Our love affair begins with playgrounds as toddlers and carries over to our golden years. The Bay Area is spoiled in terms of sheer volume, but everyone has parks they go back to whether out of necessity or nostalgia. Here’s our list for best playgrounds in San Francisco.
Yerba Buena Gardens Playground
750 Mission Street between Third and Fourth Street
San Francisco, CA 94129
Living in the city, kids hear “don’t run” way too much. So how’s a little urban dweller supposed to burn off all the energy their parents can’t immediately summon? The playground at Yerba Buena Gardens, located downtown a mere steps away from Zeum Children’s Museum, the Carousel, an ice skating rink and a bowling center, is a free, space-agey take on recreation, which appeals to both younger and older kids. The interactive stream for little ones leads into a spacious rubber mulch covered haven. Several slides test your mettle so age appropriateness is advised. Those looking for a little change of pace and texture can play in the sand circle or enjoy a walk into the garden maze.
The Boat Playground
Lincoln Way at 45th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
Affectionately referred to as “The Boat Playground,” because of the real boat docked off to the right, the park at 45th Avenue is considered old fashioned by today’s standards, but still gets the job done. Benches and picnic tables surround the perimeter while children are free to jump off the faux dock into sand or climb the wood and metal play structures which are divided into three separate yet connecting areas. The main attraction, of course, is the big blue boat appealing to kids sense of adventure. Climb aboard, walk the plank, have an epic battle, or perfect tea party – reservations not necessary. Imaginations run as wild as their little legs. There’s no million dollar makeover at this playground. Just a fresh coat of paint every now and again is all it takes. Best for the 6 and under crowd.
1180 Stanyan Street at Alma
San Francisco, CA 94117
There’s never a dull moment at Grattan Playground, Cole Valley’s bi-level play space and home to the Haight Ashbury Community Nursery School. Stretching a full city block, Grattan offers the younger set a sandy environment with swings, slides, a designated sand box and wooden structures to explore with a giant tube patching kids from the upper playground to the lower playground. Additionally, older kids have a merry-go-round, swing set and trolley slider to vie for. The fenced-in park includes a soccer field (a climbing wall exists midway down to the right), and a tennis court.
Related: Berkeley’s Best Playgrounds
Mountain Lake Park
Lake Street (at 12th Avenue)
San Francisco, CA 94118
Occupying 14 acres which includes a tennis court and hiking trail, Mountain Lake Park’s grassy meadow and multi-tiered play area has been a destination for individuals and families for over thirty years. Great outdoorsy area for kids to ride their bikes, scooters or feed the ducks. Find some cardboard scraps to barrel down the 25 foot slide. Open spaces require parents to keep a watchful eye at all times. Dogs welcome.
Julius Kahn Playground
West Pacific Avenue & Maple
San Francisco, CA 94118
Let ’em get messy at Julius Kahn. Sand and water play are big hits with tots while older youths flock to the saucer swings and hold on to dear life on the multi-level merry go round with climbing ropes. In fact, you are hard pressed to find something for kids not to climb in this modernized yard. Baseball, basketball and tennis courts make this playground more than just for little kids. Gates surround the well manicured area and the clubhouse has a nice supply of games and arts and crafts.
Robyn Chelsea-Seifert is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Creem, Hit Parader, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and International Musician. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.