San Francisco is frequently noted as one of the most highly livable cities in the United States due to its abundant park land, anchored around the city's beautiful San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, overseen by the National Park Service, protects more than 80,000 acres of park and preserve land throughout the Bay Area.
1.Alamo Square Park
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Alamo Square Park is one of San Francisco's most iconic landmarks, best known for its famed "Painted Ladies" row houses along Postcard Row, which were showcased in the opening credits for the 1990s sitcom Full House. The park, which has been featured in major feature films such as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Five-Year Engagement, is located within the city's Alamo Square Historic District, known for its unique residential architecture that was once home to noted author Alice Walker. A dual-level playground at the neighborhood park makes a great play space for young children, while an off-leash dog area lets visitors frolic free with their four-legged friends. Unique attractions include the park's Shoe Garden, which repurposes discarded heels and boots as landscape art.
Steiner St & Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, Phone: 415-218-0259
Allyne Park is a charming 0.25-acre park located next to the historic McElroy Octagon house, overseen by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department. The park preserves the former lot of the grand Victorian home of wealthy socialites and sisters Lucy and Edith Allyne, who lived at the residence until the early 1960s. Following the sisters' deaths, the estate lot was protected from commercial development by citizen activists and converted into a neighborhood park. Today, despite the home's absence, the park remains a city landmark, preserving much of the estate's original landscaping and showcasing mature trees and colorful flowers. It is accessible via both Green and Gough Streets and is a popular spot for dog walkers within the neighborhood area.
2609 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94123, Phone: 415-831-5500
3.Alta Plaza Park
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Alta Plaza Park is a charming neighborhood park within the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood, bounded by Jackson, Clay, Steiner, and Scott Streets. The four-block park is best known for its iconic tiered access staircase, which climbs along the park's terraced southern slopes and was featured in the 1972 motion picture What's Up, Doc? Damage done to the stairs during filming can still be spotted at the park today, created when the stairs were used for an iconic chase scene in the film. Stunning panoramic views of the city's skyline and the San Francisco Bay are offered from atop the park, which is also home to a children's playground, basketball and tennis courts, and an off-leash dog area.
Jackson St. & Steiner St., San Francisco, CA 94115
4.Buena Vista Park
Buena Vista Park is San Francisco's oldest official public park, originally established in 1867 as Hill Park. The park is located within the city's Buena Vista Heights and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods, covering 37 acres atop a 575-foot hill overlooking the city's skyline. A small lawn is located atop the park's hill, which offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Drake's Bay, and Golden Gate Park from its "The Window" overlook point. Paths along the park's western edge feature gutters constructed from broken headstones throughout the city by Works Progress Administration workers in the 1930s, with some headstone inscriptions still visible today. Visitors can also observe the National Register of Historic Places-listed residence at 355 Buena Vista East across from the park, which was featured in Alfred Hitchcock's iconic film Vertigo.
Buena Vista & Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, Phone: 415-819-2699
5.Corona Heights Park
Corona Heights Park is a charming park in San Francisco's Corona Heights and Castro neighborhood, located immediately south of Buena Vista Park. The park, which is also referred to as Rocky Hill, is best known for its use as a setting in Fritz Leiber's 1977 horror novel Our Lady of Darkness. Visitors can observe a variety of native reptile, bird, and butterfly species throughout the park or view spring wildflower displays, including growth of California poppies and rare Johnny jump-ups. The peak of the park is a popular spot for panoramic city views despite its frequently windy conditions, offering views as far away as the city's iconic Twin Peaks. Other attractions include the Randall Museum and the Corona Heights Playground.
Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, Phone: 415-831-2700
6.Cottage Row Mini Park
Cottage Row Mini Park is a quaint neighborhood park located near San Francisco's Japantown and Fillmore District, stretching one block bounded between Sutter, Bush, Webster, and Fillmore Streets. The park is a great spot for viewing the lovely Victorian-style homes of Cottage Row, which were constructed throughout the mid-19th century by William Hollis and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The homes were modeled after English-style mew connected homes and were originally used as rental units until their conversion into single-family residences in the 1950s. The tiny neighborhood park also offers a dedicated dog area, a newly-added retaining wall, and a variety of plant beds.
