John McLaren Park, the second largest park in San Francisco after Golden Gate Park, is part urban oasis/part diamond in the rough and great spot for kids and families.  Bordered by the Cocker Amazon, Excelsior and Portola neighborhoods, this area is an up and coming district for young families. Sure the park needs a little TLC, but lately many neighbors have been volunteering to make improvements, raise funds and encourage families to get out and enjoy some genuinely stunning land. Recent community grants have created a mosaic bench project and an African Savannah inspired mural that help spruce up the public spaces with families joining together to create these pieces.

What to do: Check it out for yourself this summer and plan for a picnic, hiking the miles of trails, visiting ducks at McNab Lake, and of course, stops at the playgrounds.  Some good old-fashioned butterfly-chasing might even be in-store for little ones while enjoying the wild park…if you’re lucky you will be regaled with a butterfly display.  McLaren Park offers some of the best butterfly habitat in the city and currently hosts four special status species.

Possible lunch spots: Need a nibble after your in-city adventure? Head to Martha Brothers coffee shop on Mission in the Excelsior or the fab newish Beijing Restaurant on Alemany (on the way back to the Balboa BART).

-Darya Mead