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Pretend You’re a Kid Again on These Play Dates in San Francisco

Written by Shelley D. FargoPublished May 13, 2023 • 8:29am
Gamers face vintage challenges at Musée Mécanique. | Courtesy Musée Mécanique

Why should kids get to have all the fun? San Francisco is filled with unique opportunities to socialize while playing ping-pong, vintage pinball machines, miniature golf—or even battling virtual zombies.

Whether you’re looking for a new place to play with your friends or trying to escape Karl the Fog’s grasp, check out The Standard's guide to arcades, bowling alleys, billiard halls, gaming studios and other indoor play dates around San Francisco.

Places To Play Around San Francisco

Benchmark Climbing

Lower Nob Hill

With 10,000 square feet of climbing terrain and a 50-degree overhang to practice steep bouldering techniques, San Francisco's newest climbing facility has become a social magnet on upper Van Ness Avenue.

Boulderers practice at Benchmark Climbing. | Courtesy Benchmark Climbing

Billiard Palacade

Lower Nob Hill

Billiard Palacade has three carambola tables, 13 pool tables and two bar tables. The room offers a menu of hearty apps and snacks and a variety of beers. Happy hour starts at noon and ends at 6 p.m. daily. There is a tournament on Saturdays, and membership is available. 

Black Box VR

Civic Center

By gamifying workouts, the founders of Black Box Virtual Reality Gym on Market Street say they can help more people get and stay fit. Its routine includes navigating a weight resistance machine with automatic weight settings that can go from 0 to 110 pounds to adjust to your abilities. It's an addictive workout that has caught on with all age groups and genders.

Emporium SF

Lower Haight

Grow up but not old! Open until 2 a.m. seven nights a week, Emporium SF caters to a more mature crowd looking for an assortment of fun. Listen to music and buy drinks at the full bar while trying out the arcade games, billiards, foosball and air hockey.


Financial District

Time is of the essence! Escape from Alcatraz, the Blind Tiger Bar, Gingerbread Cottage or King Arthur's Legacy at Escape SF. Book online, where you can check out each room and find available times. 

Players try the King Arthur's Legacy game at Escape SF. | Courtesy Escape SF

Family Billiards

Laurel Heights

Chalk up that cue stick because Family Billiards is the real deal. It has 18 regulation Brunswick Gold Crown tables in first-rate condition and provides players with Super Aramith balls made in Belgium. It has a weekly tournament schedule, and private events can be booked. 

Family Billiards has 18 regulation Brunswick Gold Crown tables. | Courtesy Family Billiards

Fifth Arrow

Union Square

Did you know a cocktail, dining and bowling experience is hiding in Union Square? Fifth Arrow is an "industrial-chic” elevated game night not to be missed. And the menu features a full bar plus sliders, pizzas and Mexican and Italian dishes. No wonder it’s popular for corporate gigs and parties. 

The Game Parlour

Inner Sunset

For $7, you can hang out with your friends at this lively cafe on Irving Street and play board games to your heart’s content. A big bonus? Waffles! Try 'em in sweet, savory and fried forms.


Lower Haight

Looking for a fun, sober and social activity? Find engaging nightly games offered at this SF game shop. Check out the calendar of events and make reservations here

House of Air


Catch some air in the Presidio at San Francisco's original trampoline mecca, House of Air. Whether you want to bounce, perfect a flip or play dodgeball, you’re guaranteed to break a sweat. Buy tickets and gift cards, book an event or sign up for a special program online.

Immersive Gamebox


Be among the first to try out the brand new social-gaming experience that opened in April at the Stonestown Galleria. At Immersive Gamebox, you can select from nine video game options with experiences including surround sound, touch screens, motion tracking and projection mapping to enhance the full-immersion effect. 

Immersive Gamebox is a new VR studio in the Stonestown Galleria. | Courtesy Immersive Gamebox

Lucky Strike

Mission Bay

A great place to pop in before or after catching a Giants or Warriors game, Lucky Strike has a full bar, tasty eats, bowling and billiards. 

Lucky Strike's alley is unusually sleek. | Courtesy Lucky Strike

Mission Bowling Club


A six-lane bowling alley, bar and restaurant, Mission Bowling Club is dedicated to supporting the community, hosting and fundraising for nonprofits and embracing the diversity of its staff and guests. Come out on the third Monday of the month for its Queer Bowling Night.

Mission Bowling Club offers lanes in the heart of the Mission. | Courtesy Amy Thompson for Mission Bowling Club

Mission Cliffs


Featuring a 50-foot-high lead wall, 23,000 square feet of climbing terrain and 2,000 square feet of bouldering, Mission Cliffs has a challenge waiting for climbers of all capabilities. Top roping, bouldering, lead climbing and youth options are available. Check out the website for membership details and calendar events.

Climbers tackle the walls at Mission Cliffs. | Courtesy Mission Cliffs

Movement SF


Combining climbing terrain, yoga studios and fitness equipment in one expansive space, Movement (formerly Planet Granite) attracts a wide variety of hip SF fitness folk to its picturesque Crissy Field location. The gym features 25,000 square feet for climbing challenges to meet the needs of everyone from beginners to expert climbers. Check out all the classes and the climbing experiences on the website, including youth programs and private coaching, as well as advice on route setting and finding a partner.

