San Francisco’s South of Market District (SoMa) is known for flashy tech offices and baseball crowds. But did you know it’s also home to SF’s only permanent ice-rink, a carousel with a city view and more museums than you can count on one hand? The bustling hood is an urban parent’s dream—green grass to run in, world-class exhibits to explore, amazing food on every corner, and, well, Target. Who could ask for more?

yerba_buena_playgroundPhoto: Yerba Buena Children’s Playground by Lora M. via Yelp

Play

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens boasts more than just a unique playground (the towering structures and mega slides are ideal for little daredevils)—the entire 2 block greenspace is loaded with bridges, steps, ramps and even a waterfall. A rolling green lawn provides ample space to run, and also plays hosts to free concerts and readings all year. Plenty of public restrooms in the nearby Metreon.

750 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA
415-820-3550
Online: yerbabuenagardens.com

Victoria Manalo Draves Park
This is a two-acre oasis located right at the heart of it all, at Sixth and Folsom streets. There is a basketball court, two gated children’s playgrounds, a baseball diamond, and plenty of grass. benches, and picnic tables. Bathrooms are available, but they are not reliably clean, and the park (like many is SF) is also popular with the homeless.

Folsom St and Sherman St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: sfrecpark.org
 
South Park 
One of the city’s oldest parks (built in 1852), South Park was originally conceived as a London-style city garden that would be surrounded by upscale homes. The 2-block-long green space is now surrounded by a mix of cute restaurants, cafes, businesses and residences. The 2 play area are simple but fenced in, and feature sand pits and climbing structures. Lucky visitors may also spot some action in the hummingbird garden. 
 
64 South Park Ave
San Francisco, Ca
Online: sfrecpark.org 
 
Coca-Cola Fan Lot at AT&T Park
Attention little sluggers: when the Giants are away, you can play! When the SF baseball team is on the road, the Fan Lot is open to the public (and it’s always free for ticket holders to visit during games). Along with a great view of the field, there’s a superslide to whiz down, a fun photo booth, a giant baseball glove, and a mini-replica of the ball park so kids can practice their steals and slides.
 
2 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, Ca
415-972-2000
Online: sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com
 
yerba_buena_carousel
Photo: LeRoy King Carousel by Erin Feher 
 

Explore

Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center
Yep, a full-sized ice rink and 10-lane bowling alley sit smack in the middle of the city. Drop in for open skate or roll on in for a game 7 days a week (or try Ultra Bowling, complete with neon lights, videos and music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

750 Folsom Street
San Francisco, Ca
415-820-3532
Online: skatebowl.com

Children’s Creativity Museum 

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The Children’s Creativity Museum is a in the center of the kid-friendly Yerba Buena Park (which boasts a bowling alley, ice rink, carousel playground and more). The museum (formerly Zeum) is where kids can explore art, technology and design though cool activities and classes. Learn the basics of Garageband and make a music video, invent a new product or create your own stop-motion animation.

221 Fourth St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-820-3320
Online: creativity.org

LeRoy King Carousel
This spinning piece of SF history was built in 1906 and made kids smile for nearly 50 years at Playland-At-The-Beach. It was installed in it’s current location in 1998, and spruced up (and renamed)  just this year. $4 will get your littles 2 consecutive rides.

221 Fourth St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-820-3320
Online: creativity.org

The Contemporary Jewish Museum
The CJM presents the diversity of the Jewish experience through engaging exhibitions, activities, films and even its stunning Daniel Libeskind-designed building (a dreidel -inspired modern form dropped into a century-old PG&E building). Family programs aimed at every age group offer everything from drop-in art making to preschool gallery hour. Check out one of three different ARTpacks when you come in and let the kids explore the museum in a new light.

736 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-655-7800
Online: thecjm.org

The San Francisco Railway Museum

Does your little love the Muni? From the lightrail to the iconic F-Line, SF’s trains from past to present are celebrated here. The museum features a full-sized replica of the motorman’s platform of a 1911 San Francisco streetcar, where kids of all ages can experience what it was like to be at the controls. You’ll also find historic artifacts—century-old tokens, train maps and rarely seen archival photography—that bring rail transit in the 19th and 20th centuries to life.

77 Steuart St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-974-1948
Online: streetcar.org

SFMOMA

Magritte or de Forest? Truth is, when it comes to modern art, children don’t need to understand it to appreciate it. Thanks to video and sound installations, light sculptures and a subversive use of space,  modern art appeals to young children through play and exploration. With programs designed with the young in mind, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA ) has become a family destination where little ones are invited to explore the galleries intuitively, effortlessly forging their personal take on art. And while the museum is closed until 2016 while they renovate and expand, their exhibitions are currently traveling to other institutions around the Bay. Click here to see where.

