What's Fun for Kids in San Francisco

Top spots for families in this bustling city by the bay.
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1. Science Magic
Kids love to check themselves out in an anti-gravity mirror, test their depth perception, and walk into a human kaleidoscope at the Exploratorium, San Francisco's renowned 400-exhibit science museum, housed in the city's stunning Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon Street. Closed Monday; 415-563-7337; www.exploratorium.edu

2. New Zoo
See an African Savanna filled with wildlife at the renovated San Francisco Zoo, just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean. At the children's zoo, kids can groom livestock in a farm exhibit and crawl into a prairie dog burrow, then lunch at the Leaping Lemur Cafe. Be sure to ride the charming wooden carousel, hand-carved in 1921. Corner of Sloat Boulevard and 47th Avenue; 415-753-7080; www.sfzoo.org

3. Water World
At Pier 39's Aquarium of the Bay, a mind-blowing 300-foot underwater tunnel is surrounded by sharks, eels, and octopuses -- which are almost as mesmerizing as the hundreds of hilarious sea lions that spend the day sunning themselves on the Pier 39 docks. The Embarcadero at Beach Street; 415-623-5300; www.pier39.com

4. Hands-On-Adventures
Kids can ice-skate or bowl at Yerba Buena Gardens in the artsy South of Market District. They'll also want to explore Zeum, an art and technology museum. Ice-skating and bowling: 415-820-3525; www.zeum.org

5. Fantastic Food
Munch your way through the newly renovated Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street on the Embarcadero, which boasts a Who's Who of Bay Area food vendors, from Acme Bread to Scharffen Berger chocolate. Head to LuLu Petite for sandwiches, grab a waterfront table, and watch the ferries. >www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com

6. Bayside Walk
One of the city's prettiest -- and most stroller-friendly -- walks is right on San Francisco Bay. Start at Fort Mason, home of a performing arts center (Buchanan Street and Marina Boulevard), and go west toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Stop for orange juice at the Warming Hut cafe and bookstore at the far west end of Crissy Field.

7. Island Hop
Angel Island, the largest island in the bay, offers great hiking, biking, and strolling. With a tiny beach and 13 miles of trails and paved roads, the island has breathtaking views of Marin County, the city, and the East Bay. Ferries leave from Pier 41, on the Embarcadero at Powell Street. 415-773-1188; www.blueandgoldfleet.com

8. Game Day
Catch a Giants game at SBC (formerly Pacific Bell) Park. During baseball season, your little one can play in the park's Coca Cola Fan Lot, which has a mini field and speed-pitch machine. After Sunday games, kids can run the bases for real. sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com

9. Asian Studies
Step through the Dragon Gate for a visit to the biggest, most bustling Chinatown in the U.S., where kids can browse for chopsticks and sweets on Grant Avenue. For a fabulous meal, try the tiny House of Nanking at 919 Kearny Street, but go early to avoid lines. 415-421-1429

10. Sunset Supper
After a ride on the 1912 carousel in Golden Gate Park's inviting playground, soak up a Pacific sunset at the Beach Chalet, an oceanfront restaurant that's a favorite among San Francisco families. 1000 Great Highway; 415-386-8439; www.beachchalet.com

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Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the March 2004 issue of Child magazine.

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