Solo trips with each individual child mean a lot to me. Not only are these trips good bonding experiences, but they are also good to plug into each child’s interests. For example, when I travel with my daughter, we tend to gravitate towards amusement parks and anything to do with pop culture or shopping. My son, on the other hand, likes technology and..well, not much else. So, on a recent trip to San Francisco, we catered the whole visit to his interest. Of course, we went to other places but we largely focused on tech. After all, he’s a future engineer – why not milk it? We spent time in both San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.
Here are our recommendations for a trip to San Fran with a tech-obsessed kid – both where to stay and what to do.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
You can’t beat the location of Hilton San Francisco Union Square, near shopping and cable cars that go all over the city. Rooms are spacious with gorgeous views of the city. There is a pool and Jacuzzi, onsite dining with a kid’s menu, good service, a nice gym and direct access to Union Square, ChinaTown and the rest of San Fran. Stay tuned for a more complete review.
What to Do – a Top Ten of Things to Do in San Francisco
- Exploratorium is a must do with technology-obsessed kids. This hands-on science museum was founded by physicist, educator and blacklist victim Frank Oppenheimer (1912-1985), the brother of the Manhattan Project’s J. Robert Oppenheimer. Located at the Embarcadero at Pier 15, it’s full of experiments for the curious. The exhibits are interactive, magical and educational and instructional. Admission is $29.95 for adults, with lower rates for Bay Area residents, youth ($19.95 for children ages 4-12), seniors, students, teachers and the disabled. Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended; in order to minimize lines and avoid overcrowding.
- Boys love a trip to Alcatraz, which is actually a national park. Book your ticket in advance and get a tour guide, many of whom are actual ex-prisoners who are realistic when explaining what life was like there. We saw solitary confinement cells, found out how prisoners tried to escape, and saw the cafeteria where prisoners ate. Our son was so amused, he bought a book in the gift shop, a feat in my book. Cruise tickets are $33 for adults, $20.50 for children ages 5-17.
- The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, at the Innovation Hangar (Palace of Fine Arts), is for fans of The Hunger Games franchise. Immersive themed environments, hundreds of authentic costumes and props, and highly interactive digital and hands-on experiences allowed my son to explore the world of Panem. The exhibit’s technological wizardry and amazing artistry that carried them to the screen are revealed. Tickets are $27.50 for adults; children 3-11 years-old are $22.
- Head to Ghirardelli for ice cream. Ghirardelli Square is in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and you won’t go wrong choosing any flavor.
- The Computer History Museum, located in Mountain View, exhibits the history of computers from Charles Babbage difference Engine to the present day. Lots of IBM mainframes from the 1950’s and explanation of the first computers used during and after second world war in UK and US. It’s a lot to take in for small kids, but interesting for sightly older ones and adults. Admission is $15 to members of the general public.
- Once you re in Silicon Valley, you can visit Google, Facebook and Apple headquarters. There’s isn’t much more to do than see the campuses and get glimpses of employees, but you can also visit the Apple shop. If you have an inspiring engineer, like we do, then it’s well worth the trip.
- Techy kids will also love a visit to the Intel Museum, a museum of the microchip showing the progression of chip technology. You can go behind the scenes in the high-tech world of California’s famed Silicon Valley, see what it’s like inside an ultra-clean, highly automated silicon chip factory, and connect with technologies that give us new ways towork, learn, play, and communicate. The Intel Museum is 10,000 square feet of fun, interactive. Entry is free.
- On the Big Bus, kids can explore San Francisco’s famous landmarks on a Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour. We loved sitting back while enjoying the ride as we cruised through the city. The bus goes every 10-15 minutes in summer months & 20-30 mins in winter months Full Route is 2.5 hours. Adults are $45; children are $27 for the day pass.
- A Go San Francisco Card serves as your admission ticket to more than 30 top Bay Area attractions. The pass is valid for one full day of sightseeing from 9:00 am – 5:30 pm. Users can visit as many attractions as you like during this time. Head here for pricing.
At Aquarium of the Bay at Fisherman’s Wharf, we got up close and personal with more than 20,000 local marine animals. We really liked this Aquarium. It may be small but it was good to hold my son’s attention span for the whole time and its series of connecting undersea tunnels, explored on foot or via moving sidewalk, made for a unique experience. It also offers petting pools and had a really good sea otter exhibit that the aquarium seemed especially proud of. Located in Pier 39, it’s easy to get to, easy to park and it’s reasonable priced. Children ages 3 and under get in free. It’s $13.95 for children ages 4-12 and for seniors 65+, and $22.95 for adults. A Special Family Rate of $68 covers 2 children and 2 Adults. Purchasing tickets online in advance is encouraged.
His favorite thing we did? Definitely riding a GoCar. Just look at his smile above. It was included in our Go San Francisco Card, and we boarded one near our hotel. It was a great way to see the town, and we couldn’t have found anything better to do.
I’ll be writing more about this trip, just wanted to give you a taste. Follow me on Facebook for news of upcoming stories on San Fran and beyond.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay at the Hilton, Go card CityPASS and other items to facilitate this post and others I will be writing about a trip to San Francisco. As always, all opinions are my own.