How to Spend 24 Hours in San Francisco With Children

Sometimes the hardest part of being a parent to more than one child is simply taking the time to show your kids the world. With that in mind, I made a decision some years back to take each of our daughters somewhere special for her 10th, 15th, and 20th birthdays. 

So far, we've only hit the 10th birthday trips. This year it was Annesley's turn, and we chose to spend 24 hours in the heart of San Francisco.

We arrived in the city around 6 p.m., which meant we were hungry and ready for dinner. We made our way to a hotel where I'd recently stayed and was pleased with, the Marriott Union Square. I chose it because not only is it new and clean and pretty, it's priced very fairly for a drop-dead fabulous location - Sutter Street right off Union Square. We could walk anywhere we wanted to go.

And we did! Dropping our bags in our room on the 23rd floor, we road the elevator down and then walked right over to where the action was. 

  The Christmas Tree at Union Square

The Christmas Tree at Union Square

Annesley had her heart set on Boudin Bakery, and I knew that the Boudin in the cellar at Macy's wouldn't be ridiculously packed. She ordered clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (because that's what you get at Boudin) and then we were on our way to see the lights and beauty of San Francisco at Christmastime. 

There's an ice rink in the square during the holidays, and it always makes me smile to see skaters in short sleeves when the days are sunny. Of course, San Francisco is cold and often foggy at night, but during the day it's pretty funny to see Californians on the ice in their t-shirts and jeans.

  The Tree in the Rotunda, Neiman Marcus

The Tree in the Rotunda, Neiman Marcus

Next stop was to the rotunda of Neiman Marcus, which is just across the street from Macy's. The tree there is at least four stories high, and we rode the escalator to the very top just so that we could look all the way down. 

We took in the tiny dollhouses with working lights in the windows of Tiffany's, drank complimentary cups of cider and hot cocoa at Williams Sonoma, and ogled the gowns behind glass in Bloomingdales.

My newly-minted 10-year-old was tired, so we called it a night.

Next morning, I had no other breakfast establishment in mind than the one-and-only Sears Fine Foods. Sears has been around since 1938, and I'd been going there ever since I was a kid. 18 Swedish silver dollar pancakes stacked high, deeply-pocketed waffles with strawberries and whipped cream -  my girl was in heaven. 


This particular daughter of mine adores animals. I knew what was in the windows at Macy's at Christmastime and couldn't think of a better place to take her. Live animals! The SPCA presents puppies and kittens for adoption in the cleverly decorated windows of Macy's at Christmas. She saw them the night before, but we had to return - twice! - the next day.

  Donating to the SPCA

Donating to the SPCA

Our last stop in Union Square was for me. Britex Fabrics has the most magical button collection I've ever seen, and even Annesley was wowed by all they have in their four-story emporium. I picked up a few sets for upcoming projects. I'm thinking I'll knit up something with those buttons as a special reminder to her of our trip.

  Goofing off at the Chinatown Gate

Goofing off at the Chinatown Gate

It's a quick walk to the Bush Street gate of Chinatown from Union Square. Just a few blocks from our hotel, we walked quite a ways into the heart of Chinatown, browsing little stores full of satin slippers and gorgeous embroidery and pondering the most interesting and unidentifiable produce in the large woven baskets in front of the markets.

San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. Our favorite dim sum restaurant is here, as is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

We didn't stay too long in Chinatown, however; we had someplace to be!


The San Francisco Symphony has so many things going for it. Aside from its world class conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, the symphony attracts the best of the best performers and makes its home in the gorgeous Davies Symphony Hall overlooking Van Ness Avenue, across from the opera house and city hall. But for us, the best part during the last decade has been its family-friendly performances. 

Annesley sings in our children's choir and often with the local symphony, so when a sing-along Christmas show with the San Francisco symphony and Pacific Boys Choir was advertised, I quickly purchased a couple of tickets.

  Davies Symphony Hall

Davies Symphony Hall

During intermission, everyone was handed a glow stick. Kids with glow sticks at the symphony? Awesome.

We then headed home (about an hour and a half from the city) because we had somewhere to be that night, but I was very pleased with all we had accomplished during our city trip. That's what Californians call San Francisco - the City. Because, really, there just isn't another city like it!

Granted, there are many, many more things to do with kids in the City, but for us, it was perfect!