26 Kids’ Books to Prepare for a Trip to San Francisco

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One of our favorite ways to prepare for any sort of trip is to read a bunch of books on the subject. It’s fun having a mix of titles – both non-fiction (to learn about the history, geography, and culture of the city) and fiction (to keep things fun and to spark imagination).

When we moved to San Francisco, I researched and picked up books every time we saw a bookstore or gift shop. Whether you’re just visiting or have lived here your whole life, here’s a list of 26 titles to help your kiddos get excited about the City by the Bay!

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I love this whole series. All the books have a beautiful, vintage vibe that make them great for displaying in addition to reading. This one has fun facts about the city in addition to colorful, whimsical illustrations. It’s classic for a reason.
I love this one for its gorgeous, vivid illustrations. Each double paged spread is focused on one San Francisco landmark. The historical info is geared to slightly older kids (I’d say 5-8 or so) but the colorful pictures will appeal to younger kids, as well.
This one may be my favorite San Francisco book of all. The story is mildly suspenseful but very sweet, about two pigeons who are displaced from their home in the city and must create a new one. The full-color pencil illustrations are beautiful. Both the story and the pictures are exactly what you’d expect from the author and illustrator of Corduroy. This one received a Caldecott Honor and it was well-deserved.
Ah, the Good Night books. They’re ubiquitous and have a similar refrain so I don’t think they’re the most exciting books in the world to read, but I think it’s exactly that familiarity that makes them so appealing for kids. This one gives a good overview of the top tourist stops.
Similar to the San Francisco one, but for all of California. Have several NorCal favorites, including redwoods and the Golden Gate Bridge, and includes some sites close by, such as Silicon Valley and Big Sur.
T is very into letters right now so this is a fun one to pull out. We don’t usually go through the whole thing in one sitting as each page has a big letter and a full-paragraph description of whatever SF highlight goes along with it, but it’s nice to use as a reference and exciting to find several pages of letters.
Not quite as good as the “Good Night” books, in my opinion.
Part of the whole “Larry Gets Lost” series about a dog that gets separated from his family and sees the sights. It has little descriptions off to the side of the various places he visits.
A friend of mine actually wrote this book, and the illustrations are just gorgeous. It’s a perfect little toddler counting book with a few little words thrown in.
Another great alphabet book. I like the small size of this one (about a 5×8″ or so rectangle) because it makes it easy to carry around. There are a few little trivia facts on each page that would appeal to an elementary-aged crowd.
Perfect for the earliest readers. This one just a number and the corresponding number of high-contrast images on each page.
Very similar to the San Francisco one above.
A beautifully written and illustrated non-fiction about how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be painted (and remain) orange. Written by the same author as the wildly popular Her Right Foot.
Not SF-specific, but a sweet little board book about redwoods.
Non-fiction about the Pier 39 sea lions. It’s rich in marine and other vocabulary, and talks about specific animals by name. Educational and fun.
Part of the sweet “Count to Sleep” series. Cute pictures and numbers up to 10 accompany some very short text.
The California version.
A cute alphabet board book for the younger set. This one has very short text and is easy to breeze through all the letters.
This book follows Frankie, the portable fire hydrant, and Phoenix, the Fireboat, as they help out the city’s firefighters. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake had ruptured gas lines and caused fires across the city, but the water lines were damaged and the firefighters needed Frankie & the Phoenix’s help in putting out the fires. An interesting true story depicted by cute characters.
Having just attended SF’s Lunar New Year Parade, I loved revisiting this cute little book. Basically, a  newbie cable car enters the parade, gives a Chinese dragon a ride, and almost plunges into the Bay. All’s well that ends well in San Francisco.
This would be a very pretty souvenir book. There’s a fun diorama on the front, and the inside is full of interesting facts about the history and neighborhoods of San Francisco. It’s definitely geared to an older crowd (I’d say 7-8+), but provides excellent background in detail. And it contains four pretty postcards, as well.
A sweet little board book that joins little Cam as he flies over San Francisco and views it from the sky.
This cute little story tells how San Francisco kept its cable cars up and running.
There have been MANY instances in which my kids have referenced Humphrey in regular conversation and it takes me a minute to figure out they mean the whale. This story of a humpback getting stuck in and eventually finding its way out of the San Francisco Bay is one of our favorites.
We love the Babylit around these parts, and their travel ones are no different. The California one has bright colors with just a few words like the others, bringing the wonders of California to the youngest readers.
Last but not least is one of my personal favorite. This gorgeous die-cut book is in board form, making it accessible for little hands, but has enough detail in the illustrations and a couple interesting facts on each page so that older readers will still be engaged. We have these for a few different cities and they’re all beautiful.

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