san francisco

Looking for things to do with kids in San Francisco? Explore the temples of Waverly Place in Chinatown. (Photo: Getty Images)

San Francisco

Rally the Troops for a Family Vacation in San Francisco’s Chinatown

The key to a successful family vacation is keeping everyone busy — and happy, with ample opportunities to explore. For a learning experience your kids won’t soon forget, explore the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Known as the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, the neighborhood is a booming mecca with temples, street markets and more restaurants and bakeries than you could eat at in a week.

Wondering where to start? Here’s your guide to a successful family foray into Chinatown.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Tour the Temples

Start off your day by strolling down Waverly Place, a vibrant road nicknamed “The Street of Painted Balconies.” The street is home to the oldest Chinese Temple in the U.S.

Founded in 1852, the Tin How Temple stands the true test of time, having survived the great 1906 earthquake that rocked the city. The temple can be difficult to find – be sure to look up for the sign on the doorway.

Once there, you’ll climb three flights of stairs until you enter the sacred area. Bring a small donation and light a few incense sticks while you’re there. Heads up: take a mental picture, as no photography is allowed in the space!

Refuel with Traditional Chinatown Food

After exploring the bustling streets of Chinatown, we can guarantee you’ll be in the mood for some delicious food. There’s a few must-stop spots in the area if you’re on the hunt for desserts.

Swing by Golden Gate Bakery right when they first open to get a spot in line. Locals and tourists alike flock to the bakery for their infamous egg tarts.

If you’re not feeling the egg tarts, don’t worry, they have other items on the menu. Try the coconut mochi or lo poh bing, a flaky, sweet pastry.

If you’re looking for something tasty to bring to your friends back home, look no further than Golden Gate Fortune Cookies. Grab the regular fortune cookies – the mixed chocolate bag has some “not-so-safe for kiddos” fortunes.

The shop is relatively small, so you can actually see them baking and folding the cookies into their signature shape. You can even get customized orders of fortune cookies if you want the inside to say something special.

And if you and your crew are just looking for a quick fix, go for the bag of flat cookies. Sure, it may not be the signature shape, but these don’t lack one bit of flavor!

Shop the Streets of Chinatown

End your day in Chinatown with a little shopping, because who doesn’t love a little #treatyoself moment?

For souvenirs both you and the kids will enjoy, head to the Chinatown Kite Shop. They have a wide selection of handmade kites, featuring everything from the traditional diamond kite to creature kites and even radio-controlled flight kites.

The shop owners are knowledgeable and can help you pick out a kite that’s easy to fly if you’re just looking for some casual afternoon fun. Prices range from around $10 to more expensive for the elaborate designs.

Looking for a place where your kids can actually test out their new toys? Head over to Ocean Beach where you’ll find miles of sand they can run on – perfect for tiring them out before naptime.