Market Street is one of San Francisco’s main boulevards, connecting many of the city’s biggest attractions. Although you can ride a streetcar all the way from the Embarcadero to the Castro, most of the best family activities you’ll find are concentrated around the Embarcadero and Powell areas. Read on for our don’t-miss picks of the best things to do around Market Street!

Cable Car

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San Francisco Cable Car
You can’t miss this quintessential San Francisco experience. Ride a classic San Francisco cable car through some of the most amazing views of the city. The Powell-Hyde line takes you from Powell Street through the iconic Nob Hill and Chinatown neighborhoods to Fisherman’s Wharf and the San Francisco Bay. Lines can be long, so be prepared to wait at peak times. One tip: walk up Powell Street from the cable car turntable—the next stop is usually less packed.

Powell St. and Market St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: sfmta.com

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The eye-catching SFMOMA houses a spectacular collection of modern art from paintings to photographs to sculptures. Children under 18 are free, which makes this museum a great place to instill a lasting interest in art in your kids. Pick up a family activity guide at the front desk to help guide and inspire your visit. The pop art collection and sculpture garden on the fifth floor especially have some really fun pieces to get your kids talking.

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

Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens
This sprawling park is an oasis just a block away from Market St. There’s acres of lawns, landscaped gardens and winding paths for playing and relaxing. Kids will love exploring the MLK Jr. Memorial waterfall wall. The SFMOMA is conveniently nearby, as well as the Metreon which has numerous restaurants and food vendors inside—perfect for grabbing a picnic meal for the park. During the summer numerous free festivals and concerts are hosted at the gardens—be sure to check the schedule on the website.

745 Market St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: yerbabuenagardens.com

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Asian Art Museum
This unique and fascinating collection of art and artifacts from all over Asia is a fantastic place to enrich your cultural horizons. Although there are no kid-specific exhibits, there’s plenty of family-friendly programming, including tours oriented towards young kids and teenagers (including monthly stroller tours), art workshops and storytelling. Check the website for family event times. Added bonus: children 12 and under are free.

200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA
415-581-3500
Online: www.asianart.org

Children's Creativity Museum

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Children’s Creativity Museum
This high tech museum, just a block north of Yerba Buena Gardens, will spark your kids’ creative juices. You can make all kinds of amazing technology-related projects like star in a music video, make a stop motion animation with clay figures, learn how to program robots and more. For the littler kids, there are also fun interactive exhibits like sand tables, animated walls and foam and LEGO brick areas. Don’t forget a ride on the classic LeRoy King Carousel on the way out.

221 4th St.
San Francisco, CA
415-820-3320
Online: creativity.org

Yerba Buena Children's Playground

Children’s Garden
This play area behind the Children’s Creativity Museum is actually part of Yerba Buena Gardens. It’s easily overlooked, which is a shame because it’s a great haven for kids with some fun activities. There’s a children’s playground which has a play structure, two giant slides and a sand pit. A separate toddler play lot is scheduled to open in the fall. There’s also a bowling alley and ice skating rink next to the museum, if you want to make a full day of it. Once your kids come here, they won’t want to leave.

Howard St. and 4th St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: yerbabuenagardens.com

Museum of Ice Cream
This super sweet museum is essentially a fun photo op extravaganza. Make your way through numerous cute setups like riding a unicorn, playing with giant gummy bears and jumping in the infamous sprinkle pool. Dress in your cutest outfits and prepare to mug for the camera. Occasionally ice cream samples or other sweet treats are passed out in some of the rooms. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time on the website; check for availability.

1 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA
855-258-0719
Online: museumoficecream.com

Sue Bierman Park

Photo via Yelp by Sivilay T.

Sue Bierman Park Playground
This park is ideally located between the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center. After some shopping and sightseeing, let your kids run wild in the expansive, modern playground complete with pirate ship jungle gym and rope climbing dome. There’s a separate toddler playlot and even a big grassy area for general running around, or relaxing and enjoying the majestic views of the Bay Bridge.

253 Washington St.
San Francisco, CA

Ferry Building

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Ferry Marketplace
This historic building at the very end of Market Street is foodie paradise. It’s lined with artisan food shops selling cheese, bread, wine, pastries and anything else food-related you can imagine. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, a farmers’ market is set up in front and to the side of the Ferry building, offering even more fresh produce and hot food. Our picks for kids’ favorites are Gott’s Roadside burgers and hot dogs and Mijita’s tacos and quesadillas. Parents on date night should check out Hog Island Oyster Company and Slanted Door.

