As long time San Francisco Realtors and residents, we are proud of all that San Francisco offers in terms of outdoor and cultural events. Writing this roundup of the best parks in San Francisco and the city’s summertime recreational opportunities made us want to head out of the office and into the outdoors! Read on to discover more about some of San Francisco’s greatest outdoor assets.
Alamo Square Park
Famous for its view of the Painted Ladies, the Victorian era homes featured in the opening credits of Full House, Alamo Square’s neighborhood park is an international destination. Beautification projects completed in the spring of 2017 redesigned the twelve acres of historic park space for maximum enjoyment and environmental considerations.
Popular on postcards and just as picture perfect for summer picnics, Alamo Square Park offers a dual-level playground for children and an off-leash dog park for the fuzzier members of the family. A full tennis court and walking trails provide ample opportunity for exercise, with abundant lawns for residents and visitors to enjoy events sponsored by neighborhood volunteers. During the summer months, family-friendly pop-up festivals and playgroups are regular events.
Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove
Known by locals as Stern Grove, Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove’s expansive thirty-three acres include one of San Francisco’s only three natural lakes. Summertime is peak season for the park, which has hosted the Stern Grove Festival every year since 1938. This performing arts series is free to the public and regularly draws crowds by the thousands to its tree-lined concert meadows. Performers from all genres love the eucalyptus-lined amphitheater because of its native acoustics and stone bleacher seating. In addition to the very popular concerts, , camps for kids and educational outreach for everyone are included in the schedule.
Golden Gate Park
If you’re looking for the best parks in San Francisco, this one is hard to ignore. With over one thousand acres of urban park grounds, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park rivals NYC’s Central Park in size, fame, and scope. Often the backdrop for touring concerts during the summer months, a full roster of seasonal events keep the various park venues bustling with activity. Fields for sports and walking paths for fitness-minded citizens wind through lawns featuring gardens, statues, and memorials. An archery range allows for shooting, with equipment rental available at nearby stores, while Stowe lake offers the opportunity to go boating.
Science and culture offerings include the Academy of Sciences, which houses an aquarium, a planetarium, and a natural history museum all under one roof. Across the way, you’ll find the de Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden, along with the nearby Conservatory of Flowers. At the edge of the park, just by the sea, enjoy drinks and dining at the two-story Beach Chalet before taking a walk along Ocean Beach. A carousel, botanical gardens, and even Bison add the offerings of the nation’s fifth most-visited city park.
Glen Canyon Park
Stretched between three neighborhoods — Glen Park, Diamond Heights, and Miraloma Park — this rugged canyon features one of San Francisco’s only remaining creeks, and as such helps preserve some of San Francisco’s natural ecology. In addition to Glen Canyon Park’s natural attributes, the park has become a beloved summer destination for rock climbers who enjoy its steep walls and outcroppings along with sports enthusiasts of all kinds.
Community recreation includes ball fields and tennis courts. With much of the park grounds kept in their natural state, the canyon’s hiking trails, hollows, and grasslands provide ample opportunity for wildlife spotting and bird watching. When visiting early enough in the summer days, the flush of spring flowers are a unique sight; the Friends of Glen Canyon Park keep a list of the different flora found there and help organize many of the seasonal events. For these reasons and more, Glen Canyon Park makes our list of the best parks in San Francisco.
Yerba Buena Gardens
This park is a green oasis in the heart of downtown San Francisco. Flanked by the glass walls of the AMC Metreon and a view of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Gardens offers a variety of cultural attractions, shopping centers, and eateries in and around the park. There are even waterfalls — Martin Luther King Jr’s waterfall memorial remains the largest fountain on the West Coast, built in dedication for the second block’s opening.
Locals love to take advantage of the park’s grassy lawn and leafy trees and often fill the grounds during lunch breaks. Catering to this crowd, Yerba Buena Gardens has a summer program of lunchtime entertainment on Thursdays and Saturdays. You can see the full program of events at yerbabuenagardens.com.
Breathtaking views dominate Lands End Park’s long wind around shoreline near Sutro Historic District. A section of the California Coastal Trail, which hugs a Victorian-era railway line, leads visitors to several lookout points like Mile Rock Overlook and Eagles Point—the home of a labyrinth installation made by local artist, Eduardo Aguilera. From Mile Rock Point’s coastal outcroppings, visitors can walk through the ruins of Sutro Baths and see the remains of several shipwrecks at low tide all summer long. In the West Fort Miley batteries, an antique gunnery borders a grassy picnic area and another memorial celebrates the service of the USS San Francisco in WWII. For accessibility and trail maps, the cultural and new visitor center provides brochures, gifts, and digital access to a park guidebook.
Presidio of San Francisco
Once a military fort, the Presidio of San Francisco encompasses the northern tip of the city’s peninsula and counts for an impressive part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Now formally recognized as both a California Historical Landmark and a National Historic Landmark, the park is actually two parks in one: a forest and meadow area nestled in the hills, and a beachfront promenade called Crissy Field.
From different overlooks along the coast, visitors can view the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay as it opens into the Pacific Ocean. The very exciting 14 acre Tunnel Tops project will unite the two halves of the park across the roadway leading to the Golden Gate Bridge. Designed by James Corner, one of the world’s foremost landscape theorists and designers, the project will allow both people and animals safe access to both forest and sea.
The Best Parks in San Francisco Are Within Walking Distance
San Francisco was recently recognized as the first city in the nation to have a park within a ten minute walk of every house. And this means that every San Francisco real estate listing comes with a beautiful park that’s easily accessible. If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in San Francisco, reach out to Danielle Lazier and Associates, in collaboration with Compass San Francisco — we know the ins and outs of San Francisco’s neighborhoods and can help you find your dream home!