A trip to the second-largest park in San Francisco brings you to a collection of picnic areas, multiple playgrounds, numerous sport and recreational pursuits, scenic natural spaces, and an overall spectacular getaway for locals and their furry friends. Named after a man affectionately referred to as the “grandfather of Golden Gate Park,” John McLaren Park is also home to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, McNab Lake, views of the Bay and the Bay Bridge, and endless native plants and wildlife – from eucalyptus and pine trees to the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly. Depending on what your heart desires, the park provides both vibrant play spaces and isolated hideaways at any given moment.
MCLAREN PARK ATTRACTIONS
As one of the most notable parks in San Francisco, McLaren Park has not one, but four separate playgrounds, as well as a place to swim, golf, play tennis, perform, host events, and enjoy other active pursuits that often involve the following attractions and features of the park:
Jerry Garcia Amphitheater: Born in San Francisco and with connections to the surrounding Excelsior District neighborhood, Jerry Garcia is often regarded as the heartbeat of the historic rock band, The Grateful Dead, which is why there is a ‘Greek-style’ amphitheater with small stage and seating dedicated to him at McLaren Park. Amidst the tall shade trees, sun-filled hillside meadow and intimate, welcoming surroundings, it is here that local performers come to share their talents and special events are held.
Herz Playground: At the corner of Visitacion and Hahn St., Herz Playground entertains with a full-size basketball court, soccer field, baseball diamond, two tennis courts, spacious play area for the kiddies, and access to an indoor swimming pool.
Coffman Pool: Originally constructed in 1957, Coffman Pool underwent renovations in 2008 to provide a 10,000-square-foot facility that offers an assortment of swim programs for all ages – from learn-to-swim classes and lap swimming to water aerobics. The Pool is found within Herz Playground at the southeastern entrance of McLaren Park on Visitacion Avenue and Hahn Streets. Visitors may pay a daily entrance fee; or purchase a 10-visit, monthly- or annual swim passes for adults or at discounted rates for youths, seniors, and individuals based upon economic need.
Louis Sutter Playground: Located near the corner of University and Woolsey Sts., Sutter Playground promotes healthy activity and competition with its community clubhouse, 2 baseball diamonds, 2 tennis courts, basketball court, children play areas, and junior soccer field. Ideal for a school field trip or family gathering, the playground is also outfitted with 16 picnic tables.
McNab Lake: With paved paths that accommodate sightseers and joggers, McNab Lake is easily accessible from Sutter Playground.
Gleneagles Golf Course: The southern slopes of McLaren Park accommodate a nine-hole golf course that is accessible along Sunnydale St. in Visitacion Valley.
McLaren Park Tennis Complex: Situated on the upper portion of the park, six top-rated tennis courts are found at Mansell & Visitacion Streets (1220 Mansell St). The outdoor facilities are not lighted. To find someone to play with at McLaren Park, there are currently 13 active tennis partners listed for this location on TennisRound.com.
Crocker Amazon Playground: This newly renovated play space (dubbed the “Purple Playground”) offers the fun of five baseball/softball fields (two of which have outfield fences), three soccer fields (with lights), the Crocker Amazon Recreation Center, a bocce court, three tennis courts, community garden, two play areas, and two courts for basketball. Located at 799 Moscow St. at Geneva Ave., you will also find picnic tables and restrooms, and plenty of dog-friendly spaces to explore.
Peru Playground: Located at Gambier Street and Burrows Street, the smaller Peru Playground underwent a fairly recent transformation in order to offer a community sanctuary for children and parents alike. The blend of engaging climbing structures, swings and other fun activities for smaller visitors of the park is situated closest to the Portola neighborhood.
THINGS to DO at MCLAREN PARK
A haven for hikers, mountain-bikers, walkers, dog lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts, McLaren Park is filled with endless adventures for locals and visitors alike. Enjoy a guided walk with Healthy Parks, Healthy People, as they take you through groves of redwoods and cypress trees. Explore the Yosemite Marsh. During your next visit, you may also participate in one of the following activities:
Take a Walk, Hike or Run on a Trail: An extensive network of trails for the hiker, walker and jogger decorates the terrain of McLaren Park, offering more than 300 acres of walking and running trails to explore. One of the most popular pathways in the park is the 2.7 mile Philosopher’s Trail.
