Known as one of the best parks in the Bay Area, Dolores Park (or Mission Dolores Park) is located in San Francisco, California at the western edge of the Mission District. Established in the early 1900s, the inviting green, open spaces of the park have become an increasingly significant hub for cultural, political, social, and active pursuits in the area. A favorite amongst those who come for relaxation and recreation, Dolores Park provides access to spectacular views of the downtown city skyline, refuge under shady palm trees, and a playground that sparks creativity, which makes it a frequent stop of adults, children, and their four-legged friends.
DOLORES PARK ATTRACTIONS
During a visit, you may notice for the most part that Dolores Park is comprised of two distinct areas – the upper slope where you’ll find most families and children congregating at the playground, and the lower slope, where a more laid-back scene usually unfolds. Paths throughout the park accommodate runners and walkers. The vast stretches of grass welcome picnic luncheons, games of Frisbee, book readers sprawled across blankets, sunbathers taking a snooze, and visitors who come to enjoy the following Dolores Park attractions:
Helen Diller Playground: Situated on the southern slope, Dolores Park’s playground offers a sunny sanctuary for visitors, especially toddlers with boundless energy. Key features include a 45-foot ‘super slide,’ age-specific play areas, climbing structures, boats, sand boxes, spring toys and spinners, crawl tubs, a raised play mound, “Sound Garden,” elevated bridge, and swing sets.
The Dolores Park Bench: At the top of Dolores Park stands a popular green-painted bench where impressive views of the city await. Millions upon millions of people have cast their eyes upon San Francisco sunsets or taken photos of the city skyline while happily sitting here.
Statue of Miguel Hidalgo: With hand over his heart, a monument depicting the liberator-priest whose been called the ‘Father of Mexican Independence,’ and considered the “George Washington of Mexico” is surrounded by iron-gated flowerbeds. The sculpture of Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla himself stands 12-foot tall upon a 9 1/2-foot tall granite pedestal, depicting a full-length representation of the Roman Catholic priest whose ‘Cry of Independence’ encouraged a group of peasants to revolt in the name of freedom.
Mexico’s Liberty Bell: While the original bell is kept above the central balcony of the National Palace in the City of Mexico, Dolores Park is home to a replica of the historic “Liberty Bell.” Surrounded by a gated flowerbed, a plaque also accompanies the attraction which shares the significance of Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla ringing the bell of his church – an act that took place in the town of Dolores.
Lymon Whitaker’s Kinetic Sculpture: Standing 23 feet tall, this eye-catching work of art is part of Whitaker’s line of “Wind Sculptures,” which have the ability to interact with and move according to its surrounding natural elements.
THINGS to DO at DOLORES PARK
In addition to the usual playground activities, Dolores Park offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy daily recreation and active fun. Many park-goers have a blast organizing their own recreational sports teams, groups, clubs, practice, games, competitions, and other related events. The park often fills with people tossing a Frisbee, spinning a hula-hoop, juggling bowling pins, or engaging in a friendly (or highly competitive) game of volleyball, tennis, basketball, badminton, soccer, and even beanbag toss. Other Dolores Park activities you can enjoy:
Film Night in the Park: The San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation (SFNTF) produces a popular Outdoor Film Series, which includes showing some of your favorite movies at Dolores Park. Projected on a giant outdoor screen, film nights are free.
Sweat It Out with Zumba!: There is no registration required to burn calories with free dance-fitness sessions at Dolores Park, held from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on various days. Meet on the multi-purpose court at 19th and Dolores St. Keep in mind that rain cancels classes.
Take a Kundalini Yoga Flash Class: On the first Sunday of every month (11 a.m.), you can take part in a free yoga session of enlightenment, as well as mental and physical relaxation.
WERKout’s TRX Boot Camps: Combining suspension training, sprints, partner training and plyometrics, these intense, full-body workouts are offered at Dolores Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m., and Saturdays at 10 a.m.
