Woods

2, Cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge

golden gate bridge san francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world!

A great way to get some exercise in as a family is to cycle across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge! It is easily one of the most famous sights in San Francisco if not all of California! I highly recommend cycling or walking the bridge, instead of driving it as traffic can be a nightmare at certain times of the day and parking on both sides of the bridge – the San Francisco side and the Sausalito side is very limited. 

The Golden Gate Bridge is 2.1 miles in length and it will take approximately 25 minutes to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Some avid cyclists can complete the one-way journey in 10 minutes, it all depends on how fit you are and how often you stop. You can either cycle both ways or return by ferry from Sausalito and drop your bike back off at the rental store when you come off your ferry. The Western footpath of the bridge is for cyclists only, but beware it is two-ways so cyclists will be coming towards you too. 

You can rent a bike from Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals on  2157 Lombard St, for as little as $29! They also rent electric bikes available for rent if you’re not keen on a workout.

3. Visit Alcatraz

alcatraz prison san francisco
A very moody looking Alcatraz Prison on a cloudy day!

A must-do in San Francisco for families is to visit one of the most famous prisons in recent history,. It may not sound very family-friendly but believe me, it’s such an interesting tour and kids are sure to love walking around the former prison as well as the boat ride to get there.

Did you know – Alcatraz was once home to infamous gangster Al Capone. Alcatraz closed in the 1970s and started welcoming visitors not long after in 1973. It’s no surprise then that one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco is a guided cruise tour of Alcatraz!

The tour of Alcatraz prison itself is via a self-guided audio tour which is really informative. It’s so interesting to see the prison cells and hear the stories of former inmates. Included in your ticket, you can visit the historical gardens of Alcatraz which has stunning views of San Francisco Bay and explore any exhibitions being hosted in the Industries Building. Allow 2.5 hours on Alcatraz.

4. Aquarium of the Bay

aquarium of the bay san francisco
The Under the Bay exhibit at the Aquarium of the Bay!

Suitable for the whole family, this huge aquarium is located at Pier 39. Here, there is over 20,000 marine life like octopus, huge jellyfish, sharks and much more!

The ‘Under the Bay’ exhibit is the most popular here, it features two tunnels totalling a length of 300 meters and it houses over 200 different species. It’s also a really cool spot for a family photo! Interestingly, many of the sea animals found here can be found in San Francisco Bay like wolf eels, swell sharks and the unique orange garibaldi fish!

Another firm favorite area with the little ones is the ‘Touch the Bay’ exhibit where children and adults can touch bat rays, skate and sharks.

Tickets for the Aquarium of the Bay cost from $30 USD and can be purchased here!

5. Visit Mrs Doubtfires House

Mrs doubtfire house san francisco
Me posing outside Mrs Doubtfires House!

One of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco is the ‘Mrs Doubtfire House’, I’m a huge fan of the 1993 movie and Robin Williams. The house is located at 2640 Steiner Street, near Pacific Heights. It looks a little different to the movie, what you’d expect after almost 30 years but it’s still a must-see for any movie fans. In fact, the house was recently sold for $4.5 million.

Older kids will especially love this stop, and if your little ones have yet to watch this iconic movie I highly recommend having a Mrs Doubtfire movie night pronto!

6. Golden Gate Park

japanese garden golden gate park
The beautiful Japanese Gardens at Golden Gate Park!

Would you believe this is the 3rd most-visited Park in the U.S (behind Central Park in NY and National Memorial Park in Washington D.C). Golden Gate Park is a whopping 1,017 acres and is home to Bison Paddock where you can spot a herd of bison grazing, unusual for this part of the country. Kids especially love the bisons! Be sure too to check out the Conservatory of Flowers which is the oldest building in the Park. Here, there are over 1,700 species of plants, many of them rare.

The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest such garden in the country and was constructed in 1894. The Garden is 3.5 acres and filled with Japanese maple, cherry trees and more. Cherry blossom season is an especially popular time here, this is from March to April.

Most of the roads in Golden Gate Park are now car-free and it’s very popular with locals exercising and families playing and picnicking in one of the many green areas.

Right in the heart of Golden Gate Park, is the gorgeous Stow Lake where you can rent rowboats, electric boats, as well as pedal boats. It’s also a great spot to see different birds and even turtles. There’s a boathouse here which houses an awesome Cafe.

7. Exploratorium

exploratorium san francisco
Great for kids who love science!

Characterized as “a mad scientist’s penny arcade, a scientific funhouse, and an experimental laboratory all rolled into one. The Exploratorium is more than a museum—it’s a gateway to exploring science, art, and human perception. Let your curiosity roam free through hundreds of exhibits across 6 galleries.

The Exploratorium is located at Pier 15, entrance fee costs from $29.95 per adult. It’s closed on Monday and Tuesday.

8. Cable Car Museum

cable car san francisco
A cable car in San Francisco (photo via Get Your Guide)

San Francisco is notorious for its historic cable cars, which would you believe have been in operation since 1873! So besides riding these unique cars a visit to the Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill should be added to everyone’s San Francisco itinerary! Here, you will learn all about the history of the cable car as well as check out the numerous ancient cable cars housed here. Kids can get an up-close look at the mechanical workings of the cable car, which will be a thrill for the machine-obsessed little ones!

Entry to the Cable Car Museum is free! It is located at 1201 Mason Street.

9. San Francisco Zoo

polar bear san francisco zoo
A polar bear at San Francisco Zoo (photo via Get Your Guide)

San Francisco Zoo is located on the Southern end of Ocean beach. It’s a fun place to visit for kids of all ages. Here you can see a variety of animals from polar bears to gorillas. In fact, there are over 2000 endangered and rescued animals housed here – what’s great about this zoo is that it’s nice and spacious for the animals, it’s situated on over 100 acres.

Not only will the little ones love seeing the animals close up, but they can also hop on a historic steam train around the zoo, have fun on the carousel and even burn off some energy at the themed play zone.

10. Urban Putt

This unique and quirky indoor miniature golf course is located on South Van Ness Avenue. It is the first indoor miniature golf course in the city and is incredibly popular. There are 14 themed holes here, all designed on some of the best spots in San Francisco. There’s also a bar and restaurants upstairs should the adults wish to enjoy a drink and food while the kids play.

Urban Putt is closed Mondays, open from 4pm Tuesday to Friday and from 12 pm on weekends. It’s important to note that after 8 pm Urban Putt is only open to those over 21 years of age!

Prices are as follows: $13 for those aged 13 years and above, $10 for those aged between 6 – 12 and kids under 5 are free.

11. Day trip to Santa Cruz

Colorful Santa Cruz, a 90 minute drive from San Francisco!

