Last month my family was invited to a wedding in San Francisco. My husband couldn’t take much off work so we debated about going, especially because we live on the East coast and a direct flight would be 6 hours. 6 hours in an airplane with two small kids. But we are travelers at heart and could not pass the opportunity for a mini vacation and we went.
We had 4 days in San Francisco and it was our first time going with kids and experiencing this city as a family. In order to prepare our 3 year old for the trip I asked my friend, artist Carolina Coto (check out her gorgeous art and jewelry on instagram), to make some drawings of the two main attractions we would be seeing: the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Cable Car.
I loved having my daughter color these attractions before going because I was able to explain to her what we would be doing and tell her a little bit about the city. The best part was that when we got to San Francisco and she saw the cable car and Golden Gate Bridge she immediately recognized them. It was really exciting for her to see them in real life. You can download these kid coloring pages for free here.
If you travel with small kids, you probably take it easy. You know sometimes you will stay in one place longer than you planned because your kid loved it and other times you will rush through some things. When we travel we love to do things that my husband and I can enjoy as well as the kids but we are always flexible and open to change plans last minute.
The wedding we were attending was having their reception at Phoenix Hotel, a Joie de vivre hotel. The hotel provided us with a discounted (media) rate for our stay and we decided to stay here for 3 nights. When we first arrived in the hotel it felt like we were transported to the set of “Mad Men”. The hotel had a hipster vibe and look and wasn’t what we were expecting.
The first thing my 3 year old noticed when we got there were the fish. This became her favorite part of the hotel and we had to visit those fish daily, several times a day. The staff was great and accommodating. We had requested a king size bed but realized we needed a pull out bed once we got to our room and they got us one in a matter of minutes.
Phoenix Hotel is in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. If you’re not familiar with the area then you should know this is the sketchy part of the city. The hotel felt like an oasis in the middle of it all. Outside of the hotel you saw a lot of homeless people and trash on the street but as soon as you walked in you were in this bubble: pretty decorations, relaxing lounging areas, hipster vibe and welcoming pool. We stayed during the week and it was very quiet, however our last night there was a Friday night and the restaurant on site had the music loud until midnight, which meant 3am to us east-coasters. This didn’t bother our kids as much but my husband and I were not able to sleep until the music was off.
We loved the overall vibe of this hotel however I do think this is a perfect hotel for when you’re traveling without kids, mainly because it is located in such a sketchy part. We didn’t mind being there for the experience and because we got to see another side of the city but you have to keep in mind that the Tenderloin is not the best part.
Since it was a short vacation we kept it simple but had an amazing time. If you’re going to be visiting this city check out my recommendations on what to do. I’ll lay out what we did day by day to give you suggestions on how to plan your day.
Walk around the city and ride the cable car. (Download a free coloring page of the cable car here.)
We walked in the downtown area and financial district. This is a must for us when we travel, we love to see the city “in action”. During our walk we got hungry and stopped at Super Duper burgers and were pleasantly surprised. Not only was their food amazing but it was quality food. They even had an organic shake which you bet we got!
We ended our day riding the cable car. This was one of the highlights of the trip for my 3 year old. She kept saying she was riding Daniel Tiger’s trolley.
Visit the Children’s Creativity museum.
We had never heard of this place before and we were totally blown away by it! This place is amazing and it made me wish we had one in DC. This museum is filled with kid activities from drawing to coding with robots. We thought we would be here for a few hours but we ended up spending the entire day here. If you have kids, you have to visit this museum. You will not regret it but prepared to stay there all day.
Our favorite activities were the puppets, singing along Frozen songs and playing around with the robots in the Wonder Workshop. We ended our day by hanging out at the playground.
Visit Crissy beach, see the Golden Gate Bridge and walk around the Palace of Fine Arts. (Download a free coloring page of the Golden Gate Bridge here.)
This is my favorite part of San Francisco and what comes to mind when I think of this city: water views, beautiful houses, sail boats and the Golden Gate bridge.
We spent half the day at the beach because you can never go wrong with sand when you have kids. That’s where we saw the Golden Gate Bridge. My daughter was really excited when she saw it, she recognized it from her coloring picture and from an episode of Little Einsteins.
Then we walked from Crissy beach to the Palace of Fine Arts. This place is breathtaking: the water, trees and ducks give it a fairy tale look. It’s a great place for a picnic or to sit and enjoy the view.
We had brunch at Brenda’s French soul food because it was close to the Phoenix Hotel and were surprised at how delicious our meals were. We later found out this restaurant is well known for their food.
We also discovered Mr. Holmes Bakehouse by accident when we were walking around the hotel and let me tell you, from now on I will always stop by this bakery when we’re in San Francisco. I love sweets but I’m very picky about them and these are the best pastries I’ve tried in my life. Their donuts (left on the picture below) are to die for so do yourself a favor and grab a few when you’re in the city. 🙂
We had plans to go to the Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences but unfortunately we ran out of time. We spent our last day walking around the city and we also met with friends and hung out at playgrounds.
During this trip we decided not to rent a car so we used a lot of public transportation and Uber. It was very nice not having to worry about parking and being able to move around the city with ease. Plus, this city is very walkable so not having a car was a great to experience every bit of it.
Overall, it was a great short visit. Our highlights were definitely the cable car, the Children’s Creativity museum and the donuts. If we were to go again we would definitively repeat all three.
Have you been to San Francisco? What are your favorite places to visit with kids?
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