With its combination of inviting open space, charming historic buildings, and connection to the water, the Presidio welcomes millions of visitors every year. And with the range of recreational, historical, and cultural activities in this 1,500 acre playground, the question is where to begin. You’ll find the answers in the surprisingly kid-centric new Presidio Visitor Center, now open daily from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. next to the Transit Center in the Main Post.

img_8916

Photo: Sarah Ordody

Plan Your Presidio Adventure at the New Visitor Center
Whether your family’s interests run toward building sandcastles or exploring historic buildings, studying scaly creatures or scaling large walls, the Visitor Center’s staff (National Park Service and Presidio Trust) and interactive displays will show you where to go and how to get there. Adults will appreciate the prominent screen displaying the weather forecast, PresidiGo shuttle schedule, and a calendar of the day’s events. Kids will be drawn to the large-scale model of the Presidio and the many touch screens (all placed at a kid and wheelchair-friendly height) that provide information about the nature, history, and activities in the park. Keen eyes will also note the bars on the windows, a holdover from the building’s past as a military guardhouse and prison; inlaid wood lines on the floor show the original placement of the cells. They’ve also built in a few “Easter eggs” for littles to find: a ball, a toy, and a shoe that help tell the story of the four regions of the park. To the relief of parents, everything here can be touched.

presidio-visitor-center-sarah-ordody

Photo: Sarah Ordody

A One-Stop Shop
In addition to the usual local guide books and logo swag, the Visitor Center’s retail is very site-specific: soccer balls, kites, picnic supplies, cozy scarves (for those days when Karl the Fog sneaks up on you), and a curated selection of children’s books and toys. Retail items are sold by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, to benefit the park.

The ADA-accessible Visitor Center officially opened with a free community day celebration on Saturday, February 25th. Attendees were treated to an Ohlone welcome dance from the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, plus live music and dance performances.

Keep reading below for a snapshot of just some of the adventures you can get into in the Presidio. Ask your friendly ranger at the Visitor Center for more info!

William Penn Mott, Jr. Presidio Visitor Center
210 Lincoln Boulevard
San Francisco, Ca
415-561-4323
Online: presidio.gov

off-the-grid-photo-credit-charity-vargas

Photo: Charity Vargas

Ongoing Kid-Friendly Programs in the Presidio

Off the Grid Presidio Picnic
A delicious sign that spring is (almost) here, Off the Grid trucks will begin rolling into the Main Post on March 19th for the wildly popular Presidio Picnic. Bring your blankets, soccer balls, and empty bellies to the Main Parade Ground’s lush lawn for a low-key day with gorgeous views to the Bay. Happens every Sunday through October 8. Work off the fried chicken and totopos with a trail walk or other in-park adventure post-picnic. Pick up a maps and guides (as well as cozy scarves, blankets, frisbees, soccer balls, and more) at the new Presidio Visitor Center. Leaving the car at home? Use the PresidiGo shuttle (running every half hour to and from downtown) or Muni 43, which both stop at the Transit Center across the street. There’s also ample bike parking, and an Uber/Lyft/taxi drop-off zone.

Off the Grid Presidio Picnic
Main Parade Ground
San Francisco, Ca
415-561-4400
Online: offthegrid.com

creative-family-fun-photo-credit-presidio-trust

Photo: Presidio Trust

Free Family Craft Days
Housed in the city’s most historic building, the Officers’ Club is the Presidio’s social hub, with cozy gathering spaces, exhibits, live music, and a Mexican restaurant from Traci Des Jardins. The smell of glue and markers fills the air on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with projects that riff on the Presidio’s storied history and natural beauty. All materials, instruction and inspiration are provided. After your craft session, grab brunch (and a craft cocktail) on Arguello’s heated patio. Coming up in March, Keep your eye on the Officers’ Club event calendar for kid-friendly programs throughout the year, including a screening of Girl Rising on March 9, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Presidio Officers’ Club
50 Moraga Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-561-4400
Online: presidio.gov/officers-club

Stargazing Parties
Watch those twinkling ‘diamonds in the sky’ come down to earth for your little ones, when the SF Amateur Astronomers bring their telescopes (many handmade) to the Presidio’s Main Post lawn. They patiently point stargazers to the most interesting celestial beauties on view that night. This event happens throughout the year, with the next one on April 14 at 6 p.m. As you would expect, poor visibility cancels.

Main Post Parade Ground
Near Anza Blvd. and Sheridan Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: sfaa-astronomy.org

family-bike-parade-photo-credit-charity-vargas

Photo: Charity Vargas

Learn to Ride with YBike
The first Sunday of every month, the Presidio YMCA’s YBike team sets up a corral in the Main Post parking lot to teach all-comers of all ages how to ride in safely and style. That includes adults! They even supply the bikes. You just need to bring your grit and determination. They’ll be there in a drizzle, but not a downpour, so check their website for updates. (Note that there’s no event on March 5th; will take place at Visitor Center Community Day event.) Pairs nicely with the Off the Grid Presidio Picnic!

