Did you hear the great news? San Francisco is opening up it’s playgrounds starting on October 14 and we couldn’t be happier! With more than 100 playgrounds in our 46.9 square miles there are plenty of places for city kids to play with epic views. From the hilltops of Bernal to Eureka Valley to the double playgrounds at the Civic Center, we’ve rounded up our top picks for the best San Francisco playgrounds with a few brand-new spots. Get out there in the fresh air!
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NEWLY RENOVATED: Alice Chalmers Park
If you are like us, you've been drooling over pics of this brand-new playground by @specplayco. Alice Chalmers Park in San Francisco represents the iconic city’s skyscrapers with a nearly 30' tall Lappset tower including climbing nets, balancing elements, birds nest seating, net flooring, wooden platforms, lookout towers and cantilevered platforms with clear flooring to feel risky above the landscape. Peripheral elements include an 8-foot diameter spinner, embankment slide, net climber and swings to round out this amazing public play space.
NEWLY RENOVATED: Turk-Hyde Mini Park
Turk-Hyde Mini Park, an oasis for preschoolers and their parents in the heart of the Tenderloin, re-opened on March 2 with updated play equipment and landscaping, as well as a redesign to make the space more accessible and conducive to gatherings. One of four parks in the Tenderloin, this park is an important gathering space for the families living in the area. The 6,500-square feet of space includes new plastic and metal play structure, slide, shaded seating and picnic tables. You'll also find a gorgeous floral mural by Tenderloin resident Sylvester Guard, Jr. overlooking the park.
Turk and Hyde Streets
Neighborhood: The Tenderloin
NEWLY RENOVATED: Panhandle Playground
Upper Haight and NoPa parents adore this busy little playground in the middle of the Panhandle and with its recent renovations, there is even more to love! Panhandle Playground is among 13 renovations across the city supported by the Let’sPlaySF! campaign, a partnership between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. The transformed Panhandle Playground includes a sandbox in which children can dig for built-in sea treasures, multiple climbing surfaces, two swing sets, an area for older and younger children and reservable picnic tables. The use of natural materials like boulders and wood allows the new playground to blend into the area, which is home to 80 species of trees.
Oak & Ashbury
Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds
Head to the Civic Center for a two-for-one playground combo, just opened in early 2018. These two massive climbing structures boast innovative design and cushioned artificial turf for children to play. Multi-sensory areas and traditional swings provide kids with different ways to move their bodies. The park even has elements that allow children in wheelchairs to swing and play. Read all about them here. Bonus: Bi-rite set up shop in the plaza so you can get your pre-playground coffee fix!
Civic Center Plaza
Neighborhood: Civic Center
Mountain Lake Park
This recently-renovated city park sits just south of the Presidio. The under three set can play in their own self-contained toddler area that only has one gate to enter and exit (essential for toddler containment). Big kids will enjoy using the stairs or the climbing wall to reach the top of the cement slide and then grabbing a buddy to slide down together. There's also a great rope climbing area with gorgeous views of nearby Mountain Lake.
One 11th Ave.
Neighborhood: Lake Street
Hilltop is most well-known for its giant 70-foot sundial and its skatepark. If you haven't been there in a while, recent renovations will make you want to drop by for another afternoon of play. The massive cement slide is still in place (bring your cardboard if you have the need for speed) but the playground at its base is totally new and totally cool. Kids can climb on the tree-shaped merry-go-round and the rubberized flooring will protect from any falls. Plenty of benches surround the action so that parents can take a break.
La Salle & Whitney Young Circle
South Park is the oldest public park in San Francisco. Taking up almost 34,000 square feet of space, the park is a favorite lunch spot for those working in the surrounding businesses. Park improvements include the addition of a butterfly garden and a massive serpentine climbing structure for kids of all ages. Grab a spot on the net swing and enjoy the afternoon. Read all about it here.
64 South Park Ave.
Neighborhood: South Park
Mission Playground and Pool
This park in the heart of the Mission has two main play areas: one along Valencia which water features that and one with climbing structures and slides adjacent to the Mission Clubhouse. There’s also tennis courts, a basketball court, and a black top soccer pitch. Oh yeah, and the only outdoor public pool in San Francisco!
Valencia & Cunningham (pool and clubhouse, 19th & Linda)
Neighborhood: The Mission
Dolores Park Helen Diller Playground
With incredible views of downtown from the top of the mega-slide and a ton of swings, it's a playground that's often busy but rarely feels crowded. Bribing the littles with a walk to nearby Bi-Rite Creamery may be the only way to can get them to leave the rock and net climbing structurs.