Santa Cruz, a 1.5 hour drive from San Francisco, is one of the best towns in California for families. It is famous for its long boardwalk, the longest of its kind in the U.S. In fact, the boardwalk which is also home to many rides like the Loggers Revenge and Giant Dipper rollercoasters is often labelled as the “Coney Island of the West”. Of course, the many rides, arcade games and candy stands here at the boardwalk are popular with children and every day in the Summer (and weekends in other seasons) it is rammed with tourists. 

To escape the crowds, head into Santa Cruz town which is under-rated and great for boutique stores. The town is also where the best restaurants are, like the kid-friendly and vegan Cafe Gratitude on Lincoln Street and the casual Veg on the Edge in the Cooperhouse Shopping Center. After food, why not treat the kids (and yourself) to an ice cream from the Penny Ice Creamery on Cedar Street, famous because all of their delicious flavors are organic and made from scratch!

The Mystery Spot, just outside of town in the Redwood Forest is a unique family-friendly activity that allows you to defy gravity. There is no real explanation as to why this trail defies the law of gravity, some people say a spaceship is the cause others say it is because of a hole in the Ozone layer, either way, it’s a great way to challenge your thinking.

12. USS Pampanito

A truly unique family activity in San Francisco is to visit the USS Pampanito, a real submarine that is docked at Pier 45. This submarine was used during World War II, so it has a fascinating history and it has recently been turned into a museum. Once inside you will get a true insight into what underwater life was like for its inhabitants – be sure to check out the main console which is what controls the submarine plus you can also see the living quarters of the submarine including the bedrooms and dining areas.

13. Walt Disney Museum

The Walt Disney Museum on 104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio district offers a fascinating insight into the life of the famed Walt Disney (creator of Mickey Mouse!) It tells you how Disney came to be, and you will also be able to check out some of his early drawing of Mickey Mouse and other characters.

Top tip – every weekday besides Tuesdays you can watch a Disney movie in the onsite theater. The movie ticket is included with your admission to the museum.

14. Seward Slides

The Seward Slides are pretty cool!

An awesome free activity for families visiting San Francisco is to check out the Seward Street Slides at 70 Corwin Street. These cement slides (there are two of them) were built back in the 1960s and were actually designed by a local teenager. Because these slides aren’t your typical slides and are made of cement, you will need a piece of cardboard to get down them. There is sometimes some cardboard left here, but it’s safest to bring your own.

There’s no fee to use the slides and they typically open at 10 am and close at 5 pm. The slides are closed on Mondays.

15. Lincoln Park Steps 

lincoln park steps san francisco
Lincoln Park Steps, San Francisco

One of the most recent art projects in the city, the Lincoln Park Steps are located very close to Lincoln Park Golf Course on 34th Avenue. The Lincoln Park Steps have 52 steps in total, each step is covered in beautiful colorful mosaic tiles. It’s typically quiet here, especially if you visit in the morning like we did. In fact, try to visit when it’s daylight and ideally a bright day – as this is when the colors of the steps really pop!

It’s a great spot to grab a cute family photo, you can also let the kids burn off some steam by letting them run up and down the 52 steps!

Where to stay in San Francisco

westin st francis san francisco
At the Westin St Francis!

The Westin St Francis – conveniently located at Union Square, all rooms have great city views and there’s a number of on-site dining options as well as a fitness center.

Fairmont San Francisco – a 5-star hotel located at the top of Nob Hill, the Fairmont is renowned with luxury and many of the hotels rooms offer views of Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge. The on-site restaurant is famous, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar serves Polynesian food and has live entertainment nightly.

Hotel Zephyr – is located just 300 meters from Fishermans Wharf plus the rooms are all nautically themed! There’s an on-site mini-mart as well as a shared lounge and a games room.

Phoenix Hotel – this 1950s motor lodge has had a stylish makeover recently. This is one of the only affordable, indie boutique hotels in San Francisco!

Thanks for reading!

golden gate bridge
Thanks for reading!

As you can see, there are so many family activities in San Francisco and I bet after reading this blog post you can see why it’s one of the best cities in the U.S to visit as a family. I hope I’ve given you loads of inspiration for your upcoming vacation to San Francisco!

While you’re here why not check out my other North America blog posts, some of my favourites include:

5 Day San Francisco Itinerary

10 of the cutest towns near San Francisco

Best things to do in Seattle

How to find Mrs Doubtfire’s House in San Francisco

One of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco is the ‘Mrs Doubtfire House’, I’m a huge fan of the 1993 movie and the late Robin Williams – who plays Mrs Doubtfire in the movie. The house is located at 2640 Steiner Street, near Pacific Heights. It looks a little different to the movie, what you’d expect after almost 30 years but it’s still a must-see for any movie fans. Worth noting, is the interior scenes weren’t filmed in the house, as it was considered too small and so the interior scenes were shot in a movie studio. When Robin Williams died in 2014, the house became a memorial of sorts for fans with hundreds of flowers, letters and cards being left on the doorstep after his death.

Visiting the Mrs Doubtfire House was a must for me during my 5 days in San Francisco recently, having watched the movie hundreds of times in my lifetime it was very nostalgic for me to see the home from the movie right in front of me. I walked to Mrs Doubtfires House from Union Square and it took me 45 minutes, I took the route via Post Street and Van Ness Avenue and stopped for a takeaway snack at Bob’s Donut and Pastry Shop on 1621 Polk Street to fuel up for the walk. I should note it’s an easy walk.

Where is the Mrs Doubtfire House located?

The Mrs Doubtfire House, where the Hillard family lived in the movie is located at 2640 Steiner Street, on the junction with Broadway Street and is in the Pacific Heights district in San Francisco. It’s got a lovely view down Steiner Street to San Francisco Bay. At this location you can stand outside the same house that Robin Williams, Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan did in the movie.

The famous Mrs Doubtfire House!

Can you tour Mrs Doubtfire’s House

No you cannot view inside the house as it is privately owned, in fact, it sold back in 2016 for $4.5 million! As such, be mindful when taking photos outside the house as people do live in the house.

You can book on a movie sights tour that passes some of the most iconic filming locations in San Francisco including the high school from The Princess Diaries and the Tanner home from Full House.

Can you get public transport to Mrs Doubtfire’s House?

The easiest way to get to Mrs Doubtfire House is to catch the 30 bus (towards Crissy Field) from either Chinatown or Fishermans Wharf to Chestnut Street and Fillmore Street. Then catch the 22 bus and ride it for 6 stops to Broadway & Steiner Street. This journey will take about 25 minutes total.

