If you are looking for that extra-special spot to celebrate a birthday or an impressive report card, look no further. These restaurants bring more to the table than your average burger and fries joint. Musical performances, underwater adventures and more—the kids will be entertained and you’ll get a fun family night out without having to resort to digital bribery. Win-win!

photo: Kate Loweth

SPIN

This spot near SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens is the place to go when you want to up your table tennis game in style. SPIN is definitely not your mom's garage—it is a funky industrial space with rad graffiti art from Stikki Peaches on the walls and old-school jams playing. Open from noon until late, kids are welcome at SPIN until 9 p.m. when it goes 21+. You reserve table time in 30-minute increments and there's a menu full of shareable plates and cocktails to go along with your game.

Choose one of the two tables in their newly-opened patio area and you'll have your own space to lounge, eat and play. Don't miss new additions to the summer menu like the triple-stack of Cuban sliders and the matcha-dipped strawberries for dessert. Kids will also love the Hop Pop Chicken and Margherita Flatbread. Check their calendar for upcoming family-friendly events. 

690 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: wearespin.com

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photo: Nella DuBon-Koch

SF-style Golf + Food Trucks: Stagecoach Greens

This new kid on the mini-golf block is destined to be a major fave for families in the SF area. It just opened in Mission Bay and everyone is loving the amazingly-detailed holes from the Chinatown dragon to the 1906 Victorian complete with earthquake. This spot is right across the street from the food truck mecca SPARK Social SF and even has a number of food trucks of its own. Al Pastor Papi and Hookt Donuts will be mainstays while other trucks will rotate through. Rent a cabana and make it a family night! Get the full scoop here

1379 4th Street
San Francisco, CA
Online: stagecoachgreens.com 

photo: Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill

For an Underwater Adventure: Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill

Part bowling alley, part restaurant and totally under the sea, Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill took up residence in San Jose's Bass Pro shop a few years ago and families love it. Dine on delicacies like alligator and cheese curds or opt for the traditional burger. The bowling alley is integrated into the restaurant and bar and allows patrons to order from the restaurant menu while bowling. Kids will love the great white shark and octopus ball returns. Plan your next birthday party here by reserving a lane or two, or booking a larger party room. 

Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill
5160 Cherry Ave.
San Jose, CA
Onlineunclebucksfishbowlandgrill.com

A Night on the Island: Tonga Room

Skip the Rainforest Cafe and go to the real deal instead. Opened in 1945 within the Fairmont Hotel, this campy and yes, touristy lounge showers visitors in old-school Tropicana. The Polynesian-esque ambiance includes the Tonga Room’s epic rain showers every 30 minutes and a lagoon where a live band plays on a thatch-covered barge. Happy hour (Wed.–Fri., 5–7 p.m.) offers a sweet deal on food and drinks for the whole family, and bartenders are happy to whip up a colorful, fruity, booze-free concoction in a coconut for the kids.

The Fairmont Hotel
950 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA
415-772-5278
Onlinetongaroom.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Every Day is a Carnival: Straw

You don't need to wait for the next county fair to get your fill of carnival food, just head to Hayes Valley for a meal at Straw. This eatery serves everyone's favorite donut burger which is just what it sounds like—a burger with a donut bun as well as the brunch special donut breakfast sandwich. Get your fried chicken and waffle Monte Cristo with a side of fried pickles. Ask to sit in the tilt-a-whirl booth for some extra fun. 

This spot is an easy walk from Davies Symphony Hall and therefore a fun option for after-performance eats. Straw is open for dinner every day and brunch on the weekends. Dine on Monday and 10% of your bill goes to support a local non-profit!

203 Octavia Blvd.
San Francisco, CA
Onlinestrawsf.com

Chocolate Lover's Paradise: Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

Everyone loves this sweet spot in Fisherman's Wharf where there's no shame in getting the banana split all for yourself. Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Factory has been dishing up chocolate treats for decades to locals and tourists alike. While the line at the main ice cream shop is usually long any time of the day, it has a fun old-school ambiance that kids love. 

900 N. Point St.
San Francisco, CA
Onlineghirardelli.com

Tea Time in Japan: Japanese Tea Garden

Not only is The Japanese Tea Garden the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States but the tea house is reportedly the first place to serve fortune cookies in the US, at the turn of the century. The gorgeously landscaped gardens with an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stepping stone paths koi ponds and a Zen garden are both lovely and fun to explore and the tea house serves treats like green tea cheese cake, sweet rice cakes and cookies and Udon noodles and miso soup for the chilly Golden Gate park weather.

75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Online: japaneseteagardensf.com

Fondue in the Wild West: Fondue Cowboy

Fondue + old Western movies. That's the recipe for success at SOMA's Fondue Cowboy where your fondue experience will be anything but formal. With fun names like the Desperado and Quick Draw, you can choose from a half dozen savory cheese fondues. The kids might want to skip the savory and go straight to the sweet with three chocolate options on the menu. Wild West Wednesdays bring half-priced bottles of wine. They are closed on Sunday. 

1052 Folson Street (at Russ)
San Francisco, CA
Onlinefonduecowboy.com

Cat Heaven: KitTea Cafe

Get your cat fix at this cafe that is also home to 16-22 adorable rescue kittens just waiting for love. There are two options here: choose the cafe side and watch the kitties through the window or select the cat lounge where you get to meet the cats in person. Sandwiches and salads are available for purchase and you get your choice of green tea. They also offer hot chocolate for the kiddies. To access the cat lounge side, kids need to be at least nine years old (ages 5-9, give them a call and they might be able to get you in). Bonus: many of the cats here are available to adopt!

96 Gough Street
San Francisco, CA
Onlinekitteasf.com

—Kate Loweth

 

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