Situated in the center of the city, Buena Vista Park not only delivers remarkable views when you reach its upper, grassy slopes, but also holds the title of oldest park in San Francisco. It’s hard to believe that the park was once a barren hill with sandy dune-like features. However, with the help of Golden Gate Park’s superintendent John McLaren, the park began to flourish with an endless supply of trees after being established in 1867. Today, visitors find themselves in the midst of relaxing greenery and active pursuits, as the park is now characterized by untamed winding trails and pathways that provide plenty of opportunities to venture off the beaten path.
BUENA VISTA PARK ATTRACTIONS & FEATURES
Buena Vista Park is a centralized public space in San Francisco that stretches across 36 acres of land, which especially provides residents in the Haight-Ashbury and Buena Vista Heights neighborhoods with a place to enjoy the great outdoors, spend quality time with the family, stay active, and make new friends. Below are some of the main features that make Buena Vista Park a unique place to visit:
Buena Vista Playground: A mix of metal and colorful plastic play structures atop a bed of sand provides a tree-surrounded outlet for children to run wild with energy. Just some of the things that the Buena Vista Playground is equipped with include metal slides, a tire swing, and benches for watchful parents and children catching their breath.
Buena Vista Tennis Courts: Just inside the park at the intersection of Duboce and Buena Vista East Streets are two outdoor, full courts (which are not lighted). Located at 100 Buena Vista Ave. E., the courts operate on a first come, first serve basis. If you are interested in connecting with one of the 78 active Buena Vista Park tennis partners currently registered at TennisRound, click here.
Repurposed Broken Headstones: Don’t be surprised if you venture up the hill overlooking Haight Street and look down around a rain gutter to find a few eye-catching words inscribed. The paths along the west side of the park are lined with broken, unclaimed headstones from Victorian cemeteries that were relocated in the past, but now serve a repurposed life at Buena Vista Park.
Oak Woodlands: With the majority of the park covered in ‘wild’ forest terrain, the Natural Area at Buena Vista Park offers a little over 6 acres of beautiful scenery – as well as one of the most expansive coast live oak forests remaining in San Francisco.
THINGS to DO at BUENA VISTA PARK
Recreational trails at Buena Vista Park lead to visions of coast redwoods and cypress trees, while wildflowers bloom about the perimeter of the park in bursts of color. The terrain and beautiful natural surroundings make Buena Vista a favorite amongst nature lovers and fitness fanatics. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, the following activities are quite popular in the park:
A Walk Amongst the Oaks: When the acorn crop comes in the fall, take the kiddies to watch the scurrying squirrels, nuthatches and brown creepers flying overhead, and other creatures prepare for the winter. Resident and migratory birds find the habitat of Buena Vista Park ideal, and the number of visitors who come to visit throughout the year is sure to delight youngsters.
Enjoy Off-Leash Fun with Fido: With steep paved trails and worn-dirt paths, there are plenty of stairs to climb, hills to roam, and nooks and crannies to explore with your canine by your side. In the north west corner of Buena Vista Park in the region of the oak woodland, dog owners often flock to their designated piece of the off-leash park space. Work your way up the central ridge that rises from the Haight Street entrance at Buena Vista Avenue East, and you’ll reach a lookout point as a reward. Take a seat on the bench, if you like, before heading further up to the highest lookout point. The small grass area is a favorite amongst dogs, who enjoy taking one of the many trails back down the hill.
Take in the Sights: Thanks to the steepness of the park’s hill, the layout of Buena Vista Park opens up the opportunity to take in decent views of the city (especially to the north). The highest point of the park takes you up 575 feet into the air. Once you reach the upper level of the hilly terrain, a small lawn awaits. Here, the best views unfold on a clear day, where you can catch a glimpse of city highlights, such as the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, St. Ignatius Church, the Marin headlands, and Golden Gate Park.
Host a Picnic: Pack a lunch, grab a blanket, and bring along outdoor games for a day at the park, where you can spend quality time with family and friends. For larger gatherings, the picnic table located in the grass area at the top of the hill can be reserved through the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.
Take a Psychedelic Tour of San Francisco: A weekly walking tour available on Saturdays aims to transport you to the 1960s, where the Summer of Love unfolded, and Haight Street ruled in the eyes of local hippies. Tours reach a maximum capacity of 35 people per guide, which meet at Buena Vista Ave W & Haight St.
BUENA VISTA PARK ANNUAL OR ONGOING EVENTS
The majority of activities and events that take place at Buena Vista Park generally center on keeping the green spaces well-maintained and loved. Below are a few options to consider the next time you’d like to volunteer at a San Francisco park:
Tree Planting Day: Every year in November, the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association (known as one of the “larger, more effective” organizations of its kind) holds a tree planting day.
Buena Vista Park Restoration Project: If you’re interested in giving back to the park, you can join the SFRPD gardening staff and the Friends of Buena Vista Park in tackling habitat restoration and gardening projects. The monthly meet-ups take place rain or shine (usually on the first Saturday of the month), with light refreshments served to participants. You can RSVP to [email protected], or call 415-831-6333 to register.
BUENA VISTA PARK WEDDINGS
Although the reservable picnic table at Buena Vista Park cannot accommodate a large party, you may find a way to incorporate the park as part of a wedding. To inquire about the possibility of planning a ceremony or reception at Buena Vista Park, use the form below to request a free quote:
BUENA VISTA PARK IS LOCATED CLOSE TO…
Buena Vista Park generally accommodates residents that live in the Haight Ashbury, Buena Vista, Panhandle, and Hayes Valley neighborhoods. To the north is the historically well-known Haight Street, while Buena Vista Avenue West and Buena Vista Avenue East hug the rest of the park. The lowest section of Buena Vista Park is situated at the north end along Haight, where you’ll find within walking distance – Central Haight Market (1301 Haight St) and indie coffee shop Coffee to the People (1206 Masonic Ave,), which serves organic and fair trade cup of Joes.
If you head to the south side of the park, look across the street and keep an eye out for 355 Buena Vista East. Not only is the building an example of fine architecture, but it also had a guest appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Vertigo. The property is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Within walking distance, Bacon Bacon (205 Frederick Street) is a popular coffeehouse that specializes in bacon dishes that include breakfast sandwiches, salads, candied bacon cookies, and Porky Fries (made with pork shoulder, pork belly, Mama Lil’s peppers, and of course, bacon).
One of the closest parks and playgrounds to Buena Vista Park is Corona Heights Park, which offers hilly terrain that opens up to various hiking trails, a rock-climbing wall, and the promise of far-reaching, scenic views of the city. The smaller Duboce Park is relatively close, and in addition to offering access to an off-leash dog play area, visitors often check out the Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Building found along the west end of the park.
Buena Vista Park Information
Buena Vista Park Location: Buena Vista & Haight
GPS Location: Latitude: 37.7685639 * Longitude: -122.4413795
Buena Vista Park Hours: 5 a.m. to Midnight
Buena Vista Park Parking: Moderate street parking.
Public Transportation for Buena Vista: Muni: N Judah, 6, 37; Bus: #6, #37, #71
Buena Vista Park Facility Contact: (415) 254-4299