The sizzling summer heat is giving way to autumn light, and if the skies are dry it’s a perfect time to dig out your racquets and balls and make it a family affair. Unless your kid is a tennis prodigy, hitting balls can be an exercise in patience till they are about 6 or 7, but once they get the bug, it’s a great, cheap activity and there are plenty of hidden gems of courts around the Bay.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, there are more than 150 public courts in 50 different locations, some in better shape than others, but often tucked away out of sight.  If you’re looking to discover a new spot or find the closest one to you, check out this well designed San Francisco Tennis Courts site. The site lists the courts, their location, and how many courts are available, as well as lighting and a special spot for comments.

Golden Gate Park
Popular venues such as Golden Gate Park (near the Bowling Green and Children’s Playground) boast 21 courts, although the senior set can often claim them. You can make reservations, but on weekdays the availability is on a first come first serve basis. Tennis lessons are available, and in summer these courts host the popular Park and Rec Tennis summer camp.

Middle Drive and John F. Kennedy Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, Ca.

McLaren Park
McLaren Park, which spans the Excelsior, Portola, and Crocker Amazon neighborhoods, is on the other side of town. In many ways, McLaren rivals Golden Gate Park in terms of terrain, although all the attention and budget dollars go to Golden Gate Park. The McLaren courts are protected and often unused. Mountain biking trails encircle the courts as do jolly murals. Bonus: parking is a breeze.

Mansell Street and John F. Shelley Drive
San Francisco, Ca.

Sidney Peixotto Park
Surprisingly, many SF courts are not that busy on weekdays and even some weekends. Many neighborhoods have one court, often hidden from main thoroughfares and under-used. Sidney Peixotto Park in Corona Heights is one such venue. If you are a tennis buff or want to re-ignite your passion for the sport and introduce your kids, make it fun and try a few different courts! One note, be ready for wind and fog in different parts of the city, it can make a casual game quite a challenge!

2475 15th Street
San Francisco, Ca.


Boyle Park
In Marin, and other suburban areas, schools often have tennis courts that can be used for free, when available. In Mill Valley, Boyle Park Tennis Courts have reasonable fees. Children are free and adults cost only $2. Monthly and annual passes are available as well.

11 East Drive
Mill Valley, Ca.

East Bay

Cedar Rose Park
Berkeley’s Cedar Rose Park has a lot to offer including a multi-purpose turf play structure, basketball courts as well as a picnic area. There are no lights here, so make your trip a daylight infused tennis experience.

1300 Rose St
Berkeley, Ca.

South Bay

Stanford University
Outdoor tennis on the Peninsula is almost a year round activity. A few days of rain, maybe a few days where the temperature is too high or too low, but it’s no wonder that Stanford attracts many high caliber tennis players. If you would like to play on campus there are ways… but tennis team events/practices, physical education classes and special events have priority over all other use. Check out the Stanford Athletics online tennis court reservations site to find out how to use the coveted courts. Too much hassle, there are plenty of other public courts to choose from in the city of Palo Alto.

2 different sites:
625 Campus Drive and 188 Electioneer Road
Palo Alto, Ca.

Wherever you choose to play, make sure to add a warm-up into your routine if you haven’t played in a while!

What are your tips for teaching your kids how to play tennis?

— Darya Mead