The hundreds of parks in San Francisco offer you no shortage of activities. Enjoy beaches, hills, impressive man-made architecture or natural wonders. Whether you’re into golf, tennis, or simply strolling through the City by the Bay, you’ll never get bored! Here are a few of the most popular parks you shouldn’t miss when visiting San Francisco.
Alamo Square Park A.K.A. The Painted Ladies
At Alamo Square, you’ll find a full range of activities, from walking trails to tennis courts and a playground. There’s a dedicated dog park, but the entire area is canine-friendly, so you can go ahead and bring your puppy to play. Catch a glimpse of the row houses, the Painted Ladies, featured in the popular 80’s sitcom “Full House” while you’re there. Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
While the main tour of Alcatraz Island will take you indoors, through the prison that once held the likes of Al Capone, you’ll want to stroll around the island on your own, too. There are trails leading to the shore that offer an impressive view, not only of the Bay but also of the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline of San Francisco. There’s no food service on the island, so be sure to bring supplies for a meal at one of the scenic picnic benches around the island. To get to the island, you’ll need to take a ferry. Reservations are required, so book early via Alcatraz Cruises.
Angel Island State Park
Coined the “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island State Park is reachable by ferry, but if you prefer, you could kayak the three-mile route yourself and go trekking on the island by foot. Bikers will find trails running 13 miles through shady, beautiful trees and along incredible bay views. For a more novel way to see the island, buy a roundtrip ticket from Blue & Gold Fleet and Segway over the hills. The US Immigration Station is open Wednesday through Sunday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Enjoy fresh air at Bernal Heights, a pleasant park that offers plenty of space to roam, an extensive playground and a beautiful backdrop to take a lot of Instagram pictures. Just up the hill from the gardens, you’ll find the recreation center, which offers several programs for families, as well as a gym and basketball court. Open daily from 5 a.m. to midnight.
This Mission District park is the perfect place to enjoy great views while you picnic and people watch. Great expanses of grass make the park popular with dog owners, but there’s also a playground and several tennis and basketball courts to play on. Open daily from 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Islands, redwood forests, a former federal prison (Alcatraz), ocean beaches and historic points of interest are all part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). Across the Golden Gate Bridge, the GGNRA encompasses vast areas of undeveloped lands in the Marin Headlands as well as wildlife sanctuaries, picnic areas facilities and 100 miles of trails. Bird-watching is a popular pastime and the National Park Service offers seasonal activities throughout the year, everything from lighthouse visits to hawk watches.
Golden Gate Park
Within just one massive space, Golden Gate Park features playgrounds, lakes, museums and even a Japanese Tea Garden. You’ll also want to check out the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco Botanical Garden and stroll through the western area of the park, where you’ll find windmills and an expansive tulip garden. Please note: Check the attraction websites for up-to-date hours of operation. Due to the shelter in place executive order, they might be temporarily closed.