One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Online: ferrybuildingmarketplace.com

Super Duper Burgers
Super Duper makes excellent and totally addictive burgers, and the best thing is they come in a mini 4-oz. size, perfect for little appetites. They’ll also love the milkshakes made with Straus Creamery soft serve, which also comes in a kiddie size. There are three locations conveniently near Market St; we like the one near Yerba Buena Gardens best so the kids can run off the calories after lunch.

793 Mission St., 721 Market St. and 98 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: superduperburgers.com

Delarosa Pizza by Cassie Z

photo via Yelp by Cassie Z.

Delarosa
This modern pizzeria serves Roman-style thin crust pizza in a lively atmosphere. You can customize your pizza with an array of toppings from peppers to prosciutto. Ask for a cheese pizza for your littles. For the grownups, the burrata bruschetta, Dungeness crab arancini and crispy tagliolini dumplings are solid choices.

37 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA
415-872-7363
Online: delarosasf.com

The Bird
The Bird specializes in one thing: fried chicken sandwiches, and it’s something they do very well. You can get their chicken regular or spicy, served in a bun with slaw, mayo and pickles. If you’re feeling really indulgent, you can add on their fully-loaded fries, or have their ice cream taco for dessert. Note they are closed on Sundays.

115 New Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA
415-872-9825
Online: thebirdsf.com

Miette

Sweet

Miette
Miette is a child’s fantasy of a bakery come to life. It’s wall-to-wall pastels and florals and sweets everywhere you look. Their packaging is top notch and you’ll want to pick up some sweets for yourself as well for gifts. Their cookies and cupcakes are scrumptious; if you’re looking to splurge the full size cakes and tarts will win raves at parties.

One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Online: www.miette.com

Vive La Tarte
This bakery kiosk outside of the Ferry Building is an outpost of their main shop on Howard. The pastries are definitely Instagram-worthy—check out their gorgeous stuffed croissants filled with pastry cream and fruit. Vive la Tarte is also the inventor of the “tacro”, a croissant shell stuffed with savory fillings.

One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
Online: vivelatarte.com

Icicles Rolled Ice Cream

Icicles
Icicles offers one of the most unique ways to enjoy ice cream in the city—rolled up! This ice cream is both a dessert and show: you watch the workers pour ice cream mix into a cooling pan, then work and shape it into little frozen rolls. Kids will be riveted. The flavor combinations are cute, from strawberry and graham crackers to cereal and milk, and you get unlimited toppings, too!

829 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: iciclescreamroll.com

Beard Papa
Beard Papa is cream puffs perfected. Their enormous puffs are almost a meal onto themselves. The cream puff shells come in various flavors as do the fillings, and the puffs are filled to order, so they stay as fresh as possible. The vanilla is always a classic, but look out for seasonal flavors like strawberry or mango.

845 Market St. (in the Westfield San Francisco Centre)
San Francisco, CA
415-978-9975
Online: beardpapa.com

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Westfield San Francisco Centre
This enormous shopping mall in the former Emporium building will meet all your retail therapy needs and then some. It’s also worth visiting just to see the gorgeous restored glass dome from the original building at the top floor. If you have the munchies, head down to the extensive food court on the bottom level. The LEGO store is also on the bottom level to keep your kids entertained.

865 Market St.
San Francisco, CA
415-512-6776
Online: westfield.com/sanfrancisco

Ambassador Toys at Embarcadero Center
Embarcadero Center is a multi-block open air shopping center near the waterfront—go to the open decks on the upper levels for some nice views and sunshine on a warm day. Also don’t miss Ambassador Toys in the center. This cozy family-run store carries a delightful selection of classic toys, including many European brands. The staff is great with recommendations and offer free gift wrapping. It’s a great place to find the beloved toys of your childhood or a unique gift.

2 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA
415-345-8697
Online: ambassadortoys.com

Jeffreys Toys by Anita ChuJeffrey’s Toys
One of San Francisco’s most enduring and beloved toy stores, Jeffrey’s Toys has been a family-run business for over 60 years and was one of the inspirations for Pixar’s Toy Story. They moved from their original location to one right off of Maiden Lane. The new store contains their trademark wide-ranging selection of toys, from the dolls to books to classic board games to stuffed animals. The comic book corner is there as well!

45 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA
415-291-8697
Onlinejeffreys.toys

Union Square

Photo via Yelp by Adam S.

Union Square
This landmark park is the heart of downtown San Francisco. The massive concrete plaza often hosts festivals or other events; otherwise it’s a great place to hang out and people watch. Top tier shopping surrounds the square, from department stores to luxury boutiques to art galleries. For the littles, don’t miss the Disney Store, or help them find the heart sculptures scattered around the park. Other experiences not to miss are the view of the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus, or a stroll down picturesque Maiden Lane.

323 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: visitunionsquaresf.com

—Anita Chu

Photos by the author except where noted. 

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