Favorite open spaces in San Francisco

Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By Mary Polizzotti on January 14, 2011 at 8:43 am

Need some peace and quiet? Craving space for contemplation? Even laid back San Francisco can feel like a zoo. Traffic, honking taxis, and hustle-bustle common to every city is no stranger in California. Fortunately, it’s easy to escape without ever leaving the concrete jungle.

Disappear behind the deafening waterfall in Yerba Buena Gardens. Gaze at the surrounding Art Deco and Modern skyscrapers while the city sounds evaporate. It’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of downtown in this urban oasis. Anyone needing a break from the convention center madness should come here.

Well-manicured Maritime Plaza off Clay and Davis St is nearly always empty. It’s a perfect place to take a lunch break in the California sunshine. Nobody appears to know about it, so enjoy the solitude. Enter via Sue Bierman Park then cross the pedestrian bridge.

Ina Coolbrith Park at Taylor St and Vallejo clings to the side of a cliff. Sweeping views of North Beach down below set up a romantic backdrop. A very serene spot.

Smell the roses in Huntington Park atop Nob Hill. Amenities include a small playground, a pretty fountain, and a view of Grace cathedral; the elegant hotels nearby allude to a former time. Jimmy Stewart drove by the park in Vertigo and the California St cable car passes by here.

Great meadow at Fort Mason

The Great Meadow at Fort Mason has the lushest green grass of any park in San Francisco. The fat palms adorning the lawn look perfectly Californian and the view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge is, obviously, priceless. Locals congregate here for group gatherings or just to lounge with a book upon the softest urban earth.

Lafayette Park is a small pearl that feels all your own because there’s a dearth of people. Tennis courts are often available, a few benches abound, nice grass beckons, and peace and quiet without desolation is on hand.

Alamo Square means humming the Full House theme song in front of the Painted Ladies. Enough said. Follow the winding paths for timeless views, and check out the shoe flowers nestled under the towering cypress trees.

Despite its wild popularity with locals, tourists tend to skip Dolores Park, which seems crazy since the people-watching here is primo. Bring a picnic or a brown-bagged drink and watch the afternoon unfold in front of you. Hanging in the park all day has become a classic San Francisco experience. It’s a good place to meet new friends or play a respectable game of tennis. And then there’s the view.

Photo courtesy of avatar-1/Flickr

Tags: "green space", "off the beaten path", "urban oasis", parks, san francisco, Travel Tips, views

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