Having lived in San Francisco for many years as a single adult a long-time-ago, it’s always fun to head back into the City from Oakland with my kids and delight them with my stories of where I used to live, work, eat, frolic and play. Not unsurprisingly, I didn’t spend much time in Pacific Heights at Lafayette Park because it’s one of the higher elevations in the city and I didn’t have a car. Oh boy was I missing out! Lafayette Park is a pristine park with an epic playground at the tippy tippy top of Pac Heights. I mean, just look at it:
Why We Love Lafayette Park Playground
The unique and impeccably maintained play structures are unlike any other playgrounds we’ve visited in the East Bay. There are challenging features for kids with big energy, but also artful nooks and crannies, telescopes, and puzzles for kids who enjoy imaginary play. There are 8 swings for kids big and small. And big bonus: everything at this playground works! The water structure cranks and spouts water much to the delight of my two-year old, the play structures are flawless and the bathrooms are clean with changing tables. Plus walking around the neighborhoods, even to your parked car, offer stellar views of the Bay.
Lafayette Park Features
Location: On the Northern corner of Laguna St. and Washington St. in Pacific Heights.
- Sprawling water structure with multiple crankshafts that spout just enough water– not insane amounts. (Though I should have brought a change of clothes- oops, next time!)
- Slides galore! There are 5 unique slides throughout.
- Kid-sized bridges built into hills and mock-rock walls great for climbing.
- An actual climbing structure with kid-sized and shaped holds, like bananas and blueberries.
- Separate toddler area that is an adorable mini-version of the larger structure.
Playground: Yes, one of the top 5 in the city!
Fenced in? Yes! Hooray for gates that properly latch and keep children safely fenced-in.
Surfaces: The playground has a nice bouncy surface that is flawless- no big divots, or gaps that will trip littles. It’s shock-absorbing material is great when they attempt to fly off the slides at mach speed. Equally flawless cement pathways lead up to the playground with ramps perfect for strollers, and wide enough for wheelchairs. Surrounding the playground are nice, ample fluffy grass areas- perfect for snack refueling.
Bathroom: There are located by the playground, just outside of the gated perimeter. They are operational. In our experience, always clean, always open, and are complete with a changing table.
Lunch tables & seating: Plenty, enough for all the patrons at the playground and a few folks celebrating kids birthdays.
Parking: Street parking can be sparse and may require patience. We arrived on the earlier side to get a spot. Don’t be intimidated by parallel parking! You can (almost definitely) do it. There is only parallel parking here.
Shade: Ample shade to be found both by playground, benches on the outskirts and closeby grassy areas.
Covid-19 Restricted Occupancy: There are structure occupancy limits posted throughout the playground:
Pros: This playground is so clean! The grounds and equipment are super well maintained. No wooden structures, thus no splinters to fish out of little fingers. There is so much unique variety in the different types of structure obstacles my kiddos could spend more than a half day there. We also love the surrounding park with its towering, ancient trees, palm trees and vibrant green lawns.
Cons: #1 downside: parking is tricky. #2: the larger play structure in the middle is awesome, but also a behemoth, so it’s hard to watch multiple children if they’re on separate structures. My girls both have bright colored jackets and usually I just move around the perimeter to catch glimpses of them in bright colors if they’re not playing together.
Bonus Fun Facts: Have you heard of the famous wild parrots of San Francisco? Your kids will hear them before they see them, but I kid you not, all the kids turn and point to them as they take flight and squawk. They are non-migratory birds and there is a flock of them that live in the trees just adjacent to the playground. They were a fun and brightly colored source of entertainment when we visited.
The Bottom Line on Lafayette Park & Playground
This is one of the playgrounds we at 510 Families like to call “worth the drive.” As always, dress in layers as it’s at the top of a hill in breezy SF, and a change of clothes if your kids love water play. Our no-fail place to grab snacks or lunch is the nearby Whole Foods, which does have free 90-minute parking- perfect for pre- or post-park visit.
If you’re feeling mighty adventurous, you could make it a double header and head the Alta Plaza Park and playground which is a mere four blocks away and is also listed as one of our top 5 playgrounds in San Francisco. My favorite place to get coffee nearby is at Bay Area classic Blue Bottle, and is equidistant from Lafayette Park and Alta Plaza. Though I wouldn’t recommend walking between the two parks unless your kids are trained hill hikers.
Lafayette Park is our new go-to playground in San Francisco when we have enough time to drive across the bridge and find city parking.