Where to Find Nature in San Francisco
While San Francisco is a large city with plenty of urban activities, it's still quite possible to get out into nature. After all, this is California! The City by the Bay has a large number of parks, gardens, and natural areas. If you're just looking for a small park for a picnic, the city has plenty of spots. And if you need a larger place for a walk, check out the Presidio or Lands End or Golden Gate Park where you'll find plenty of space to roam. And you can always get out of the city. Just head north over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands or east to the rural areas past Oakland and Berkely and you'll find plenty more natural areas, too.
Climb the stairwell on Filbert Street and you'll stumble into Pioneer Park, which is a 5 acre park that surrounds the famous Coit Tower. The park offers views of Russian Hill and it's possible to see The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz when the weather allows.
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Washington Square Park
Head down the hill from Ina Coolbrith Park and you'll find the popular Washington Square Park. This standard rectangle park offers a nice grassy field that is located in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco's Italian district. The park is filled with benches and places to rest or read a good book. It's also a nice picnic area and you'll find plenty of locals hanging out and soaking up the sun (when it makes an appearance). During the summer months there are often movies playing on large screens that you can enjoy free of charge. Saints Peter and Paul Church sits at the edge of the park.
Filbert St & Stockton Street, North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Mission Dolores Park
This large park is a popular hangout with locals, who head here when the weather's nice to enjoy picnics, ballgames, and hanging out in the sun. The park has a full-sized basketball court, a bike polo court, a soccer field, and six tennis courts. There's also a large playground that's perfect for kids. The park is in a family-friendly area so parents and kids often spend their afternoons here.
Dolores St &, 19th St, Mission and the Castro, San Francisco, CA, 94114
Japanese Tea Garden
This garden is designed specifically to create a zen experience. It offers a wonderful retreat from the chaos of the city and you can sit and relax or wander through the pagodas, koi ponds, and bonsai trees. The blooming cherry blossoms and the native Japanese plants create an authentic experience where you can immerse yourself in tranquility. For a light snack, head to the teahouse.
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, 94118
Yerba Buena Gardens
Located amid the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, this garden offers a nice retreat from the surrounding energy. There's a hedge maze, waterfalls, and grassy areas where you can relax in the sun. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a snack or take a break with a book. It's also conveniently located where you can rest your legs during a busy day of sightseeing.
750 Howard Street, SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103
Patricia’s Green is a small park with a grassy area in the Haye's Valley neighborhood. The park has become a lively setting with a couple of snack shops and a public art installation. During the summer months, there's a Burning Man wooden temple built here.
50 Oak St, Haye's Valley, San Francisco, CA, 94102
Glen Canyon Park is a city park with 60 acres of green space and a number of fun activities including a rock climbing wall. There's a 1.8 mile trail that can get a bit crowded during popular times. During the spring season, the park is popular for its wildflowers.
Elk St and Chenery St, San Francisco, CA, 94127
San Francisco Botanical Garden
This large botanical garden has more than 9,000 plant varieties. The park is divided into different sections including the Succulent Garden, the Moon Viewing Garden, the Ancient Plant Garden, and the Garden of Fragrance. There are monthly guided tours where you can learn about the seasonal flowers as well.
1199 9th Ave, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, 94122
Angel Island State Park
Catch a ferry from Pier 41 to explore this beautiful state park. Nature lovers will enjoy the peaceful setting and photography enthusiasts will appreciate the views looking back at the city. This is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay and it has a number of great biking, hiking, and running trails. There are five different picnic areas, eleven campsites, and several nice beaches as well. There's also a casual restaurant on the island.
San Francisco, CA
The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is the last building remaining from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It's a beautiful, classical style building that sits by a lagoon that serves as a reflecting pool. Inside the palace there are regular art exhibits and performances. The theater seats about 1,000 people.
3301 Lyon Street, Marina District, San Francisco, CA
Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden
Head to this beautiful garden during the spring season to see the tulips in bloom. The garden offers a touch of the Netherlands in San Francisco. The flowers are set beneath an authentic Dutch windmill and the beautiful red, pink, orange, and yellow colors really pop when the flowers are in bloom. You can also grab a bite at the Park Chalet Garden Restaurant and enjoy the view while you dine.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is a diverse outdoor space with museums, wildlife, gardens, and trails all within a peaceful setting. It is the third most visited park in the United States, and it's the perfect place to wander, walk, run, or relax. Inside the park you'll find world-class museums like de Young Museum, the unique Japanese Tea Garden, and the impressive San Francisco Botanical Garden. It's easy to pass hours here just soaking up the refreshing outdoor setting.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Located in Russian Hill, this park has three terraces and connecting stone paths. There are charming wooden gazebos and spectacular views of the bay and the surrounding city. Set near several other popular attractions such as the famous Lombard Street, this park offers a nice place to rest your legs after climbing all of those San Francisco hills.
