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San Francisco's Top 10 : Parks and Gardens

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San Francisco’s parks should be avoided at night.


  1. Golden Gate Park

    One of the largest city parks in the US is also one of the most diverse, and all of it brought forth from what was once scrub and dunes. The park also features first-rate cultural attractions such as the de Young Museum.

    Shakespeare Garden, Golden Gate Park
  2. Buena Vista Park

    This steep and densely wooded hill offers terrific panoramas from its Haight Street location, as well as some fairly challenging trails for those who like to hike and bike.

    Buena Vista Park
  3. Fort Mason

    The rolling lawn above Fort Mason Center, known as the Great Meadow, is a relatively little-used park, but it’s great for taking a siesta, tossing a frisbee, or just strolling through to take in the spectacular views from the cliffs.

  4. The Presidio

    This vast swathe of greenery has only recently entered the city’s repertoire of parklands. It has the potential to be even more amazing than Golden Gate Park, providing that the right decisions are made by the Presidio Trust, whose job it is to make the new national park financially self-sufficient by 2013. In 2005 filmmaker George Lucas created a $350 million headquarters here for his film production company Lucas Film and up to 1,500 employees.

  5. Alta Plaza

    Pacific Heights’s double block of verdant hill is a popular place to take the sun when it ventures to break through the fog. Basketball and tennis courts and a children’s playground are in the center, while to the south there are terraced lawns, onto which some of Pacific Heights’ oldest homes face.

  6. Alamo Square

    Postcard central, thanks to its row of perfect Victorians backed by the knock-out Downtown view. The park itself is a sloping patch of green, while the surrounding streets are lined with so many grand old houses that it has been declared a historic site. Two of them have been turned into hotels, although the areas immediately outside the square are not the most salubrious at night.

  7. Embarcadero Park

    The last few years have witnessed a welcome transformation along the entire stretch of the Embarcadero. The 1989 earthquake put an end to the idea of running a freeway into the city center, so the old shipping piers are now set off by new plantings and sidewalks and the area is being promoted as a breezy park. In-line skaters and cyclists disport themselves where once concrete embankments held sway .

    Embarcadero Park
  8. Yerba Buena Gardens

    A small but very welcome patch of green in an otherwise paved-over area. When the weather is fine, the lawn is populated by sunbathers, while other parts of the gardens feature beautiful memorial fountains and sculptures .

  9. Lafayette Park

    This is another of Pacific Heights’s double-blocked hilltop gardens – a leafy green haven of pine and eucalyptus. Steep stairways lead to the summit, with its delightful views. The city did not manage to set aside these oases without a fight. Squatters’ buildings occupied some of the land in the center of this park until as late as 1936, when they were finally pulled down, liberating the lush gardens for all to enjoy.

    Lafayette Park
  10. Walton Park

    This tiny park is a much needed break from concrete and asphalt for Downtown workers, whom you will see picnicking here at weekday lunchtimes. The park evokes a peaceful mountain meadow. A wonderful sculpture by Georgia O’Keeffe adds contrast, while a central fountain sends droplets of water falling across cement blocks below.

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