Sept. 9, 2010 — Home to numerous public parks, recreation centers and hilly streets, San Francisco is an ideal hub for sports enthusiasts and workout warriors who want to get their athletic fix while visiting. On any given day, weather permitting, casual, friendly competition in nearly every sport can be found throughout the city. Parks in San Francisco include fields for a game of catch or kicking around a soccer ball; basketball courts where the occasional pickup game can be found; and tennis courts where serves and backhands are being practiced. All one needs is some competitive fire and athletic equipment, whether it is a ball, running shoes, swimsuit or bicycle.
Visitors can also leave their equipment at home and head to Lombardi Sports, a San Francisco staple for sporting goods since 1948. The store features a complete collection of sports equipment including balls, bikes and camping gear. For more information visit www.lombardisports.com; 1600 Jackson St.
Basketball courts can be found at most parks throughout San Francisco, such as at the panhandle near the Haight-Ashbury district, at the Alice Marble Park in Russian Hill, and at the Joe DiMaggio Playground in North Beach. This is convenient for anyone who wants to shoot a few hoops. For the more competitive players looking for pick-up games, locals flock to a few different recreation centers and parks where the competition is more intense. Here are a few popular recreation centers that regularly feature pick-up games:
Moscone Recreation Center (1800 Chestnut St.; 415-292-2006.)
Practice jump shots inside the historic recreation center, which has been around since the 1920s. In 2008 the City of San Francisco renovated the recreation center, adding new walls, a roof, restrooms, benches, lights, curtains, ramps and basketball hoops. The indoor gym regularly hosts pick-up games every Mon. and Wed., but be ready to wait your turn to get on the court, as the gym tends to fill up quickly. On any other day games are likely to take place on either the indoor or outdoor courts.
Potrero Hill Recreation Center (801 Arkansas St.; 415-695-5009)
Perhaps one of the best views of all of San Francisco’s parks is found here. While shooting hoops or working on a serve, visitors enjoy beautiful views of the bay and the Oakland hills. Although the views from the outdoor courts are spectacular, the competitive pick-up games are found inside the center. .
Sunset Recreation Center (2201 Lawton St.; 415-753-7098.)
Competitive games can be found at various hours during the day. The gym features six full courts, which are regularly in use. There are also outdoor courts.
Upper Noe Recreation Center (295 Day St.; 415-970-8061)
Reopened in 2008 after two years of construction, this refurbished park features public, indoor basketball courts. Since the gym is used for a variety of activities, open gym for basketball is only offered at select times during the week. Open gym hours for basketball are Mon. to Fri., 12–3:30 p.m.; Thurs., 6–7 p.m.; and Sat., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. The best day to play basketball here is on Saturdays when the gym is packed with players who play all day long. 295 Day St.; 415-970-8061; www.noevalleyreccenter.com.
Biking is a wonderful way to get around the city while also enjoying a heart-racing workout. The entire city can be seen on a bike, particularly if you don’t mind ascending and descending hills. Thankfully the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition provides a map complete with bike routes and hill grades to easily navigate the city while avoiding all the steep hills. For more information about the map visit www.sfbike.org. Some areas of San Francisco are more bike friendly than others, such as Golden Gate Park, which is off limits to cars on Sundays on John F. Kennedy Dr., allowing riders to have the 7.5-mile stretch to themselves.
The bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, a mile-and-a-half stretch, offers beautiful views of the bay, while also providing a tough workout, especially when the winds are brisk. Mon. through Fri., the east walkway is open to cyclists and on weekends, the west walkway is exclusive for riders. Riders bike into Marin County where at the end of the Vista Point parking lot is a bike lane parallel to Hwy 101, which then turns off to Alexander Ave. The road leads into Sausalito where riders are treated to scenic views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge also links to the waterfront Bay Trail of Crissy Field and the Marina District, a four-mile, flat stretch of bike path set aside just for bicycles.
There are many bike rental shops throughout San Francisco. Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate has been around since 1978, providing bike rentals for more than 30 years. Mountain bikes are available to rent at $5 per hour or $25 for the entire day. Tandem bikes, which make for a fun ride with a friend, are also available to rent for $15 per hour or $75 for the entire day.
