Fisherman's Wharf with Kids in San Francisco: 24 Best Things To Do

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf is packed with things to do for kids of all ages. Photo by xiquinhosilva, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf is packed with things to do for kids of all ages. Photo by xiquinhosilva, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
4/14/24 - By Nicole Findlay

Fisherman's Wharf is one of the most family-friendly places in San Francisco. Bordered by the iconic Pier 39 to the east and the famous Ghirardelli Square to the west, parents and kids alike will love fun live performances, cute sea lions, antique arcade games, rides, quirky shops, and, of course, the Ghirardelli chocolate. 

An afternoon exploring Fisherman's Wharf is the perfect escape for adventurous families. Another benefit of spending the afternoon at Fisherman's Wharf with kids? The spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. 

For more popular attractions in San Francisco, check out everything you need to know about visiting Golden Gate Park with kids, read our guide on riding San Francisco cable cars with kids, and enjoy tons of budget-friendly activities with our Free Things To Do in San Francisco with Kids Guide


Things To Do at Fisherman's Wharf with Kids

Fisherman's Wharf with kids in San Francisco: Pier 39 
Pier 39 is chock full of entertainment. Photo by xiquinhosilva, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

1. Pier 39

This fun-filled wooden pier darts out over the water. While strolling, you'll whiff the delicious scent of fresh fish, hear the music from colorful attractions, and treasure the views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from the end of the pier.

Pier 39 is one of the busiest spots in San Francisco for a reason. It has over 90 shops, 12 full-service restaurants, free daily performances, a bungee trampoline, a multi-level carousel, San Francisco-themed escape rooms, a 7D Experience, and much more!

Pier 39 is also home to many unique shops, like one that sells countless different types of socks and another that sells Christmas decorations year-round. Plus, there's a Build-a-Bear, which will make most kids squeal with delight. 

2. Aquarium of the Bay

Located at the entrance to Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay lets guests peek into the fascinating underwater world of the San Francisco Bay. The aquarium is home to over 24,000 animals. While you can't expect to see them all in one afternoon, some highlights will likely be the sharks, baby bat rays, and octopuses.

3. Sea Lions

Before leaving Pier 39, say hello to San Francisco's beloved sea lions. This free attraction is at the far west corner of Pier 39. You'll likely hear the mammals before you see them. Want to take a sneak peek? Check out the Sea Lion Live Webcam.

RELATED: 3 Days in San Francisco with Kids: Ultimate Itinerary by a Local Mom 

Fisherman's Wharf with kids in San Francisco: Musee Mecanique 
Retro arcade games at Musee Mecanique will provide an afternoon of fun. Photo by Gina Ragland 

4. Musee Mecanique

Tucked away on Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf, families will find one of San Francisco's best-kept secrets: Musee Mecanique. Stepping inside the retro arcade is like stepping back in time. Expect to spot turn-of-the-century music boxes, vintage coin-operated fortune tellers, pinball machines and old favorite arcade games like Pac-Man. 

Parents might enjoy this arcade every bit as much as their kiddos. Musee Mecanique is one of the best free things to do in San Francisco with kids. Just be ready to have spare some change per arcade game.  

5. San Francisco Cable Cars

Cable cars are an excellent mode of transportation when visiting Fisherman's Wharf. They're also simply a lot of fun to ride. The Powell/Mason line stops at Taylor and Bay Streets, and the Powell/Hyde line stops at Hyde and Beach Streets. Hop on a San Francisco cable car for a fun trip to see more notable San Francisco sites before heading back to Fisherman's Wharf. 

6. Skystar Wheel 

Climb aboard your own enclosed six-person private gondola for some of the best views of the San Francisco Bay. The wheel travels 150 feet up and around for an entire 12 minutes. The one million LED lights will fascinate kiddos long after their ride ends. 

7. Madame Tussauds 

Sitting in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, this famous wax figure museum will entertain and impress the entire family. Get up and personal with life-like wax celebrities. Seriously, they look so real you'll start to question if they are! Maybe snap a few photos and fool your friends back home.

8. Subpar Mini-Golf 

Subpar Mini-Golf is a fun indoor course featuring famous San Francisco landmarks like Lombard Street, Alcatraz, and the Painted Ladies. Aim for a hole-in-one while twisting and turning through the entire 18-hole course. 

9. Cartoon Art Museum 

This museum celebrates the art of cartoons, comics, and animation through its extensive collection of exhibits and workshops. From classic comic strips to contemporary animation, the museum offers a vibrant and engaging experience for visitors of all ages to explore the world of cartoon art. Look out for special family programming, too. 

10. Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze

Wind your way through this immersive attraction in Fisherman's Wharf, which will captivate visitors with its dazzling array of mirrors and optical illusions. Navigate through its labyrinth of reflections for a surreal experience for adventurers of all ages.

11. Umbrella Alley 

Stroll through this whimsical alleyway, enjoying the vibrant display of street art with colorful umbrellas suspended overhead. Snap those Instagram videos and record TikTok videos against the beautiful backdrops. 

