While San Francisco may not be the city that never sleeps, the dizzying array of entertainment and dining options – not to mention year-round outdoor activities – certainly makes the city a challenging place to get a little R&R. Before you lock yourself in your hotel room with ear plugs and a sleep mask, find your way to this peaceful park.
McLaren Park in San Francisco, along the Philosopher's Way — Photo courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
McLaren Park is San Francisco’s second largest park, just behind the world-famous Golden Gate Park. In fact, established in 1927, the park is named for John McLaren, the "Grandfather of Golden Gate Park."
What McLaren lacks in crowds, it makes up for in space. Explore an immense Natural Area of scenic meadows, grassland and wetland habitat. Of the more than seven miles of walking trails, the real highlight for those introverts out there is the thoughtful Philosopher’s Way, a 2.7-mile loop of trails with 14 “musing stations” that meander through native plants and wildlife.
Big, open spaces of McLaren Park — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
For those extroverts who prefer people, this park can have a lively side, too. The annual Mountain Bike Festival hosts more than 1,000 bicyclists who gather and bike around the park every year. And, this fall, the park will also celebrate the opening of the McLaren Trail Connector, which will provide an official entrance to the trails in the park, with improved public access.
Other features include playgrounds, picnic areas and game courts, as well as the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, a golf course, McNab Lake and the newly renovated Coffman Pool.
Sweeping San Francisco Bay views from McLaren Park — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
So let's say you're into day five of your weeklong stay in San Francisco. You've eaten the pasta of North Beach and the dim sum of Chinatown. You've walked the Golden Gate Bridge and taken a ferry to Sausalito or Angel Island. You've even explored Berkeley and Oakland in the East Bay. And the previous night found you partying into the wee hours on the wild and unpredictable streets of the Mission.
Now, quite frankly, you'd like a break. Golden Gate Park is beautiful, no doubt, but good luck finding some quiet there! Your head is more likely to get bonked by a frisbee than find a soft spot for a nap.
If you really want to ensure that your vacation is actually a vacation (and not just a restless free-for-all that requires another vacation to get over it), then take a long, thoughtful stroll through John McLaren Park. In comparison to most of San Francisco, it's the classic urban oasis.