Fillmore St & Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115, Phone: 415-831-2700
Crissy Field is a preserved former United States Army airfield located within the expansive Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which protects more than 82,027 acres of public parkland and natural areas throughout San Francisco. The field, which was a former harvesting site for the region's Ohlone indigenous people prior to the arrival of Europeans, was dubbed as the Presidio by Spanish colonizers in 1976 and given to the United States Army in 1846. Throughout the 20th century, the field became known as the landing site for several significant transcontinental flights, operating until 1974. Between 1994 and 2001, the field was restored by the National Park Service in cooperation with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Today, the park is utilized as an urban national park, showcasing sand dune and beach areas, tidal wetland habitats, promenades, trails, and facilities such as the Crissy Field Center environmental education center.
San Francisco, CA 94129
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Embarcadero Plaza was originally opened to the public in 1972, serving as a popular lunchtime gathering spot along the eastern edge of Market Street for downtown city workers. Throughout the 1990s, the plaza served as one of the world's premiere street skateboarding sites, commonly referred to as the EMB. Iconic live music performances, athletic ceremonies, and rallies have been held at the plaza throughout its history, including a free U2 concert held in 1987 in response to the Black Monday financial crisis, the retirement ceremony of football legend Joe Montana, and the festivities of 2016's Super Bowl City. The park's controversial Vaillancourt Fountain, designed by Canadian artist Armand Vaillancourt, is deemed to be an eyesore by some but is a favorite play spot for others throughout the summer months, popular with families. Free lunchtime concerts are offered throughout the summer months, while an outdoor ice skating rink is open during the holidays.
Market St & Steuart St, San Francisco, CA 94105
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Fay Park is a small but quaint park in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, located a block away from the famed "crooked block" of Lombard Street. The park was bequeathed to the city by Mary Fay Berrigan, a descendant of the family who first constructed a home on the site in 1869. Its gardens were commissioned by Berrigan in 1957 and designed by landscape architect Thomas Church. After Berrigan's husband's death in 1998, the property was donated to the City of San Francisco for use as a public park, with ADA-accessible walkways and features added to the property for public use. Since 2006, the park has been open to the public and serves as a popular spot for weddings, offering three beautiful terraces, two latticed gazebos, and a wide variety of ornamental planting beds and boxwood hedges.
2366 Leavenworth St, San Francisco, CA 94133, Phone: 415-831-2700
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10.Glen Canyon Park
Glen Canyon Park is a 70-acre city park located within a canyon near San Francisco's Miraloma Park, Glen Park, and Diamond Heights neighborhoods. The park, which is located adjacent to the 3.6-acre undeveloped O'Shaughnessy Hollow tract, is a designated undeveloped natural area and contains the free-flowing Islais Creek, which flows year-round and provides a natural habitat for a variety of flora and fauna, including the rare San Francisco forktail damselfly. It is one of the city's best sites for bouldering, beloved by regional rock climbers for its rocky cliffs. Formal park facilities include a children's playground, a ropes courts, a community recreation center, and ball fields and tennis courts.
Elk St and Chenery Street, San Francisco, CA 94127, Phone: 415-831-2700
11.Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is one of the most iconic and beloved public parks in San Francisco, attracting over 13 million annual visitors throughout the year. The spacious 1,017-acre park was originally developed in the 1870s by John McLaren and William Hammond Hall and has earned comparisons to New York City's famed Central Park for its design and use as a major urban oasis. A plethora of cultural attractions are showcased throughout the park, including the renowned de Young fine arts museum, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the California Academy of Sciences. Other attractions are showcased on the park's Music Concourse sunken plaza, which was developed in correlation with the city's 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. Other attractions include children's playgrounds, manmade lakes, power windmills, and the historic 1914 Herschell-Spillman Company Carousel.