From Union Square: hop on the 38 or 38R bus from the bus stop on the corner of Geary Street and Stockton Street and ride it for 5 stops to Geary Blvd and Fillmore Street. When you get off here you can choose to hop on the 22 bus and ride it for 6 stops to Broadway & Steiner Street, Mrs Doubtfire House will be 1 minute walk from when you get off here.

From Fishermans Wharf: walk to the bus stop at Columbus Avenue & Northpoint Street and hop on the 30 bus and ride it for 9 stops to Chestnut Street & Fillmore Street. Then catch the 22 bus and ride it for 6 stops to Broadway & Steiner Street, Mrs Doubtfire House will be 1 minute walk from when you get off here.

From Chinatown: catch the 30 bus from the corner of Stockton Street & Clay Street and ride it for 16 stops to Chestnut Street and Fillmore Street. Then catch the 22 bus and ride it for 6 stops to Broadway & Steiner Street, Mrs Doubtfire House will be 1 minute walk from when you get off here.

mrs doubtfire house
The view on approach to Mrs Doubtfires House!

Can you walk to Mrs Doubtfire’s House from downtown San Francisco?

Yes you can walk to Mrs Doubtfires House from downtown San Francisco and depending on where in the city you start your journey it should take approximately an hour. I walked here from Union Square, which took me 45 minutes.

From Union Square head South towards Post Street, turn left on Post Street (passing by Chase Bank on your right), stay on Post Street for 800 meters then turn right onto Van Ness Avenue, stay on Van Ness Avenue for 600 meters and then turn left onto Pacific Avenue. Walk along Pacific Avenue for 700 meters, then turn right onto Steiner Street – the Mrs Doubtfire House will be 280 feet along Steiner on your right.

Here are the Google map directions for walking to Mrs Doubtfire House from Union Square.

mrs doubtfire house steiner street

Best things to do near Mrs Doubtfires House

Japantown

The largest Japantown in the United States, it’s in fact one of only 3 remaining in the country. Filled with Japanese restaurants and stores and even some street performers. Known to locals as ‘Jtown’ some of the best restaurants in the city can be found here including Kui Shin Bo at 22 Peace Plaza and Udon Mugizo at 1581 Webster Street.

If you want to pick up some unique souvenirs this is the place to do it with the many stores here selling everything Japanese from Hello Kitty to fresh Mochi!

In spring, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge celebration in the area which ends with a big parade.

Lombard Street

Known as the most crooked street in the world because of it’s 8 hairpin bends, Lombard Street is definitely a must-visit in San Francisco CBD. In fact, it’s one of the most photographed streets in the world.

At busy times, drivers need to wait up to 30 minutes to drive down this narrow winding street. Personally, I’m not a confident enough driver to drive the world’s most crooked street, so, I prefer to walk it and take lots of photos. The center sections of the street are filled with bright and colorful flowers, making the street uber-photogenic in Summer and Spring especially.

From Mrs Doubtfires House it’s a 30 minute walk away via Vallejo Street.

The Painted Ladies

Just a 27 minute walk away via Steiner Street is one of the most photographed spots in all of San Francisco – the colorful Painted Ladies are a San Francisco icon. They are essentially a row of pretty Victorian houses with one of the most spectacular city backdrops. The exact location of the Painted Ladies is 710–720 Steiner Street. This area is in fact one of just 11 historic districts in the city of San Francisco and includes several bed and breakfasts.

Lincoln Park Steps

A tad further from Mrs Doubtfire House but one of my favorite quirky finds in the city – the Lincoln Park Steps are over an hours walk away via California Street.

One of the most recent art projects in the city, the Lincoln Park Steps are located very close to Lincoln Park Golf Course. They are so bright and colorful, and typically quiet especially if you visit in the morning like we did.

Best Hotels in San Francisco

westin st francis san francisco
At the Westin St Francis!

The Westin St Francis – conveniently located at Union Square, all rooms have great city views and there’s a number of on-site dining options as well as a fitness center.

Fairmont San Francisco – a 5-star hotel located at the top of Nob Hill, the Fairmont is renowned with luxury and many of the hotels rooms offer views of Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge. The on-site restaurant is famous, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar serves Polynesian food and has live entertainment nightly.

Hotel Zephyr – is located just 300 meters from Fishermans Wharf plus the rooms are all nautically themed! There’s an on-site mini-mart as well as a shared lounge and a games room.

Phoenix Hotel – this 1950s motor lodge has had a stylish makeover recently. This is one of the only affordable, indie boutique hotels in San Francisco!

Thanks for reading!

P.S I’ve also written a very detailed blog post on the best things to do in Seattle and 10 of the cutest towns near San Francisco I’d love if you could check them out! Another favorite blog post of mine is awesome things to do in San Francisco with kids!

How to find the Lincoln Park Steps in San Francisco

One of the most recent art projects in the city, the Lincoln Park Steps are located very close to Lincoln Park Golf Course on 34th Avenue. They are so bright and colorful, and typically quiet especially if you visit in the morning like we did. In fact, try to visit when it’s daylight and ideally a bright day – as this is when the colors of the steps really pop!

To be honest, I had never heard of the Lincoln Park Steps before spending 5 days in San Francisco this year. In fact I happened across these colorful steps by pure chance whilst on the 1-California bus, which I caught from Nob Hill. You best believe that as soon as I saw the steps from my window seat, I hit that ‘stop’ button and jumped off to take some photos. It was approximately 11 am on a weekday and the steps were quiet so I had them all to myself!

What are the Lincoln Park Steps?

The Lincoln Park Steps have 52 steps in total, each step is covered in beautiful colorful mosaic tiles. They were in fact constructed back in the early 1900’s and were simply the entrance to the Lincoln Park Golf Course, they are inspired by what is known as ‘Beaux Arts’ design which combines ancient Greece, Roman and Renaissance design ideas. This was a very popular design movement at the time of their construction.

Over the years became damaged, dull and lost their appeal to tourists. Thankfully in 2007 the founders of Lincoln Park decided it was time for a complete overhaul of the steps. They used famed local artist Aileen Barr to design the colors and designs on the steps.

lincoln park steps san francisco
How colorful are these steps!

Can you get public transport to the Lincoln Park Steps?

The Lincoln Park Steps are located in Lincoln Park on the Western end of California Street

The easiest way to get to the Lincoln Park Steps is on the 1-California bus. You can pick up this bus in Chinatown, in the Financial District or on Nob Hill, like I did. This specific route follows along California Street. Hop off the 1-California at 32nd and California, which is a dead-end residential street as you drive up to this stop you can’t but miss the colorful steps. If you’re unsure as to where to get off you can always ask your driver to give you notice before your stop.

