They’d been hearing the bell clang, watching it go up and down those hilly streets and even learning about how they worked on our private walking tour (more on that down below).
We took the cable car to extreme thrill levels by letting the girls stand on the side – is there any other way to ride a cable car in San Francisco?
I was freaking out a little but trusted they were responsible enough to hold on tight and not fall off. You’d have to be monkeying around a lot to come off.
I enjoyed riding inside the cable car watching the driver work the brakes, the lever and the bell, and then spent the last five minutes off the side once a space opened up.
Our kids think the cable car was one of the most fun things to do in San Francisco with kids.
Lines for the cable car can be long. Time it for first thing in the morning.
The Powell-Hyde line tends to be less busy than the other lines. We jumped on just near Ghirardelli Square in Fisherman’s’ Wharf and lined up for about 30 minutes.
The cable car is expensive at $7 a ride so be sure that you go from one end to the other and make the ride about the journey rather than getting around San Francisco.
We had a 3 day MUNI pass on our City Pass that covered it. The San Francisco Sightseeing Pass now includes a 1 day Muni passport which includes cable car rides! (see more on this down below).
And if you’re really into this, check out the Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill.
Stay on the Right Side of the Cells at Alcatraz
Fun or scary? Let your kids decide.
No matter which they choose, I’m sure fascination will be a part of their Alcatraz experience – as well a commitment to stay on the right side of the law.
We believe Alcatraz Island is one of the best things to do in San Francisco and was surprised by how much Kalyra (our 11 year old) enjoyed it – both our kids had curious questions after it.
They were both interested to learn more about what really happened to the two escapees when our friend told us the next day. They’ve recently discovered they did in fact escape successfully and made it to somewhere in South America.
They also couldn’t get over that the warden and guards children lived on the island (and loved it) and there was NO WAY they’d ever do that with prisoners right next to you.
Walking into those prison cells and feeling what the prisoners would have experienced was quite unnerving and Savannah (our 7 year old) was understandably a little freaked out.
Alcatraz Audio Tour
The Alcatraz audio tour is exceptional.
They have managed to create an authentic experience with real sounds in the background, like clanging cell doors and footsteps as former inmates and guards recant stories and explain what life was like on Alcatraz.
Conditions would have been brutal with the wind cooing off the chilly water. But I guess, on a fog free day, they would have had good views at least.
I love experiences that have my children talking about it for days after it. You know they gained something important from it then.
Alcatraz is one of the most popular things to do in the bay area so book your tickets online in advance here. You can also check out various package tours that include Alcatraz by clicking here.
Sea Lions at Pier 39
We’ve seen so many sea lions before, including swimming with them in South Australia, that the girls weren’t super excited about the sea lions of San Francisco.
As I find these animals so cute, playful and funny I enjoyed watching them bark, wrestle, sleep and swim in the waters just off Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf.
They have taken over several of the docks here. And if you are not experienced with seeing sea lions in the wild, add this to your list of best things to do in San Francisco with kids.
Other things to consider doing at Pier 39 that your kids might love:
- 7D Flyer
- Mirror Maze
The Pier is full of those touristy kitschy things. We didn’t hang around for too long, but we did those activities as it was included on our Sightseeing Pass didn’t cost us any extra and the girls really loved it.