Church & Dolores Streets
Neighborhood: The Mission
Potrero Hill Children’s Play Area
Little firefighters will be stoked at the firetruck climbing structure in this playground located just down the hill from Potrero Hill Rec Center. Take advantage of some of the best weather in the city and have a picnic here.
801 Arkansas St.
Neighborhood: Potrero Hill
Sweeping views and a location at the top of the actual crookedest street in San Francisco (Vermont St.) make this park an ideal spot to show the grandparents why you put up with no parking and high rents. A clean playground and mini-lawn (watch for doggie land-minds!) make it well worth the stop, and the nearby historic homes just make the already breathtaking views that much sweeter. Don’t be fooled by its proximity to the 101, a large bank of cypress trees blocks much of the sound and view. Enjoy the growing community garden.
2301 20th St. at Vermont St.
Neighborhood: Potrero Hill
Bernal Heights Playground
Located right behind the Bernal Library, this smaller park boasts more climbing structures and tunnels per square foot than your average playground. There's a sand pit to plop those little diggers down, too. It can get crowded around library story time and on weekends but how else is your kid gonna learn to share that bucket and scoop?
500 Moultrie St
Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
Sue Bierman Playground
Burn off that Miette macaroon at the Sue Bierman playground. Located across the street (and just north) from the Ferry Building, this picture-perfect playground offers two main play structures, a rope dome, and lots of baby swings to keep your 'Frisco kids busy while you take in the view of Coit Tower. It’s in full sun, so on a warm day it’s bright and hot, but there’s lots of grass and shady nooks in the area outside the playground. There are no restrooms at the park: use the Ferry Building.
Washington & Drumm St.
Willy "Woo Woo" Wong Playground
This is the kind of playground that reminds you why you love living in San Francisco. Both bigs and littles will find their own play areas, and the park's features include colorful murals, tennis and volleyball courts. There is also a basketball court: Willy Wong was a famous Chinese American basketball player in the 1940s. The rec center has a ton of programs, an indoor gym and ping-pong tables. Plus the proximity to Chinatown, downtown and North Beach make this a worthy stop on a day of exploring.
830 Sacramento St.
Yerba Buena Gardens Children’s Play Area
Located at the southern end of the Yerba Buena Gardens complex (right next to an ice rink, bowling alley and children’s museum) the highlight for most kids is the crazy-high tube slides. Kids of smaller-stature will find plenty to do, too: there’s climbing structures, a sand pit and even a small hedge maze. The gardens offer regular classes, too.
750 Howard St.
Collis P. Huntington Park Play Area
The location of this rad playground at the top of Nob Hill, across from Grace Cathedral and the Huntington Hotel, means getting there is half the fun: take a cable car or walk up one of downtown's steepest inclines. There’s also the historic Flood Fountain at the park’s center, and you can count on lots of cute neighborhood dogs.
California & Taylor
Neighborhood: Nob Hill
Washington and Hyde Mini Park
Possibly the smallest and most charming playground in the city, this Nob Hill secret is made for pint-sized people. Tucked away from the bustle of nearby downtown, it is designed to look like a child-sized city. No restrooms here.
Washington & Hyde
Neighborhood: Nob Hill
Alta Plaza Park
This hilltop park offers an amazing view and lots of creative options for kids to dig in the sand (mini-excavators and tubes of fun!) plus grass and tennis courts. Believe it or not, this park was once actually a quarry!
Jackson & Steiner
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights
This geo-sister park to Alta Plaza was renovated in 2013 to include a cool stone climbing structure, an area just for little tots and a water feature. A popular park for dog walkers it includes paths and nice views. Fun fact: This park once was the site of the City’s first astronomical observatory.
Gough & Washington St.
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights
Located right next to the N Judah line, the tot play area is a great place for lil’ engineers to watch the trains go by. It’s a small playground (there’s a second playground for bigger kids up above) so it can get crowded but it’s a great place to let your newly-walking babes roam. The rest of Duboce Park includes the dog park, a basketball court and the Harvey Milk Rec Center. Restrooms at the rec center.
Duboce & Scott St.
Neighborhood: Duboce Triangle
Eureka Valley Playground
Inspired by The Wizard of Oz, kids can follow the yellow path or just run free-style around this cushioned playground in the Castro. The rec center onsite hosts a ton of classes and there’s also a baseball diamond, tennis court and a dog run! And if you've got older kids who want a wild ride, walk to the nearby Seward Street Slides but be sure to bring some cardboard with you!
100 Collingwood St.
Neighborhood: The Castro
Hayes Valley Playground
Looking for a place to work out while the kids go down the slide 50 times? This playground not only includes play areas geared toward toddlers as well as the five and up crowd, it has outdoor fitness equipment for adults. There’s also a massive clubhouse, a stage and community garden plots. Fun fact: the clubhouse features recycled denim insulation!
