Looking to distract your kids while you do some shopping downtown? Yerba Buena Gardens and Union Square offer hours of free entertainment for kids, not to mention bits of open space to burn off some excess energy. Yerba Buena Gardens, on Mission between 3rd and 4th Streets, features waterfalls, carousels, rooftop gardens, and a play area (not to mention the bowling alley and ice rink).
Take a shopping break and grab sandwiches from AG Ferrari on 3rd and Mission for a picnic in the sun. Top off with cream puffs from Beard Papa’s across the street from the park. Or pick up slices from Blondie’s on Powell Street and munch while you people-watch in the Square. Surf the “library” at Borders (Powell and Post next to the defunct Disney’s) or pick up an ice cream extra from the Cold Stone on Powell and Ellis. Between these two downtown activity centers, you should be able to compromise your way to some shopping sublimity, without your kids wreaking havoc in racks.