Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)






The DeYoung Museum, in Golden Gate Park, is one of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco. It’s such a feast for the eyes—the architecture, the landscape, the views, and (of course) the art.

Art museums can be a bit tricky with kids, but I’d recommend giving this one a try if you’re interested.




Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned…


Read Up
Hudson loves Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco

and This is San Francisco
, and gets excited every time we tell him we’re going to drive across the bridge. This time we made sure to look at pictures of some of the art he’d see ahead of time as well. Check the museum shop (ahead of time or when you first arrive) to see what sorts of site-specific activity books they have for kids. For the DeYoung, I’d suggest ordering I [Heart] Art ahead of your visit. It’s an interactive coloring book that features select, iconic works from the Fine Art collection. It’s ideal for the six-year-old set, but kids of any age will enjoy spotting the real thing once they arrive.

If you’re going for a special exhibit, you might see if they have something related on offer. We didn’t pay the supplement for the Keith Haring Political Art exhibit, but Nina’s Book of Little Things would make a fun companion gift. And you can always show them (or let them pick out) some postcards of the collection: choose a few you’d like to visit and let them know you’ll stay just long enough until they can spot them. (Bonus—I did have a big, blue purse!)

And don’t forget to prepare yourself, too. Check the museum website for closures (the DeYoung is closed Mondays), parking suggestions (use the Music Concourse garage at $5/hour), and suggestions for visiting with kids (they have a special “Doing and Viewing” kids program on select Saturdays from 10-11:30am, where a short tour is combined with a hands-on activity). Familiarize yourself with a few highlights and the general museum layout and drum up some excitement ahead of time.


Review the Rules
There’s a lot of discussion of museum behavior before we go inside. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least it keeps the “why” refrain in check if we have to repeat “look, don’t touch” or “walk, please” (a few dozen times) once we’re there.

Babar’s Museum of Art

 is one book I’ve found that can serve as a nice introduction to museum behavior for kids.





Follow Their Lead
When we stopped first at the gift shop, Hudson announced he was going to pick out a book for us and disappeared behind a tall stack. The woman behind the counter smiled and said “let’s see what he chooses” and I quieted my instinct to call out his name across the store. I loved her response: ‘let’s see what interests him.’ And I tried to keep that attitude in mind throughout the visit.

It made for a lot more fun. Though we didn’t go into the Keith Haring exhibit, he loved the Buick on display in the lobby (“it has back seats!”) and the giant photo of Haring painting an untitled day-glo work in the bookshop. “That’s not very nice!,” he said about the red figure stomping on a green figure. “That guy is a bad guy.” It was interesting to see what made him want to look closely—even if it wasn’t always surprising (Mel Ramos’ Superman, 1962).

It was also clear when he was bored, at which point we could suggest he color in the I [Heart] Art book in the stroller, or decide to move on.





Perhaps most engaging for everyone, however, is the 360-degree view from the top of the Hamon Observation tower. It’s hard not to appreciate the walls of glass looking out over the park and the city beyond.

Tip: The tower is free to visit. You could have quite a lovely visit simply by limiting yourself to the works on display in the lobby (some of my favorite Thiebaud paintings are just outside the cafe!), the sculpture garden, and the observation deck. This would be a more than ample introduction for most 3-year-olds.




Factor in Food
Some small folks get hAngry around 10am. I always regret it if I forget to factor in snacks.

The museum has a nice cafe on the ground floor with delicious (albeit slightly expensive) food. Aron and I shard a crab cake with egg and hollandaise that was wonderful! They also have a kids menu and a selection of whole fruit, and are situated on the fringe of the sculpture garden—i.e. a large lawn with a few things one can run around, even he can’t climb.


Keep it Short
Manage your expectations (you’re not going to see everything). The DeYoung is smack in the middle of an incredible park—and very near to a playground—so as soon as everyone has had enough, head outside and enjoy.

Thank you to MZ Wallace for sponsoring this post. I’m carrying their Chrissie bag in Midnight Bedford throughout (and love it!). The New York brand makes beautiful bags with plenty of practical details—like a ton of pockets. 

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