Top 8 Best San Francisco Parks

best san francisco parks

Did you know there are 220 parks in San Francisco, California? Read on to learn about the top 8 best San Francisco parks!

Make a reservation at the best crab restaurant in San Francisco Crab House at Pier 39 today! Walk-ins welcome.

San Francisco boasts some of the most picturesque parks in the United States. These green spaces balance San Franciscan urban life with natural beauty. We’ve compiled a list of the most iconic San Francisco park areas. Which are your favorite parks near San Francisco?

1. Golden Gate Park

Starting with San Francisco’s crown jewel, Golden Gate Park spans over 1,000 acres and is one of the best San Francisco parks. That’s larger than New York City’s Central Park! It’s a place where you can spend the entire day and still not see everything.

From the serene Japanese Tea Garden to the bustling bison paddock, there’s a slice of nature for everyone. Don’t miss the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum, both of which offer a dose of culture amidst the greenery.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park opened to the public in 1870, over 150 years ago! It also holds the United States’ first-ever public playground, the Koret Playground. Don’t miss out on the park’s famous treasure hunt.

Getting to and around the Golden Gate Park is easy with public transportation and the city’s free park shuttle.

2. Presidio of San Francisco

The Presidio was once a U.S. Army military fort, and since 1994 it has become a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s a haven for history buffs and nature lovers alike. This 1,500-acre park wraps around the north end of San Francisco and features beaches, trails, and architecture.

Here are the top Presidio sites you don’t want to miss:

  • One of the new parks in San Francisco is the Presidio Tunnel Tops: Built in 2022, this 14-acre park on top of the Presidio Parkway tunnels offers incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge and fun activities for the whole family.
  • Crissy Field offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and is a popular spot for picnics, kite flying, windsurfing, and birdwatching.
  • The iconic Palace of Fine Arts, built in 1915, is a must-see site in San Francisco.
  • Battery Bluff houses four historic batteries from its days as a U.S. Army post and scenic overlooks with views of San Francisco’s landmarks.

Be sure to check out the unique history and art that can only be found at the Presidio of San Francisco!

3. Mission Dolores Park

Dolores Park is a vibrant community gathering spot nestled in the heart of the Mission District. On sunny days, you’ll find locals lounging in the grass, enjoying impromptu music performances or indulging in treats from nearby food trucks. This San Francisco city park offers great views of the city skyline, making it a favorite for both residents and visitors looking to relax and soak in the San Francisco vibe.

The park also holds palm trees, a soccer field, six tennis courts, a basketball court, a multi-use court, a playground, and two off-leash dog play areas! It is easy to access and runs along the Muni Metro J-Church Line.

Did you know that the park is on land that used to be a Jewish cemetery? The City of San Francisco bought the land in 1905 to establish the beloved park. Don’t worry, most of the remains were already moved by 1895. At the time, the Board of Supervisors believed proximity to cemeteries were a health hazard, so they moved them to the south.

4. Alamo Square Park

Alamo Square Park is most famous for its postcard-perfect view of the “Painted Ladies,” the colorful Victorian houses set against the backdrop of downtown San Francisco. The park itself is a charming spot for a leisurely stroll or a picnic. It also has a playground for kids, plenty of space for dogs to run around (off-leash on the western side!), walking trails, and a full tennis court.

This San Francisco park was established in 1857 and finally became accessibly landscaped in 1892. New residents hired architects to reproduce Queen Anne houses in the area, recreating Postcard Row and what is now known as the Painted Ladies.

Be sure to visit this picturesque snapshot of San Francisco’s architectural beauty and urban charm. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out must-visit attractions like the African American Art & Culture Complex, a venue with gallery exhibits and theatrical performances.

5. Buena Vista Park

Buena Vista Park was founded in 1894 and is one of the oldest parks in San Francisco. It was named for its beautiful view, which overlooks the city, and is the third biggest park in San Francisco. The peak of the park is 589-feet high and its land is covered with trees and vegetation.

