Jan 24th
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San Francisco - 10 Free Activities!

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Family Adventure in and around San Francisco - and it's all FREE!

Why do 16 million people visit San Francisco each year?  It’s not only because San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it offers many activities for families – and many of thoseSan Francisco's cable car, still operating since the 1800s. activities and events are Free!  Where else can you see California sea lions up-close, watch the making of jellybeans and learn the history behind San Francisco’s most famous icon, the cable car?



Since there is so much to see and do about the city, I recommend staying in the city. One of our two favorite hotels is the Hilton San Francisco (750 Kearny Street, San Francisco, 415-433-6600) centrally located in the Financial District, next to Chinatown, North Beach and blocks from The Embarcadero.  Across the street is a children’s park with two playground areas in Portsmouth Square.  Many of the rooms offer two comfortable full size beds and a lounge sleeper for small children.  Ask for a room on the side with the odd numbered rooms for views of Coit Tower, Alcatraz Island, and the East Bay.

Our other favorite hotel is the Hyatt Regency (5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, 415-788-1234), which is the largest waterfront hotel in San Francisco.  On Hotwire we were able to secure a room for $99 a night.  The Hyatt is located across from the Ferry Building and next to one of the Cable Car stops, and is close to many San Francisco sights.

 Katie poses at the entrance of China Town

Chinese Cultural Center

The Chinese Cultural Center is located on the third floor of the Hilton hotel. This museum displays a Chinese puzzles exhibit that was great entertainment for my girls.  In China, puzzles have challenged the minds of young and old for centuries.  The Center cultivates an appreciation of the Chinese people and their contributions to America’s art, history, and culture.




The EmbarcaderoThe Vaillancourt Fountain, where families will be mesmerized by the catapulting water.

Walk through the coolest water/artwork in San Francisco. The Vaillancourt Fountain, built in 1971 by a French Canadian sculptor, Francois Vailancourt, releases thousands of gallons of recycled water from its sculptured viaducts.  All ages enjoy the thrill of stepping on the path of Children love the water fountains at Vaillancourt.large stones through the roaring water and climbing the mteal stairs up to a second story gangplank.


The Ferry Building

Samples of the most delicious cheeses, gourmet mustards, flavored olive oils, and delicious breads are for sale inside this landmark building at 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco. It's a great place to pick up picnic items for lunch and sit outside viewing San Francisco’s Bay and Bay Bridge. Get a freshly baked French baguette for under $2 and a hunk of cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery. Many of the shops and restaurants close their doors around dinnertime, so come early in the day. Outside, on a local Farmer’s Market day, you’ll finOur girls loved the farmers market outside of the Ferry Building.d booths of fresh fruit and vegetables to sample.



TCHO Chocolate

Stroll along the pier promenade  to Fisherman’s Village and stop for samples of delicious chocolates at Pier 17.  The TCHO allows you to sample their “Fruity” and “Nutty” tasting chocolates.  I enjoyed the macadamias drenched in dark chocolate.  If you wish to buy some delicious treats, the little square bars are only $1.


Pier 39

Walk or take the streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf and stroll out to the end of Pier 39 to see hundreds of Sea Lions sleeping on wooden docks and swimming about the harbor in their own private sanctuary.  They arrived in 1990 after the 1989 earthquake and have stayed.  Sometimes in the winter months there are as many as 900 of these playful pinnipeds.


Musee Mecanique

Nearby at Pier 45, at the foot of Taylor Street, is a favorite spot for families. Inside is a collection of over 300 mechanically operated musical machines, antique slot and arcade machines, orchestrations and animations. It’s the largest private collection. “Laffing Sal” greets visitors with her boisterous and jolly laugh.  This collection used to be displayed in the lower level of the Cliff House until 2002.  Today, it’s located in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf.  It’s free to enter, but bring some quarters for your kids to watch “Susie the Can-Can Dancer” or arm wrestle a mechanical man.  It’s a trip down memory lane that everyone will enjoy.


Ghiradelli Square

Inside the Ghiradelli ice cream store at 900 N. Point Street, is the original chocolate-making machine.  Pick up your ticket for a free chocolate at the Visitors Center.


Eric and Lizzy, with views of Coit Tower, Alcatraz, the SF Bay, Pacific Heights and Marin CountyLevi Strauss Museum

Levi Strauss came to San Francisco in 1860 to make blue work pants for the gold miners. The small museum offers a walking tour, which include a video and the original designs of clothing made from the late 1800s to 2009.  The nearby park is a perfect place for a picnic and for the kids to run off some energy. 250 Valencia Street (near Duboce), San Francisco.


Jelly Belly Factory Tour

Located about one hour from San Francisco in Fairfield, is a free candy factory tour. Jelly Belly Factory is worth the drive and once you step into the brightly colored factory, your senses will be bedazzled as you see and smell chocolate, jelly beans, taffy and gummy creatures being made before your eyes.  Every guest receives a jelly belly paper hat before taking the 40-minute tour.  Your picture is taken next to the jelly belly mascot, a $20 memento.  Instead, we took the tour of the working factory and learned how these sweet creations are made daily.  Afterwards, guests receive a bag of jellybeans filled with assorted flavors.  There is a café and gift shop. The factory tour starts at the Jelly Belly Candy Company. One Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, CA.


Cable Car Museum

The viewing area of winding wheels, engines, large sheaves and cable lines entering the building One of three cable carl lines that operate in San Francisco.through a channel under the street will fascinate kids and adults alike. Located in the historiccable barn at Washington/Mason (1201 Mason Street), the Cable Car Museum showcases 3 cable cars from the 1870s.  Currently operating are the Powell/Hyde and Powell/Mason lines (these two lines stop at the museum) and the California line. Riding a cable car is under $5 a ticket, however the museum admission is free.  Open from 10 am to 6 pm in high season.


Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory

In Petaluma, just 40 miles north of San Francisco, is a scrapbook hobbyist dream come true.  Families can tour a sticker factory to learn how stickers are printed, packaged, and shipped.  Visitors receive stickers and can participate in a fun sticker craft.  This dog-friendly company allows employees to bring their four legged friends, so be prepared to see many of man’s best friends. Reservations are required by calling (800) 429-4549.  Tours are available Monday – Friday.  3810 Cypress Drive, Petaluma, CA.

 San Francisco  is a city full of activities and events for families of all ages. Tony Bennett “left his heart” in San Francisco, and chances are that you will too.

More Information:

San Francisco Tourism:


~ Jill Weinlein


Where is Lizzy?

Lizzy relaxes in a hammock at one of the more popular tropical resorts. Where is she?
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