51 Awesome Free Things To Do in San Francisco This Summer With Kids

Ready for free summer fun! Photo by Maria Durana courtesy of the Habitot Mobile Museum
Ready for free summer fun! Photo by Maria Durana courtesy of the Habitot Mobile Museum
6/18/23 - By Sandra Lee

There are so many free things to do in San Francisco this summer that the season might not be long enough to do them all! 

The kids are out of school, the weather is warming up, and the Bay Area is sprawling with things to do every day of the week. Free outdoor movie nights and free museum days are a great way to spend an afternoon that won't cost you a penny (if you steer clear of the gift shop). Summer is also the best excuse to take a day off from work and go on a day trip to one of the many beautiful places just a short drive away. 

Whether you've got a summer filled with summer camps and travel or prefer to enjoy the days as they come, we've got 51 free things to do in San Francisco with those kiddos this summer.

Have the best summer ever in San Francisco at summer festivals and fairs, and find more summer fun in Ultimate San Francisco Kids Summer Vacation Guide.  


And don't forget there are always more free things to do in the Bay Area in our daily events calendar!

Free Things To Do in San Francisco This Summer With Kids

1. See a free summer outdoor movie

Enjoy a family-friendly film under the stars at the many parks around the Bay Area. 

2. Cool off at a splash pad

When the kids need to burn off some energy and the weather is warm, head over to the local splash pad to cool off. We love Cannery Park in Hayward and 24th and York Mini Park in San Francisco.

3. Listen to music in a park

With so many parks throughout the Bay Area, there are tons of concerts in parks on summer evenings. Food trucks usually serve up delicious picnic food, as well as community vendor booths. Get there early to get a good spot on the lawn! 

4. Go to the beach

While the Bay Area fog makes it a bit cold to get in the water, there are plenty of opportunities to build sand castles, look for sea glass, and collect beautiful shells. 

5. Visit a new park or playground

Visit an all-abilities park like Magical Bridge in Palo Alto or Redwood City, or the very popular Dolores Park in San Francisco for a new adventure of sun and fun. Magical Bridge Playground often hosts free kids' activities and classes

RELATED: Visiting Golden Gate Park with Kids: Everything You Need To Know

Free things to do in San Francisco this summer with kids: Sunday Streets San Francisco 
Sunday Funday at Streets SF. Photo by Yong Chau

6. Dance in the street at Sunday Streets SF

The streets are blocked, and families can roam freely for a night of celebrating community with live music, kids' activities, and food trucks. Locations vary week-to-week throughout San Francisco. 

7. Go on a family hike

Whether your family regularly hikes, or you're looking for something stroller-friendly and short (to make it back before nap time), we've got a list of our favorite family-friendly trails to get you out and about. 

8. Check out the tide pools

This one requires some planning, but if you venture out to the tide pools at low tide, kids can spot colorful sea urchins, starfish, and other marine life up close. We love Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach for easy parking.  

9. Go on a bike ride

Bike across the Golde Gate Bridge, or take one of the less busy and picturesque bike trails around the Bay Area. 

10. Help the planet at a beach clean-up

Pick up trash at a local beach and teach the kids about helping the planet to create a cleaner, safer, and friendlier place to call home. Don't forget the gloves and bags!

11. Visit a museum on free admission days

Enjoy one of the many Bay Area museums on free admission day, including SFMOMA, OMCA, Asian Art Museum, and Bay Area Discovery Museum. 

12. Have a picnic on the beach

An easy activity for the family on a warm day is a picnic breakfast or lunch while listening to the waves crash and letting kids play in the sand. 

13. See the 4th of July fireworks

Fireworks shows are plentiful in the summer, and almost all are free to attend. Enjoy the tradition with the family at ones in Redwood CityLeo J Park in Foster City, Fisherman's Wharf, and tons more throughout the Bay Area that you'll discover in our calendar.  

RELATED: Ultimate San Francisco Kids Summer Vacation Guide

Free Things To Do in San Francisco This Summer With Kids: Stern Grove Music Festival 
Boogie with the beat. Photo courtesy of the Stern Grove Festival

14. Hear live music at the Stern Grove Festival

An impressive lineup of free summer music with activities for the kiddos will be a delightful evening for everyone.  

15. Wave to the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf

Often found lounging around, these adorable sea animals are a popular attraction for tourists and locals of all ages. 

16. Pick fresh fruit at a U-Pick Berry Farm

It's berry season, which means farms open their fields for families to pick their own cherries, blueberries, and strawberries. Let the pie-making begin! 

17. Learn about marine life at Marine Science Sundays

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito is a hospital and visitor center for marine mammals found along the California Coast. 

18. Explore Tilden Park

Kids love exploring this park, with open space to run and play, a merry-go-round, and a little farm where you can see and pet animals like goats, chickens, and pigs. 

19. Go camping on the beach

There are a ton of beaches to choose from that are perfect for camping all over Northern California. Pack a tent and supplies, and fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves.

20. Visit a national park

Take a trip to Yosemite, Sequoia, or Lassen Volcanic National Park and spend the day admiring the natural beauty. While there is a fee per car, there are fee-free days and free entry for fourth-grade students. 

RELATED: Yosemite: Plan a Fun, Kid-Friendly Getaway to California's Favorite National Park 

Photo courtesy of the Presidio Tunnel Tops

21. Play at the Tunnel Tops in the Presidio

This picturesque playground with amazing views of the Bay has become a favorite for many families. Recurring events like Park Ranger Campfire Talks, Amateur Astronomers' Star Parties, as well as special events, happen year-round. 

22. Visit a local farm and meet the animals

Tilden Little Farm in Berkeley and Hidden Villa in Los Altos are working farms and are free to visit. Families can walk the grounds, see the animals, and learn all about what it's like working on a farm. 