Presidio Main Post parking lot
Anza Blvd. at Owens St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-447-9622
Online: ybike.org

Trails and Overlooks
There are 24 miles of trails in the Presidio, from flat and paved to challenging stair climbs. If your family loves hikes with a view, check out the trails and scenic overlooks leading to and from the Golden Gate Bridge. The Battery East overlook has one of the best views of the iconic International Orange beauty, plus picnic spots and a trail leading down to Crissy Field. Heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge from here, you can connect to a new section of the Coastal Trail, passing under the bridge along the way (not recommended for the noise-sensitive). Several paved parking lots are stationed along Lincoln Boulevard to the south and east of the bridge.

Online: presidio.gov/trails

IMG_20151114_104853565

Photo: Sarah Ordody

Family Marine Science Workshops
The Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary outside the Golden Gate is home to a jaw-dropping array of sea life, including many endangered and threatened species. Learn all about it at the Sanctuary’s visitor center, housed in a historic Coast Guard station at the west end of Crissy Field. Two weekends a month, they host a family program in their hands-on classroom on the pier. You’ll feel like ocean scientists as you study live crabs or plankton, dissect a squid, and explore other wonders of the local waters.

Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center
991 Marine Drive
San Francisco, Ca
415-561-6622
Online: farallones.noaa.gov

Classic Films at Walt Disney Family Museum
When it’s raining cats and dogs, duck into the Walt Disney Family Museum to take in a classic Disney movie in their Fantasia-themed theatre. You won’t find popcorn for sale in the lobby, but you can grab a snack or sample Uncle Walt’s favorite chili in the museum cafe. Films are free with museum admission, or tickets can be purchased separately (as with the museum, kids 5 and under are free with adult admission). 101 Dalmatians will be featured in March. Older kids inspired by the films may want to check out their animation studio sessions, offered on Saturdays. Check the website for museum hours and film and studio session schedules.

Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery St. in the Presidio
San Francisco, Ca
415-345-6800
Online: waltdisney.org

IMG_6043

Photo: Sarah Ordody

Presidio Bowling Center
One of the few buildings in the park that’s still being used as the Army intended, the Presidio Bowling Center is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Family-friendly features include pop-up lane bumpers; tasty food from the grill, including guilty-pleasure faves like curly fries and mini corn dogs; classic arcade games; and an Internet-connected jukebox. In addition to the extensive beer list, adults have something more to smile about: an online reservation system. Have a birthday to plan? Ask about their party packages.

Presidio Bowling Center
93 Moraga Ave
San Francisco, Ca
415-561-2695
Online: presidiobowl.com

House of Air
Book some therapeutic jump time for the whole family in this historic airplane hangar, housing 8,000-square-feet of conjoined trampolines. Kids age 3 to 6 have their own dedicated space, with a staff of “air traffic controllers” to keep them entertained and safe. You can book a tandem jump session or grab a coffee and zone out to the rhythmic bouncing. To appease rumbling tummies, House of Snacks also serves lunch and healthy snacks.

House of Air
926 Old Mason St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-345-9675
Online: houseofair.com

 

Planet Granite San Francisco Photostory

 

Planet Granite
Planet Granite’s 45-foot climbing walls certainly put on a show through the ground-to-roof windows overlooking Crissy Field. If your kiddo has been eyeing the scene with interest, sign up for a parent/child belay lesson. You’ll learn how to work the ropes to have them safely scrambling up the wall in no time. Bonus for parents: on the 2nd and 4th Fridays every month, Planet Granite offers date night drop offs, so kids ages 6 to 13 can climb while you dine.

Planet Granite
924 Old Mason St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-692-3434
Online: planitegranitesf.com

Batting Cages at Batter’s Box
If you signed your little slugger up for spring baseball or softball, book some time in the cage at Batter’s Box to help them prepare for the season (while you let off some post-workday steam). Hi-def simulated pitching machines throw varying degrees of heat—from 40 to 90 MPH —to ages six and up. Whiffle balls are available for ages three and up. Book your time online or in person in 15-minute blocks.

Batter’s Box
933B Old Mason St.
San Francisco, Ca
707-412-8228
Online: battersboxsf.com

It’s Yoga, Kids
It’s Yoga, Kids is an ideal place to bond with your newborn through gentle movements, massage and songs. For kids that are already mobile (ages 2 to 9), family yoga classes introduce them to the healthy fun of yoga, with group and individual poses, breathing techniques and age-appropriate mindfulness practices. Check the website for the current schedule.

It’s Yoga, Kids
569 Ruger St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-750-9990
Online: itsyogakids.com

Getting There and Around

There is ample public parking in the Presidio, including in the heart of the park at the Main Post. The hourly rate is reasonable by San Francisco standards, and you can park all day for between $7 – $8.50/day, depending on location. From the Main Post, you can walk to many attractions, or take the free PresidiGo Shuttles to hotspots in other areas of the park, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field. If you’d prefer to leave the car at home, the Muni 43 bus makes frequent stops at the Transit Center in the Main Post, entering and exiting through the Lombard and Presidio gates. The Muni 29 stops at Baker Beach, where you can also catch the PresidiGo shuttle. See the Presidio’s transportation page for help in planning your travel.

What is your favorite thing to do in the Presidio? Tell us in the comments below! 

–Sarah Ordody