Until 1877, Alta Plaza Park operated as a rock quarry until the City of San Francisco purchased the 12 acres of land to develop as a park. With John McLaren, designer of Golden Gate Park, at the helm of the project, the elevated greenery now leads visitors to fantastic views of the city. From paved walking trails to plenty of athletic space to explore, Alta Plaza Park is also home to tennis courts, a playground with jungle gym structures, and a grand staircase with movie magic history. Come during the day to catch awe-inspiring sights of the city, while magnificent views shine at night with delightful illumination from surrounding neighborhood lights.
ALTA PLAZA PARK ATTRACTIONS
Alta Plaza Park is comprised of nearly 12 acres of land that provide plenty of green spaces to explore, as well as a handful of fun-filled and noteworthy attractions. The following points of interest and other features illustrate some of the main reasons that locals and out-of-towners find themselves visiting the Pacific Heights neighborhood park:
Five Alta Plaza Staircases: Climbing the terraced southern slope of the sharply-inclined hillside park is an expansive, tiered staircase that is frequently visited – especially by movie buffs. Whether you come to take a photo of the stairs or ensuing view, or work up a good sweat, one of the most prominent features of Alta Plaza are the staircases. The grand staircase is quite a draw, and rises midway along the southern edge of the plaza park, from Pierce Street.
Adah Bakalinsky mentioned the Alta Plaza Park staircases in her book ‘Stairway Walks in San Francisco,’ noting Pierce/Clay & Washington as being ‘beautifully proportioned and extremely wide;’ Pierce/Jackson & Washington as providing sunny views to North Bay; Scott/Clay & Washington as an elegant stop surrounded by picturesque Victorians; and Steiner/Washington & Jackson as having a “striking entrance to lunching bench and paths to four corners of the park.” The remaining set of stairs is found at Steiner/Clay & Washington.
The Alta Plaza stairway has an intriguing history of its own. In 1971, the stairs made a guest appearance in the Warner Brothers’ film ‘What’s Up, Doc?,‘ where the script called for speeding cars to tear down the grand staircase at Clay and Pierce. The site was used without permission, and resulted in chunks of concrete being chipped off during the shoot. The chips decorating the southside stairs was left behind by Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand’s VW Bug.
Alta Plaza Park Tennis Courts: Providing an outlet to dust off the ol’ racket, Alta Plaza Park is home to three full tennis courts open to the public that operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is not a lighted court. Many come to enjoy the courts because of the added bonus of having gorgeous views. To best locate the courts, seek out 2700 Clay Street. Looking for someone to play with? TennisRound.com lists over 80 active tennis players at Alta Plaza Park.
Alta Plaza Park Playground: The large, enclosed playground is a favorite of visitors who come to enjoy the well-loved jungle gym, various play structures, sand lot, swings and slides. Toddlers and older children have their own unofficial sections of the playground to explore. An ample supply of benches give parents an up-close view of their children, as they chat, exchange parenting tips, or set up a picnic lunch for the kiddies.
THINGS to DO at ALTA PLAZA PARK
It’s impossible to visit Alta Plaza Park without taking in the sights and surrounding views. From the top of the park, you will see downtown to the east, Marin County to the north, Twin Peaks to the south, and the largest park in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park to the west. The energy of fitness bootcamps and squealing children on the playground may resonate in the background, as you take snapshots during your visit. You may also want to consider participating in the following Alta Plaza Park activities:
Have a Picnic: If you’re looking to secure a space at the 8-foot picnic table located outside of Alta Plaza Park’s play area, you can reserve it through the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department. An ideal place to bring the family, children and dogs for a sunny day out, keep in mind the park tends to swell with crowds on Sundays.
Work Up a Sweat on the Basketball Court: Alta Plaza Park basketball often involves pick-up games that take place on a single half court that operates on a first come, first serve basis.
Let Fido Stretch His Legs: Head for the north end of the park to find an off-leash haven for canines, as Alta Plaza Park is a well-known, dog-friendly fixture in the community. Dogs are allowed to run free in designated dog play areas, but must be leashed in all other areas.
