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The best new kids’ playgrounds in San Francisco

Some kids play with a water flume at a playground.
Kids play at the Outpost, a 2-acre playground at Tunnel Tops in the Presidio. San Francisco has opened or refurbished a number of playgrounds around the city. | Brian Feulner/The Standard

For all its problems, there’s one area where San Francisco knocks it out of the park—and that’s the city’s parks. 

Even after dedicating an eye-popping 25 acres of new parkland last year, San Francisco has continued to debut new recreation and park sites throughout the city in 2023.

The city’s existing playgrounds have received a lot of extra TLC. As part of the Let’s Play SF! initiative, millions of dollars have been poured into sandboxes, play structures, seating areas and landscaping details in order to update 13 dilapidated play areas for 20,000 local kids. 

“Playgrounds are so much more than what meets the eye,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg at the opening of the Herz Playground in August. “They are hubs for connection between neighbors and families across generations.”

So grab your kids and head to one of these state-of-the-art play areas. Or if it’s been a while since you’ve slid down a slide or swung on a swing, here are five of San Francisco’s newest and best playgrounds where you can get that done.

Kids play on a slide structure in a playground as an adult looks on.
Kids test out the new structures at Herz Playground in McLaren Park. | Source: Madeline Johns

Herz Playground, McLaren Park

Dedicated August 2023

On Aug. 25, neighbors and city officials cut the ribbon on a $3.38-million update to a playground for the children of Visitacion Valley and Sunnydale. Based on input from the local community provided in English, Spanish and Chinese, the park—which originally opened in 1965—has two new play areas with separate features for younger and older children, including swings, slides and activity panels. There are toddler swings, a bobble rider and harmony flower chimes for smaller kids, while older children can play steel drums and glide above ground on a track ride, climb a play tower with two slides or try their skills on a climbing wall. 

A slide with rocks in the foreground and a blue sky in the background.
The Redwood Grove Playground debuted in 2020 in McLaren Park’s group picnic area. | Courtesy Jim Watkins/Let’sPlaySF!

Herz Playground sits at the edge of McLaren Park, the city’s second-largest, with miles of hiking and biking paths to explore, as well as another play zone refurbished in 2020 at the group picnic area, the Redwood Grove Playground

A play structure with astroturf.
Merced Heights Playground has a play structure and youth center on the top terrace. | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

Merced Heights Playground, Ingleside 

Dedicated May 2023

Offering ocean views when skies are clear—and cool fog cover when they’re not—the new Merced Heights Playground is the cherry on top of a multilevel community gathering place. Dedicated in May, the half-block park boasts a new play structure, basketball and tennis courts, a dog play area and a grassy picnic zone. The renovation is part of Let’sPlaySF!, a partnership between the city’s Rec and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance that seeks to inspire creativity and play throughout the city. It promises to improve 13 playgrounds throughout the city in the coming years.  

An aerial shot of a park with the SF Bay in the background.
Kids play at Francisco Park at the base of Russian Hill on opening day, April 27, 2022. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

Francisco Park, Russian Hill

Opened April 2022

Where else can you swing and watch a cable car trundle by? The city’s Francisco Park opened in April 2022 atop a historic reservoir after years of input from the Russian Hill community. The gorgeous park has a large playground with swings and climbing structures, as well as a dog zone, strolling paths and loads of grassy areas on which to tumble or lounge—not to mention, drop-dead views of the bay, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and, of course, the Hyde Street Cable Car.

Kids playing in a rock structure.
Children play at the outpost in the Presidio Tunnel Tops park. | Brian Feulner/The Standard

Outpost Playground at Tunnel Tops Park, The Presidio

Opened June 2022

City kids agree: The two-acre Outpost playground in the Presidio’s massive new Tunnel Tops Park isn’t just the biggest playground in the city, it is the best. With a wide variety of unique, natural structures to climb, swing, slide and crawl on, kids feel like they’re playing in a national park—which is exactly what they’re doing. With a hands-on scientific Field Station visitor center next door, the Outpost offers rocks for stacking, sand for digging and water for splashing—not to mention Golden Gate views for the parents. Plus, families are steps away from the rest of Tunnel Tops’ offerings, including picnic areas, historical sites, trails and food trucks.

Kids play near a slide at a playground.
Helen Diller Playground at Mission Dolores Park was renovated. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park, The Mission

Opened February 2022

It took a few months longer than expected, but Mission kids say it was worth the wait: The Dolores Park children’s playground reopened in February 2022 after a series of repairs and upgrades to its equipment, which now includes a new sand landing zone for its fan-favorite 45-foot-long super slide.