This article was written by Marta Lindsey and published in the SF Chronicle’s Bike About Town column. The SF Bicycle Coalition is hosting a Bike to Playgrounds event on May 23, 2015 that explores many of these playgrounds on bicycle.
Those of us with kids in San Francisco probably live close to at least one of the city’s 135 playgrounds. But sometimes you get tired of the same old swings and slides. That’s when it’s time to pull out the bicycles, expand your range and discover new places to play, both well known and a bit hidden.
Exploring the playgrounds in and around Golden Gate Park by bike is especially family friendly. The eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive (Kezar Drive to Transverse Drive) has protected bike lanes and is closed to auto traffic on Sundays and holidays. JFK is also closed to cars from Eighth Avenue to Transverse Drive on Saturdays from April through September.
Shops near the east end of Golden Gate Park offer bike rentals for kids. San Francisco Bicycle Rentals at Haight and Shrader streets has trailers, toddler bike seats and tag-alongs; another option is Golden Gate Park Bike & Skate on Fulton Street and Seventh Avenue.
Once you’ve got your wheels, here are six playgrounds in or near Golden Gate Park to visit to with your kids:
Koret Children’s Quarter: This “destination playground” can be pretty busy on weekends, with its giant concrete slide and climbing structures. The carousel, hot dog stand and bathrooms nearby make it even better. It’s a perfect first stop on your playground tour after entering the park. There are bike racks at the western edge of the playground on Bowling Green Drive near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
10th Avenue and Fulton Children’s Play Area: Reach this small, hidden playground between Fulton Street and JFK Drive at Ninth Avenue by biking through tunnels from the Music Concourse or down a steep path from JFK Drive. The playground is just blocks away from the park’s museums, and biking around the Music Concourse or playing in the de Young grounds are also a lot of fun, especially since hot dogs are available in close proximity. There are no bathrooms at the play area, but there are some behind the Music Concourse bandstand.
Stow Lake/Mothers Meadow Playground: The playground on MLK Drive near 19th Avenue is a bit out of date but still fun, and it’s part of the beautiful, green expanse of Mothers Meadow. Bathrooms are nearby.
Fulton Playground: This playground on 27th Avenue between Fulton and Cabrillo streets is just a half block outside Golden Gate Park, has bathrooms and is newly renovated.
Cabrillo Children’s Play Area: Like the Fulton Playground but closer to the ocean on 38th Avenue between Fulton and Cabrillo streets, this newly renovated playground — complete with a pirate ship play structure — is just half a block outside Golden Gate Park and has bathrooms.
The Blue Boat Playground: This is a playground whose age is part of its charm — especially the big old blue boat that sparks kids’ imaginations. It’s no pirate ship like at the Cabrillo play area — that one even has cannons — but maybe that’s part of why this spot at Lincoln Way between 45th and 46th avenues is so fun. No restrooms.
Wherever you bike in the city with your kids, chances are there’s a playground nearby. Use the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department mapping tool and choose “children’s play areas” from the table of contents. If you are just getting started with family biking, be sure to check out the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s free Family Biking Guide or upcoming youth and family biking classes.