San Francisco, CA, Phone: 415-831-2700
© Kit Leong/stock.adobe.com
Grandview Park, commonly referred to as Turtle Hill, is an elevated park spanning a city block within San Francisco's Sunset District, bordered by 14th and 15th Avenues and Noriega Street. The 3.98-acre park protects one of the city's final remaining native plant habitats, including significant habitats for the dune tasy and the Franciscan wallflower. Monterey cypress trees line the park, which reaches heights of approximately 666 feet and offers beautiful views of Golden Gate Park, Lake Merced, and Point Reyes. A small trail network spans 0.2 miles at the top of the park's hill, with a series of wooden stairs serving as an access point. Visitors should stay on established paths within the park due to its sensitive environmental conditions, which are highly affected by erosion conditions.
1705 14th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122, Phone: 415-831-2700
13.Ina Coolbrith Park
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Ina Coolbrith Park is a relaxing part in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, named in honor of California's first poet laureate, a noted colleague of Mark Twain and mentor to writers such as Jack London and Isadora Duncan. The 0.8-acre park is one of 11 parks within the San Francisco parks network named after remarkable female historical figures in the city's past, offering beautiful sweeping vistas showcasing the city's Financial District, Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz and Angel Islands. Paved trails meander up the park's hill, with benches offered for sitting and observing the scenery. Telegraph Hill parrots chatter in the trees above the park frequently. Visitors should note that all access points to the park require stairs and uphill climbs, with street parking available nearby on Taylor Street at the bottom of the hill.
Vallejo & Taylor, San Francisco, CA 94133, Phone: 415-274-0291
Lafayette Park is a lovely 12-acre public park in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood, bordered by the city's Gough, Laguna, Sacramento, and Washington Streets. The park's lands were originally set aside for use as a park facility in 1855, though no park was established at the site until 1867. In 1879, the park became home to the American West Coast's first astronomical observatory, established by George Davidson. Throughout the late 19th century, the park was also a popular destination for local poets and political activists, anchored around a house on the property that was owned by Samuel Holladay. Today, visitors can view sweeping panoramas of city landmarks such as Alcatraz Island, the Marina district, and Buena Vista Park. Park features include two tennis courts, an off-leash dog area, and a children's playground. Each first Saturday morning, the Friends of Lafayette Park organization holds a monthly Cleaning and Greening neighborhood cleanup event.
Gough St & Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94109, Phone: 415-601-7277
15.Mission Creek Park
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Mission Creek Park is one of the city of San Francisco's newest open spaces, preserving more than 10 acres of grass lawns and tree-lined areas along the banks of Mission Creek near Oracle Park. The park, which is also known as Mission Bay open Space, is overseen by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and is open to the public daily between sunrise and 10:00pm. A bench-lined esplanade is offered on the park's northern banks, while a grassy area is located along its southern side. Visitors can play with their four-legged friends at the park's off-leash dog play area or attend special events at its outdoor amphitheater. Day-use picnic sites are also offered, along with basketball, sand volleyball, and tennis courts and a rental special event pavilion.
451 Berry St, San Francisco, CA 94158, Phone: 415-543-9063
16.Mission Dolores Park
Mission Dolores Park, commonly referred to as Dolores Park, is one of San Francisco's most popular outdoor recreation destinations, located east of the city's Twin Peaks within its hip Mission district. The 16-acre park, which was established in 1905 and is named in honor of nearby Mission Dolores, can attract up to 10,000 parkgoers on sunny weekend days. It serves as a very popular gathering spot for LGBT residents in the city's nearby Castro district and for many of the city's young tech professionals. Major attractions include a replica of the Mexican Liberty Bell, presented to the city in 1966 by Mexican president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. Six tennis courts are also offered at the park, along with a basketball court, children's playground, and two off-leash dog park areas. Cultural events held at the park include annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations, performances by the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and a yearly Hunky Jesus contest held by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on Easter Sunday.
