Summer is officially underway and it’s time to get outside! There’s a couple of things you need for a great picnic. One is a nice stretch of grass, preferably with a view. Another is food, obviously. All five of these parks offer places to pick up a sandwich-- or something more interesting -- so you can just grab it and go. Bathrooms are a must have. And if there’s a playground for the kids, that’s even better. Here’s our favorite places to picnic in San Francisco.
Lafayette Park – Bay Views
The just-completed remodel of this park includes shady picnic tables with a view of Alcatraz and the Bay, a dog area, a new playground with a city view, and lots of seating. Whole Foods is just two blocks away on California and Franklin. Muni’s 1 California runs along the southern edge of the park, or take the California Street Cable car to the end of the line and walk three blocks to the park past some of the city’s best Victorians. Download City Explorer San Francisco’s tour of Victorians of Lafayette Park before you go.
Sue Bierman Park – On the Waterfront
Find this small oasis across from the north end of the Ferry Building, on the west side of the Embarcadero. It’s built on land that once held ramps to the infamous Embarcadero Freeway. Now there’s playground and a broad lawn with views of the Bay Bridge and the waterfront. And tucked into the far southwest corner there’s a Paris-style automated bathroom. The Ferry Building hosts a Farmer’s Market on Tuesday and Thursday 10a -2p and on Saturday there’s a mega market with over 100 vendors starting at 8 a. Get there on the Muni’s F-line historic streetcars or take BART/Muni to Embarcadero.
Yerba Buena Gardens – Downtown Oasis
Five acres of grass in the heart of the city, surrounded by museums – this is my idea of heaven. There’s even a walk-through waterfall that’s an inspiring memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Find food and bathrooms inside the Metreon mall on the west side of the park. And there’s a amazing children’s area - complete with playground, carousel, ice rink and a Creativity Museum -- located across the bridge over Howard Street on the roof of Moscone Center South. The Powell and Montgomery BART /Muni stations are just two blocks away. The Jewish Contemporary Museum and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are just two of the museums that will keep you busy until SFMOMA re-opens next year.
Dolores Park: City View
Weekends here can get a little crazy. But during the week Dolores Park can be surprisingly serene. The northern section of the park has just reopened with new bathrooms, tennis and sport courts, but the highlight is still the sweeping view of the city from the large lawns. Bi-Rite Market is a block away on 18th Street or get a sandwich at Rhea's Deli at 19th and Valencia. The southern half of the park is still under construction but the newly-redone children’s playground is open. Muni J Church drops you off right in the northwest corner of the park. Download the City Explorer San Francisco app before you go and take the Artwalk: Mission Murals tour.
Washington Square – History and Food
One of the oldest parks in the city. Come early to see the graceful Tai Chi groups that regularly meet here. The park is surrounded by great eating options even if you don’t want to stand in line at Mama’s, a North Beach institution. There’s Italian cakes and cookies at Victoria Pastry, the world’s best focaccia at Liguria (get there before 11 for best selection), sandwiches and espresso at Mario’s Bohemian Café, or grab a slice at Tony’s Pizza. Top it off with a one block walk north on Columbus to XOX Truffles. Keep your eyes out for the Telegraph Hill parrots, supposedly descendants of a flock that escaped during the 1906 earthquake. Muni 30 and 45 lines drop you by the Park; the 38 circles the Park and takes you up to Coit Tower. Download the City Explorer San Francisco app before you go; the North Beach tour takes you inside St. Peter and Paul, tells you about the secret hidden inside the Ben Franklin monument, and more.