While San Francisco may not be famous for its beaches, Ocean Beach (and nearby Golden Gate Park) offers a welcome dose of nature amid a busy and exciting city. Views of beautiful hillside and the famous Cliff House make Ocean Beach a nice place for a stroll or some playtime on the wide beach, on the off chance it’s actually sunny.
Atmosphere: Ocean Beach draws an eclectic mix of travelers, residents and professional wanderers. Those who come back stay for the beach bonfires, dog-friendly leash laws and big surf.
Parking and Entrance: There are three free lots and some hillside street parking. Walk right in from the lots, but be prepared for a descent if you find a spot near the Cliff House.
Nice Walks and Views: Take the stroller along the walking path just off the beach or try your luck on the sand, which is pretty flat and packed and might be okay with a jogging stroller.
Activities for Toddlers: No wading here, as there are major rip currents. Stake your place far from the water and let your toddler dig in the sand with some plastic cups or containers from your travel that day. A safer beach spot close to SF would be Stinson Beach, an hour north.
If it’s too cold at the beach, bring your family to nearby Golden Gate Park to see the gardens and bison paddock. The park has paved paths for strollers and sometimes offers stroller tours.
Bathrooms: Outdoor showers and bathrooms are near the Sloat Boulevard entrance.
Perks for Parents: Check out Sutro Baths, up the hill from the beach, where you can see the ruins of large, privately owned swimming pools. If the baby’s asleep or being well-behaved, have a craft ale at the touristy Beach Chalet Brewery (1000 Great Hwy.)
Where to Stay with Kids: You’re probably not coming to San Francisco for the beach, so it’s best to stay where you’ll be spending more of your time. The Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf is right next to a cable car stop, has a kitchen and offers one- or two-bedroom suites. Let the baby sleep while you watch some TV in the other room. (2655 Hyde St.; about 25 minutes by car from the beach)
Baby-friendly Restaurants: For a hearty but quick meal after your day at the beach, order a deli sandwich on freshly baked sourdough at Fredy’s Ocean Beach Deli. (734 La Playa St.)
What Else to Do: Some of the top spots for kids in San Francisco: sea lions at Pier 39, the Exploratorium, San Francisco Zoo.
Photo by gimpbully