Hayes & Buchanan St.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley
Alamo Square Children's Play Area
Located on the east side of the park, the playground at Alamo Square rivals views from nearly any peak in the city. If you’re not gazing at the famous Painted Ladies you can peek the Transamerica Pyramid and the gilded dome of City Hall and from the top of the equipment spot the Golden Gate Bridge. With an elevated section for the 2-5 crowd, you can keep your little ones at an arm’s length while still having a bird’s eye view of the bigger kids. The west side of the park is designated for doggies, so let your pooches have a go and your kiddos have a gander. There are restrooms but they are a short walk from the actual playground.
Hayes & Steiner
Neighborhood: Western Addition
Covering a full city block in Cole Valley, this playground is not one the kids will soon outgrow. The upper level playground (adjacent to the Haight Ashbury Community Nursery School) has lots of sand and equipment suited toward the preschool and toddler and even crawling crowd. The lower playground has slightly dated features good for school age kids: sand, giant swings and slides alongside a big green soccer field. Bring some chalk to draw on the chalk wall, or check out the basketball and tennis courts up above the nursery school.
1180 Stanyan St
Neighborhood: Cole Valley
Presidio Heights Playground
A hidden gem, this park feels like you are in someone’s (amazing) back yard. Features include a toddler play area with big sand pit, slides, swings and a climbing structure. There's also a full length basketball court that serves as a roadway for the many riding toys donated by local parents.
Clay & Walnut St.
Neighborhood: Presidio Heights
Julius Kahn Playground
This playground and park features Golden Gate Bridge, Bay and Marin Headlands views on display, assuming you visit on a fog-free day. This is a great spot for the little kids and big kids alike since since there are separate play structures within the large fenced-in playground. A 2003 renovation transformed a heavily used playground into a state-of-the-art, Parisian-style play area. The new Julius Kahn design was developed with the feel and aesthetics of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. The park also includes an interactive wet sand play sculpture and unique and challenging play equipment.
West Pacific Ave. & Spruce St.
JP Murphy Playground & Clubhouse, Golden Gate Heights
Tucked away on a hill in the Inner Sunset/Golden Gate Heights neighborhood, this park has a playground, tennis court, a chic modern club house that can be rented for parties, restrooms and a big bonus: a sneak peek of the Golden Gate Bridge. The playground is remarkably out of the wind (for the most part) and is just contained enough that you can kick back and watch your kids take a turn on the chair swing.
1960 9th Ave. between Ortega and Pacheco
Neighborhood: Golden Gate Heights/Forest Hill
The entire playground was remodeled in 2013 and features a pirate ship play structure (complete with cannons and a crow’s nest!), cement Ping-Pong tables and built-in four-square and hopscotch, as well as tennis and basketball courts. There’s a cute clubhouse that can be accessed from one of the climbing structures and restrooms. A very small strip of grass, located smack in the middle of the park, is the perfect place to snack-break.
858 38th Ave.
Neighborhood: Outer Richmond
Koret Children’s Quarter (Golden Gate Park Children’s Playground)
The mother of all playgrounds, on a Saturday mid-morning this is not for the faint-of-heart. It’s big, there’s a ton to do and it’s busy. (The din of children squealing with delight almost drowns out the drums of Hippie Hill). Try out the cement slides—one of the few remnants of the vintage playground that once stood here (bring scrap cardboard). The playground also includes one of the tallest climbing structures in the park circuit, a water feature and sand that mix together for a messily awesome good time and a carousel! Restrooms are just past the carousel.
Martin Luther King, Jr and Bowling Green Drive
Neighborhood: Golden Gate Park
45th Avenue Playground
Locals call it the Blue Boat Playground and your little pirates will love the actual boat docked in the sand at this playground. Though this isn’t a recent reno it’s still a well-kept and well-loved playground in Golden Gate Park’s outer reaches. Surrounded by big trees, it’s shadier and cooler than some other spots, so keep those fleeces on hand for when Karl the Fog comes to play. The picnic area is reservable through GGP. Brand-new restrooms are scheduled to open soon!
4414 Lincoln Way
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
Sunset Rec Center
In addition to a massive rec center with indoor courts (and clean restrooms!) there is a sweet playground with two areas for toddlers and big kids, with plenty of little nooks to explore. There’s almost always parking and even at peak activity it still feels spacious. On the other side of the rec center from the playground there’s a baseball diamond!
2201 Lawton St.
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
—Kate Loweth and Amber Guetebier