12. San Francisco Bay Cruises 

San Francisco Bay cruises departing from Fisherman's Wharf offer an unforgettable way to see the city's landmarks from the water. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz Island, these cruises provide panoramic views and insightful narration, making them a must-do activity for visitors exploring Fisherman's Wharf. 

The Blue & Gold Fleet has an array of affordable tours and ferries, including an Escape From The Rock 90-minute tour about Alcatraz escape attempts. Speaking of Alcatraz, City Cruises will take you there from Pier 33.  

13. Ripley's Believe It Or Not! 

This fascinating museum features bizarre artifacts and interactive exhibits from around the world. Marvel at strange and unusual displays, including shrunken heads and optical illusions, making it an intriguing destination for those seeking the extraordinary. 

14. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park 

Part of the National Park Service, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park serves as a maritime treasure trove, preserving and celebrating the seafaring history of San Francisco Bay and beyond. Visitors can explore historic ships, participate in a Junior Ranger program, talk to boatbuilders, explore exhibits in the Maritime Museum, and enjoy the charming Aquatic Park Historic District. 

15. Ghirardelli Square

Everyone's likely heard of Ghirardelli chocolate. Well, Ghirardelli Square is where it all started. Nestled on the waterfront at the far end of Fisherman's Wharf, this sweet spot will not disappoint! Try the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop at the end of a fun-filled day exploring Fisherman's Wharf. 

Ghirardelli Square also often has family-friendly events, which you can find in our calendar

RELATED: 100 Fun Free Things To Do in San Francisco with Kids 

Fisherman's Wharf with kids in San Francisco: Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39 
Find endless things to do at Fisherman's Wharf. Photo by Nicole Findlay for Mommy Poppins

Where To Eat at Fisherman's Wharf with Kids

Fisherman's Wharf is loaded with fantastic, family-friendly restaurants. 

16. Boudin Bakery

One of the most famous restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf, Boudin Bakery, is the place to go for clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Plus, they bake bread in cute shapes, like turtles and alligators. Climb to the second floor to see the bakers at work through the observation window. 

17. In-N-Out Burger

Need a quick, inexpensive meal the entire family will love? You can't go wrong with a burger and fries from In-N-Out. Located in the middle of Fisherman's Wharf, this classic burger chain is super convenient and the only location in the city of San Francisco. 

18. Fog Harbor Fish House

This restaurant has been serving up fresh, sustainable seafood for 20 years. It's a San Francisco staple, perfect for celebrating a birthday or a family special occasion. Plus, it also has a kid's menu. 

19. San Francisco Brewing Co.

A favorite family-friendly restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf that offers San Francisco-inspired pub fare. It's lively and has the bonus of an enticing beer garden with fire pits. 

20. Lappert's Ice Cream

Handmade ice cream, milkshakes, and sundaes —what more could you want? Grab a cone and wander down Pier 39 to admire the views. 

21. Artly Coffee

Kiddos will be mesmerized when seeing their parents' coffee made by robots. Barista bots were trained with AI to brew and serve a cup of joe with cutting-edge technology. 

Where To Stay in Fisherman's Wharf 

22. Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf

This contemporary hotel offers spacious rooms with modern amenities and a welcoming atmosphere for families. Guests can enjoy the outdoor heated pool, on-site dining options, and convenient access to nearby attractions such as Pier 39 and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. 

23. Hotel Caza 

Expect features like family suites, an outdoor pool, and complimentary breakfast. Hotel Caza provides a comfortable and convenient base for families exploring the nearby attractions of San Francisco's waterfront.

24. Hotel Zephyr 

Situated along the waterfront, Hotel Zephyr features uniquely decorated rooms with modern amenities and vibrant, maritime-inspired decor. Families can enjoy the hotel's outdoor courtyard with fire pits, games, and picnic tables, as well as its central location near Fisherman's Wharf attractions. 

RELATED: Guide To Riding San Francisco Cable Cars with Kids: Everything You Need To Know

Fisherman's Wharf with Kids in San Francisco: SF Cable Cars 
Hop on and off cable cars at Fisherman's Wharf. Photo by Industrial Wales, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Getting To Fisherman's Wharf  

It's easy to get to Fisherman's Wharf. From downtown San Francisco, take the F-line streetcar. Hop on at the San Francisco Ferry Building and ride it to Fisherman's Wharf. 

Families can also ride the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf. Two lines run from Powell and Market to the Fisherman Wharf area. The Powell-Hyde line takes you to Hyde and Beach Streets near the Aquatic Park and Ghirardelli Square. The Powell-Mason line lands on Taylor and Bay Streets in the middle of Fisherman's Wharf.

Driving to Fisherman's Wharf is another option. However, the area gets very busy. Street parking will likely be hard to find, and parking garages are expensive. Arrive early to make sure you get a spot.  

Know Before You Go

  • If you want Fisherman's Wharf to yourself, or at least with minimal crowds, arrive early. Also, weekdays are less busy than weekends. 
  • The foggy wharf can be very chilly, even when the sun is shining. Bring layers. If you forget, there are plenty of souvenir shops to pick up matching hoodies for the entire family. 
  • If you drive to Fisherman's Wharf, don't leave valuables in the car. Leave luggage or important items at the hotel. If you find street parking, pay attention to street signs to avoid tickets. 

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