Taking the San Francisco Bay Ferry with Kids - 510 Families
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Taking the San Francisco Bay Ferry with Kids

My family recently rode the ferry from Jack London Square to San Francisco, just for the thrill of it. Riding the ferry to Oakland from San Francisco or across the Bay in either direction is a very fun activity to do with kids — even if your destination is just a roundtrip!

Ride the ferry from Jack London Square to San Francisco

My kids did not have much interest in our destination, San Francisco’s epicurean Ferry Building and adjacent farmer’s market, because it was terribly crowded. They couldn’t see anything, and they’re not inclined toward gourmet food. On a less gorgeous day, however, the Ferry Building may be easier to stroll around, and the walk is so short, this seems like an ideal activity to do with visiting grandparents.

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We purchased some peaches and abandoned the crowds. We spent our time running laps around the massive fountain located across The Embarcadero at Justin Herman Plaza.


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Things to know about taking the ferry to San Francisco

Park at Jack London Square for free. There’s a 7-story garage at 101 Washington Street. A ticket validation machine is located next to doors you’ll pass through before boarding the ferry.

Wear sunscreen. You’ll line up with your fellow passengers and only a portion of the queue will be in the shade. While you’re waiting, there’s plenty of Port of Oakland action to take in.

oakland george lucas figure

Eating and drinking are encouraged. Really. A concession stand on the ferry sells beer and wine among other refreshments. There are many rows of theater-style chairs and some tables for two or four where you can eat a snack or a meal.

ferry from oakland


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Tickets are sold onboard. While you can buy tickets in advance online, there is a service charge. Purchasing them on the boat presents no inconvenience. As of July 1, 2019 Adults traveling from Oakland or Alameda to San Francisco cost $9.30 (or $7 with a clipper card) each way.  Children 5-18 are $4.60. Children under 5 are free.

Oh, the places you’ll go.  The Ferry Building is just one option for those who want to ride a boat across the Bay.

  • Direct service to AT&T park is available for weekday evening games and weekend and holiday games. (You might want to splurge on the online ticketing to ensure a seat for these events.)
  • Disembarking at Pier 41 will give you easy access to Pier 39 and the Aquarium of the Bay and Alcatraz.
  • Angel Island park admission is included in the price of a ticket from Oakland or Alameda to that hiking and picnicking destination.

The return trip is sweet. Walking back from the terminal to the parking structure takes you past a Ben and Jerry’s storefront.

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3 thoughts on “Taking the San Francisco Bay Ferry with Kids”

  1. Tatian Greenleaf

    Great ideas! Just know that the ferry returns from AT&T park half an hour after the last inning. We made the mistake of taking our 5 year old son to a game and it went to 14 innings. The ferry didn’t arrive until after midnight and my son was exhausted by the 9th inning. Still, it’s a great way to travel with kids… just be prepared for a backup plan (e.g. taxi).

  2. Oh, we love taking the ferry to the city. My kid actually likes the Ferry Building even when it’s insane on Saturdays, because she’s a cheese fanatic and insists on a visit to Cowgirl Creamery AND the cheese stands at the outdoor market. But for those who really can’t stand the crowds (and they are overwhelming), nearby is a pier you can stroll on. At the end, there are chairs that you can sit in and spin – our daughter loved those! Keep walking south and you’ll come to the rocket ship structure, and past that, the bow and arrow that you’re not supposed to climb on but everybody does anyway.

    Head north instead, turn inland at Levi Plaza, and you’re right at the foot of the steps that will lead you up to Coit Tower. If you make it all the way, then you’ve earned a treat – either a pastry in North Beach or some chocolate back at the Ferry Building!

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