2366 Leavenworth St between Chestnut St & Lombard St, Russian Hill, San Francisco, CA
Buena Vista Park
Buena Vista Park, in the famed Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, is the oldest park in the city. It's a bit of a climb to reach the park's peak, but from here you can enjoy views of the city, the University of San Francisco, and the surrounding hills that make up San Francisco's unique topography. The setting is a nice place to relax or enjoy a picnic.
Buena Vista & Haight Street, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, CA, 94117
Ina Coolbrith Park
This small park is perched on a small piece of land in the Russian Hill neighborhood. It's a bit removed from the main tourist areas, so it's a nice place to rest your legs and enjoy a peaceful setting. It is a bit of a climb to reach it, but for those who put in the effort, the park's stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge, and the city's skyline are a spectacular reward.
Vallejo & Taylor, Russian Hill, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Grandview Park, also known as Turtle Hill, is in Golden Gate Park. It's the place to go for spectacular views and on a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean, the city's skyline, the San Francisco Bay, and all of Golden Gate Park. It's particularly spectacular during either sunrise (for those early risers) or sunset.
1705 14th Ave, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, 94122
The Conservatory of Flowers
Located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, this conservatory offers a tropical oasis that dates back to 1878. It's set in a Victorian building that is one of the oldest public wood and glass conservatories in North America. There are five galleries, each with their own unique ecosystem from around the world. This unique setting offers the atmosphere of a world adventure without leaving the city. Outside there is a beautiful lawn that is perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy a picnic or relax in a peaceful setting.
100 John F. Kennedy Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, 94118
This park is all about the views. It's one of the highest parks in the city and it looks out over the entire Bay Area. The park is made of up two peaks with the north peak offers 180 degree views of the city. The park can be a bit challenge to get to, particularly if you're relying on public transportation, but the view at the top is well worth it. In total, the park has 64 acres of land.
501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA, 94114
Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument is one of the closest places to San Francisco where you can enjoy a forest of redwood trees. The park spans 554 acres, with 240 acres filled with redwoods. The park is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Center and it's a popular day trip from the city. Plan to arrive early if you're visiting on a weekend.
Mill Valley, CA 94941, CA, 94941
Alamo Square Park
This park is most notable as the place to view the famous "Painted Ladies," a series of Victorian and Edwardian homes that were made famous by the Tanner family, in the 1980's sitcom, "Full House". The park spreads out for 36 acres and it's a nice place to relax with a book, enjoy a picnic lunch, or let the kid's play on the playground.
Steiner St & Hayes Street, Alamo Square, San Francisco, CA, 94117
1 Kearny Street
This private deck and garden is located in the Financial District and is open to the public during business hours. It's located on the 11th floor and is accessible by elevator. From this peaceful setting you can enjoy stunning views of the city and it offers a great place to rest and enjoy lunch.
1 Kearny Street, Financial District, San Francisco, CA
The Presidio historically served as a U.S. Army base but today it is a large green space and a public park. It's situated in the northwestern corner of the city at the gateway to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio is a national park that is controlled by the National Park Service and it runs between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, ending at Baker Beach. Within the park there are stunning views of Marin County and the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a number of biking, hiking and walking paths. There are also plenty of places to enjoy a picnic or rest with a good book. The Walt Disney Family Museum as well as a golf course and several cafes are also found within the park.
The Presidio, San Francisco, CA
The Redwood Park at the Transamerica Pyramid Center
The Redwood Park offers a peaceful setting with plenty of benches and striking redwood trees in the heart of the city. This is a quiet spot where you can enjoy lunch or simply rest your legs before continuing to explore the city. At the center of the park is a beautiful fountain.
600 Montgomery St, Financial District, San Francisco, CA, 94111
For a quieter setting, head to the Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park. The flowers in this garden have all been mentioned in Shakespeare plays, so literary enthusiasts can enjoy identifying the species. You can enjoy a quiet and romantic picnic and it's also the perfect place to relax with a book or spend time with your thoughts. The setting is often used for weddings as well.
Golden Gate Park
This small park is located between the Duboce Triangle and Lower Haight neighborhoods. It's an urban park, and small in size, but offers a nice green space in an otherwise urban area.
44 Potomac Street, Western Addition, SF, California, 94143
Named after the famous chocolate maker and constructed from a historic chocolate factory, this shopping center and public square has a number of boutique shops, ice cream, cafes, and nearby restaurants. Naturally, the most visited shop is the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop and ice cream cafe where you can get all sorts of yummy treats. Visitors can also find some fun activities such as mini-golf, a public fountain with outdoor seating, and great views looking out to the bay.
871 Beach Street, Marina District, San Francisco, California, 94109
How much does it cost?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $50 to $4,755. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $511. A few of the best options are below.
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