Fun family activities for $10 or less

6 budget friendly activities in and around San Francisco:
By Mike Adamick

  1. The Seward Street slides: These old-school cement slides were constructed in the 1970s and are hidden away on a hillside between Castro and Noe Valley. Everyone knows about the concrete slides at Golden Gate Park, but these hidden gems are faster, bigger and a whole lot more fun -- and less crowded! We take family visitors here all the time and can spend a solid hour zipping down the slides.

  2. Hotel Nikko sky pool: No one ever thinks of swimming as a fun rainy day activity, but there is an indoor pool on the 5th floor of this downtown hotel, and for just $10 visitors can gain access to a warm, uncrowded spot to swim a few laps and snorkel around. We visit this pool quite a bit and marvel at how no one else knows about it!

  3. San Francisco's labyrinths: There are many great places to hike in San Francisco, but a few of them have a little surprise. In Land's End, there is a rock labyrinth perched on a cliff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and in Bernal Heights, there's a labyrinth overlooking the skyline. Both provide for new ways to explore nature and even provide a little mythological education: what kid doesn't like to pretend to be a minotaur and capture wayward labyrinth travelers? Fun stuff!

  4. The Nut Tree railroad: This is beyond San Francisco -- in Vacaville, to be exact -- and is probably familiar to people who used to stop here on the way to Lake Tahoe. They've rebuilt the Nut Tree train tracks and brought out the carousel. It's not as big as it used to be, but this tiny freeway theme park is still a great source of excitement for the kids.

  5. Fairy Doors of Noe Valley and the Mission: There are some neat little "fairy doors" tacked to the side of buildings and hiding in alleys. It's fun to go on a little adventure and find them all.

  6. Japantown "troll" flame: My daughter discovered this little secret "eternal flame" in the Japantown Peace Plaza. The plaza is a great place to run around and get out the crazies, and you can spend quite a bit of time trying to find this little gas fire. My daughter calls it a "troll fire," although I'm sure it has other meanings. Fun stuff for kids.
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