It’s easy to pass by the San Francisco Botanical Gardens when there is so much going on in Golden Gate Park.  If you’ve had enough boating on Stow Lake or seen everything at the CalAcademy and deYoung, consider exploring the family-friendly botanical garden your next visit. Kids get a thrill from “traveling” to the different regions of the globe to get a gander at the local flora, and there are plenty of other 0pportunities for you and your family. You can even make a whole day out of your trip to the Gardens by walking south on 9th Avenue from the garden entrance to the Inner Sunset.  Just a few blocks walk will bring you to intersection at Irving Street—the heart of the neighborhood. 

Go: The Gardens’ feature flowers from all over the world and you can visit year round. However, what you view will depend on the time of year you visit. Visit the handy In Bloom page of the Gardens’ website for a list of what you’ll see if you go now.

What to do:  If you’ve got a little bookworm, check out the Horticulture library and its 1,600-volume collection of children’s books on plants and natural science. Our favorite offering at the garden, however, is Story Time & Family Walk, held on the first and third Sunday of every month at 10:30am.  Children ages 4-8 can lounge with stuffed animals and kid-sized cushions while listening to fun stories from the library collection. Afterwards at 11:00 a.m., the whole family can go on a special tour of the garden led by a children’s docent. And the best news is these activities are always free! 

Possible lunch spots: For kid-friendly eats that pay homage to the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood, visit San Tung Chinese Restaurant for their finger-licking “Original Dry Fried Chicken” or Lavash, for exquisite Persian food shared family-style in a serene environment. You can also bring your own brown-bag feast to the Gardens–the Great Meadow is a wonderful place for a picnic!

Where to shop: Adventuring beyond the Garden gates, the kids will love shopping at Tutti Frutti Cards Gifts & Fun Stuff (pictured, right) on Irving Street and Great Stuff on 9th Avenue.  Don’t the names say it all?  Both stores are chock-full of toys and curiosities that the kids will love—from magic tricks and lunchboxes to talking keychains and Hello Kitty.  

How to dress: Comfortable walking shoes and outdoor-friendly clothing.

Need to know: Admission to the Botanical Gardens is free to San Francisco residents.

  —Sarah K. Choi