We love the San Francisco Bay Area and always try to get out and explore as much as we can when we have the time — and, in every season. Summer is a great time for family fun since the area is not just vast but diverse in its offerings, from raw natural beauty along the coast and sweeping views of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge to culture and arts in San Francisco and Marin, which is north of the city, but only a stone’s throw away.
Recently, we explored some new attractions and activities we haven’t experienced before and did so, with kids in tow. Be sure to also check out our California page, our San Francisco page as well as our Family Travel page for more fun ideas.
See San Francisco by Tuk Tuk
Newly launched this summer, Lucky Tuk Tuk provides tours of the most famous San Francisco attractions as well as lesser known neighborhoods — and, everything in between. The wonderful thing about seeing the city by Tuk Tuk is that you can see far more things than you can in a bus or even in a car. Depending on the tour (there are various options), you can take in the San Francisco city skyline, enjoy the sights and smells of Fisherman’s Wharf, green spaces in Golden Gate Park, murals in the Mission, hippie history in the Haight and beyond.
Your tour guide picks you up in Union Square or Fisherman’s Wharf — your choice and we opted for the latter. Tours are limited to five riders per Tuk Tuk (6 guests will also work if you have a group which includes children and adults). Larger groups can reserve multiple Tuk Tuks to cruise around together. We went for a private tour so it was just the four of us, which meant more seat space to spread out. The tour runs for roughly 2.5 to 3 hours.
Although they only have a few Tuk Tuks now, they plan to add more — we randomly came across another one who was making some of the same stops we were — they’re oh so fun to look at and ride in, whether you’re climbing one of San Francisco’s massive hills or driving flat through Golden Gate Park or the Embarcadero.
Some of the highlights you can take in include Fisherman’s Wharf (touristy yes, but always a fun area to walk around and of course, order Dungeness Crab, oysters or other fresh seafood. You also take in the Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park (de Young, Academy of Sciences and Conservatory of Flowers — oh so beautiful), Alamo Square, the Painted Ladies, City Hall and Civic Center, Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, the Asian Art Museum, Union Square, Dragon’s Gate, China Town and the infamous crooked street, Lombard Street.
Note that it can get windy and a little chilly as you make your way past the water or on top of one of the many infamous tall San Francisco hills, but Lucky Tuk Tuk provides fun colored warm blankets you can put around you making it ever so cozy. See some of our visual highlights below.
We had lunch at Cioppinos before the tour officially started – they’ve been around for awhile, are family owned and most known for their tomato seafood stew. It was a perfect summer day to sit outside and only a mere 4 minute walk to where Lucky Tuk Tuk picked us up.
More quirky data for you: each tuk tuk is named after a famous woman of sorts….Our tuk tuk was named Isadora Duncan, who is the mother of modern dance. Born in 1887, Isadora started dance schools in both England and France! Speaking of Europe, make sure you try XOX Truffles in San Francisco’s Little Italy (created with a French attitude) and have a cannoli in North Beach (across from Washington Square Park is notable).
Lucky Tuk Tuk
For more information, be sure to visit their website.
Cartoon Art Museum
San Francisco-based along the Embarcadero, the Cartoon Art Museum is a museum that specializes in the art of comics and cartoons. It is the only museum in the Western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of all forms of cartoon art.
Founded in 1984, the Cartoon Art Museum is fun for both kids and adults — they have comic strips, comic books and anime as well as political cartoons, graphic novels and underground comix. People of all ages can view original cartoon art at exhibitions and screenings, produce their own comics and animation at classes and workshops, research deeply into our collection and library, and mix and mingle with professional and aspiring cartoonists. This unique institution houses approximately 7,000 original pieces in our permanent collection and attracts more than 30,000 visitors annually.
It’s also conveniently located in San Francisco — one block from Aquatic Park, the Maritime Museum, Ghirardelli Square, and the Hyde Street cable car turnaround. And so, if you’re planning to do other attractions in the city, it’s an easy add-on.
Because we had the kids and they were eager to go, I assumed I wouldn’t be as interested in it as a stop over — boy was I wrong. It was me who held our group up, because I couldn’t stop reading (and laughing loudly) at several of the comics I read regularly as a kid. I had forgotten how much I loved Dennis the Menace weekly comics in our local papers. Regardless of which comic you fell in love with as a child, chances are they are represented at this SF-based museum.
The Cartoon Art Museum’s mission is to ignite imaginations and foster the next generation of visual storytellers by celebrating the history of cartoon art, its role in society, and its universal appeal.
How did they get started you may be wondering? In 1984, a group of cartoon art enthusiasts began organizing exhibitions by using artwork from their own collections. For several years, the Cartoon Art Museum was a “museum without walls,” setting up shows in local museums and corporate spaces. In 1987, with an endowment from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, the museum established residence in the heart of San Francisco’s new vibrant art center, Yerba Buena Gardens. The museum moved from its original home, 665 Third Street to 814 Mission Street in 1995. In 2001, the museum moved to a new location at 655 Mission Street, where it remained for the next 14 years. In October 2017, after a two year hiatus, the museum reopened at its new location at 781 Beach Street in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood.
Over the past three decades, the museum has produced nearly 200 exhibitions on topics ranging from politics and sports to children’s literature and Latino culture, and more than 20 publications celebrating and examining the diversity of cartoon art in animation, comics, graphic novels, zines and book illustration.