23. Hike to Kirby Cove

This 1.8-mile hike offers the most beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skylines. Pack a picnic and go during sunrise or sunset for the best views.

24. Spend the day at Golden Gate Park

There are so many things to do at Golden Gate Park with kids, and it's easy to spend the entire day in this iconic spot. 

25. Explore McLaren Bike Park

Bring the bikes and helmets to San Francisco's half-acre bike park. It includes a Pump Zone with dirt mounds and turns, a skills trail, and a spot for little ones to practice.

26. Go on a free SF tour with SF City Guides

Be a tourist in your own city and learn something new. These walking tours are held all over San Francisco and are great for families of all ages and abilities. 

RELATED: The Stunning Redwood Sky Walk: Take Your Family to the Treetops

Free things to do in San Francisco this summer with kids: Adventure Playground in Berkeley 
Build-your-own fun. Adventure Playground in Berkeley, photo by Teddy Cross via Flickr

27. Get creative at Adventure Playground 

This unique outdoor playground in Berkeley lets kids build and decorate their own play structures with saws, hammers, nails, and paint. It's best suited for older kids. 

28. Become a Junior Ranger 

Kids can become Junior Rangers at NPS national historic sites like Fort Point, Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, and Alcatraz Island. Read the booklet, take an oath, and get a badge! National Parks have this program too. 

29. Look for hidden fairy houses

Take little Tinker Bells on a fairy house hunt all over the Bay Area. Alameda Island and Golden Gate Park have hidden fairy houses scattered throughout, so bring some pixie dust!

30. Explore the Batteries

Head over to the Marin Headlands and check out the Battery Yates and Battery Cavallo. History buffs can get a free history lesson and learn something new. 

31. Spend the morning at the Ferry Building

Visit the diverse and expansive farmers market, shop for local goods, and grab some lunch at the many popular San Francisco restaurants while overlooking the Bay.

32. Spend the morning at the Habitot Mobile Museum

Little ones five and under and caregivers can check out the Habitot Mobile Museum and engage in fun, STEM-focused activities and play, all for free. Locations vary, and reservations are highly encouraged as spots fill up. 

33. Shop local at the farmer's market

Support local farmers and visit one of the many farmer's markets around the Bay Area. Summer is the peak season for berries, tomatoes, summer squash, and more. 

34. Visit a garden

Check out the Japanese Tea Garden for free on select mornings or a Second Saturday at Gamble Garden in Palo Alto. 

RELATED: Ultimate Summer Bucket List: 100 Free Outdoor Games and Activities for Kids

Free things to do in san francisco this summer with kids: flower piano  
Soak in the sounds. Flower Piano photo by Travis Lange, courtesy of the SF Botanical Gardens

35. Hear music at Flower Piano

Enjoy a concert al fresco at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. Anyone can take a turn at the piano in the middle of nature. 

36. See a circus in the park

Circus Bella's one-ring outdoor circus hosts free shows this summer at various parks throughout San Francisco and Oakland. 

37. Dip into a swimming hole

Many swimming holes along the coast offer families a chance to cool off for free and tend to be hidden gems that avoid big crowds. 

38. Family date night at Off The Grid

Off The Grid has food trucks in Fort Mason Center (among other locations) where families can eat al fresco. 

39. Take a class at the Randall Museum

This science, nature, and art center is free to attend and even hosts animal presentations. Special programs like Afternoon Art and Saturday Science drop-in classes are also available for a nominal fee. 

40. See fortune cookies made in Chinatown

Visit one of the oldest shops in Chinatown and see fortune cookies made right before your eyes. Then do some window shopping and take in all the culture. 

41. Look up at Chabot Space and Science Center

The Chabot hosts free telescope viewings. Astronomers offer expertise and help you find constellations up in the sky. 

42. Catch a wave at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

There are so many things to do at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk aside from the arcade. Play on the beach, go surfing and catch some waves, or take a leisurely walk in the sunshine. In the summer, there are free movies on the beach

RELATED: 30 Fun Things To Do in Santa Cruz with Kids 

Free things to do in san francisco this summer with kids: Toddler Tuesdays at Salesforce Park 
Tuesdays are all about the tots. Photo courtesy of Transbay Joint Powers Authority 

43. Head over to Salesforce Park

The public rooftop open park has a beautiful garden and children's play area. It also has weekly family events like family storytime, Toddler Tuesday, and Friday Funday

44. Jam to a Golden Gate Bandshell Concert

Hear live music with rotating genres like singer/songwriter, reggae, jazz, rock, and R&B for free. The setting is beautiful, and families can hang out early with a picnic dinner before the show. 

45. Shop at HEAD WEST Market

Do some shopping, hear live music, and enjoy the warm sunshine at one of the HEAD WEST Marketplace events at the Ferry Building, Berkeley, Sebastopol, Alameda, and Los Altos. 

46. Hang out at Yerba Buenas Gardens

There's always something happening in the summertime at Yerba Buenas Gardens. Don't miss their much-loved annual festival.  

47. Take a family day trip

See where the day takes you with one of these day trip ideas, all just a short drive away. 

48. Go for a nature walk

Enjoy free nature walks in small groups where families can learn about the natural world with a nature expert. Best for kids 6-12 with locations in Los Altos and Palo Alto. 

49. See the murals in Balmy Alley

See a ton of artistic murals in this Mission spot that is constantly changing with new and updated art. 

50. Check out a local public library

With events and easy activities for babies up to teens and adults, the library is not only for checking out books but for free activities ranging from art, science, and music.  

51. Slide down a neighborhood slide

Seward Slides in the Castro and Esmeralda Slide Park in Bernal Heights offer kids and adults a chance to get a thrill on these legendary metal slides. Don't forget the cardboard! 


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