Dolores St & 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114, Phone: 415-554-9521
17.Mountain Lake Park
Mountain Lake Park is anchored around one of San Francisco's final remaining natural lakes, the only natural lake contained within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area system. The 14-acre public park is located in San Francisco's Richmond District along the tip of the city's Presidio, near the Presidio Golf Course, and was designed by Golden Gate Park designer William Hammond Hall. It is known as the former home of the "Golden Gator," a recovered former pet alligator which was removed and named in 1996 by San Francisco Zoo associate curator John Aikina. The park is home to one of the city's oldest fitness trail paracourses, as well as a hiking trail, tennis court, children's playground, and several day-use picnic sites. An off-leash dog play area serves as a neighborhood gathering space.
98 Funston Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118, Phone: 415-831-5500
Precita Park is a lovely three-block public park in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood, originally established as Bernal Park in 1894. The park, which is overseen by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, was the recipient of the Lackmann-Soulages Park and Open Space Stewardship Award from the Trust for Public Land, honoring its transformation through various renovations throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. A memorial bench at the park honors slain teenagers Carlos Hernandez and Sylvia Menendez, designed by artist Susan Cervantes and the Precita Eyes Mural Arts organization. A children's playground and butterfly garden are featured at the park, which is dog-friendly.
3200 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, Phone: 415-513-2577
19.Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove
Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove, colloquially referred to as Stern Grove, is a lovely 33-acre public park and recreational area within San Francisco's Sunset District, located approximately two miles south of Golden Gate Park. The park is best known as the site of the annual Stern Grove Festival, a famed city festival that has presented a variety of free cultural performances each summer since 1938, attracting audiences of more than 20,000 concertgoers. In addition to the park's outdoor stage, visitors can enjoy its full recreation complex, which offers a wide variety of athletic fields, as well as a children's playground, off-leash dog play area, and croquet, horseshoe, and Frisbee courts. The park's Pine Lake is also one of the city's few remaining natural lakes, offering walking and jogging paths around its perimeter.
19th Ave & Sloat Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94132, Phone: 415-242-5200
South Park is one of San Francisco's most historic urban parks, originally established as a London-style city garden in the city's South of Market district in 1852. When it opened to the public, the park featured the city's first paved streets and sidewalks. Since 1897, the park has been a city-owned facility, known as a major hub for the city's Japanese American community at the turn of the 20th century and as a gathering spot for the city's dot-com boom in the 1990s. Lovely park amenities at the 0.85-acre park including a hummingbird garden and two fenced children's playgrounds with activities such as climbing structures and sand pits. Nearby in the South Park neighborhood, a wide variety of cafes and restaurants offer outdoor lunchtime seating.
64 South Park Ave, San Francisco, CA 94107, Phone: 415-831-5500
21.Tank Hill Park
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Tank Hill Park is a rocky promontory located at the intersection of Twin Peaks Boulevard and Clayton Street, named in honor of the nearby Clarendon Heights Water Tank, which was constructed in 1894 by the Spring Valley Water Company for the purposes of drinking water storage. Though the tank was removed in 1957, the park remains a popular community gathering spot throughout the year, offering panoramic views of nearby Bayview Hill and Point Reyes from atop its 650-foot plateau. More than 60 varieties of native plants are showcased throughout the park, one of the few remaining natural habitats kept intact from the city's indigenous days. On the Fourth of July, the park serves as a popular fireworks watching alternative to Crissy Field.
Clarendon & Twin Peaks, San Francisco, CA 94114, Phone: 415-753-7265
22.The Twin Peaks
The Twin Peaks are one of San Francisco's most iconic natural landmarks, located near the city's geographic center and reaching heights of up to 925 feet, only surpassed within city limits by the 928-foot Mount Davidson. The peaks, which were originally referred to as Los Pechos de la Choca by the region's early Spanish colonizers, are commonly referred to as Eureka and Noe today, located approximately 660 feet apart. Atop the peaks, a 64-acre hilltop park offers hiking trails and amazing 360-degree views of the city's skyline. The park is home to native wildlife such as white-crowned sparrows, brush rabbits, coyotes, and the endangered Mission Blue butterfly.
