Top-Rated San Francisco Tours for Families: Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and More

Travel through town in a tiny car with GoCar.
Travel through town in a tiny car with GoCar.
5/17/22 - By Jessica Laird

There’s so much to see and do in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and a top-rated San Francisco tour can make a trip to the Golden City a whole lot easier–especially with kids in tow.

Whether you’re hoping to hop aboard a San Francisco Bay cruise, looking to customize your itinerary with popular stops like The Exploratorium and San Francisco’s Chinatown, or searching for a big adventure outside of the city, San Francisco city tour options are pretty much endless. Take on San Francisco sightseeing by double-decker bus, helicopter, bicycle, or even tiny car, and you’ll be one step closer to truly seeing it all.

With the help of enthusiastic TripAdvisor travelers, we’ve narrowed down your search to the best family-friendly San Francisco tours with 4- and 5-star ratings and rave reviews. Here's our list of the best tours for exploring San Francisco and the Bay Area with kids, plus some insider tips. Click through for quick and easy booking with TripAdvisor.

1. Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour 

Hop on a luxury air-conditioned coach and hitch a ride to two of SF’s must-see sights, with an experienced tour guide leading the way. Start with skip-the-line access to see the stunning old-growth redwoods in Muir Woods and spend time exploring the forest grounds at your own speed. After wandering through the woods, jump back on the bus, and you’ll be in the beautiful waterfront town of Sausalito before you know it (without the need to park!). Walk along the water, pop into galleries, do a little shopping, or grab a bite to eat at one of the charming kid-friendly restaurants and cafes.

Reviewers recommend adding the upgrade that gets you a ferry ride back to San Francisco!

2. Big Bus San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Tour

Perfect for first-timers or families short of time, this double-decker bus tour makes stops at 16 popular attractions, including Pier 39, Union Square, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Lombard Street. Start at Fisherman’s Wharf and take the full tour from start to finish, or hop on and off at any of the stops for a choose-your-own-adventure through the city. Free headphones and a walking tour of Chinatown are included with your ticket, and upgrades are available if you’d like to add a Sausalito tour or a 1-hour bike rental.

According to reviewers, bring a jacket! The often-chilly city can be extra cool on the top level of the bus.

Reviewers rave about the humorous and fun San Francisco Love Tour.

3. San Francisco Love Tour

On this one-of-a-kind tour, see the city from a ’70s-era VW bus, complete with shag carpet, beaded curtains, and a soundtrack of classic 1960s songs! This small-group excursion (6 seats only) takes you down roads bigger bus tours can’t navigate, like the famously winding Lombard street, and around neighborhoods like the Mission and the Castro. Music lovers will love the chance to see the homes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and history buffs young and old will enjoy learning about San Francisco’s past and present.

Reviewers rave about this fun, humorous, and totally unique way to see the sights–plus the chance to take a perfect photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

4. GoCar San Francisco Tour

Speaking of unexpected ways to see the city, GoCar lets you take on San Francisco in a tiny open-top 3-wheeled car! Pick your own path or choose from tour options that last from one hour to a full day, and let your GPS and recorded commentary take you to as many as 50 landmarks, including Golden Gate Park, Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Point, Crissy Field, Ocean Beach, and Lombard Street. Either way, you can make the most of easy parking, stopping and going as you wish to eat, shop, stroll, or snap photos. 

Note that each car fits 2 people, and drivers need to be 21 or older with a valid driver’s license. Passengers need to be at least 4 years old, and able to fit in one of the provided DOT-approved helmets. 

Book more time than you think you need, according to reviewers–who also say the GoCars are easy to handle and the GPS makes navigating a breeze.

5. Straight to the Gate Access: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Take to the bay for another quick way to see a whole lot of San Francisco! Departing from Pier 43 at Fisherman’s Wharf, this 1-hour cruise takes you on a tour of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Sausalito, and more. Listen to audio commentary–available in 16 different languages–while you catch the sites from the outdoor deck or indoor lounge area, plus stop by the full-service bar for a snack or drink. 