Heading here from downtown, hop on the 38-Geary at Union Square, the exact bus stop you need is located at Geary and Stockton. If you take this bus you will need to get off at 33rd and Geary, you will then need to walk back on yourself a couple minutes to 32nd Avenue and then walk two blocks North onto California Street. Turn left at 32nd Avenue and California Street and voila you will see the Lincoln Park Steps.

Another option is to take the 4 bus from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Van Ness and Sacramento bus stop. It is here you will need to transfer onto the 1-California bus ( as I’ve described above).

lincoln park steps
One of my favorite spots in San Francisco – Lincoln Park Steps!

Can you walk to the Lincoln Park Steps from downtown San Francisco?

You can walk to the Lincoln Park steps from downtown San Francisco and depending on where you start your journey it should take you approximately 2 hours each way. For example, if you were to start at Union Square you would head North to Post Street, turn left at Post Street and follow that for 1.7 miles before turning right onto Scott Street and then after 300 meters right onto California Street which you will follow for 2.7 miles.

This is the google maps directions that will take you from Union Square to Lincoln Park Steps.

lincoln park steps

Best things to do near the Lincoln Park Steps

Bakers beach

A 22 minute walk away via 26th Ave and California is the famed Bakers Beach, this mile-long beach has one of the best photo opportunities in all of San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge right next to you. You’ll also be treated to views of the Marin Headlands and Lands End!

It’s a popular spot for photographers and land fishing. There’s also many picnic benches here, so, pack a picnic and take in the breathtaking views. From Bakers Beach you can access a few awesome walking trails, including the 3 mile Lands End Trail and Mile Rock Beach.

Ocean Beach

This 6-mile long San Francisco beach is popular with surfers. The beach is so huge that it spans the entire Sunset District, starting at Cliff House and ending at Sloat Boulevard.You will also find some fun things here including the famous Beach Chalet and the San Francisco Zoo.

Ocean Beach is a 45 minute walk from Lincoln Park Steps, via 34th Avenue. Alternatively you can take the 18-bus from 33rd Avenue & Clement Street.

San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo is located on the Southern end of Ocean beach. It’s a fun place to visit for kids of all ages. Here you can see a variety of animals from polar bears to gorillas.

Cafes/Restaurants near Lincoln Park Steps

The Garden House Cafe on 3117 Clement Street is a cute Cafe with a great outdoor patio that serves freshly baked cakes, sandwiches and good coffee. The Art Bistro on 2960 Clement Street is a great breakfast spot. And finally, the Legion of Honor Cafe within the Legion of Honor Museum is modern, spacious and has several snack and drink options.

Best Hotels in San Francisco

westin st francis san francisco
At the Westin St Francis!

The Westin St Francis – conveniently located at Union Square, all rooms have great city views and there’s a number of on-site dining options as well as a fitness center.

Fairmont San Francisco – a 5-star hotel located at the top of Nob Hill, the Fairmont is renowned with luxury and many of the hotels rooms offer views of Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge. The on-site restaurant is famous, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar serves Polynesian food and has live entertainment nightly.

Hotel Zephyr – is located just 300 meters from Fishermans Wharf plus the rooms are all nautically themed! There’s an on-site mini-mart as well as a shared lounge and a games room.

Phoenix Hotel – this 1950s motor lodge has had a stylish makeover recently. This is one of the only affordable, indie boutique hotels in San Francisco!

Thanks for reading!

P.S I’ve also written a very detailed blog post on the best things to do in Seattle and 10 of the cutest towns near San Francisco I’d love if you could check them out! another favorite blog post of mine is 15 fun things to do in San Francisco with kids!

How to spend 5 days in San Francisco

Visiting somewhere new for the first-time can be overwhelming. You need to decide what to do, where to stay and where to eat as well as book flights or trains in some cases.

Well, luckily for you I’ve done all the research for you and come up with a detailed list of over 16 of the most popular things to do in San Francisco over 5 days. San Francisco is known as one of the quirkiest and open-minded cities in the USA – it’s population of close to 1 million is a mix of hippies, tech-geniuses and other interesting folk. As you can guess some of the best things to do in San Francisco involve the famous Golden Gate Bridge – you can cycle over it, cruise under it and even fly over it on a helicopter tour. Of course, Alcatraz is a must-visit whilst in San Francisco but I’ve also listed some quirkier activities like the Exploratorium, Lincoln Park Steps and Mrs Doubtfires House.

In this blog I detail the very best things to do in 5 days in San Francisco! It sure is a jam-packed itinerary…

How many days in San Francisco is enough?

san francisco skyline
San Francisco’s skyline at dusk!

Most tourists find that 5 days in San Francisco is the perfect amount of time to get a true feel of the city. In 5 days in San Francisco you can explore all of the downtown neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury, Castro and North Beach as well as visit Alcatraz and Sausalito. However, if you want to visit more far-flung areas like Napa, Carmel-by-the-Sea, which are two of the cutest towns near San Francisco then I recommend extending your stay in San Francisco to one week.

Day 1: Mill Valley; Muir Woods and dinner at Pier 39

Pay a visit to Mill Valley

Mill Valley is a charming little town built at the base of Mount Tamalpais. It’s just over 30 minutes drive from downtown San Francisco and has a very European feel to it. This sweet little town certainly captured my imagination!

Some great annual events in Mill Valley and well worth checking out include – Mill Valley Film Festival; Wine & Gourmet Food Tasting; the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival and Winterfest.

You may also choose to indulge in a sea plane tour from Mill Valley which takes you over the Golden Gate bridge and downtown San Francisco.

Getting here from San Francisco – catch the Line 70 bus from the Civic Center; hop off at Marin City Hub and hop on Line 17 to Mill Valley Depot.

Explore Muir Woods

muir woods trail sn francisco
Muir woods trail!

Just minutes away from Mill Valley is the very popular Muir Woods National Monument which attracts thousands of tourists daily. In fact, this is a great family-friendly activity in San Francisco! A visit to Muir Woods offer the opportunity to see giant redwood trees – one of the few areas to see these trees in the Bay Area. There’s a range of hiking trails at Muir Woods all varying in difficulty and length. Worth noting is reservations are required for all vehicles and tourists to the Woods – you can catch the Route 66 Shuttle from Sausalito, Marin City, or Mill Valley if you don’t fancy driving here. Entrance to Muir Woods can work out pretty costly, current rates as follows:

  • $8.50 per vehicle
  • $3.25 per person for a space on the Route 66 shuttle
  • $15.00 per person entrance fee to gain entry to Muir Woods

Have dinner at Pier 39

pier 39 san francisco
Pier 39 aka Fishermans Wharf!

