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Child's play by the bay.

Where to go in San Francisco when the tads need to burn off some steam

RECENTLY, MY WIFE AND I decided to spend a day in the City with our kids. Our plan was simple: grab some lunch at our favorite deli on Chestnut Street, do a little shopping, maybe hit a museum. You know--act like adults.

Our children had other ideas. We were still in line at the deli when Master Ball and his little brother, Chain, presented us with a no-win situation--stereo temper tantrums in public or 3 hours at Toys 'R' Us.

As usual, my wife had a better idea: a quick side trip to a place she had heard about called Cow Hollow Playground, on Baker Street between Greenwich and Filbert streets. The playground turned out to be just what Dr. Spock ordered. Except for its west side, which fronts the end of half-block-long Miley Street, it's surrounded by apartment buildings with lush gardens that virtually spill into the two-level play area.

The charming setting, though, was not what sold our children on Cow Hollow. They were captivated by the colorful play structures and their well-conceived elements, which include a tunnel, two slides, six swings, a shade pergola, and a pint-size red cable car. For safety, rubber walkways snake under one of the structures and below two of the swings.


Our experience at Cow Hollow prompted us to look for other playgrounds near popular San Francisco destinations that might offer similar relief. The following are a handful of favorites ranked according to our children's unscientific preference.

Michelangelo Park, on Russian Hill, isn't named after one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but you don't have to tell your kids that. Adults enter down a stairway off Greenwich Street between Leavenworth and Jones streets; children can opt for the totally tubular slide (one of four) that dumps them directly into the play area. Beyond are a community garden, a basketball court, and a backboard for those who like to practice their forehand while taking in a view of Coit Tower to the east.

Huntington Park, on Taylor Street between Sacramento and California streets atop Nob Hill, is perhaps the most highbrow of the playgrounds we visited--neighbors include such venerable institutions as The Pacific-Union Club and Grace Cathedral. The small scale of the structures seems especially well suited to children 4 and under.

Julius Kahn Playground, on W. Pacific Avenue at Spruce Street in the Presidio, was crowded on the Saturdays we visited. Parents will enjoy the views of windblown cypress trees to the east. Your children will exhaust themselves climbing the larger structure and sliding down any of three fast slides.

Junipero Serra Playground gets the award for Most Convenient to a Major Shopping Mall. The next time you're leaving Stonestown, instead of making a left or a right off Winston Drive onto 19th Avenue, cross 19th and turn right on Stonecrest Drive. The playground is modest, but sometimes, when it comes to kids, proximity is everything.
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Title Annotation:parks for children in San Francisco, California
Author:Marks, Ben
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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