The Best Playgrounds in San Francisco for Every Childhood Stage

San Francisco has some of the most amazing playgrounds around. Did you know there are more than 179 public playgrounds inside of San Francisco’s 49 square miles? Whether you live in the city or you are just visiting, take advantage of the great parks and public spaces! The best playgrounds in San Francisco offer spectacular views of the city, a place to have a picnic and newly remodeled play spaces.

Playgrounds in San Francisco
Alice Chalmers Playground

Most of the playgrounds on this list have been designed for both younger children and older kids. However, some playgrounds definitely cater more to certain child development stages. That’s why I have ranked the playgrounds as if they were ski slopes, from green being for young babies and toddlers to black diamond for more adventure seeking big kids. Looking for a small enclosed place to play? Green Level Playgrounds are a great place for you! Want a play space that has a themed play equipment built to inspire imaginative play? Blue Level playgrounds are perfect for that! Looking for crazy high slides and climbing structures that demand the advanced physical development of an older kid? Go for Black Diamond!

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The Best Playgrounds in San Francisco

Local Mama Tip!

When you visit the best playgrounds in San Francisco in the morning, be sure to bring an old bath towel. The morning fog often leaves slides and play structures wet. Keep your children’s bums dry and avoid the “MY CLOTHES GOT WET” meltdown by wiping down the play equipment first.

Green Circle Level Playgrounds

Noe Children’s Playground

green circle

This Playground features a low play structure and ground level activity panels. It is designed for early child developmental stages.

A charming little neighborhood playground, Noe Children’s Playground is a favorite of local toddlers. Because it’s completely enclosed and smaller in size, caregivers can let little ones explore safely at this park.

Featuring a low play structure, a full bucket baby swing set, a sand area and a seesaw, this sweet little play area is a great spot for developing early gross motor skills.

Local Mama Tip!

Across the street is Philz Coffee. They serve delicious made-to-order pour over coffee. Stop by before you venture to the playground and enjoy a warm cup of coffee while you follow your little one around.

Location:798 Douglass St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood:Noe Valley
Bathrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Mountain Lake Playground

green circle

This Playground features a low play structure and ground level activity panels. It is designed for early child developmental stages.

While Mountain Lake Playground does have a built in cement slide and climbing equipment built for older kids, I’m giving it a green rating based on it’s great toddler play space. It includes a low wall covered in activity panels, rocking horses, short slides with a hill to crawl up, and full bucket swings. Young toddlers love climbing up the little hill and sliding back down the slide.

There are also tennis courts and picnic areas at this park. On a sunny day it’s absolutely stunning here.

Local Mama Tip!

If you are looking for a great stroller walk — Mountain Lake trail winds around Mountain Lake and is a beautiful path. It’s paved all the way around the lake and mostly flat, so it’s perfect if you are pushing a buggy. Enter near Mountain Lake Park and exit on 14th and Lake Street. You’ll see the lake and views of the golf course. You can find a map of all of the Presidio Trails here.

Location:98 Funston Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118
Neighborhood:Inner Richmond
Bathrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Blue Square Level Playgrounds

Cayuga Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

This beautiful park is a hidden gem in the Outer Mission/ Cayuga Terrace. A BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) rail goes right over the playground and kids love watching and waving to BART as it goes by.

“One of the park’s most interesting features is the story of its retired and longtime gardener and local legend of sorts, Demetrio Braceros, who transformed Cayuga Park’s naturalistic surroundings into works of art. His unique themed gardens and whimsical wood carvings were featured on the PBS television series California’s Golden Parks and in the San Francisco Chronicle. Visitors from all around the City have come to the park to admire his work.” – SF Rec & Park website

The playground structure also has low grade ramps and is designed to be wheelchair accessible so more friends can play!

Location:301 Naglee Ave San Francisco, CA
Neighborhood:Outer Mission/ Cayuga Terrace
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Larsen Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

Larsen Playground is also called “the airplane park.” It features a SFO themed play structure AND a sculpted replica of a F-8 Crusader jet airplane.

Imaginations run wild on the jet inspired playground equipment. Next to this playground are tennis courts and an open field where kids can run and play sports.

Fun fact- this playground used to have real decommissioned jets to climb on until 1993. The sculpted replica of the old F-8 Crusader is an homage to the planes that delighted kids for 30 years!

Location:850 Vicente St. San Francisco, CA
Neighborhood:Parkside/ Sunset
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Cabrillo Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

This neighborhood park is perfect for young pirates. Featuring a pirate ship play structure AND a second large play structure, kids will have fun pretending to sail the high seas.

Also at this park are a clubhouse and a basketball court.

Local Mama Tip!

2 Blocks up from Cabrillo Playground is Butter Love BakeShop. They have super delicious baked goodies! Take the short walk and treat yourself and the kids to a donut or a hand pie after you play.

Location:853 38th Ave San Francisco, CA 94121
Neighborhood:Richmond
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Parkside Square Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

This neighborhood park features 2 great play structures, a climbing dome, swings and a sand pit. Little buccaneers love to swashbuckle on the ship themed play structure!  

What’s especially great about this large playground is that both play structures have low grade ramps and are designed to be wheelchair accessible so more friends can play!

Location:28th Ave & Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116
Neighborhood:Parkside/ Sunset
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Parking lot on 28th Avenue

Blue Boat Playground (45th Avenue Playground)

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

The Blue Boat Playground in Golden Gate Park is a favorite among local kids. It’s a classic that native San Franciscan parents remember fondly from their own childhood. It features a full sized boat that children will spend hours in pretending they are out to sea. Also at this playground are play structures, a large slide and 2 swing sets.