Pier 39 is known to have some of the freshest and best seafood in San Francisco. There are 12 restaurants here, most specializing in seafood but there is a Hard Rock Cafe here too where you can indulge in delicious burgers. This is an extremely popular place to dine because of the epic views across San Francisco Bay and to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Some of the best restaurants at Pier 39 include Fog Harbor Fish House, Crab House and Eagle Cafe.

Day 2: Golden Gate Bridge; Sausalito; Alcatraz

Cycle the Golden Gate Bridge

golden gate bridge view
Me posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Easily one of the most famous sights in San Francisco, if not all of California – the Golden Gate Bridge is an icon. I highly recommend cycling or walking the bridge, instead of driving it as traffic can be a nightmare at certain times of the day and parking on both sides of the bridge – the San Francisco side and the Sausalito side is very limited. 

The Golden Gate Bridge is 2.1 miles in length and and it will take approximately 25 minutes to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Some avid cyclists can complete the one-way journey in 10 minutes, it all depends on how fit you are and how often you stop. You can either cycle both ways or return by ferry from Sausalito and drop your bike back off at the rental store when you come off your ferry. The Western footpath of the bridge is for cyclists only, but beware it is two-ways so cyclists will be coming towards you too. 

You can rent a bike from Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals on  2157 Lombard St, for as little as $29! They also rent electric bikes available for rent if you’re not keen on a workout.

This guided 3-hour bike tour includes bike rental, a knowledgeable guide and photo stops for as little as $55!

If you would prefer to walk the bridge this will take about 35 minutes each way, the Eastern footpath is for pedestrians only. Again, you can choose to get the ferry back from Sausalito if you prefer. 

Explore the gorgeous town of Sausalito

sausalito san francisco
Beautiful Sausalito!

Sausalito is often described as a laid-back town with an almost Mediterranean vibe. It’s small at just over 2.2 square miles and has a population of just over 7,000 people. I’m sure this gorgeous town tops the wish-list of ‘places to live if I won the lotto’ for a lot of people.

Imagine a different way of life at the Houseboats (over 500 of them) that occupy the waters at the Northern end of the town. Rent a kayak or go on a boat tour to see the best of Sausalito from the water. Or simply browse through the many boutique stores that line Main Street.

Seafood is a must when dining in Sausalito – some must-try seafood restaurants in town include Scoma’s of Sausalito at 588 Bridgeway and Seafood Peddler Restaurant and Fish Market. For non-seafood fans head to Napa Valley Burger Company or Taste of Rome. For coffee try Firehouse Coffee & Tea on Johnson Street.

Cruise to Alcatraz

alcatraz san francisco
The view of Alcatraz from our cruise!

One of the most famous prisons in recent history, Alcatraz was once home to infamous gangster Al Capone. Alcatraz closed in the 1970 and started welcoming visitors not long after in 1973. It’s no surprise then that one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco is a guided cruise tour of Alcatraz!

The tour of Alcatraz prison itself is via a self-guided audio tour which is really informative. It’s so interesting to see the prison cells and hear the stories of former inmates. Included in your ticket, you can visit the historical gardens of Alcatraz which has stunning views of San Francisco Bay and explore any exhibitions being hosted in the Industries Building. Allow 2.5 hours on Alcatraz.

This 4 hour San Francisco city tour includes your entrance ticket to Alcatraz, it costs from $120 per person.

Day 3: Lombard Street; Coit Tower; Ocean Beach

Lombard Street

lombard street san francisco
The very-winding Lombard Street!

Known as the most crooked street in the world because of it’s 8 hairpin bends, Lombard Street is definitely a must-visit in San Francisco CBD. In fact, it’s one of the most photographed streets in the world.

At busy times, drivers need to wait up to 30 minutes to drive down this narrow winding street. Personally, I’m not a confident enough driver to drive the world’s most crooked street, so, I prefer to walk it and take lots of photos. The center sections of the street are filled with bright and colorful flowers, making the street uber-photogenic in Summer and Spring especially.

Sp, how did Lombard Street come to be – well, if you’ve visited San Francisco previously you’ll know the city is full of hills. Well, in the 1920’s when cars were becoming popular, the idea to turn some of San Francisco’s streets into curved streets to make it easier to drive down was formed. As a result, Lombard Street went from a steepness of 27% to 16%.

 The easiest way to get to Lombard Street is to hop on the Powell/Hyde cable car, that begins at Fisherman’s Wharf.

This two-hour guided walking tour includes a tour of Lombard Street as well as off-the-beaten-track sights in downtown San Francisco. Tickets cost from $80 per adult.

Climb Coit Tower for a fabulous city view

coit tower san francisco
The impressive Coit Tower!

Coit Tower is 210 foot tower that offers fabulous views of downtown San Francisco. It was built back in 1933 in an attempt to make the city’s skyline more beautiful. The viewing platform at the top of the tower, can be reached by elevator from the Gift Shop – tickets for this cost $9 per adult.

Many people believe Coit Tower was built to resemble a firemans hose, because Lillie Hitchcock Coit whom the tower is named after was a patron of the San Francisco Fire Brigade. However, this is just a coincidence.

There are many beautiful murals on display inside the tower, they were painted by a group of local artists in 1934.

Explore North Beach neighborhood

north beach san francisco
One of the viewpoints near North Beach!

I should mention that despite its name there isn’t actually a beach at North Beach! The area is known locally as “Little Italy” because of the sheer amount of Italian eateries and stores, thanks to the massive Italian community living here.

It’s under a 15 minute walk to North Beach from Coit Tower.

Take a stroll down Grant Ave. with its unique stores and head to Broadway for the best bars and restaurants. Plus, if you’re a lover of books or lovely bookstores you can’t miss City Lights bookstore on Columbus Ave. After dark, come to see the ‘Language of the birds’, which is essentially a number of illuminated books that look like they’re hanging from the sky. This permanent art installation is at the corner of Broadway and Columbus Avenue.

If you’re feeling hungry be sure to grab an award at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. And for non-pizza food items hit up Original Joe’s, a must-try that’s been serving the people of San Francisco for more than 100 years.

BONUS ADDITION: Visit the house from Mrs Doubtfire

Mrs doubtfire house san francisco
Me posing outside the Mrs Doubtfire house!

One of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco is the ‘Mrs Doubtfire House’, I’m a huge fan of the 1993 movie and Robin Williams. The house is located at 2640 Steiner Street, near Pacific Heights. It looks a little different to the movie, what you’d expect after almost 30 years but it’s still a must-see for any movie fans. In fact, the house was recently sold for $4.5 million.

Day 4: Haight-Asbury; Castro; Chinatown

Spend time in cool Haight-Ashbury

colorful houses Haight-Ashbury san francisco
Colorful homes in Haight-Ashbury!