501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114
23.Upper Noe Recreation Center
Upper Noe Recreation Center is a delightful neighborhood recreation center within the Noe Valley, recently renovated in 2008 to offer state-of-the-art recreation experiences for visitors of all ages. The center is home to a full-sized indoor basketball court and a regulation outdoor basketball court, along with a baseball field, tennis court, and full indoor gymnasium facility. A large auditorium doubles as an indoor children's play area, and fenced outdoor playground offers a rubber floor for safe play experiences for children under the age of five. Other center attractions include the Joby's Run off-leash dog play area, open between 7:00am and 10:00pm. A wide variety of free community activities are hosted by the center throughout the week, including drop-in volleyball and pickleball times, family Zumba classes, and senior dance classes.
295 Day St, San Francisco, CA 94131, Phone: 415-970-8061
Marini Plaza was known as Washington Square throughout much of its history, originally established in 1847 in the city's North Beach district. The park, which was one of San Francisco's first established public parks, was renamed in honor of civic benefactor Frank Marini and was protected as a city landmark in 2000. It was heavily featured in the 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan and the 1971 feature film Dirty Harry, which uses its nearby Saint Peter and Paul's Church as a major setting. Grassy open spaces make for excellent relaxation opportunities, with ample space for dog walking, picnics, and Frisbee throwing. Free movie nights are hosted at the park throughout the year, along with a variety of annual community festivals.
Filbert St & Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, Phone: 415-274-0291
25.The Yerba Buena Gardens
The Yerba Buena Gardens span two blocks in San Francisco's downtown district, bordered by Third, Fourth, Folsom, and Mission Streets. The gardens are named in honor of the former name of the city when it was part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, which was incorporated into the United States in 1846. Today, they are overseen by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency as part of the planned Yerba Buena Redevelopment Area, which also includes the nearby Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Attractions include the park's Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which is home to the American West Coast's largest fountain, and the Zeum Children's Creativity Museum. Parkgoers can also enjoy use of the park's restored 1905 carousel, bowling alley, and seasonal ice skating rink.
750 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103, Phone: 415-820-3550
25 Best San Francisco Parks
- Alamo Square Park, Photo: Simon Dannhauer/stock.adobe.com
- Allyne Park, Photo: iryna1/stock.adobe.com
- Alta Plaza Park, Photo: Olesia Bilkei/stock.adobe.com
- Buena Vista Park, Photo: Julie/stock.adobe.com
- Corona Heights Park, Photo: Naeblys/stock.adobe.com
- Cottage Row Mini Park, Photo: cceliaphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Crissy Field, Photo: bennymarty/stock.adobe.com
- Embarcadero Plaza, Photo: pikappa51/stock.adobe.com
- Fay Park, Photo: Swetlana Wall/stock.adobe.com
- Glen Canyon Park, Photo: Oscar/stock.adobe.com
- Golden Gate Park, Photo: srongkrod/stock.adobe.com
- Grandview Park, Photo: Kit Leong/stock.adobe.com
- Ina Coolbrith Park, Photo: Alexander Davidovich/stock.adobe.com
- Lafayette Park, Photo: bouybin/stock.adobe.com
- Mission Creek Park, Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
- Mission Dolores Park, Photo: Waldteufel/stock.adobe.com
- Mountain Lake Park, Photo: sirastock/stock.adobe.com
- Precita Park, Photo: rocketclips/stock.adobe.com
- Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove, Photo: maksim_e/stock.adobe.com
- South Park, Photo: schankz/stock.adobe.com
- Tank Hill Park, Photo: Yuval Helfman/stock.adobe.com
- The Twin Peaks, Photo: tannujannu/stock.adobe.com
- Upper Noe Recreation Center, Photo: galitskaya/stock.adobe.com
- Marini Plaza, Photo: srongkrod/stock.adobe.com
- The Yerba Buena Gardens, Photo: Andy/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: cphoto/stock.adobe.com