151 Third St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-357-4000
Online: sfmoma.org

Cartoon Art Museum

Even if your kids didn’t grow up reading Archie comics, chances are they’re familiar with some other cartoon characters including Superman, Puss in Boots, and the cast of Toy Story. We can’t imagine a better way to let your kiddos get up close and personal to some of their fave cartoon characters than at the Cartoon Art Museum, which packs a fantastic comic-book punch for your aspiring artists. With over 6,000 pieces of original cartoon and animation art, a comprehensive research library, and five galleries of exhibition space, your kids will leave inspired to create their own mad genius stories and illustrations.

655 Mission Street
San Francisco, Ca
415-227-8666
Online: cartoonart.org

MoAd
The Museum of the African Diaspora just reopened after a striking renovation, and showcases the history, art, and cultural richness that resulted from the migration of Africans throughout the world.

685 Mission St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: moadsf.org

AMC Metreon 
Catch a flick at this major movie house, featuring more than a dozen theaters, including IMAX, Real 3-D and ETX. A lobby filled with arcade games is the perfect place to kill time on a rainy day.

135 4th St.
San Francisco, Ca
888-AMC-4FUN
Online: amctheatres.com

zero_zero_pizza_sfPhoto: Zero Zero 

Eat

Citizens Band 
Looking for a lovely sit-down meal that the kids will dig, too? Well, if tomato soup with mini grilled cheese sandwiches doesn’t keep ’em happy, the ooey gooey mac ‘n cheese topped with a tower of onion rings will do the trick. The cool diner decor also ensures that nothing will be broken that’s too expensive to fix.

1198 Folsom St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: citizensbandsf.com

Pinkie’s Bakery 
Connected to the restaurant Citizens Band is this too sweet for words bakery. Homemade whoopie pies, thickly frosted cakes and, on Saturdays, doughnuts in flavors you have to taste to believe. Also try their unbeatable lunch special: a sandwich, drink and a cookie for just $10.

1196 Folsom St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-556-4900
Online: pinkiesbakerysf.com

Zero Zero 
Top of a day of ice skating or bowling with a big bowl of pasta, and maybe throw in a pizza, too. This spot is the sister restaurant to Larkspur’s beloved Picco, and the food is just as stellar. Don’t leave without building your own soft serve sundae, made with Strauss ice cream, Tcho chocolate and a handful of other top-notch local ingredients.

826 Folsom St.
San Francisco, Ca7
415-348-8800
Online: zerozerosf.com

The Grove
Order breakfast all day, big salads and kid-friendly fare like grilled cheese or spaghetti and turkey meatballs. This casual eatery (order at the counter and take a number) has plenty of highchairs, a spacious dining room, nice new bathrooms (with changing tables) and the staff is always friendly as can be. Grab a seat outside—under the heatlamps if it’s chilly— and watch the action.

690 Mission St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-957-0558
Online: thegrovesf.com

Moya 
Go ahead, let them eat with their hands. This awesome Ethiopian spot serves up fresh, flavorful dishes served family style with a tower of injera—the sour dough–like spongey bread that in used to sop up all the goodness in place of forks and spoons.

121 9th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-431-5544
Online: eatmoya.com

The Metreon
Like the mall food court you grew up with, only SO much better. Let the kiddos each have their pick, from Vietnamese, Korean BBQ, Japanese or Filipino, to burgers (Super Duper ones), pizzas, soups and fresh breads.

135 4th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-369-6000
Online: shoppingmetreon.com

Whole Foods
Looking for a meal you can take with you, whether it’s a picnic in the park or some snacks for the movies? (Go ahead, we won’t tell) Drop by Whole Foods popular SoMa location for anything you need.

399 4th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-618-0066
Online: wholefoodsmarket.com

sight_glass_coffee

Photo: Sightglass Coffee by Alejandro De La Cruz via Flickr

Sip

Sightglass Coffee
If you need a pick me up, Sightglass Coffee will do the trick. The lofty, 2-story space also has ample room to explore and little gear heads will love watching the huge industrial roaster do its thing. They also make a mean hot chocolate.

270 7th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-861-1313
Online: sightglasscoffee.com

Peet’s 
Located in the heart of the museum district, it’s like they knew you needed a jolt before a few hours of art viewing. This cafe is small, but there is a bathroom and the lines move fairly quickly.

692 Mission St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-593-8945
Online: peets.com
 

 What does your perfect day out in SoMa look like? Tell us in the comments below!

—Erin Feher