Several other bike rental and tour companies offer bicycle rentals around San Francisco:
Golden Gate Park Skate & Bike
3038 Fulton St. • 415-668-1117 • www.goldengateparkbikeandskate.com
Golf lovers will have no trouble finding a beautiful and challenging course in San Francisco, which has five courses. There are more than 100 in the Bay Area.
Harding Park Golf Course (99 Harding Rd.; 415-664-4690)
In 2009, Harding Park hosted The President’s Cup, a PGA tournament that puts 12 U.S. players against 12 players from around the world. With its complicated greens and carefully placed bunkers, t he 18-hole course is challenging even to the most skilled golfers. There is also a nine-hole course on the same complex, Fleming Golf Course, which is also challenging but makes for a quicker play when there isn’t time for 18 holes. www.tpc.com/tpc-harding-park.
Gleneagles Golf Course (2100 Sunnydale Ave. in McLaren Park; 415-587-2425)
In 2010 Golf World Magazine named this course one of the 20 best nine-hole courses in the United States. This difficult course is known for its tough topography and slick greens, making it challenging for all levels of golfers. The rates are $17 for nine holes, $25 for 18-holes Mon.- Thurs.; $20.50 for nine holes and $32.50 for 18 holes on Sat. and Sun. www.gleneaglesgolfsf.com.
Golden Gate Park Golf Course (47th Ave. and Fulton St.; 415-751-8987)
This par-three, nine-hole course is perfect for the beginner golfer or anyone who wants to practice their game on a smaller course. The course features a driving range to warm up before taking the course and lessons for adults and children are also offered. www.goldengateparkgolf.com.
Lincoln Park Golf Course (34th Ave. at Clement St; 415-221-9911)
This 18-hole course opened in 1928 and offers scenic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The course is used for the annual San Francisco City Golf Championship. http://lincolnparkgolfcourse.com/
Presidio Golf Course (300 Finley Rd.; 415-561-4653)
Located at the edge of the Presidio and only a few minutes away from downtown, this public course, which opened in 1996, stretches 18 holes into 6,500 yards making it a challenging course. There is also a large driving range, perfect for getting away and practicing a swing. www.presidiogolf.com/.
In addition to all the free, outdoor options for fitness, San Francisco has many gyms for those longing for a treadmill and a weight room. Instead of the regular gym routine, try something cutting edge such as TRX training, which professional athletes from virtually every sport now use as a training device. Randy Hetrick, founder of the San Francisco-based company, is a former Navy SEAL squadron commander who invented the portable suspension-training device to keep his team of SEALS in top shape wherever they were deployed. TRX training uses suspension, which makes gravity and a user’s body weight the training tool to build muscle and strengthen the core. The TRX training center www.trxtrainingcenter.com, located only in San Francisco, offers a wide variety of classes that are designed for people of all levels. Classes include circuit training, body blast, endurance training and power stretch. The cost to drop in on any of the classes is $20; there is also a free “getting started” class that teaches the basics of the program. 1650 Pacific Ave., www.trxtrainingcenter.com, 415-655-4780.
San Francisco is also home to a one-of-a-kind indoor trampoline park. House of Air, located in a historic San Francisco airplane hanger, offers cutting edge trampoline structures and programs — "Air Conditioning" fitness programs, open trampoline time, aerial trampoline training, trampoline dodgeball and basketball. Mon.-Thurs, 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. until 11p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–11p.m., Sum until 9 p.m; $14 per person/hour, $10 per children/hour (ages 3–6 years old), children 6 and under may only jump in the Air Jr. Bounce House. 926 Mason St., www.houseofairsf.com, 415-345-9675.
In addition to hiking up steep, hilly streets, head towards the southwest corner of the city to Fort Funston where one may hike along the headlands and over sand dunes while enjoying the view of the Pacific Ocean. The hiking trails aren’t too challenging, making them suitable for all ages. For a little more adventure, go on a horseback-riding excursion or hang-glide off of the headlands along the sand. It's a steep, strenuous hike down to the beach and back up, so be ready to haul small ones or take only the surefooted.