Once the beating heart of the hippie movement in the 1960’s, today, Haight-Ashbury is famous for the brightly colored Victorian houses, cool restaurants and quirky boutiques. Once, a working class neighborhood – now many of the homes have been bought by tech-types. Which has changed the vibe a little, but, it’s still an awesome neighborhood to visit.

Downhill on Haight Street still retains the alternative vibe the area was known for with alt-bars, consignment shops and music shops selling vinyl records.

The former grateful dead house at 710 Ashbury St. is a must-see as well as the former Jefferson Airplane house at 2400 Fulton St.

FYI – this fun game will help you discover the rich history of Haight Ashbury neighborhood by solving clues and unlocking stories on your phone. It costs as little as $4.50 per person!

Castro

rainbow sidewalks castro san francisco
Rainbow crossings Castro!

If you’re in San Francisco to party – then look no further than Castro, San Francisco’s gay neighborhood and home to the best bars and night clubs in the city. Which are gay and straight friendly.

Twin Peaks Tavern on Castro Street with its floor-to-ceiling windows is one of the originals, it opened in 1972. Catch a show at the Castro Theatre and pay a visit to the GLBT Historic Museum on 18th Street is the first stand-alone gay museum in the U.S. It celebrates the San Francisco’s renowned gay cultures past with exciting exhibitions and workshops.

Castro is also one of the best parts of San Francisco to go thrift-shopping with a plethora of second-hand stores, some even stock designer pieces at very cheap prices. One of the best is Siu Generis on Market Street.

Chinatown

chinatown san francisco
San Francisco’s Chinatown!

Would you believe San Francisco’s Chinatown is the biggest in the U.S, yep, it’s roughly half a mile by a quarter of a mile. And has a population of approximately 40,000 mostly Chinese immigrants.

The entrance to Chinatown, called Dragon Gate is one of the most photographed spots in San Francisco, it can be found on Grant Street. The Sing Chong and Sing Fat buildings also on Grant Street are typical Chinese structures and were some of the first buildings in Chinatown, having been constructed in 1906.

Foodies will love Chinatown, because it has some of the best places to eat in the whole city. Dim Sum is of course extraordinarily popular, and the best place to try this is at Delicious Dim Sum on 752 Jackson Street or Good Mong Kok Bakery at 1039 Stockton Street. As well as excellent Chinese restaurants there’s teahouses, bars and souvenir stalls. The famous Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company where you can watch fortune cookies being made, is located on Ross Alley.

Did you know – San Francisco’s Chinatown, specifically Ross Alley has featured in several recent movies including Dead Pool and Godzilla!

Day 5: Golden Gate Park; Exploratorium; Bakers Beach; Ocean Beach

Get lost in Golden Gate Park

japanese gardens Golden Gate Park
Japanese Gardens at Golden Gate Park!

This is the 3rd most-visited Park in the U.S (behind Central Park in NY and National Memorial Park in Washington D.C). Golden Gate Park is a whopping 1,017 acres and home to Bison Paddock where you can spot a herd of bison grazing, unusual for this part of the country and the Conservatory of Flowers which is the oldest building in the Park. Here, there are over 1,700 species of plants, many of them rare.

The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest such garden in the country and was constructed in 1894. The Garden is 3.5 acres and filled with Japanese maple, cherry trees and more. Cherry blossom season is an especially popular time here, this is from March to April.

Most of the roads in Golden Gate Park are now car-free and it’s very popular with locals exercising and families playing and picnicking in one of the many green areas.

Have fun at the Exploratorium

Characterized as “a mad scientist’s penny arcade, a scientific funhouse, and an experimental laboratory all rolled into one. The Exploratorium is more than a museum—it’s a gateway to exploring science, art, and human perception. Let your curiosity roam free through hundreds of exhibits across 6 galleries.

The Exploratorium is located at Pier 15, entrance fee costs from $29.95 per adult. It’s closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Take a stroll on Bakers Beach

bakers beach san francisco
Bakers Beach is so pretty!

On a clear day one of the best places to go is Bakers Beach near the Presidio district. This mile-long beach has one of the best photo opportunities in all of San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge right next to you. You’ll also be treated to views of the Marin Headlands and Lands End!

It’s a popular spot for photographers and land fishing. There’s also many picnic benches here, so, pack a picnic and take in the breathtaking views. From Bakers Beach you can access a few awesome walking trails, including the 3 mile Lands End Trail and Mile Rock Beach.

Lincoln Park Steps

lincoln park steps san francisco
The colorful Lincoln Park Steps!

A 22 minute walk from Bakers beach, via 26th Ave and California St is Lincoln Park Steps.

One of the most recent art projects in the city, the Lincoln Park Steps are located very close to Lincoln Park Golf Course. They are so bright and colorful, and typically quiet especially if you visit in the morning like we did.

Visit Ocean Beach

ocean beach san francisco
Ocean beach, near Cliff House on a windy day!

This 6-mile long San Francisco beach is popular with surfers. The beach is so huge that it spans the entire Sunset District, starting at Cliff House and ending at Sloat Boulevard.You will also find some fun things here including the famous Beach Chalet and the San Francisco Zoo.

San Francisco Zoo is located on the Southern end of the beach. It’s a fun place to visit for kids of all ages. Here you can see a variety of animals from polar bears to gorillas.

Ocean Beach is just a 7 minute walk from Golden Gate Park, via Lincoln Avenue.

What is the best month to visit San Francisco? 

The best time to visit San Francisco is in September, October or November. That’s because the warmest temperatures are typically felt in Fall and there’s less rain and fog! Also, there’s less tourists meaning you will have some of the city’s top sight pretty much to yourself!

Best Hotels in San Francisco

westin st francis san francisco
At the Westin St Francis!

The Westin St Francis – conveniently located at Union Square, all rooms have great city views and there’s a number of on-site dining options as well as a fitness center.

Fairmont San Francisco – a 5-star hotel located at the top of Nob Hill, the Fairmont is renowned with luxury and many of the hotels rooms offer views of Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge. The on-site restaurant is famous, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar serves Polynesian food and has live entertainment nightly.

Hotel Zephyr – is located just 300 meters from Fishermans Wharf plus the rooms are all nautically themed! There’s an on-site mini-mart as well as a shared lounge and a games room.

Phoenix Hotel – this 1950s motor lodge has had a stylish makeover recently. This is one of the only affordable, indie boutique hotels in San Francisco!

Thanks for reading!