Bundle up, say reviewers. But chilly or not, tour takers rave about the beautiful city views from the bay and recommend this tour as a quick way to take in a lot of San Francisco!

See all the top attractions from the water on a bay cruise.

6. San Francisco Bike Rental from Fisherman’s Wharf

Experience San Francisco on two wheels with 24-hour bike rentals for the whole family. Head out on your own excursion with the help of a provided map and a list of suggested bike routes. Cruise along the Embarcadero, challenge yourself to the uphill climb from Fort Point to the Golden Gate Bridge, or try “The Wiggle,” a popular path that bypasses bigger hills for a flat ride into Golden Gate Park.

Choose from a wide range of bikes: comfort hybrid, mountain bikes, tandem, or electric. Kids’ bicycles are also available, along with infant seats and trailers (but make sure to check availability). Helmet, bike locks, bike bells, and rear racks with bungee cords are provided, too.

Reviewers were impressed by the quality of the bikes, and many found the electric bikes to be a game-changer when it came to navigating San Francisco’s notorious inclines!

7. San Francisco Ghost Tour

This spooky walking tour takes you to some of the city's most historic and allegedly haunted locations on and around Nob Hill–once the epicenter of San Francisco high society. The guided after-dark adventure is filled with true stories of documented paranormal activity, including visits to secret societies and haunted office buildings. Best to leave the littlest ones at home for this eerie adventure.

Top-Rated San Francisco Tours for Families: Alcatraz
Alcatraz is one of San Francisco's most visited sites.

8. Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Tour

Alcatraz is often at the top of families’ San Francisco to-do lists and, with this package, you’ll get a visit to the infamous island, plus a guided sightseeing tour! To see San Francisco’s historic penitentiary, take a quick 15-minute ferry ride to Alcatraz island, then follow an immersive, history-filled 45-minute guided tour. After the tour, spend as much time as you’d like exploring the grounds, then hop on any of the ferries back to Pier 33. When you’re ready to get back out on the water, enjoy your 60-minute San Francisco Bay cruise. Catch the Pier 39 sea lions, explore the waterfront area, and see some stunning views of the city’s skyline. Also, note that children under 4 don’t need purchased tickets.

Some reviewers suggest doing the Alcatraz tour and the San Francisco Bay cruise back-to-back, for a fun-filled day of sightseeing. Others appreciated the flexibility of being able to schedule the two tours on different days.

9. Golden Gate Park Segway Tour

Golden Gate Park is arguably a can’t-miss stop for any family visiting San Francisco. And with this Segway tour, you’ll get a 35-45 minute practice session before setting out across the 1,000-acre sanctuary with your knowledgeable local guide. Spend about 2 hours taking in top attractions like the Japanese Tea Gardens, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and some real hidden gems. Helmets and safety vests are included with the tour, as well as jackets and gloves on particularly foggy days. All riders need to be 12 or older.

Reviewers agree that the Segways are as intuitive as promised! Many shout out the engaging and humorous tour guides who also make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable.

10. San Francisco Vista Grande Helicopter Tour

Set off for the skies for an aerial view of San Francisco's most famous landmarks. This half-hour helicopter tour flies over iconic sights, like the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower, then heads for Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and the Marin Headlands. Choreographed musical accompaniment and commentary from your expert pilot make for an informative and totally breathtaking trip. 

Keep in mind that this tour requires a minimum of 4 passengers, and everyone must be able to properly use standard aircraft safety belts. Infants are permitted to sit on laps.

Reviews call the tour a big hit with the whole family. Many rave about smooth rides, friendly pilots, and unbeatable views–particularly of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Head to TripAdvisor for more top-rated San Francisco tours, plus helpful reviews and ratings.

All photos provided by TripAdvisor.