Dog-Watch: Alta Plaza Park is a popular place for pug owners to congregate, but it’s also a favorite watering hole for those who own other breeds, such as the Shih Tzu or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Meet-ups are common in the park, providing a lovely display of furry locals.
Run the Stairs: Offering many possibilities to indulge in creative workouts surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature, Alta Plaza Park stairs are a favorite amongst trainers, runners, athletes and those seeking to accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions. Those who climb the multitude of steps to reach the peak of the park are rewarded with glorious, panoramic views of the city.
ALTA PLAZA PARK ONGOING & ANNUAL EVENTS
Outside of the typical playdates and parent groups that gather at Alta Plaza Park, one of the most popular ongoing events involves the celebration of a particular dog breed. Below, the following activities and events take place at the park on a routine basis:
Pug Sunday: Alta Plaza Park has earned a reputation for becoming quite the sightseeing treat for local and visiting dog lovers, as the first Sunday of every month really goes to the dogs. Dubbed the ‘pug version of Woodstock,’ there have been times where as many as 75 pugs have taken over the park in a long-standing meet-up that puts on quite a show. While all breeds are welcome to join in on the fun, they must be pug-friendly. The gathering usually takes place at 2:30 p.m.
Clean and Green Days: Volunteers and SFRPD Park Services Managers and Gardeners meet on a quarterly basis on a Saturday morning to make sure that Alta Plaza Park continues to thrive for many generations to come. Those who participate often delight in completing various landscaping, upkeep, and maintenance projects – fueled by complimentary refreshments provided by the likes of Peet’s Coffee and Trader Joe’s.
ALTA PLAZA PARK WEDDINGS
If you think a walk down the iconic staircases of Alta Plaza Park as part of your nuptials would make a romantic ode to your neighborhood roots, there is a possibility to incorporate them on your special day. While you can reserve a picnic table through the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department for a scheduled event, those thinking of planning a wedding at Alta Plaza Park will most likely share their space (and the stairs) with many others. To request a free quote about Alta Plaza Park weddings, submit the contact form below to set your plans in motion:
ALTA PLAZA PARK IS LOCATED CLOSE TO…
Alta Plaza Park covers four square blocks located in Pacific Heights. Bordered by Jackson Street on the north, Steiner Street on the east, Clay Street on the south, and Scott Street on the west, the park sits high and provides some of the best views of the city, including Marina District, the Presidio, Fort Mason, and the infamous Alcatraz. Just a block away is Fillmore St., where you’ll find residential and commercial sights. The Clay Theater (located at 2261 Fillmore St.) is a classic single-screen Art Deco movie house equipped with digital sound. It is here you can catch an indie film or cult classic before or after a visit to the park.
The park is served by several San Francisco Municipal Railway bus lines, making it easy to travel between nearby attractions. Another Pacific Heights neighborhood watering hole is Lafayette Park (on Gough & Washington St), which also provides adequate views of the city and the Bay. In addition to having a playground, there are also tennis courts, picnic tables, and an off-leash dog-play area at the park.
The Presidio is another favorite stop in the area. A military base in its previous life, this park area is found on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, and is a real treat for outdoor enthusiasts who come to get lost in the hills and wooded spaces, as well as enjoy the peacefulness while taking in scenic views of the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean.
Alta Plaza Park Information
Alta Plaza Park Location: 2700 Clay St; Pacific Heights – bordered by Clay, Steiner, Jackson, and Scott Streets
GPS Location: Latitude: 37.7911733 Longitude: -122.4376698
Alta Plaza Park Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Restroom: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Alta Plaza Park Parking: Free parking around the perimeter with a 2-hour limit on weekdays.
Public Transportation for Alta Plaza Park: Bus: #3 Jackson stop, #24 Divisadero, Steiner, Pierce or Jackson St. stops
Alta Plaza Park Facility Contact: 415-831-2700