In need of an instant vacation with the fam but only have a few hours to spare? Well, thousands of visitors from around the world can’t be wrong: Take a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge and spend the day exploring Sausalito—a charming Bayfront town just a few short miles but seemingly worlds away from bustling SF. From a drop-in play space to sea lion watching, read on for our picks for an insider’s day out in Sausalito.

PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS

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Southview Park
Built on a steep terrace in a quiet residential area, this small park boasts an expansive, unobstructed vista of the Bay, the city, the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz. The playground itself is simple and fenced-in, with a nice grassy area, two swings, three slides and some monkey bars. Situated in a neighborhood, be aware that there’s no shade or public restroom, so be sure to check the weather and empty your bladders before coming over. Map It

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Robin Sweeny Park
Located on the same plot of land as the Sausalito Library, Robin Sweeny Park features a fenced-in, sandy playground for the tots with swings, a play structure and areas to climb for the older kids. Burn off more energy at the large field and the full sized basketball court. Map It.

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Dunphy Park
For waterfront play, head to Dunphy Park where you’ll find picnic tables, benches and some shade. Situated directly on the water near the Sausalito Ferry, the perks of this spot are the great views and mini beach where your kids can dip their toes. There’s no actual play structure here so be prepared to BYOE (bring your own entertainment). Map It.

PLAY & EXPLORE

BADM

photo: BADM

Bay Area Discovery Museum
A proper day in Sausalito wouldn’t be complete without a visit to BADM. This mecca of kid fun sits right under the Golden Gate and offers both indoor and outdoor imaginative play. Climb aboard a fishing boat, use your hands to create art, stimulate your senses at the Tot Spot or visit for drop-in programs like nature walks and story time.

557 McReynolds Rd.
Sausalito, Ca
415-339-3900
Online: baykidsmuseum.org

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Heath Factory Tour
You’ve marveled at Heath’s gorgeous goods. Now’s your chance to see where the magic happens on their factory tour. Held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (reservations required) the tour will take you behind the scenes of this unique pottery studio and show your kids how things are made.

Good to know: Tour is recommended for kids five and older. If you have a handsy tot, we suggest skipping the store since there are breakables throughout. For an insider’s guide to this tour click here.

400 Gate Five Rd.
Sausalito, Ca
415-332-3732
Online: heathceramics.com

Playland, Sausalito

photo: Playland

Playland Sausalito
If only every town had a no-strings-attached drop-in play space like this one. Open everyday (except Wednesdays and Sundays) from 9 a.m. to noon, Playland features drop-in play for kids seven and under. There’s even free wi-fi and music programs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

610 Coloma St., Bldg. 6
Sausalito, Ca
415-377-9678
Online: mttamadventurecamps.com/playland-sausalito

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photo: Abby Biernat

Sea Trek Kayak & Stand Up Paddle
Explore Sausalito by water. At Sea Trek you can rent kayaks to go out as a family or sign-up for an instructional family class where the trained guides will take you around Sausalito and even to Angel Island and Tomales Bay. You’ll get to cruise by sea lions and other marine life for an up close encounter like no other.

Good to know: On November 1, 2014 Sea Trek will move their location just down the road from their current beach.

415-332-8494
Online: seatrek.com

EAT

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Fish
For a non pretentious (and downright delicious) seafood experience right on the water there’s no place like Fish. This restaurant makes it a point to serve sustainable seafood. In fact, they can even source some of their fish to what fishing vessel (and Fisherman) it came from. On a nice day sitting outside on the patio is a must.

Good to know: Cash only with an ATM on the premise.

350 Harbor Dr.
Sausalito, Ca
415-331-FISH
Online: 331fish.com

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Bar Bocce
On sunny days families flock here to dine al fresco and to sit around the outdoor fire pit. Choose from the restaurant’s pizza offerings (the kale pizza is a local favorite) and then blow off the wiggles at the waveless beach that’s just steps from the tables. Just be careful with the littles as they cross the bocce ball court when a game is in play.

1250 Bridgeway
Sausalito, Ca
415-331-0555
Online: barbocce.com

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Driver’s Deli
This family owned market boasts a full gourmet deli menu (think prosciutto sandwiches, organic smoothies and spicy tuna wraps) and ample outdoor and indoor seating. While you’re waiting for your made-to-order breakfast or lunch, sit the kids down at the pint-sized art table where crayons, coloring books and paper await.

1200 Caledonia St.
Sausalito, Ca
415-729-9582
Online: driversmarket.com

COFFEE SHOPS & DESSERTS

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Philz
Even if you’re a Blue Bottle fanatic, you may be converted after a visit to Philz. Head to the back patio with your made-to-order coffee so you can refuel as your tots burn off some steam.

Bonus: Next door to Philz is the Sausalito Fire Department. The station features clear garage doors so your kids can easily marvel at the gigantic trucks.

317 Johnson St.
Sausalito, Ca
415-729-9526
Online: philzcoffee.com

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Lappert’s
Satisfy your sweet tooth at Lappert’s Ice Cream parlor in downtown Sausalito. While the shop only accepts cash, with flavors like pumpkin, Kaua’i Pie and blueberry cheesecake it’s well worth a trip to the ATM.

689 Bridgeway
Sausalito, Ca
415-331-3035
Online: lapperts.com

What’s your favorite spot in Sausalito?

—Erin Lem

all photos courtesy of Peter Ruocco unless otherwise noted.