Among the hundreds of artists that have been featured include Kate Beaton, Mary Blair, Roz Chast, Robert Crumb, Dan DeCarlo, Will Eisner, Phil Frank, Dave Gibbons, Edward Gorey, Los Bros. Hernandez, Lynn Johnston, Chuck Jones, Jack Kirby, Keith Knight, Tom Meyer, Trina Robbins, Spain Rodriguez, John Romita, Stan Sakai, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, Raina Telgemeier, Garry Trudeau, Morrie Turner, Mort Walker, Bill Watterson, and Wally Wood. The museum’s Sparky Awards, named for Peanuts creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz, have been awarded to more than 20 cartoonists and other significant contributors to the world of cartoon art.
Two thumbs up. We loved our experience and could have stayed for longer – there’s so much to look at as well as a place to view on-screen as well.
The Cartoon Art Museum
781 Beach Street | San Francisco, CA
For more details, be sure to visit their website.
Aqua Adventure Water Park
You are not allowed to bring any food or drinks into the park with you but on-site, they have concession foodie items, such as burgers, hot dogs, chili cheese fries and snacks! You can also buy souvenirs here as well, such as mugs, water shoes, swim suits, t-shirts and hats. Like many similar attractions, they have ice cold Dippin’ Dots, sweet churros and savory pretzels to graze on in between a swim or a trip down the oh so fun water slide. If you don’t want to think about leaving your items next to one of the countless lounge chairs scattered throughout the park on grassy areas, you can rent a locker for your wallet, keys, and phone so you can enjoy the lazy river or the swimming pool with the kids. Cabanas and Luxury Loungers are also available to rent on a first come first serve basis.
They have very durable double yellow tubes so two of you can go down the water slide at the same as well.
If you just want to look up at the summer sky or the palm trees while the kids have fun, that’s also an option as well — they had plenty of lounge chairs for adults if you don’t want to participate in the family fun, or maybe you do, but need an hour or so to relax.
There’s also a fun lazy river which the entire family will enjoy.
Aqua Adventure Water Park
For more on the park, their hours and to get tickets, visit their website.
The City by Foot & Trolley
Let’s face it — as someone who has lived in Europe and loves to walk, there’s so much FUN in taking in a city by foot. Of course the city is known for its high hills, so after a few hours of exercise, you can always jump on a trolley and see other parts of the city in an old fashioned way. And, we love San Francisco’s old cable cars.
For useful information on how to explore the city by foot, check out the website Free SF Tours by Foot for ideas.
Fairfax in Marin
Fairfax is an artsy town in northern Marin, which still attracts the off the beaten path folks who have a passion for art, culture, music and spirituality. It’s a mere 3.25 miles west-northwest of San Rafael in Marin (also beautiful) and has less than 10,000 folks, meaning it has that small town energy to it, which we love.
While it isn’t known to be a kid-friendly town per se, it doesn’t mean there aren’t fun things to do as a family there, simply by walking through the town itself. There are pizzerias, coffee shops and places to order ice cream, as well as eclectic shops and festivals if you can make the timing work.
One of the things I love about Fairfax and Marin in general is the countless cute boutiques and shops for fashion, unique items, housewares, antiques, jewelry, lifestyle and more.
Town of Fairfax
For more on Fairfax and the surrounding area, be sure to visit the Town of Fairfax website as well as the Visit Marin website for more details about Marin towns and things to do including local festivals.
Point Reyes Station
In West Marin, lies Point Reyes and Point Reyes Station, which is beautiful and quaint stop over along the northern California coast. And yes, it’s about an hour from San Francisco, so makes for a perfect day trip, whether you want a romantic escape or are exploring the area with your family. In and around the Point Reyes National Seashore lies Tomales Bay, and surrounding villages of Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Olema, Inverness, Point Reyes Station, Marshall, and Tomales.
There are also some great B&B’s here and inns as well should you decide not to drive back to San Francisco and want to make the drive more than a day trip. You can experience a Point Reyes bed and breakfast, a vacation home or cottage, a hotel or roadside motel. There are some quaint restaurants and cafes in the area as well as tons of little boutiques and shops. Here, you can find locally made products as well as international treasures. And, remember nearby are the towering redwoods of Muir Woods.
Antiques, art galleries, fabulous clothing shops, markets, outdoor markets, Buffalo milk ice cream which is to die-for, beachie shops and more, can all be found in Point Reyes station, which is such a quaint little town to walk around and hang your hat for an afternoon or more.
We have always loved our time here and this marks our fourth time exploring Point Reyes Station and the surrounding area. Whether you have kids in tow or are simply solo, you’ll find it a relaxing and wonderful experience.
For more on on the area, be sure to visit the Point Reyes/West Marin website for ideas of what to do and see.
Marin County Fair
The Marin County Fair is an annual event held every July in San Rafael, California, which is about a 30 or so minute drive from San Francisco — north, over the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marin County Fair has been around for over 50 years. They have leading-edge exhibits, farm animals, family activities, and spectacular fireworks displays each night, although sadly we left too early and missed the firework extravaganza. The fair also offers carnival rides, fine art, gifts, cotton candy and other scrumptious fair goodies and more. There’s even an organic coffee stand.
In addition to the regular fair activities and rides, they had various stages where you could view other attractions. For example, they had a Meet the Rabbits event (horses and pigs too aka pig races), Goat Milking (which is great for kids to learn), Draft Horse & Mule Driving, Short Film & Video, Culinary Contests, Horse Shoeing, Orchid Growing, Vaulting, Chef’s Corner, Carriage Races, Origami World, Llamas (who doesn’t love Llamas?), Guinea Pig Showmanship, Marin Star Search, Petting Zoo, Cow Milking, Flower Arranging Workshop for kids and tons more. Here are some visual highlights from our afternoon on opening day on July 3rd.
Marin County Fair
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA 94903
Phone: (415) 473-6400
For more information, visit their website.
Note: we were hosted by “some” of the attractions here but all opinions expressed were entirely our own and none of these posts are sponsored, but simply experiential and in our words.