Musée Mécanique

Fisherman's Wharf

Family-owned since 1933, Musée Mécanique is an authentic SF treasure. Once part of Playland at the Beach, the vintage arcade now provides a worthy destination for locals and tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf that’s open 365 days a year and is always free to enter. Bring some cash for the change machine so you can try out all the vintage pinball and other coin-op games—and be sure to say hi to Laffing Sal for us.

Bring your bills for the change machine to play at Musée Mécanique. | Courtesy Musée Mécanique

Outward Bound Ropes Challenge Course


The Outward Bound Ropes Course in John McLaren Park was created in conjunction with SF Recreation & Parks. It consists of both challenging high elements, as well as team-building elements closer to the ground. On one Saturday each month between February an October, the course is free to the community. To sign up for a free community day, add your name to the ropes course community day email list.

Outward Bound's ropes course in McLaren Park offers free admission once a month. | Courtesy Outward Bound

Palace Games


"Escape to play and play to escape" at Palace Games, located in the Palace of Fine Arts. It offers four in-person and three online escape experiences for the escape room expert who’s done it all. 

Palace Games offers escape rooms in the Palace of Fine Arts. | Courtesy Palace Games

Pan IQ Escape Room SF


Pan IQ Escape Room SF features three mind-tingling escape experiences—Medieval Madness, Wizard Trials and the Red Wire—in which groups of up to seven players try to escape in 60 minutes or less. 

Players Sports Grill & Arcade

Pier 39

Located in Pier 39 and featuring the Luau Lounge, the Club House, the Arcade and the Patio, Players is the place to take your out-of-town guests who insist on going to see the sea lions.  

Presidio Bowl


Grab your friends and book a lane at Presidio Bowl, a charming 12-lane bowling center with its own bar and grill located in now-hopping Main Post. Walk over to Tunnel Tops afterward to see how fabulous a paved-over freeway can become.

Presidio Bowl is a delicious leftover from the area's days as an Army base. | Courtesy Presidio Bowl



Combining technology with the escape room concept, Reason aims to offer friends and companies a unique team-building experience with its sci-fi escape rooms. Race against the clock to survive in one of three immersive experiences, Glitch, Lola 2 Mars and Sonar.

SoMa's Reason offers a tech-driven escape room experience. | Courtesy Reason

Sandbox VR

Union Square/Financial District

Find your inner warrior at Sandbox VR as you battle aboard Davy Jones' pirate ship, fight off space aliens in Amber Sky or blast through zombies at Dead Wood Mansion and Dead Wood Valley. Book advance reservations in groups of up to six players at a time for a thrilling experience you can never have in the real world.

Players battle zombies at Sandbox VR. | Courtesy Sandbox VR

Spin San Francisco


A ping-pong aficionado's paradise, Spin San Francisco boasts 18 ping-pong tables, a full kitchen and bar, outdoor patio space and a VIP room with a private bar. Make sure to book table reservations and check out the weekend packages and private event options. 

Stagecoach Greens

Mission Bay

Try for a hole-in-one at San Francisco's only outdoor mini-golf spot. Located within walking distance from Chase Center, Stagecoach Greens has 18 holes with an SF history lesson tied to each one, covering topics like earthquakes, the Gold Rush and the Emigrant Trail. The greens are surrounded by a very festive scene—especially before a Warriors game or other Chase Center event—with lots of food-and-drink trucks and places to hang out before, during and after you putt 18. Book your tee time in advance online.

Each hole at Stagecoach Greens offers a mini SF history lesson. | Courtesy Stagecoach Greens

Subpar Miniature Golf

Russian Hill

Located in the Ghirardelli Square Marketplace, Subpar Miniature Golf's indoor Bay Area-themed course is a crowd-pleaser for birthday parties of all ages. It's open seven days a week, and reservations are strongly recommended given its location in the heart of the tourist zone. Enjoy hearty snacks and beverages at its Tea Square Boba and be sure to hit the arcade right before or after playing 18 holes. The Ghirardelli Parking structure below the marketplace offers convenient access for visitors passing through town.

Subpar Mini Golf gives you a chance to putt indoors in Ghirardelli Square. | Courtesy Subpar Mini Golf

The Detour

Duboce Triangle

The Detour offers game events every night of the week and offers up food, music and drinks for the 21-and-over crowd. Late-night eats featuring a Pan Pacific menu Monday to Thursday until 11:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 12:30 a.m. will keep customers satiated. On Saturdays 2-6 p.m., all ages are welcome. Free play every first Tuesday with a purchase from the bar.

The Detour hosts games every night in Duboce Triangle. | Courtesy The Detour

The Escape Game SF

Financial District

With five unique escape experiences, The Escape Game SF lets you get caught up in the thrill of the Heist, a Prison Break, the Gold Rush, the Playground or Special Ops: Mystery Market. Groups of 8 to 10 players must employ teamwork and clues to escape. Pre-book your escape online.

Players attempt to escape from the Prison Break game. | Courtesy The Escape Game SF

Urban Putt


This unique 14-hole indoor mini-golf course offers informal American grub and beverages in the Mission for adults and kids. You can make reservations for upstairs dining, but golf is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Urban Putt is a unique indoor miniature golf spot and restaurant in The Mission. | Courtesy Urban Putt

Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center

SoMa/Financial District

Ever wanted to ice skate and bowl on the same day? If so, Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center is the spot for you! The long-standing Yerba Buena attraction is open to the public nearly every day and has a summer camp for kids, too. Check the website for hours and details on ice hockey, parties and private skating lessons.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the only ropes course in San Francisco that is open to the public.

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