North Beach: A Guide to San Francisco Neighborhoods

north beach neighborhood guide san francisco
North Beach is situated in the hilly northeast corner of the city and holds San Francisco’s Little Italy and Fisherman’s Wharf. It has a buzzing nightlife including a row of strip clubs along Broadway. Despite the adult nature of some of the entertainment in this neighborhood, families happily live here for its architectural and natural beauty, its significance to San Francisco’s history, and easy access to downtown. It’s a densely populated area and is often crowded with visitors.

We polled local moms to find out what makes this neighborhood a good fit for their families. Want to get the scoop directly from the experts? Join our North Beach Neighborhood Group.

Why Moms Love It 

There are oodles of cafes, bakeries, and gelato shops in this neighborhood, making it easy to stop in for a quick bite to eat with the kids. It’s a lively area and nearly impossible to feel lonely as you people watch from the outdoor cafes or Washington Square Park. Despite some hills, it’s very walkable and hosts one of the largest street fairs in the city each June. When you want a good reminder of how special it is to live in San Francisco, take a walk along the Embarcadero to see lots of visitors snapping photos of the Bay.

Local Family Favorites 

Washington Square Park

A popular stop for visitors and locals alike, this large patch of green space is bordered by sidewalk cafes and restaurants as well as Saint Peter & Paul’s Church. Festivals, free movie nights, and other special events are hosted here throughout the year, but it’s just as nice to have a family picnic on a sunny day.

Joe DiMaggio Playground and Community Center

The 2,200 square foot community center is the perfect gathering space for events throughout the year, and the playground, fully renovated in 2005, is a popular spot for kids in the neighborhood. 

Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill

Tire the little ones out by letting them hike the scenic Filbert steps to Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. Look for the parrots who’ve made their home in the trees on the east side of the hill.

Carmel Blue

Come here for prenatal and postnatal workshops, mommy and me classes and community support as you navigate the early days with baby. 

This popular dance school offers classes for children 18 months to 8 years old.

Lola of North Beach

The charming and quirky store offers children’s apparel and toys that make perfect gifts.


This hands-on science museum at Pier 15 invites kids to explore and experiment with the world around them. Located right on the Bay, you’ll enjoy the beautiful surrounding views and short walk along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building in the Financial District.

Pier 39

It doesn’t get more quintessentially San Francisco than Pier 39. The sea lions, lively entertainment, and stunning views of Alcatraz and the Bay mean that you’ll still make a treck here once in a while, despite the tourists.

Aquarium of the Bay

Located at Pier 39, the aquarium features up-close encounters with animals found in Bay area habitats, more than 20,000 invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

Childcare and Schools

Here’s the thing about childcare and schooling: Your personal situation will determine the right fit for you, and, while there are options in this neighborhood, your best bet is to check out for an interactive map and comprehensive list of daycares and preschools across the city.  

Likewise, for K-12 schools, we can’t tell you whether the schools here are “good” or not because a good school is based on so many other factors besides test scores. Check out our Tips for Moving to San Francisco with Kids for more help navigating childcare and schooling and a local mom’s take on raising a family in San Francisco.

Learn More 

To get an even better feel for what it’s like to live here, scan our list of 100+ kid-friendly restaurants in the city, find the nearest branch of the public library, and check out the area’s trick-or-treating hotspots.

Check out the other areas featured in our San Francisco Neighborhood Guide for Families.