Have a Picnic or BBQ: Noted for offering an excellent site for picnickers and BBQ feasts, McLaren Park is home to seventy-five (75) tables throughout the park – many with nearby BBQ grills. From remote locations for those seeking a quiet hideaway to seating situated close to the playgrounds, there are plenty of places to have a good time with family, friends, or on your own. If you’re planning a large gathering, consider the two large picnic sites at the Group Picnic Area – found on the north leg of Shelley Drive.
Bird-Watching: Those who enjoy peering through a pair of binoculars to see the various four-feathered residents of San Francisco, will appreciate the variety of wildlife that takes flight at McLaren Park. Providing breeding habitat for more than 50 species, bird-watchers have spotted the likes of the Red Shouldered Hawk, American Coot, Fox Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Anna’s Hummingbird, Black Phoebe, Purple Finch, and Lazuli Bunting.
Shoot Some Hoops: Head for Sutter Playground or Herz Playground to run a few games across the full-size basketball courts. Two half-size courts are also found along the northern perimeter of the park bounded by Burrows St.
Take Your Bike for a Spin: McLaren Park trails accommodate all skill levels with single tracks, dirt trails, cement trails, and opportunities to jump.
Let Your Dog Run Wild: There are two dog areas in McLaren Park – one at the intersection of Mansell Street and John F. Shelley Drive, and another behind the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. Water-loving canines will appreciate getting their feet wet in the lake by the water tower.
Zumba!: There is no need to register in order to participate in this Zumba in the Park class. Those interested in working up a sweat to energetic Latin beats simply meet at the Crocker Amazon Clubhouse for sessions on Monday evenings and Sunday mornings.
MCLAREN PARK ANNUAL EVENTS
With the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater accommodating a range of musical acts and theater performances, many events are held throughout McLaren Park, including the following which occur on a yearly basis:
Jerry Day: An all-day concert and festival is held every year at the aptly-named Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, which pays tribute to one of the best rock guitarists in history. Free to attend, a wide-ranging assortment of performers fills the air with live music.
Saturday in the Park: Local Bay Area musicians hold free performances on Saturdays at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater with the last gathering for each year often involving an Amphitheater Birthday Party, celebrating its anniversary.
Kids Fest: Jerry Garcia Amphitheater plays host to the annual Kids’ Festival that features musical performances, nature programs, magic shows, and various activities centered on science, dance, music, art, and the great outdoors.
Mountain Bike Festival: Since McLaren Park is known for its accommodating terrain that encourages the exploration of paved trails, dirt paths, uphill excursions and downhill fun (all while riding a mountain bike), it’s only fitting that an annual festival takes place. Nearly 1,000 people show up to enjoy the free festival that offers a day of races, jumps, and kid activities.
McLaren Park 5K: Every year, you can find a 5K taking place at the park, which offers a picturesque, challenging course that blends running trails and paved roads.
MCLAREN PARK WEDDINGS
With many secluded spaces to enjoy and the reservable Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre at your fingertips, McLaren Park could very well become your outdoor wedding venue. If you are interested in getting married at McLaren Park, use the form below to request a free quote:
MCLAREN PARK IS LOCATED CLOSE TO…
McLaren Park covers a great deal of space, and is a neighborhood favorite, especially with residents that live in Ingleside, Excelsior, Oceanview, Visitacion Valley, and Portola. One of the closest parks to McLaren Park is Balboa Park, which primarily serves Mission Terrace, Cayuga, and Ingleside neighborhoods. Here, children come to enjoy the public swimming pool, playground, baseball diamonds, and tennis courts. Notably, the only public soccer-specific stadium in San Francisco (Boxer Stadium) is found within Balboa Park.
Close by, the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco also operates out of the Sunnydale Clubhouse (located at 1654 Sunnydale Ave.).
McLaren Park Information
McLaren Park Location: Mansell Street & John F Shelley Drive
GPS Location: Latitude: 37.7180842 * Longitude: -122.4190721
McLaren Park Hours: 5 a.m. to Midnight * Restroom Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Public Transportation for McLaren Park: Muni: #29-Sunset to Persia Avenue and/or Mansell Street.
McLaren Park Facility Contact: (415) 307-4074