This big park in San Francisco offers winding trails through native oak woodlands and is one of San Francisco’s parks with nice views. Its hilltop location offers panoramic views that stretch from the Golden Gate Bridge to downtown. The park’s natural beauty is complemented by its historic significance, housing a hidden garden of remembrance for AIDS victims.

You can also play tennis and pickleball on the park’s courts, enjoy the kids’ playground with family, and bring your pup to the dog play area. There is no parking at the park, so take advantage of the city’s extensive public transportation system to get there.

6. Lands End

For those seeking adventure and breathtaking coastal views, Lands End is a must-visit famous park in San Francisco. The tree-lined trails along the cliff’s edge offer stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay.

The Lands End Lookout visitor center provides historical insights into the area, while the nearby Sutro Baths ruins evoke a sense of the city’s past. Did you know that before Europeans settled in the area, the Yelamu Ohlone tribe lived in seasonal settlements at Lands End? The area had everything they needed: fresh water, access to fishing and hunting, and space to play.

When the tide is low, you can see three sunken ships: the cargo ship SS Ohioan which wrecked in 1936, the oil tanker SS Lyman Stewart which landed in 1922, and the oil tanker SS Frank H Buck which crashed in 1937.

7. Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens is a peaceful enclave amidst the bustling SoMa district. It features beautifully landscaped gardens, public art installations, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial waterfall. The park also holds the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Children’s Creativity Museum.

This park is the perfect place to bring the whole family. Check out the Charles Looff Historic Carousel which was built in 1906 and is preserved in perfect condition! Nearby you’ll find the famous San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, as well as the Moscone Convention Center.

Check out city calendars for fun activities and events hosted throughout the year at Yerba Buena Gardens!

8. Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park can be found at the top of a set of stairs in Telegraph Hill. Established in 1876 at the celebration of the U.S. Centennial, this park is home to the famous Coit Tower and Pioneer Monument. This 5-acre park in San Francisco was created after a storm destroyed the signal station in 1870. Concerned businessmen purchased the land and donated it to the City of San Francisco with the condition that it be used as a public park.

The park is a must-visit destination for its San Francisco landmarks but also for its spectacular views of the surrounding city. The neighborhood of Telegraph Hill also holds plenty of entertainment to delight locals and visitors alike.

best san francisco parks

Fun Facts about the Best San Francisco Parks

  1. Crissy Field was the site of a top secret language school during World War II called the Fourth Army Intelligence School! According to SFGate, the school trained Japanese-American stories in translation and interpretation to support the war effort while their family members were incarcerated in internment camps.
  2. In the 1890s, a herd of bison were brought to Golden Gate Park, and their descendants still live there today! Have you ever spotted them?
  3. During San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake, Golden Gate Park served as a shelter for 200,000 displaced San Franciscans.
  4. Artifacts were discovered at Lands End that date back to the Mesolithic Period (10,000-4,000 B.C.), proving that people have been on the land for thousands of years.
  5. There have also been more than 130 recorded shipwrecks off the coast of Lands End! This foggy respite can be dangerous for sailors.
  6. “Alamo” in the name Alamo Square Park is Spanish for poplar tree.
  7. The Mission Dolores located by Dolores Park is the oldest surviving building in San Francisco!
  8. Golden Gate Park is in the running for the USA Today’s Best City Park. It is a Top 3 Finalist and voting ends April 8, 2024.
  9. San Francisco is the only major U.S. city where every resident lives within a 10-minute walk of a city park!
  10. Parks in San Francisco cover 5,888 acres of land and account for 20% of San Francisco.

Skillet with crab mussels and shrimp with a view of SF Bay

Crab House at Pier 39

What sounds better after a visit to one of San Francisco’s parks than a delicious meal with a beautiful bay view? Crab House at Pier 39 has amazing views of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. Plus, you can visit Pier 39’s sea lions up close after your meal.

Crab House at Pier 39 is famous for its Killer Crab®, a 2+ lb Dungeness crab roasted in a secret garlic sauce and served on a sizzling iron skillet. Enjoy crab, shrimp, and mussels on iron skillets. Taste delicious Crab Chowder. Indulge in fun cocktails from Crab House’s full bar.

Make a reservation here. Walk ins are always welcome.

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