Taking a trip back to where I was born for the first time since 2009 and Paul’s first time ever on American shores. We had just over a week to see all of San Francisco’s sights. It rained the whole time, California isn’t known for its rainy weather, in fact, before we landed the state had been pretty much in a drought with tight water bans in force but boy did we bring the rain with us, The Californians were very happy, we were not. Oh well, onwards and upwards. It was mainly frustrating for me, because I had packed all my cute bohemian dresses but ya know what we tried not to let it put a dampener on the trip (see what I did there! )

P.S I’ve also written a very detailed blog post on the best things to do in Seattle, I’d love if you could check it out!

PIN IT FOR LATER!

13 of the most popular things to do in Seattle for first-timers

Visiting somewhere new for the first-time can be overwhelming. You need to decide what to do, where to stay and where to eat as well as book flights or trains in some cases.

Well, luckily for you I’ve done all the research for you and come up with a detailed list of 13 of the most popular things to do in Seattle. Seattle is famous for coffee, being the home of Starbucks so of course I’ve recommended visiting the first Starbucks in the world, but it also has the famous fish-throwing Pike Place Market and the very unique (and a little gross) chewing gum wall!

Seattle is one of my favorite cities in the U.S, we drove here from where we were living in Whistler, Canada and spent 4 nights in the city – which isn’t long enough if you ask me. I recommend allowing 5-6 nights in Seattle. My favorite parts of the “emerald city” or “rainy city” as the locals like to call it is the very-cool neighborhood of Capitol Hill and on the water exploring Puget Sound!

Have coffee at the first Starbucks in the world

first Starbucks Seattle
Me with a Starbucks, near the first store!

Where it all began – the very first Starbucks store is located right here in Seattle, it’s been opened for over 50 years and is surprising small at just 1,000 square feet – I don’t know but I was expecting it to be much bigger. Nonetheless if you’re a coffee fan you just have to visit the starting point of the most famous coffee brand in the world! Would you believe there are now over 20,000 Starbucks stores in the world!

Not much has changed in the store since it first opened its doors, the floors, the fixtures, the counters and the Starbucks sign out-front are over 50 years old. You can get everything you’d expect from a Starbucks here from normal coffee and espresso to chai tea lattes and caramel Frappuccinos!

Be sure to snap a photo out-front!

The first Starbucks store is located at 1912 Pike Place, opposite the famous Pike Place Market. It will be hard to miss, because there’s likely a queue of hundred of people snaking down the street!

Visit Bruce Lee’s grave

bruce lee grave seattle
Bruce & Brandon Lees graves in Lake View Cemetery!

Lake View Cemetery in the quirky Capitol Hill neighborhood is visited by over 10,000 tourists annually. That’s because the grave of legendary actor and martial art star Bruce Lee is buried here. His grave is unassuming at looks much the same as the other graves in the cemetery but it stands out because Lee’s grave is covered in flowers, letters, candles and little Bruce Lee figurines. His son Brandon’s grave is right next to his.

The views from the cemetery are stunning with Lake Washington visible in the distance! Bruce Lee’s grave is not only a Seattle tourist attraction but a global pilgrimage site.

Seattle Space needle

space needle seattle
Look how tall the Space Needle is!

At 605 feet tall, Seattle’s Space Needle is easily the most recognizable sight in Seattle skyline. It is in fact, one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

From the top of the Space Needle you can enjoy 360-degree views of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There’s an all-glass floor on The Loupe, which is the first and only rotating glass floor in the world! Downtown Seattle is literally underneath your feet, so if you get a little queasy at heights then this may not be for you! Higher up in the Space Needle is the upper level which has floor-to-ceiling glass and is great for photos!

Pretty cool is that you can watch the views from the Space Needle from the comfort of you own home, via their webcam!

You can visit the Space Needle on the CityPass which gives you access to 5 of Seattle’s top sights including Seattle Aquarium, the Museum of Pop Culture, Woodland Park Zoo, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, and Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour all for a discounted price. The CityPass costs from $109USD per adult.

Buy the Seattle CityPass here!

Whale watching on Puget Sound

sea dawn landscape sunset
Puget Sound at sunset! (photo by Lexie Blessing on Pexels.com)

Enjoy the experience of a lifetime with this half-day whale-watching tour which guarantees a whale sighting. It’s also the pnly whale-watching tour in Seattle, and departs from the Edmonds neighborhood just a few minutes drive from Seattle CBD.

On the tour you may spot orcas, humpback whales, minke whales and gray whales! And also dolphins, seals, sea lions and more marine life. The scenery on the boat-ride is stunning too with the San Juan Islands in the distance and the city skyline behind you. The boat is super-comfortable too with a large indoor seating area with big windows to spot the whales, and an outdoor viewing platform to get as close as possible to the sea life. There’s also a Cafe on-board, I hear their blueberry buckle is delicious!

Sleepless in Seattle filming locations

If you love the movie Sleepless in Seattle, which stars a young Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks then you will love visiting Seattle because of course many of the movies scenes were shot here. In fact, I have to admit one of my reasons for visiting Seattle was to see Sam’s (Tom Hanks character) houseboat.

The houseboat is located at 2640 Westlake Avenue North, which sits on the west shore of Lake Union in Queen Anne Hill district. It’s about an hour walk, or 10 minute drive from the CBD to the houseboat.

Some other Sleepless in Seattle filming locations include –

Athenian Inn at 1517 Pike Place where Sam’s friend Jay offers him some manly advice about dating.

Pike Place Market, where Sam goes shopping with Victoria (the lady with the funny laugh).

Alki Beach Park where Annie (Meg Ryan’s character) spots Sam playing with his son

Chewing gum wall

chewing gum wall seattle
The famous Chewing Gum wall!

The Seattle Chewing Gum Wall is hidden away in Post Alley, an alleyway off Pike Place in downtown Seattle. The Gum Wall has been accumulating gum since the early 90’s and it now stretches 50 feet – filled with all different colors of gum and even some caricatures and names written in gum on the wall. It’s a popular backdrop for photos and you’ll see hundreds of tourists snapping selfies of themselves as you walk the length of the wall. It’s definitely one of the weirdest and grossest sights in Seattle!

Would you believe – the wall was only cleaned once in 2015!

Some other weird and wonderful sights in Seattle include the Fremont Troll, the Fremont Rocket, or a communist statue of Lenin, which are all in the Fremont neighborhood and are withing walking distance of one another!

Pike Place Market

pike place market seattle
Pike Place Market all lit up at night!

Pike Place Market sure is a Seattle icon, it’s all hustle and bustle and noise. But, that’s why I love it – here, fish mongers throw large fish to each other and to tourists in an almost staged performance that sure is a lot of fun to watch! The market area is a whopping 9 acres and is filled with some of Seattle’s best restaurants, Cafes and some unique gift stores.

