I took my kids to San Francisco when my youngest turned one. So my oldest was two. I loved visiting this city with kids at that age. There’s such a variety of things to do that it not only appeals to people of all ages, but people with multiple interests. I’m excited to share the best children’s books for a trip to San Francisco that I wish I had purchased before our trip. And I’ll also add some travel tips to the end of this post, too.
Best board books for a trip to San Francisco
I would’ve loved these board books for our trip. Take a look.
San Francisco: A Book of Numbers
by Ashley Evanson
The “Hello World” series of books uses gorgeous illustration with common ideas, in this case – numbers, to share the world with kids. A great souvenir for young travelers.
Good Night San Francisco
by Adam Gamble and Santiago Cohen
Kids will love the familiarity of the popular children’s book “Good Night Moon” using San Francisco sites instead. Many gift shop owners in cities across the country have told me that endless shoppers also collect these as souvenirs.
Larry Loves San Francisco
by John Skewes
The popular Larry of the Larry Gets Lost series loves San Francisco so much, that he’s in a board book dedicated to his love. This book is a great introduction to both San Francisco and the travel series. There’s even a picture book (see the next section) with more San Francisco and Larry love.
San Francisco, Baby!
by Ward Jenkins
This baby’s excited about seeing San Francisco. And that’s exactly what parents want to see – excited traveling babies.
San Francisco Picture Books
As kids get older, they may want more than the images and stories of board books provide. Enter picture books – which are actually good for any age, really. I still read picture books today! Here are some great ones to get kids prepared for a San Francisco trip.
This is San Francisco
by M. Sasek
If there’s an M. Sasek, “This is…” book about a destination – I will recommend it. I consider it the classic kids travel book. They’re filled with wonderful illustration that stands the test of time. Definitely add this to your bookshelf… even if you don’t make it to San Francisco any time soon.
Fly High, Fly Low
by Don Freeman
This Caldecott-winning book is about a Californian pigeon trying to find the perfect home in San Francisco. This book was written over 50 years ago and is sure to provide a good background into what San Francisco used to look like. Perfect in comparison to a trip in the 21st century.
Journey Around San Francisco: from A to Z
by Martha Zschock
Discover San Francisco with the alphabet. This book uses each letter of the alphabet to highlight one of the city’s important elements. It’s an easy way for kids to learn a variety of things at once.
The City by the Bay
by Tricia Brown and illustrated by Elisa Kleven
This is a fun book of San Francisco illustrations. It’s the kind of book I can imagine just sitting around with and examining all of the details.
Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco
by Michael Mullin and illustrated by John Skewes
This is part of the popular Larry Gets Lost series. This time Larry’s lost in San Francisco. He travels all around the city seeing everything there is to see before being reunited with his family.
Picture books about specific San Francisco treasures
First up, let’s check out a few picture books about San Francisco’s iconic streetcars.
Maybelle The Cable Car
by Virginia Lee Burton
If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll immediately fall in love with San Francisco’s cable cars. This story is based on the true story of how the people of the city saved them from “extinction”.
The Cable Car and the Dragon
by Herb Caen
This book doesn’t just highlight San Francisco’s Cable cars, but also acknowledges one of the world’s most popular China Town’s at the Chinese New Year Celebration in San Francisco.
Next, the seals of San Francisco. If you’re thinking of a fun itinerary stop that will definitely put a smile on your children’s face – then definitely visit the seals. Read fun picture books about them now.
San Francisco’s Famous Sea Lions
by Kat Shehata and illustrated by Jo McElwee
If you think your children are going to see the sea lions, smile, then immediately ask you a bunch of questions about them – this is the book for you. This book talks about how the seals got there, why they do the things they do, and so much more.
The Golden Gate Bridge was one of my favorite parts of San Francisco. It is the most iconic symbol of the city. I hope you’re lucky, like we were, and catch it on a clear day.
This Bridge will not be Gray
by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Tucker Nichols
Want to know why the Golden Gate Bridge is the color it is? This is the book for you.
San Francisco travel guides for kids
One of the biggest questions I hear over and over again in family travel groups is – what can I do in (enter city) that my kids will enjoy? My answer is always – ask them. A good follow up question I rarely get is, how can they know what to do if they don’t know anything about (city). But, I have an answer prepared in case people do ask and that answer is travel guides.
I have no objection handing my kids a photo-filled travel guide and giving them post-it notes and letting them use them to tell me what looks interesting. Or, when available, I’ll get a book geared for them. Here are some travel guides for kids traveling to San Francisco.
A Kid’s Guide to San Francisco
by Sara Day and illustrated by Sandra Cannon
This guide shares the history of the city. It also lists the popular sights in an A-Z format which makes it fun for kids.
The Kid’s Guide to San Francisco
by Eileen Ognitz
This guide uses kid-tested tips to really encourage families to let the kids help plan the trip. There’s also fun facts to share on the trip, short quizzes, and it’s available in e-book format which makes it a good decision for families on the go.
Chapter books for kids set in San Francisco
I love reading a book set in the place I’m traveling to next, or while I’m traveling. My bet is that kids feel the same way. So, here are a few chapter books set in San Francisco for kids. Let me warn you though – there are a lot of options. If you don’t see something that looks exactly like what your child would like, you can click on the closest and find other options.
I specifically stayed away from earthquake books – but they’re out there if you’re interested.
The Mystery in San Francisco
created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
This is a San Francisco-set book in the popular “The Boxcar Children” series. Kids will either love or not love these books, but the familiarity of it helps kids get into the setting.
The San Francisco Splash
By David A. Kelly and illustrated by Mark Meyers
Sports fans will appreciate this children’s book, which is part of the Ballpark Mysteries. With a slant to San Francisco baseball, there’s also information about the city’s new ballpark. A must if you’re planning to see a game while there.
More children’s book resources
- If you’re visiting other areas of California, you may want to check out California children’s books
- We also have other books in the “best children’s books set in...” series of our website
- Don’t forget to check out our travel gear tips
Family Travel Tips for Visiting San Francisco
Where we stayed in San Francisco
We’ve only recently expanded outside of the Hilton brand of hotels. So, while we were in San Francisco, we took advantage of our Gold Member status, and booked Hilton Union Square. It’s a great hotel in a very convenient location. The rooms are big. No complaints. The next time we go I want to try out the Kimpton Sir Francis Drake.
Top Sights for Kids
We spent three days in San Francisco. Due to our circumstances, the thing that made the most sense was the City Pass. It gave us 4 attractions that could be seen over the course of 9 days, and a 7-day transportation pass.
We only had time to do 3 of the 4 activities. Exploratorium (which we all LOVED), the Aquarium of the Bay (which – I’m not really an aquarium fan, so it was ok), and a bay cruise – which was my favorite thing to do in San Francisco. The rest of the time we spent wandering, eating, looking at seals, and checking out bookstores.
San Francisco Bookstores
There are many kid-friendly bookstores in San Francisco. I haven’t been to them all, so I’m going to refer you to a comprehensive list on Red Triangle. That said, we did spend too-short of time at Book Passage in the Ferry Building. They have so many events throughout the year that it’s a book-lovers dream. And the location is perfect. Definitely worth your time.
San Francisco thoughts
Have you been to San Francisco? What do you think of the books and places I’ve recommended? What am I missing (I know it’s a lot). Let me know in the comments below.
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