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One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

Columbus, Ohio
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One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

My 5 year old and I are going to be staying in San Jose for a week with friends and want to visit San Francisco this Friday (9/13). What is the best use of our time both in how to get to the city and what to do in the city?

I was thinking of driving into Fisherman's Wharf getting there around 9:30am. I would park in a garage (which is the best value?) and then we would do a ferry tour or something, have lunch, do [something] in the afternoon and head back to San Jose 3:30 or 4:00pm and try to beat the evening rush.

Thoughts? Should we drive to SFO and take the BART in? What would be a good use of 5-6 hours in city with a 5 year old?

I should add that I'm willing to spend money for efficiency so the cost of parking doesn't bother me, but if there is a better way I'm all ears.

Thanks.

Edited: 4:49 pm, September 09, 2013
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1. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

Don't bother with the wharf, there's nothing there a 5yo would enjoy enough to make the extra time, traffic, parking costs, etc. worth it. Come into Golden Gate Park; there's a nice convenient & not-too-pricey garage under the music concourse, or free 4-hour parking on the streets. First stop is the Academy of Sciences -- purchase & print tickets online to avoid lines, then hit the rainforest first, you'll exit into the aquarium, be sure to visit coral reef & the touch pool, and Claude the white alligator on your way back upstairs. If she's brave, take her into the earthquake house, my kids love it! Pack a picnic and take it out on the West Garden patio, or go out front onto the Music Concourse, there's usually always someone playing an instrument or singing in the Concert Shell. (Alternate option is to check out the local cuisine along 9th Avenue, Irving, and Judah, but factor in time to walk or find new parking both ways.) After lunch, back in to visit the "Built for Speed" exhibit and the penguins. Then head across to the DeYoung Museum, but don't pay for tickets, just go up in the tower for an incredible 360 view from 10 stories up, it's free! Hop back into the car to Stow Lake and rent a paddle boat. And if you still have some free time, hit the Mothers Meadow playground which is on MLK Drive between Stow Lake and 19th Avenue/Highway 1. (It's #16 on the map linked below.)

If you're on a budget, then you'll have to skip the Academy. The Japanese Tea Garden is free if you get in before 10am, and then hit the DeYoung tower, check out the flower gardens at the Conservatory, then the BIG playground (#16 on the map below) and Carousel ($1 for her if she's old enough to ride alone, or $2 if you have to accompany her.) Take a walk around Stow Lake, visit the Bison Paddock, and see if anyone is running model boats on Spreckels Lake. Finally, check out the windmills & tulip garden at the west end of the park, and maybe spend a few (probably cold, LOL!) minutes at the beach. Hit Park Chalet for happy hour (3-6pm) and you can sit outside if it's nice & let her burn off that last bit of steam playing on the grass before getting back in the car for the ride home. Have fun!!!

http://www.golden-gate-park.com/map.html

Edited: 5:42 pm, September 09, 2013
San Francisco...
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2. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

you can search the posts, someone in the past day also wanted to find out about parking for this fri. you can see the information there and about the parking.

San Francisco...
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3. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

Humm.

The places I would take a 5 year old and we've done this with visitors with young kids and did this with our kids but not all on the same day. A short bay ride (over an hour and most kids that age may get bored) and you can look at goldstar.com for deals on bay rides, I would then spend some time at Pier 39 and then go to In N Out for burgers and top it off with a hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli (well to share) and then do a cable car ride with the kid. If you are still in the mood, I would take the kid to stow lake in Golden Gate park and also let the kid run around. There is a merry-go-round there that is fun.

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4. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

someone will have to get back to you regarding rush hour. i haven't done it in a long time. but if you leave by 2pm you might be getting into rush hour from maybe from san mateo downwards. don't know if you qualify for carpool. you may want to go on something like traffic or google maps and check during rush hour to see how long it will take you. an alternative to less traffic would be 280 until you get south.

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5. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

280 would be a nicer and less packed freeway until 4.30 pm and between 4.30 pm and around 7pm there will be traffic in the San Jose area and while carpool lane may help, getting to that carpool lane in spots may be packed as the carpool lane is in Santa Clara county and not in SF or San Mateo Counties.

San Francisco
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6. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

Is your child a girl or a boy? Do they have any significant interests or thing they don't like?

While I love GG Park, IMO spending the whole day there will feel like you didn't really get to SF.

I agree with belo that the Bay Cruises can get a bit boring for younger kids. Even when I was 8-9 I was ready for the thing to be over about half way through.

I'd include the Exploratorium, a ride on the F-Market & Wharves historic trolley, ride a cable car, take in Chinatown, perhaps the Musee Mecanique and, of course, the sea lions at Pier 39.

My alternative is renting a Go Car. gocartours.com/our-tour-cities/san-francisco/

Rush hour on Friday starts relatively early. Definitely take I280 out of town (or Highway 101 to I380W -> I280S). Traffic is generally much more manageable than 101.

Another option is to park at a BART station like Daly City and take BART into town. Think of all the public transit you can take your child on!! BART, trolley, cable car. (My niece and nephew are grown but don't live in the city and they're like little kids on buses. It's just not something they experience and they're wowed by it.)

Edited: 7:07 pm, September 09, 2013
Sacramento, CA
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7. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

I would also throw the Carousel and playground at Yerba Buena Gardens in the mix.

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8. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60713-s510/San-Franc…

tripadvisor.com/Travel_Guide-g60713-San_Fran…

Both found on the right side of the Forum Screen that says "Top questions about San Francisco"

9. Re: One weekday in San Francisco with a 5 year old

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