Are you looking for things to do in the Golden Gate Park with kids? Here is an example 48 hour (or weekend) itinerary for things to do in the Golden Gate Park with kids! Kid-friendly restaurants by the Golden Gate Park and kid-friendly activities in the Golden Gate Park are all listed here!
We call Golden Gate Park our backyard because… we live in San Francisco and we don’t have much of a backyard. 🙂 We also spend so much time there! We probably have stepped foot on every place in the park, we love it so much. This is your guide to spending an entire weekend exploring the Golden Gate Park with kids. It’s so worth it!
Friday Night: Friday Night at DeYoung and/or Dinner in the Inner Sunset
Let’s say you arrive on Friday night. I honestly do not have a hotel I can recommend for you in this area (Sunset/Richmond/Panhandle). So your best bet is to get an Airbnb or a different vacation rental in the area. That way, you can really feel like a local.
Friday Nights at the DeYoung museum is super kid-friendly and free! They sometimes even have kids arts and crafts station. They also have a cafe to get food, wine, beer, milk, and snacks. Their outdoor garden is a perfect place to escape the crowds if it’s a busy night or just to get fresh air. Depending on the season, it isn’t every Friday – it could be monthly, or off-season, so be sure to check out their website here.
If DeYoung isn’t doing anything that Friday, or if you want a something more low-key, check out the restaurants in the Inner Sunset neighborhood! Right outside the 9th Avenue and Lincoln entrance of the park is full of restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world!
Here are some of our kid-friendly favorites:
Lemonade – California cuisine with so many dishes to choose from! Be careful because some dishes are super spicy. The restaurant is an order-and-sit type of place, and it’s pretty big so plenty of room for strollers.
Pacific Catch – Another Asian, Mexican, Californian fusion place. Tacos, burrito bowls, sushi and great salads. They give you edamame and pretzel goldfish when you sit down. Doesn’t get anymore kid-friendly than that! Another big spacious place. It gets pretty loud too, so your kids screaming won’t be as noticeable here.
San Tung – This place isn’t necessarily “kid-friendly” because there’s usually a long wait. But, it is arguably the best Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. So, if you have a patient kid, or you can have someone wait there while you walk around the neighborhood with your kid – do it! Or, this is a good place for a take out if you want to eat in at your accommodation for the weekend. Pro tip: Order the dry fried fish instead of the dried fried chicken. The dried fried chicken takes much much longer (yes, it’s their main dish) than the fish, but it’s the same sauce and breading!
Other kid-friendly places we love:
- Park Chow – Comfort food, cute atmosphere, heated outdoor seating
- Park Gyros – Easy grab and eat place, right by the park, casual and delicious wraps and salads
- Kazu – Cute authentic Japanese restaurant. Space is limited so maybe hard with a stroller but they are so nice to kids.
Saturday Day Morning: Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden, Stow Lake and Shakespear Garden
Put on your walking shoes (I know it’s not that simple with kids…haha), grab a pie or two each at Peasant Pies (12th Avenue at Irving) and go hit the park!
When you enter the 9th Avenue and Lincoln entrance, the first place you will see to the left is the Botanical Gardens. Go in there and let your kids loose! You can wander off to different paths, all are clearly marked. Some paths are not stroller friendly but most of it is, so you will be able to see a lot even with a stroller. (Exploration Time: Average 1 hour, children 4 and under free)
Exit the Botanical Gardens from the Friend Gate (North Gate), then you will end up right across the street from the Japanese Tea Gardens! They have koi ponds, shrines, bridges your littles can climb. They also have a little tea room for snacks and tea overlooking the gardens. (Exploration Time: Average 45min-1hour, children 4 and under free)
Once you exit the Japanese Tea Garden from the gate in the back (by the zen garden), you will see the steps leading up to the Stow Lake. Wander around, do the full circle which will take you to the boathouse. Take the path/road down after the boathouse to the left, then you will hit John F. Kennedy Drive. Follow that road towards DeYoung (you will see the building to your right), then you will get to the central square (as we call it but it’s formally called Music Concourse). Behind the auditorium, there will be a bunch of food trucks. Grab what you want to eat for lunch. Walk through the square, and go towards the Academy of Science. If you take the side road next to the Academy to the right, it will lead you to the Shakespear Garden. Super cute quick stop, or have a picnic here!
By after lunch, my family would be ready for some downtime and nap times back at the hotel. If you have more energy, check out the Academy of Sciences since you are right there! It will take about 2-3 hours if you see everything there, but if you want a highlight tour – must see are the aquarium, rainforest and if your kids love animals – the Africa room! If your kids are old enough, make sure to get Planetarium passes right when you arrive. Kids 4 and under are free, but check out this website to see if your visit lands on a free day! It does get crowded so plan accordingly.
Saturday Night: Playgrounds, Conservatory of Flowers, and Dinner in the Inner Richmond or NOPA
After nap or quiet time, head over to one of the playgrounds for a little before dinner activity. On the same side of the park (the East side) you explored this morning, there is the Blue Playground (just past the Music Concourse complex), which is a smaller, more enclosed playground. For a bigger playground with a huge slide, check out the Koret playground on the furthest East of the park.
If your kid isn’t so much into playgrounds, go check out the Conservatory of Flowers. It has a beautiful flower garden in the front, so even if you don’t make it there before closing (usually 6:30 pm), it is so nice walking around in the garden. Or bring a blanket and have your wine and cheese picnic there! (Exploration time approximately 45min, children 4 and under free.)
After a little activity – head over to the Richmond District or NOPA (North of Panhandle) for dinner! Richmond has a lot of different ethnic foods (our favorite for Mexican is Tia Margarita and for Japanese – Oyaji) and NOPA has the “cool” restaurants and breweries. You can’t go wrong exploring either neighborhoods!
Sunday: Trails, Beach, Golf, Bison and Waterfalls!
Before you head home, spend the morning hitting up the trails leading to the beach (and back if you have the time). There are great ones on both the North and South side of the park, but our favorite is to go down the trails close to Martin Luther King Dr, end at the beach, have lunch at Beach Chalet (live music some days) then head back up on the John F Kennedy Drive side.
On the way back on John F Kennedy Drive, stop at the Golden Gate Park Golf Course for a quick driving range/putting green fun! They let your kids use their kid clubs for free. Keep heading up, and you will hit the bison pasture, rose garden, waterfalls, and a fun rollerblading area. Join in on the fun, or it’s just fun watching others rollerblade. On Sundays, you might see a group of swing dancers too!
Other GGP Exploring Tips:
- Getting there and around: If you are taking muni, N Judah line drops you off at various locations where you can access the park. Other bus likes like the 44 and 7 will take you alongside the park too. To get around inside the park – check out the free shuttle available on the weekends!
- Hiking gear: Most of the park is paved and very stroller friendly, but if you want to have more flexibility and go off the beaten path (literally), we recommend wearing your kids, even toddlers on a hiking backpack! We love our Osprey Poco carrier (pictured) for bigger babies – toddlers, and the all seasons Ergo carrier for babies!