Out & About: San Francisco’s Hidden Outdoor Public Spaces

August 20, 2018
Out & About: San Francisco’s Hidden Outdoor Public Spaces

With the return of the always-busy school year, it's a great time to check out the many outdoor spaces in downtown San Francisco that serve as an oasis from the hustle. Christine Chen shares her suggestions for finding peace and quiet for yourself during the week, or urban adventuring with the kids on the weekend (when most spots are deserted).

Transamerica Redwood Park

Financial District

7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., M-F

Bring city kids to see majestic redwoods under an SF landmark in a park that is often empty.

Sydney Walton Square

Financial District

Rarely crowded, the green landscape, benches, and sculptures make this a great place to take a stroll or have lunch.

Empire Park

Financial District

7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., M-F

Once an alleyway where Chinatown meets the Financial district, this area now features seating and a fountain.

Embarcadero Center Walkways

Financial District

Kids love to use the deserted escalators and run in the open space on weekends.

101 California St.

Rows of planters on terraced podiums are a kid magnet and safe to climb on weekends when the business crowd is away.

343 Sansome St. Roof Garden

10 a.m. to 5 p.m., M-F

One of the best downtown lunch spots with partial bay views, flower planters, and plenty of tables and benches.

100 First St. Rooftop Garden

Open 24/7

On the roof of the garage, a serene maze of water features (including a water garden) and sculptured grass areas awaits.

Westfield Mall Sky Terrace

10 a.m. to 9 p.m., M-Sat, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sun (similar to mall hours)

Enter 835 Market Street, next door to the main entrance. Walk a bit and you'll come across a guard who will take you to the elevator to the 8th floor; take a second elevator to the 9th floor.

525 Market St. Plaza

A huge fountain and rock sculpture block street noise, making it easy to enjoy lunch from the many food choices on the plaza.

555 Mission St. Plaza Sculpture Garden

Open 24/7

Johnathan Borofsky’s colorful “Human Structures” and Ugo Rondinone’s “Moonrise” bust heads are entertaining for both kids and adults.

560 Mission St.

Open 24/7

Modern sculpture, a bamboo grove, and massive water feature make this a serene lunch spot.

Tenderloin National Forest


This dead-end alley is now an artists’ space with trees, murals, and a wattle and daub house.

Transbay Transit Center Rooftop Park


Open to the public from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from November to April and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. from May to October.

The city's newest public space is open for exploration, featuring a climbing structure and book carts for little ones to enjoy, as well as plenty of green spaces for grownups to relax.

Christine has 2 city kids: a 4.5 son and 2.5 year daughter, who both love climbing up and down steps and running on ramps and in any open spaces.

The original version of this article appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of GGMG Magazine. Photo of the newly-opened Salesforce Transit Center - Rooftop Park via flickr.


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