Family Activities in San Francisco - San Francisco Zoo

So. If you haven't figured it out yet, we moved this summer, and, as luck would have it, were dropped in the second most expensive city in the United States. The cost of living here near San Francisco is astronomical. Because of the cost of living, most families are either a) in a home where both parents work or b) on an extremely tight budget.

Now, I have also noticed that there are not a lot of families in the area (at least not compared to Utah and Nebraska), so family friendly activities in San Francisco are extremely hard to come by and generally pretty expensive (because everything in this city has to cost an arm and a leg). I have taken it upon myself to save some other poor unfortunate soul the time and effort involved in finding family (& budget!) friendly activities in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.

First on the list: The San Francisco Zoo. Let me start off by saying that I am a zoo snob. Seriously. I grew up with the Sedgwick County Zoo (ranked the 8th best zoo in the US by ranker.com) and then when I went to college, I lived near the Henry Doorley Zoo (ranked the 2nd best zoo in the US by ranker.com).
Photo by Elsie
Quite frankly, when compared with those two zoos, the SF Zoo sucks. Hardcore. But... my kids don't have very high standards when it comes to zoos, and, honestly, when you've got two toddlers, your main goal is to kill a good portion of your day, get kids out into fresh air, and enjoy the sound silence of two passed out kids on the drive home.

The animals are fine, although the zoo is missing a couple of my favorites (what kind of zoo doesn't have elephants?!). Hands down, the best part of this zoo is the children's play area. I would pay the membership fees just to get year-round access to this playground.

To get the best bang for your buck: Park on Sloat Blvd. - NOT in the zoo parking. It is a short walk and it saves you $10-$12 (depending on when you go). If you live close enough to the zoo that you will go more than 3 times, get a membership. A basic family membership is $130, and single admission for adults is $19. Kids 3 and under are free, but if you've got a 4-year-old, you're going to spend $13 on admission for them. The basic family membership gives 2 adults and 3 children complete access for a year. If your kids are young enough to be free, this membership pays for itself by the fourth visit. If you have three kids over the age of four, the membership pays for itself by the second visit.

Helpful hints:


-You can make your membership for you and a "guest." This way you can save your sanity and bring a mom friend and her kid(s) for free.

-Your membership gives you discounts at all the stores and cafes in the zoo

-Your membership gives you discounted admission to over 100 zoos and aquariums nationwide.

The verdict: The San Francisco Zoo is a fabulous family activity and worth your time if you live in the Bay Area. If you're just visiting, I'd skip it.

Anyway, now that I've talked about all the logistics, I'll share some pictures from my mommy-daughter date with Elsie. She asked to go to the zoo, and it was great to spend some one-on-one time with her.