You may have spent your twenties downing cocktails and dancing your way through the Mission District’s bevy of dance clubs, but one of the best things about this hip hood is that it’s got something to offer every age group. Now that you have an underager or two in tow, it’s time to explore the Mission by day, when the playgrounds are poppin’ off and the toy stores are serving up the good stuff.

mission-dolores-park
Photo of Dolores Park: torbakhopper via creativecommons flickr

Play

Helen Diller Playground at Mission Dolores Park
A show-stopping playground (renovated just a few years ago) with stunning views, Mission Dolores is where you go to see and been seen. The older kids love the massive slide and climbing web, while the little ones can get busy in the sand pit and wrestle over the little bouncy riders. Once the local high school lets out, things can get a bit rowdy, so stick to morning visits if you have toddlers who might get trampled. The bottom half of the park is currently a construction zone, so there are no open bathrooms at this time.

19th & Dolores St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-554-9521
Online: sfrecpark.org

Mission Playground
Dolores gets all the love, but local parents know that this is the park little kids prefer. With plenty of sand, swings and climbing structures for all ages, this sizable playground has you covered. On hot days, let them splash around in the water features fronting Valencia Street, or take the plunge and join open swim at the outdoor pool.

19th St, Linda St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-206-1546
Online: sfrecpark.org

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Kid Power Park
A hidden little park just steps away from the 16th Street Bart station, this little oasis on the alley features two fenced in play areas (one for toddlers, one for older kids) as well as a fountain and community garden. There are a handful of mini picnic tables and benches, so if you need a spot to settle for snack, this is it.

45 Hoff St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-831-2700
Online: sfrecpark.org

Alioto Mini-Park
A sleepy little fenced in park with plenty of flowers and a few nice benches, there is also a grassy area, gazebo, community gardens, and play structure—but no restrooms.

Capp St. at 20th St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: sfrecpark.org

little_star_pizza
Photo: Little Star Pizza

Eat

Pauline’s Pizza
Pizza is plentiful in the Mission, and long-time favorite Pauline’s kicks off the pizza crawl at 14th and Valencia streets. Inventive yet approachable ingredients top their massive pies (pesto with mozzarella and pine nuts is a family favorite), but the secret to their success is the cornmeal crust. Crayons on every table don’t hurt, either.

260 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-552-2050
Online: paulinespizza.com

Little Star
More pizza, this time of the deep-dish variety. Order apps to keep little mouths busy during the 20-30 minute wait time for pies to come out of the oven.

400 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-551-7827
Online: littlestarpizza.com

Arizmendi
Pizza, instantly! This spots not only serves up slices faster than anywhere else, but also we kinda think it’s the tastiest as well (not to mention a bargain at $2.50 per slice). The ingredients may make you raise and eyebrow (shitake mushrooms, green onions and sesame vinaigrette?) but one bite and you will be a convert. The baked goods are an incredible bonus.

1268 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-826-9218
Online: arizmendibakery.com

The Pizza Hacker
Big indoor picnic tables, a chalkboard wall (with stray chalk floating around for little artists to add to the scene) and an open kitchen where pizza masters toss and flip dough like the good old days makes this a crowd pleaser.

3299 Mission St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-874-5585
Online: thepizzahacker.com

Delfina Pizzeria
The pizza here is top notch, but everyone knows it, so the lines and wait times may take a toll on your group. Our suggestion? Order take out ahead of time and take your pie to the park.

3621 18th Street
San Francisco, Ca
415-437-6800
Online: pizzeriadelfina.com

Papalote
The choices for Mexican food (especially burritos) can seem endless in the Mission, but Papalote is a dependable favorite that packs a few more veggies into their creations than most (plus, that SALSA!) so we rank it high for families. The setting is nicer than most, too, with a little more room for walkers and a few high chairs on hand.

3409 24th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-970-8815
Online: papalote-sf.com

Udupi Palace
Vegetarian and Indian might not be two words you hear the littles begging for a lot, but that doesn’t mean they won’t love it. The flavors here are great, and with ingredients like yogurt, perfectly roasted potatoes and peas, there will be enough that’s familiar to get ‘em to try. Order one of the huge rice crepes for guaranteed ooohs and aaahs from everyone at the table.

1007 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-970-8000
Online: udupipalace.org

Bi-Rite Market
Take advantage of all the sunny spots to sit out and picnic by picking up lunch at this beloved market and hitting the park. This gourmet grocer has everything, from a salad and sandwich bar, to flawless fruit and veggies to enough freshly (and expertly) prepared food that you might as well pick up dinner while you’re at it. And it’s located just 2–3 blocks from two of the neighborhoods best playgrounds and parks.

3639 18th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-241-9760
Online: biritemarket.com

Pica Pica
Venezuelan arepas are the specialty here, and the sweet, thick patties (made of ground sweet corn) are filled with amazingness such as plantains, queso fresco, beans and slow-cooked meats. They are all naturally gluten free and can (and should be) eaten with your hands, so get ready to get messy.

401 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-400-545
Online: picapica.com

Mission Cheese
Grilled cheese isn’t just for kids anymore. This spot serves up some of the best, and will get your kiddie hooked on Gruyere in no time. Wines by the glass and a few outdoor tables are another reason to stop here on sunny days.

736 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-553-8667
Online: missioncheese.net

Craftsman and Wolves
Sweets, sandwiches, salads and inventive baked goods have put this place on the map. Their beautiful pastries are as delectable as they are Instagramable, from their curry, green onion and ginger scone to their iconic The Rebel Within—a croissant with a perfectly cooked soft egg baked into the center.