Heading north from Fort Funston leads to Ocean Beach, the largest stretch of beach in the city. Ocean Beach offers amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco’s headlands. Continue walking along Ocean Beach to reach the historic Cliff House, an oceanfront building full of shops and restaurants all with views of the Pacific. Continue heading north to the Land End’s trail, which leads to the Golden Gate Bridge. This trail offers breath-taking views of the harbor entrance into San Francisco and of the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco has previously been named one of the “Top Ten Healthiest Places to Live” by Self magazine and one of “America's Greatest Walking Cities” by the Journal of American Podiatric Medical Association. Spend a day in San Francisco and one quickly discovers why the city has earned these honors. Walking is the best way to explore the different neighborhoods of the city while getting the heart pumping. There are countless scenic routes to take in San Francisco, one of the better ones is the walk down Hyde St. to the “crookedest street in the world” on Lombard St., or keep walking down to Fisherman’s Wharf where the seafood is the fresh and the entertainment is plentiful.
For a demanding walk or run, try out one of San Francisco’s steep, hilly streets. For some of the steepest streets head to Filbert St. between Leavenworth and Hyde, or 22nd St. between Church and Vicksburg, each stretch has a 31.5 percent incline, which is perfect for urban climbing.
For those who prefer to walk or run in nature, take a stroll through Crissy Fields, explore the diverse sections of Golden Gate Park, or run along the sand at Baker Beach while enjoying the magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Runners may jog across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County and enjoy the San Francisco skyline on a clear day. The running and walking possibilities are endless in San Francisco—it’s just a matter of preference as to what one wants to see and explore.
Soccer fields are located throughout San Francisco, even in the oddest of places. Telegraph Field, located between Piers 27 and 29 is a hot spot for soccer enthusiasts even though it is literally a turf soccer field located on a pier. The field, which is enclosed in a fence, limits the ball from sailing into the Bay, and hosts adult and children soccer leagues as well as pick-up games for adults. Pick-up games are held Tues. and Thurs., Noon–1:30 p.m.; Sat., 2:30–4 p.m.; and Sun., 8–9 a.m. In order to use the field you must register ahead of time by visiting www.sanfranciscosoccer.org/Pickup.html; registration for pick-up games is free. Pier 27 Administration Building; 415-640-0021
Garfield Square and Athletic Field (3100 26th St.)
Renovated in 2006, this field features artificial turf, new goals and improved lighting. Located in the Mission District, this is a popular field for soccer lovers. Pick-up games can be found throughout the day but the best time to go is in the evening around 7 p.m. when the lights are turned on and the field is packed with skilled players. http://cityfieldsfoundation.org/playfield.php?id=135.
Franklin Square Park (16th and Bryant streets)
This popular location is also on artificial turf, where pick-up soccer games regularly take place. Games can be found anytime during the day but the best time to play is around 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m., when most people are off of work and looking to burn off some pent-up energy. A quick bus ride on the 27 Muni bus line drops off riders near the park and is accessible to BART (16th and Mission stop). www.friendsoffranklinsquare.org/.
Since the Bay and Pacific Ocean may be too cold to swim in for most, those looking to take a quick dip or to swim a few laps may visit one of the many public, indoor pools in San Francisco. In order to use the swimming pools, guests must buy a pass. Passes for adults are $5 for one swim, and $1 for 17 or younger. Scrip booklets, which allow for 10 swims are also available for purchase, $45 for adults and $21 for seniors. For a complete list of pools and schedules visit http://sfrecpark.org/recreation-community-services/aquatics-pools/.
Tennis is easily the most accessible sport to play in San Francisco with more than 130 tennis courts found at more than 50 locations. Golden Gate Park alone has 21 courts, which are available for reservation during the week and weekends. Walk-up reservations are $4 for adults, $2 for seniors and free for anyone 18 and under during the week. During the weekend it’s $5 for both adults and seniors for an hour-and-a-half. Reservation times are at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m..
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