This children’s playground is located in a beautiful patch of trees in Golden Gate Park just a few blocks away from Ocean Beach on the Pacific Ocean. The grassy meadow connected to the playground is a perfect place to have a picnic or a birthday party.

Location:4414 Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood:Sunset
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

George Christopher Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

Freshly remodeled and ready for imaginative play, George Christopher playground is a must see! The playground reopened in late April of 2021 after undergoing a $5.2 million dollar renovation. It’s new natural riverbed theme has a bright and happy energy!

The playground features two play structures, swing sets, a whirl and climbing structures. Artificial Turf safety surfacing that looks and feels like grass has been included in the refurbishment. It’s truly one of the best playgrounds in San Francisco.

Fun fact: The updated park includes two sculptures that were part of the 1971 original playground, Saddle Slide by sculptor Jim Miller-Melberg and Pleasure Dome by sculptor David Aaron.

Location:5210 Diamond Heights Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94131
Neighborhood:Diamond Heights
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Parking lot at Diamond Heights Shopping Center

Lafayette Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

Nestled in one of the city’s prettiest public green spaces is Lafayette Playground. The new playground (newly remodeled) is an amazing public play space in Pacific Heights. On a clear day there are views of the city skyline and of the bay.

There is an awesome tower play structure for big kids and a sweet, miniature version of the play structure for toddlers. Lafayette Playground also has multiple bridges, swings, and lots of fun nooks and crannies to explore here.

Excitingly, this playground also includes a working water feature that is perfect to play in on hot days!

Because this playground was renovated and remodeled in 2019, everything feels very new and clean. It’s one of the best places to spend a sunny afternoon.

Local Mama Tip!

While you’re at this playground, listen for the wild parrots that live in the area! You’ll most likely hear them squawking before you see them.

Location:Gough St & Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Neighborhood:Pacific Heights
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

West Portal Playground

blue square

This Playground features structures of modest height and themed play equipment aimed to spark imagination.

Thanks to recent park improvements West Portal playground is now more fondly called “THE DRAGON PLAYGROUND!” It features a massive dragon’s body play structure, complete with a tongue slide. It’s a colorful and whimsical space for kids to play!

This playground also has a nice little picnic area with multiple picnic tables, a tennis court and a green grass area. It’s an ideal spot for a small birthday party.

Local Mama Tip!

Just down the hill from this playground is West Portal Avenue, a super cute shopping corridor. You will find lots of delicious places to eat, drink and shop there!

Location:131 Lenox Way San Francisco, CA 94127
Neighborhood:West Portal
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Black Diamond Playgrounds

Koret Children’s Quarter Playground

Black Diamond

This Playground features tall climbing structures and steep slides.

Koret Children’s Quarter Playground is perhaps the most famous of any of the best playgrounds in San Francisco. This expansive park is the oldest public park in the city.

Here kids will find:
— 2 Big Play Structures
— A Cement Slide
— Swings
— Sea Life Sculptures (including a massive serpentine climbing structure)
— Sand Play areas
— A 108 year old Herschell-Spillman carousel (open on weekends)

Kids of all ages will enjoy this playground, but it gets a Black Diamond Rating based on it’s huge cement slide and other tall climbing structures.

This playground is pretty big and has lots of trees and places for little kids to explore. If you are bringing more than one child and they are at different developmental stages, chances are they will want to go in opposite directions. Lay some ground rules down for sticking together before you play if they are too young to play unsupervised. (I speak from experience.)

Location:Martin Luther King Jr Dr & Bowling Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94117
Neighborhood:Inner Sunset/ Golden Gate Park
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Parking lot on Bowling Green Dr.

Alice Chalmers Playground

Black Diamond

This Playground features tall climbing structures and steep slides.

Thanks to the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the SF Recreation and Park Department’s “Let’s Play SF!” initiative Alice Chalmers Playground is newly remodeled and open for play! This playground has a MASSIVE slide. To get to the top of the slide, strong climbers must navigate through a multi-layered tower. There is also a 8-foot diameter spinner, a sand area, and a swing set.

Interestingly, Alice Chalmers Park was once rated the “worst playground in San Francisco.” Visiting now, you would never know that people used to avoid it due to its lack of amenities and functioning play equipment. A true rebirth of a public space, it’s now one of the best playgrounds in San Francisco.

You will also find a Baseball Diamond, Outdoor Basketball Courts, Tennis Courts and picnic tables at Alice Chalmers Park.

Location:670 Brunswick St, San Francisco, CA 94112
Neighborhood:Outer Mission
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

Redwood Grove Playground at McLaren Park

Black Diamond

This Playground features tall climbing structures and steep slides.

McLaren Redwood Playground- Best Playground in San Francisco

Tucked in a picturesque grove of redwood trees is the newly remodeled McLaren Park Playground. The brand new play structure features a 20 foot long speedly tube slide. To get to the top of the slide adventurous young climbers must climb through multiple levels on the log tower. It’s a serious challenge for thrill seeking kids!

There are multiple picnic tables at this playground, making it an ideal place to have a gathering or a birthday party. The surrounding redwood trees make you feel like you are in the middle of the woods, but look right over the hill and you’ll see the city skyline.

Also — there are multiple hiking trails in McLaren Park, the city’s third largest park after Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. It’s one of the best places to be on a nice day.

Location:200 John F Shelley Dr, San Francisco, CA 94134
Neighborhood:Excelsior
Restrooms:Public Restrooms Available
Parking:Street Parking Only

The Best Playgrounds in San Francisco

For a map of all of the SF Parks and Rec public playgrounds, visit their website here.

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