Kids, Travel

San Francisco With Kids: An Afternoon at Yerba Buena Gardens

1 Comment 10 September 2014

For the second summer in a row, AG and I traveled to San Francisco with Morgan for a conference and spent our days exploring the city.  AG and I have been fortunate to travel a good bit in our 7 years together, but out of all of the cities that we have been to San Francisco seems to have more things to do with kids than almost any other city we have ever visited! Even though we were also there last summer, we did not repeat a single activity from the previous year (with the exception of a visit to Pier 39, of course).

When we arrived at our Union Square hotel in San Francisco it was already early afternoon, so we decided to walk over to Yerba Buena Gardens to make the most of our time before dinner.  My main goal was to take her to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and to take her to play on the crazy tall slides at the Yerba Buena Play Circle.  What I didn’t realize was that Yerba Buena Gardens has so much more to offer kids and families who are visiting San Francisco than just those 2 things!

Read on for our must-see stops for anyone traveling with kids at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco!


Yerba Buena GardensAG visits the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial at Yerba Gardens, San Francisco.


1.  The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial & Waterfall.  You’ll find this incredible memorial tucked behind a waterfall – the largest fountain on the west coast.  As you walk behind waterfall you’ll find large etched glass panels with excepts from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches written in the languages of San Francisco’s sister cities.  The act of reading the panels while moving beneath the water is symbolic of baptism, the transformation that takes place within as you enter behind the water, read the panels, and then exit the water again.  I was able to explain this to AG, who is 7, on a higher level, and she asked lots of amazing questions about not only the memorial, but about the life of Dr. King. +1 for summer learning!


Slides at Yerba Buena Play CircleAG reaches the bottom of one of the giant slides at the Yerba Buena Gardens Play Circle


2.  Yerba Buena Gardens Play Circle.  We had such a ball visiting the playground here at the Play Circle.  The ground is mostly covered in rubber with lots of gently sloped rock climbing walls.  There is also a large area for kids to run and though it’s not fenced in, the entire area is sunken in slightly, so children are somewhat contained.  Our favorite part of this area was by far the two giant aluminum slides – they are super tall and fast – maybe some of the best slides we’ve ever experienced.  The only bummer for me is that I was too old to go down them, too!  Admission is free and the park is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily.


carousel at Yerba Buena Play Circle San Francisco with KidsAG and I loved the 100 year old carousel at Yerba Buena Gardens


3.  The LeRoy King Carousel.  Built in 1906, this 100 year-old carousel spent 50 years at the former San Francisco amusement park Playland-at-the-Beach. It was purchased by the city of San Francisco in 1998 and moved here to Yerba Buena Gardens where it has been fully restored and is still delighting children and adults on a daily basis.  $4 will get you 2 rides, or if you have already purchased admission to the Children’s Creativity Museum next door, you admission is $3 for 2 rides.


Samovar Tea Lounge Yerba Buena Gardens San FranciscoWe enjoyed afternoon tea at the Samovar Tea Lounge in Yerba Buena Gardens. 

4. Samovar Tea Lounge.  We stopped unexpectedly at this sweet little tea lounge and it was such a lovely surprise.  Located almost directly above the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Samovar Tea Lounge offers a beautiful respite from the elements.  Quiet and serene inside, our fellow customers were having business meetings, on dates, and meeting friends.  While AG was the only child in here, the folks working here were beyond friendly and welcoming to us.  The Chai tea was heavenly and I’m always a sucker for a good scone with jam and clotted cream.  AG ordered a cookie sampler which she enjoyed, and ended up eating half of my scone, too!


Children's Creativity Museum San Francisco The Children’s Creativity Museum. Photo by M Moriati on Flickr. 


5.  Children’s Creativity Museum.   We ran out of time (and daylight!) so unfortunately we didn’t make it to the Zeum before it was closed for the day. However we will be putting this high atop our list for our next visit to San Francisco because this unique museum offers children the opportunity not only to look but to touch and create.  They have an animation studio, a design studio, a music studio, and so much more.  Not to mention, artists are there to help guide children through the creative process.  Admission is only $12 – downright inexpensive compared to a lot of the activities around San Francisco!

Yerba Buena Gardens is located at 50 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.  The park is open during the hours of 10 am to 6 pm.  You can download a map of Yerba Buena Gardens here or visit their website for more info!

I hope you enjoyed this travel guide to Yerba Buena Gardens San Francisco and that you’ll come back for part 2 and part 3 of our San Francisco with Kids travel guide!



Your Comments

1 comment

  1. Sylvia Walters says:

    Loved all the information. I certainly did’nt know their was that much to do in San Fransico. Thanks for the heads up. Loved all the pictures, she’s so cute!

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