746 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-913-7713
Online: craftsman-wolves.com

fourbarrel_dawnPhoto: Dawn Gordon

Sips and Sweets

Four Barrel
Coffee lovers know where their loyalties lay, so we won’t get into favorites here. Besides top-notch brews, Four Barrel serves baked goods and is super spacious for a café. The giant roaster in the back is almost always in use and will surely fascinate little gear heads.

375 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-896-4289
Online: fourbarrelcoffee.com

Ritual Roasters
The café was recently renovated and offers plenty of seating. Cookies and other sweet treats will have the little ones salivating, plus they make a killer hot chocolate.

1026 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-641-1011
Online: ritualroasters.com

Samovar Tea Lounge
If coffee isn’t exactly your cup of tea, have a cup of tea instead! Samovar just opened a modern little outpost just doors down from Four Barrel where they serve up green, black and herbal tea, as well as an incredible iced masala chai.

411 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-553-6887
Online: samovartea.com

Cream
CREAM’s foolproof formula is using still-gooey cookies straight from the oven (with more than a dozen varieties to choose from), and pairing them with just about any ice-cream flavor imaginable. But your not done yet—next, customers get to pick from a rainbow-colored bar of toppings, from classic sprinkles to crumbled graham crackers to fruity gummy bears, to finish off their master piece. Considering each dessert is made to order, and demand is high, CREAM has developed a fairly efficient system that makes the wait minimal (maybe a few of those third wave coffee joints should take notes). But with all those choices, we can’t promise the little ones will make up their minds in a timely matter.

3106 16th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-400-4551
Online: creamnation.com

Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop
The ever-popular Bi-Rite Creamery, just steps away from Dolores Park (and with a new second location on Divisidero), uses mostly organic, local milk products to make its sweet treats, and has successfully turned our little ones into little foodies. Kid favorites include ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodle cookie pieces) and strawberry balsamic. Impatient brood? The soft-serve line at the 18th St. location is always shorter, and you can score ice cream sandwiches and popsicles from there as well.

3692 18th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-626-5600
Online: biritecreamery.com

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
Head to Humphry Slocombe for some inventive and unexpected flavors. From exotic adult tastes like chèvre fig to more kid friendly delights like Wexler’s root beer, everyone will be satisfied with this spot. And proving the popularity of the wacky, “you put WHAT in ice cream?!” flavors, Humphry Slocombe just opened their second location in the ultra-exclusive Ferry Building, replacing a long-standing gelato shop (gelato is soooo 2010).

2790 A Harrison St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: humphryslocombe.com

Tartine Bakery
Like its sister restaurant, this place is bananas on weekends, so if possible take advantage of weekday mornings with the littles to wait as little as possible. Morning buns will start your day off right, and while your there, pick up some extra thick slices of quiche for a midday picnic in Dolores Park.

600 Guerrero St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-487-2600
Online: tartinebakery.com

10333395_909863115695786_4283296371146826946_oPhoto: 826 Valencia

Explore

826 Valencia/Pirate Supply Store
This is guaranteed to be the only spot in the world where you can take a writing or bookmaking workshop AND buy a jar of leeches. With shelves stocked with Black Beard Dye, Mermaid Bait (or Repellant), Belly of the Whale Escape Kits, eye–patches, scurvy awareness posters that declare A Lemon a Day, plus t-shirts, compasses, high-end-hooks and even authentic peg-legs created by a professional prosthetic craftsman, this shop is like stepping on board a ship from 1699. The ultimate rebel with a cause, the store acts as a front for the nonprofit 826 Valencia, an organization founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari dedicated to helping students ages 6-18 with their writing skills. So get you can feel good knowing your doubloons are going to a worthy cause.

826 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: 826valencia.org

Paxton Gate/Curiosities for Kids
It’s a wonder the Paxton Gate decided it needed a kids-specific outpost: The original is packed with animal skulls, crystals and other eye-popping (yet gorgeous) oddities that kids love. But the newer kids shop is a big hit as well, offering original toys, games and books for extra-curious kiddos. Stop by both to get the full Paxton Gate vibe.

Paxton Gate
824 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-824-1872
Online: paxtongate.com

Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids
766 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-252-9990
Online: paxtongate.com

Aldea Ninos
A cool kid and baby boutique perfect for buying gifts or searching out something way cooler than your typical Toys R’Us tyke toys. A sweet little play area lets your littles play before they (er, you) buy.

1017 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-874-9520
Online: aldeababy.com

Natural Resources
New moms and pops need to know about this space, as it provides everything from a baby book lending library, to a clean and convenient changing station (with extra diapers and wipes) to hot complementary tea. Basically, Natural Resources is there to take some of the stress out of those first few weeks. They also carry all the essentials (like all the “what are THOSE for?” breast pump parts) and host classes and events.

1367 Valencia St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-550-2611
Online: naturalresources-sf.com

Balmy Alley
Take a walk down this hidden alley to discover a museum’s worth of murals. It’s just parallel to Treat Avenue and Harrison Street between 24th and 25th Streets and boasts the highest concentration of murals in all of San Francisco—a testament to the community’s concerns and its history with murals from as far back as the mid-eighties.

Harrison Street btwn. 24th and 25th Streets
Online: balmyalley.com

Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center
This community cultural center offers art classes and group tours on the weekends. Their Urban Youth Arts Program also produces some incredible works of art.

2981 24th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-285-2287
Online: precitaeyes.org

Mission Library
Head down to the basement of the Mission branch of the SFPL to find their children’s room. Book galore, toys and listening stations will keep them entertained on a rainy day. Check out their schedule of story times (presented in English and Spanish) for a chance for you (and the kids) to make some new friends.

300 Bartlett St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-355-2800
Online: sfpl.org

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly spot in the Mission?  

—Erin Feher