We’ve visited San Francisco a bunch of times and it feels like we’ve done all the downtown city things. And while downtown San Francisco is definitely a must see, sometimes when we travel with kids we need a little more space to explore. We like to rent a car and we like to combine city travel with a little time in nature and the outdoors. When I was looking up San Francisco hotels, parking seemed astronomically expensive at many of the places I looked at and I wasn’t sure if that would be the best value for our trip this time. I also had tickets for a Heath Ceramics tour in Sausalito so I started checking in this area for a hotel we could stay at with kids. This is how I found the Courtyard San Francisco Larkspur Landing Marin County.
Staying with kids at the Courtyard San Francisco Larkspur Landing Marin County
The first thing I noticed about this hotel was that parking here was only $5 per vehicle when I booked. They also have a pool and one bedroom suites which are perfect for families who want a little more room than a traditional hotel. We booked a suite on the bottom floor near the pool courtyard and it was easy to get the kids into the pool and back to the room quite easily-I would have totally appreciated this even more when they were younger. I didn’t realize how close this hotel was to the ferry to downtown San Francisco (it ends up at the Ferry building, a place I absolutely love!) I think it would have been a ten minute walk to the terminal and then we would not have to worry about having a car in actual downtown San Francisco. If you stay at this hotel and driving in cities or parking is stressful, this ferry might be a great alternate way to head into the city.
The Marin County Mart was another unexpected gem nearby the Courtyard San Francisco Larkspur Landing Marin County Hotel. It is such a cute little shopping area and there was also a weekend farmer’s market here when we visited. With a handful of stores and restaurants perfect for families this is where we went to Three Twins Ice Cream for both nights of our stay after the kids swam in the pool. We also picked up pastries one morning at the Rustic Bakery and brought them on our trek to Muir Woods. Johnny Donuts hadn’t opened up yet when we visited, but we tried them at their donut truck at the Farmer’s Market and they were really delicious.
When I travel and don’t have time to do much reading research before a trip, I try to take about 5 minutes to zero in on the place I’m visiting in Google Maps at the airport and search “hikes near me”, “food near me” and “bakeries near me”. Using these terms, I can usually can find the types of things I love to visit if they exist in the area. I pin those places and look for nearby pins when we get to our destination and are trying to decide what to do. This is how we found Muir Woods. We’ve heard of it forever. I thought it was a lot farther north but it was only about a 25 minute drive from our hotel. We were visiting during a busy time and pre-booked our parking for the earliest morning spot. I noticed that when we drove by the area again that weekend there was a sign that said parking at Muir Woods had booked up, so if this is a place you want to guarantee a visit to, I think it’s a place you need to book in advance. We loved feeling small amongst the giant trees and I didn’t realize the quote “The mountains are calling and I must go” was from John Muir.
Taco Bell Beach
We read somewhere Pacifica Beach is known as Taco Bell beach because of the amazing Taco Bell on the beach-Business Insider even called it the “World’s Best Taco Bell”. It has the same prices as the Taco Bells we’ve visited in Seattle but the views here are incredible. This beach is about 45 minutes drive from the hotel but you can also pair it with another stop like the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
The Bay Area Discovery Museum
I can’t imagine a more picturesque Children’s Museum than this one. Even the parking lot at the Bay Area Discovery Museum had incredible views. At 10 years old, my guys are getting just a little too old for many of the activities here but they still appreciated the playground and places where they could build and we got in free with reciprocal membership to the Nordic Museum in Seattle. I LOVED seeing the Patrick Dougherty Stick Work sculptures here and snapping pictures of my kids on the playground structures with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background was a dream. I thought I couldn’t be more jealous of San Francisco Families (who also have the Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences, and then we found another incredible San Francisco Museum that we hadn’t even counted ont.
The Lawrence Hall of Science
The Lawrence Hall of Science museum is reciprocal with Seattle’s Pacific Science Center Membership. This means that by supporting our local science center, we were able to get free entry into this museum too. I couldn’t’ stop snapping pictures at this museum. The views here are incredible. They have interesting exhibits and we ran out of time because we came at the end of the day. The boys and my hubby loved a water dam activity outside at this museum and I think we could have all spent more time at this beautiful place.
We couldn’t help but stop in downtown San Francisco to do two things: every time we visit I have to go to Boudin and I have to ride a trolley. Both of these things are in all my earliest memories of San Francisco and it doesn’t feel right if I visit and don’t get something in a bread bowl. I hope my kids will feel this way too. This was our first time visiting Boudin at the Wharf and I didn’t realize it was an incredible free factory that you can explore. We met up with some good friends here and all the kids explored the exhibits while we caught up. It’s nice that you can eat and sightsee in a place that feels so historic to San Francisco too.
We definitely needed a car to cover as much ground as we did on this trip. Having a car in the city also meant we could drive down Lombardi street and if you get to the bottom of Lombardi street in a car with kids they feel like total celebrities.
I liked the feeling of being able to travel all around area then come back to a comfortable room where the kids could have a swim and then we could walk to ice cream and then fall fast asleep. This is the type of trip I’m telling my sister and the grandparents that we have to come back and do as a bigger family getaway.
Have you been to San Francisco or are you heading their soon? And if you’re in the area have you heard of Safari West? This was another near San Francisco gem we really loved on this trip and were really glad we had a chance to see.