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5 Great SF Parks That Aren’t Named “Dolores”

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Dolores Park is something special. Truly. It’s located at the perfect nexus of the Mission, the Castro, and Noe Valley in one of the warmest microclimates this city had to offer. The relaxed and welcoming vibe of a house party is unmatched anywhere else. So as much as I’d like to dismiss the popularity of this park to hype, I just can’t. If there’s anything bad about the park, it’s that it’s too popular. The crowds on warm weekends can get blanket-to-blanket sometimes, and the place gets regularly, embarrassingly trashed by people who have no mind for the code of etiquette. People! This is not the only park in the city. So while Dolores Park is great, maybe try one of these alternatives for a change of pace.

(Hey, this should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it just in case: the code of etiquette applies to these parks and every other shared public space you find yourself in. Don’t be a douche. Do be considerate of other people. And pick up your damn dog shit.)

Lafayette Park

(Between Pacific Heights and Nob Hill)
In my opinion this is the best park in San Francisco to get smooched by someone cute. The eastern slope of this park is almost entirely shaded in the afternoon, but the western side of the park is nice and sunny. Paths lead up the hill through semi-wild hillsides covered in flowering bushes and trees.

Alta Plaza Park

(Pacific Heights)

If Lafayette isn’t doing it for you, travel four blocks west to Alta Plaza Park. This place is built like a ziggurat and if you climb to the top of its tiered slopes you’ll get one of the best views around. If you’re set on throwing a Frisbee or doing some scampering about with balls or something, the park levels out along Jackson St.

Great Meadow Park at Fort Mason

I won’t lie, this isn’t my favorite option, but its location makes it an easy meeting spot. It’s spitting distance from a grocery store and close enough to bus routes and parking options that it is at least a convenient choice (Especially if you have friends coming in from all directions). It’s far enough East that it still gets sunshine and it’s protected from some of the worst of the breezes coming off the bay.

Mountain Lake Park


Chris has written about their love of this hidden gem before. Emphasis on hidden. The first time I went here, I was standing right next to the Lake and still wasn’t totally sure where the park was for a good 10 minutes. The park (the grassy bit where you can throw a blanket down anyway) runs between the cypress trees and the houses off of Lake St.

Alamo Square Park


This park reopened just this May after a year-long renovation, and it’s still got that new park smell. Better known for being the park across from the Pink Ladies, it’s also a good place to meet up with friends and let your dog run around for a bit. It features good views of downtown and Sutro tower practically looms out of the fog in the South West corner, but by far the most interesting sight this park has to offer are the people lounging on the Eastern slope and staring with an uncanny intensity as they wait (I presume) for a half-dozen Victorian homes to transform into giant fighting robots.

No, I’m not putting Golden Gate Park on this list. Fight me. It’s cold there and anyone who’s been in the city for longer than a week knows it’s there. You don’t need me to suggest it, so I won’t. Foot is down.

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Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin is a SF based writer, cocktail lush, short story enthusiast, reluctant bicyclist, and all-around lazy-time kind of gal.


  1. TheShahSleepsInLeeHarveysGrave
    June 8, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    No love for McLaren park?

  2. George Davis
    June 19, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Glad Golden Gate Park isn’t on the list.