1. Travel

The Yerba Buena Gardens Complex

Historic Carousels, Free Outdoor Concerts and Innovative Museums


The Yerba Buena Gardens Complex
Michelle Falzone/Getty Images
Yerba Buena Gardens is downtown San Francisco's verdant counterpoint to stark and concrete-covered Union Square, located just a few blocks away. This urban oasis is THE place to go for grabbing some nature-inspired tranquility, checking out some interesting artistic and cultural sights and for taming any wild children you may be traveling with. If you are in luck, you may even stumble upon a live concert in the park and on rainy days the area offers several museums, an ice skating rink, some eclectic shopping and the west coast's largest IMAX movie theater.

Visiting the Yerba Buena Gardens Complex

Yerba Buena Gardens is located on Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Streets in the South of Market area, just one block over from Market Street. It is across the street from the futuristic San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and adjacent to the Moscone Convention Center.

The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

With over 100 free concerts and performances, the Yerba Buena Gardens festival is the city's premier public performance series. Events take place in the middle of the tree-studded 5 1/2 acre esplanade every weekend and select weekdays from May through October. Check out our guide to the Yerba Buena Festival for 2012.

Yerba Buena Gardens for Kids

The Yerba Buena Gardens complex is one of the best destinations in the entire city for families with kids as it offers several different attractions geared especially to the little ones. Many visitors miss these offerings however as they are located across the bridge in the "Rooftop" gardens, above the Moscone Center:
  • The Children's Creativity Museum: Formerly known as the Zeum, this museum features a variety of multimedia exhibits designed to get kids creating as they explore. The Music Lab allows for dressing up and performing on stage while in the Animation Studio kids build their own wire and clay characters and then make small films.
    Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 10am till 4pm. Admission: $10. www.creativity.org

  • Historic Charles Looff Carousel: Built in 1906, this grand carousel was a centerpiece of the now defunct Playland-at-the-Beach amusement park at Ocean Beach for 50 years. It has been restored and is now an integral park of the Yerba Buena Gardens Complex.
    Hours: 10am till 5pm Daily. Cost: $3

  • The Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center: With public skating available every afternoon, bowling until late and an on site snack bar, this often overlooked entertainment complex is an easy solution to some bad San Francisco weather.

There is also a large outdoor playground located on the "Rooftop", which is free and open to the general public daily.

Public Art and Monuments at Yerba Buena Gardens

Strolling around the fountains and the waterfalls is one of the most relaxing ways to spend a sunny afternoon, and there are several works of art and monuments to discover on the way:
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: You can't miss the 50 foot tall man made waterfall that flows over the walled terrace down to the esplanade. Go behind it and walk on the floating footpath to the MLK Jr. memorial, where twelve different speeches by the legendary civil rights leader are etched in glass and granite.

  • The Ohlone Indian Memorial: Located in the Esplanade near a grove of young redwood trees, this contemplative stone garden features Ohlone traditional basket weaving patterns and is set up to serve as a forum for poetry readings and story-telling.

Several large sculptures also grace the Yerba Buena Gardens as well as giant sized game-boards and a native plant butterfly garden.

The Metreon and IMAX at Yerba Buena Gardens

The Metreon complex at the northwestern corner of the gardens is a three story shopping complex that features several unique shops, like the Chronicle Book Store, as well as dining terrace surrounded by over a dozen unique restaurants, bakeries and cafes. On the top floor, the AMC 16 movie theater shows all the latest box office blockbusters as well as special IMAX large screen daily screenings.
Hours: 10:30am till 9:30pm Daily. www.westfield.com

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

This contemporary arts museum and event space wouldn't be so often overlooked if it were not for the fact that it literally sits in the shadow of the massive SFMOMA, just across the street. The rotating galleries feature multi-media and installation pieces from top global artists and the auditorium offers screenings of classic and just released artistic films at least once a week. A variety of public programs, often free to the public, also happen here, many of them at the forefront of San Francisco's very happening local art scene.
  1. About.com
  2. Travel
  3. San Francisco Travel
  4. Things to See and Do
  5. Yerba Buena Gardens - San Francisco Travel by About.com

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.