(credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/GettyImages)
The two largest parks in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, have popular children’s playgrounds. Other parks scattered around the city’s neighborhoods are also favorites for families in the vicinity. Little monkeys of all ages are happy to scamper about on jungle gyms of different materials, shapes and sizes.
Golden Gate Park Koret Children’s Quarter
320 Bowling Green Drive
San Francisco, CA 94199
“Parents must be accompanied by a child,” reads the sign at the entrance. Frankly, many a grownup finds the thrill of plummeting down the concrete slide on a piece of cardboard difficult to resist. Complete with an antique carousel boasting a choice of animals to ride, the Koret Children’s Quarter is the city’s largest playground… and it’s free. Kids can jump on the swings, play in the sand, explore the seven-foot wave, climb the rope Eiffel Tower (some say it’s a spider web) or head for the big, bright jungle gym. First opened for the children of the city in 1888, some historians say this is the nation’s oldest public area dedicated to children’s play.
Alta Plaza Playground
Jackson & Steiner
San Francisco, CA 94115
Up the grand staircase, high atop Pacific Heights, a padded surface playground with plenty of benches for grownups has swings, climbing frames, a sand pit and play structures appropriate for different age groups. The 12-acre park with tennis courts and picnic tables is good for toddlers as well as older children; it’s generally sunny, with captivating city and bay views. Dog-friendly and equipped with restrooms, the park is well-maintained by San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and is free for everyone to enjoy. Those pushing strollers will get a bit of a workout getting to the playground at the crest of the hill.
West Pacific Ave. at Spruce St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
On the southern edge of the Presidio, surrounded by the sweet smell of eucalyptus groves, Julius Kahn Playground features a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, four tennis courts, basketball, a baseball diamond, saucer swings, slides and two play structures, including a spinning rope shaped like a Christmas tree. SF Recreation and Parks calls the play equipment “challenging.” Restrooms are in the clubhouse; benches are plentiful, and parking is handy.
San Jose Ave. and Ocean Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94112
At the ripe old age of 102, this Mission Terrace park was re-born in 2012 after having fallen into disuse. The $3.5 million spent on its renovation built a climbing wall and a bright orange, green and purple jungle gym with a tunnel on a recycled rubber surface. There’s a structure for toddlers and a bigger structure for bigger kids, plus slides, monkey bars, rock climbing walls and rope structures for a challenge. The new Balboa Park is home to Boxer Stadium, four ball fields, one of the city’s eight indoor pools, refinished tennis courts, a picnic area, a skate park and completely refurbished bathrooms too. Public transportation and street parking nearby make getting there easy.
295 Day St.
San Francisco, CA 94131
Convenient for Noe Valley parents, this newly renovated, colorful sand-floor playground gets a nod for its smaller scale equipment for younger kids. Two different sized jungle gyms and a merry-go-round are beacons for tots. There’s no parking, so it’s mainly frequented by those living in the neighborhood who are likely to run into familiar faces and familiar dogs. Parents say the fenced-in dog run gets a tick, as do the swings and the restrooms. Not just for the little ones, bigger kids and grownups enjoy the lighted tennis courts, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, baseball diamond, indoor gym, adult fitness classes, free zumba, picnic area and multipurpose field.
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Bay City Guide, AXS, Examiner and more. Examiner.com.