Parents may still be known for station wagons and mini vans, but there are plenty of families, especially in San Francisco, who have skipped the Fast Pass in favor of the bus pass. Our public transportation may not be perfect, but it can take your whole crew on some perfectly awesome adventures, no car seats required. Here are a few of our favorite destinations easily accessible by public transit. And the best part? Getting there is just part of the adventure.

beach kids-cc-frans persoon via flickrPhoto: Frans Persoon via Flickr

Ocean Beach, N Judah
If you ever feel like complaining about city life, take a second to think about how you are usually just $2.25 and a single train ride away from one of the best beaches in the world. The N-Judah picks up at dozens of central stops, from AT&T park (and the Cal Train station) to the Embarcadero, to all along Market Street and beyond. Find a seat and settle in for the 30 minute ride out to literally, the end of the line. The train ends where California does—the Pacific Ocean—and in addition to miles of sandy beach, there are shops, cafes and even a descent public bathroom.

Cost: $2.50; $1.25 for kids 5-17; 4 and under are FREE
Where to Catch It: Stops all along Embarcadero and Market St to Van Ness. See all stops here: sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/routes-stops/n-judah

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Cable Car, California Line 
Although tourists don’t know any better than to wait in that snaking line at the foot of Powell Street, locals have other options. Jump on at California and Van Ness and you can roll towards an epic urban adventure. After some roller coaster worthy hills, you’ll end up downtown just a city block away from the Ferry Building where endless eats and treats await you.

Cost: $7; kids 4 and under are FREE
Where to Catch It: We suggest California and Van Ness.

Emma Bland Smith
The 76X to Marin Headlands
On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, Muni runs the 76X, which connects downtown San Francisco to the Marin Headlands. As bus loyalists we may be biased, but we think this is almost always a better option than driving, especially because weekends bring epic parking wars to the headlands. Plus, after a heart-pumping hike everyone can nap on the way home. Isn’t that only fair?

Cost: $2.50; $1.25 for kids 5-17; 4 and under are FREE
Where to Catch It: See all the stops here: sfmta.com

sf zooPhoto: SF Zoo

M Ocean to The SF Zoo
How about a trip to the zoo? The L Taraval will take you and your crew right there. The outbound train is even named for the zoo, its last stop. A quick walk past the parking lot will have you praising public transit, as parking can be a a bit of a nightmare, especially on weekends. Show your valid muni ticket and get $1 admission!

Cost: $2.50; $1.25 for kids 5-17; 4 and under are FREE
Where to Catch It: sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/routes-stops/l-taraval

 

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F Market to Embarcadero
A ride on the F Market is an adventure in itself. Sure, our cable cars get all the attention, but these vintage trolley cars collected from all over the world have some serious charm, and train lovers will be smitten. (Trolley operators are also an unusually friendly bunch.) Pick up the train at Castro and Market (grab a bite at Orphan Andy’s, which has a view of the trolly turnaround) and head through downtown and out to the Embarcadero, where you can explore the Trolly Museum and Ferry Building. Or stay aboard all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. But, like most things at the Wharf, the train can get crowded once down there.

Cost: $2.50; $1.25 for kids 5-17; 4 and under are FREE
Where to Catch It: All along Market, starting at Castro and Market, as well as stops between the Ferry Building and Pier 39.

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Ferry to Marin
Did you know our municipal transit system includes boats? This means that if you are a Clipper Card holder, you can just tap it for access to the Ferry system. The vessels that launch from the Ferry Building go to all kinds of playdate appropriate places, like Larkspur and Sausalito. We love boating over to Larkspur and cruising over to the Marin Country Mart, where weekends are filled with family friendly activities.

Cost: $10.50 one-way; $5.25 kids 5-18; 4 and under are FREE (these are fares to Larkspur)
Where to Catch it: The docks behind the Ferry Building.
Online: goldengateferry.org

What are some of your favorite places to go via public transit? Tell us in the comments below! 

–Erin Feher

All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.