Let Your Dog Roam Free: There are two, non-fenced-in designated Dog Play Areas in the park that allow off-leash interaction – one located close to the ‘soccer fields’ and another found closer to the children’s playground.
Serve it Up at Dolores Park Tennis Courts: There are six tennis courts where you can practice your overhead shot or perfect your ace. To take advantage of the least busy times to get in a game or two, visit the courts mid-day during the middle of the week, which are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. You will also find timed lights on every court.
Pick-Up Games at the Basketball Courts: Currently flanked by the six tennis courts, one court is found near the train tracks, while the other five are positioned at the other end, closest to Dolores Street.
DOLORES PARK ANNUAL EVENTS
In addition to the spur-of-the-moment activities and celebrations that may occur throughout the year, the wide open spaces of Dolores Park accommodate a variety of annual events. From traditional holiday celebrations to providing a forum for making a politically-charged statement, the park supplies a platform for many to express themselves in many different ways. Some of the annual events held at Dolores Park include:
Annual San Francisco Symphony: A free concert in Dolores Park is held every year in July, where locals gather to enjoy the iconic works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and even West Side Story.
Easter Celebration & the Hunky Jesus Contest: Every Easter, a Hunky Jesus contest is held in Dolores Park where accolades are given to the participant who is deemed the best-looking Jesus doppelganger during the event. Organized by the Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence (a well-known group of creative, cross-dressing ‘nuns’), the contest is the highlight of the free Easter party that they have held in the park for more than 30 years often with a children’s Easter egg hunt, bonnet contest, and drag performances.
Pride Weekend in the Park: Dolores Park holds festivities to celebrate Pride Weekend with a Trans March and the San Francisco Dyke March, which is observed every year during the last weekend of June on the Saturday evening before the annual Pride Parade.
Other Dolores Park annual events include opening weekend and closing shows for the SF Mime Troupe, and Unsilent Night in December.
DOLORES PARK WEDDINGS
Mission Dolores Park offers the types of views and expansive natural settings that can help set a romantic scene for weddings. Many locals see the park as the ideal place to tie the knot, as evidenced in recent Halloween nuptials that aimed to set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Public Wedding ever. Groups are allowed to reserve picnic table areas for gatherings, which are subject to SF Rec and Parks fees and security deposits. If you would like to plan or book a wedding at Dolores Park, use the form below to request a free quote.
DOLORES PARK IS LOCATED CLOSE TO…
Located on the edges of the Castro and Noe Valley neighborhoods, you will find Dolores Park situated west of the Mission District. The park is bounded by Dolores Street to the East, Church Street to the West, 18th Street on the North, and 20th Street to the South. Mission High School is found directly across the street at the northern end of the park.
Dolores Park is also located two blocks away from the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco – Mission Dolores, which is home to a full-length portrait sculpture of Roman Catholic Spanish priest and friar Junípero Serra.
With a collection of distinctive flavors, cooling off with a Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th Street – between Dolores Street & Oakwood Street) cone is one of the sweetest experiences for visitors of Dolores Park to enjoy, along with other soft serve treats, fruit sorbet, hot fudge sundaes and ice cream sandwiches.
Additional places to eat, buy food and drinks, or have a meal within two block of Dolores Park include the Dolores Park Café (501 Dolores Street), Delfina’s (3621 18th Street), Namu Gaji (499 Dolores Street), Ritual Coffee Roasters (1026 Valencia Street), and Tartine Bakery & Café (600 Guerrero Street).
Many visitors in the neighborhood walk to the park, while others take the BART. The J-Church Muni line crosses 19th street at the bottom of Dolores Park, and 20th Street at the top section. The # 14 Mission bus to 18th street is also a popular route.
Dolores Park Information
Dolores Park Location: 19th Street and Dolores Street
GPS Location: Latitude 37.759698; Longitude 37.759698
Dolores Park Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Dolores Park Parking: There are no parking lots that accommodate visitors that come in a car.
Public Transportation for Dolores Park: Bus: #33 or J Muni Metro
Dolores Park Facility Contact: (415) 554-9521