The market is best explored with a local – someone who can tell you where to go and where to avoid. So, this Taste of Pike Place tour is ideal and lets you sample the very best of this world-famous market including, Indian samosas, Italian gelato, Greek Yogurt, Pacific Northwest Native American style smoked salmon, America’s best rated clam chowder, Italian truffles, the best wild salmon burger in Seattle, and more. Your guide will tell you all about the colorful characters who work here, some have been here since it first opened in 1971.

The tour is 2-hours in length and costs from just $45USD per per person!. You can book the Market Tour here!

See Seattle city from the water on a harbor cruise

city dawn sunset water
The Seattle cityline at sunset! (photo by Brandie Robbins on Pexels.com)

This one-hour cruise lets you see Seattle from a different angle, on the water! The boat journey takes you through the Puget Sound, and is the perfect tour for photography-lovers because you can photograph the city skyline and the Space Needle from the boat. It’s the best view you’ll get of both, in my opinion so be sure to bring a good zoom lens.

Even better, on a clear day can spy the Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains, which makes you realize how naturally beautiful the surrounding areas are. You may even spot Mount Rainier which at 14,000 feet is hard-to-miss on a clear day!

This cruise leaves from from Pier 55 on the Seattle Waterfront, and it costs just $38 USD per adult. You can book the cruise here.

Visit Mount Rainier

mount rainier wildflower season
Mount Rainier wildflower season!

Get out into nature and witness stunning mountain scenery like wild-flower meadows, old-growth forests and waterfalls on this full-day tour to Mount Rainier National Park. Your professional guide will guide you through the area on a hike, which will be adapted to suit all fitness levels and abilities.

Mount Rainier Ntaional Park has been described as “an arctic island in a temperate sea” because of the contrast of the huge snow-covered Mount Rainier with the colorful wildflower meadows!

After exploring the Park, you will visit the interpretive center at Paradise to discover more about the Park’s glaciers, plants, and animals. And finally, one of the best stops at Wapiti Woolies to try their famed (& delicious) huckleberry ice cream.

The tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, Lunch is extra so you can choose to enjoy this at a mountain-side Cafe or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the Park. The tour costs from $173 USD per person, you can book the tour here.

If time allows I highly recommend spending the night in one of these cozy Mount Rainier Cabins!

Museum of Pop Culture

museum of pop culture
An exhibition at the Museum of Pop Culture!

The Museum of Pop Culture, is a must-visit for all music fans housed within a Frank Gehry-designed building. The Museum showcases the best moments in popular culture from throughout the years and there are cool exhibits and interactive installations on-hand to tell their stories.

Exhibitions currently on display her include a Visual History of Hip Hop; The Art of the Disney Costume and a Nirvana exhibition.

There’s an on-site Cafe operated by famous Chef Wolfgang Puck, which serves grab and go items like pastries, snacks and coffee.

You can visit MoPop on the CityPass which gives you access to 5 of Seattle’s top sights including Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle, Woodland Park Zoo, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, and Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour all for a discounted price. The CityPass costs from $109USD per adult.

Bainbridge Island

bainbridge island seattle
Bainbridge Island!

Just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle is the very-cute and photogenic Bainbridge Island. You can walk to the main town here -Winslow from the ferry terminal, or take your car or bike on-board the ferry and drive or cycle the short distance. When I say town, Winslow is more of a village filled with cozy bookstores, Cafes and boutiques. Stretch your legs further on a short walk to Waterfront Park from the town. Or head to Blakely Harbor Park, a 40-acre park built on the site of an old mill, which was one of the biggest sawmills in the world in the late 1800s. The park is popular for kayaking, and wildlife viewin and there’s also a surprisingly photogenic crumbling, graffiti-covered building.

In warmer weather head to a locals favorite hangout  Lytle Beach, you can enjoy the warm waters of Rich Passage here – it’s one of the warmest bodies of water on the island.

If you have time, I highly recommend the fairytale-esque Eagle Harbor Inn.

Visit Leavenworth

leavenworth washington state in winter
Leavenworth is the snow!

Also known as ‘Christmastown’ Leavenworth is especially beautiful in the lead up to Christmas when the whole town lights up with over half a million lights ! There’s also live music, holiday characters for photos, carolers and more, almost every night of the week in December!

Leavenworth is built like small Bavarian village, surrounded by snow-covered mountains and filled with quirky specialty stores, cozy restaurants and cute inns.

This full-day tour from Seattle to Leavenworth is highly recommended. It’s a small group tour, with a maximum of 12 people allowed and costs from $186 USD per person. The drive from Seattle to Leavenworth is just over 2 hours each-way!

Beneath the streets tour

Seattle’s reputation as the rainiest city in the U.S means that indoor activity options are always a good-shout. And this underground tour, which explores eerie subterranean passages is a must-do in Seattle.

This short one-hour tour takes you back in time to explore over 4 historic blocks of Pioneer Square and underground pathways, built way back in the 1890’s. Your guide will tell you all about the history of Seattle, most notably the decision to bring the city’s streets above the swampy ground. Essentially on this tour you are exploring what should have been Seattle CBD.

The tour costs from $30 USD per person, you can book the tour here.

Where to stay in Seattle

cocktail at Fairmont Seattle
Enjoying a cocktail at the Fairmont Hotel!

Fairmont Olympic Seattle – a 5-star hotel on University Avenue, in fact, the building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Rooms offer city views with French-inspired furnishings. There are numerous on-site restaurants. Rooms cost from $250 per night.

The Arctic Club Seattle – is a Hilton DoubleTree 4-star hotel on 3rd Avenue. The hotel has a lot of dark-wood and moody lighting all adding to the overall cozy feel. It’s just a 5 minute walk from here to Pike Place. Rooms costs from $300 per night.

Seattle Marriott Waterfront – this waterfront hotel, located in Eliott Bay is just a 5 minute walk from the Seattle Aquarium. Many of the rooms here have a balcony with either ocean or mountain views. One of the biggest pluses for this hotel in the indoor/outdoor connecting swimming pool. Rooms here cost from $132 per night.

Inn at the Market – the only hotel located inside the famous Pike Place Market, the rooms are bright and spacious and some have water views. My top tip for this hotel is to gave a drink at the rooftop bar for fabulous views of the city and sea. Rooms here cost from $240 per night.

Green Tortoise Hostel – a great budget-friendly option, this hostel is located on Pike Street, just opposite Pike Place. It has a fully-equipped kitchen games room and offers private rooms up to 8-bed dorms. Prices start from $34 per night.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this blog post, I also have lots of other blog posts on some of my favorite places in North America including the best towns near San Francisco, best things to do in Whistler and the drive from Whistler to Banff.

PIN THIS FOR LATER!

Visiting somewhere new for the first-time can be overwhelming. So, I've done the research & come up with 13 of the best things to do in Seattle.