Play, Explore, Eat: Five Playground and Global Food Mini-Adventures in San Francisco

A Little Yumminess - San Francisco Bay Area
December 4, 2012

The best playground is usually the one just down the street, but sometimes you come across one that is totally worth a drive across town. In this case, the reward for that extra effort is a delicious, global snacking opportunity. With a visit these five playground favorites you can get in some top-notch playtime and kick off your own around the world food adventure.

Dolores Park + Thorough Bread and Bakery (France)

The newly refurbished Dolores Park is a fantastic destination on its own with amazing and unique play structures, a super long slide, climbing wall and incredible downtown views. Nearby Bi-Rite Market & Creamery (18th Street between Dolores and Guerrero Streets) and Tartine Bakery (18th and Guererro Streets) are always fantastic for a pre- or post-park nibble, but if you're game for strolling a few extra blocks, try Thorough Bread and Pastry (Church and 15th Streets). This retail arm of the San Francisco Baking Institute offers an impressive array of classic sweet and savory pastries for surprisingly modest prices. The almond croissant is incredible, the gougeres are perfect for little hands, and you'll almost always see bakers at work behind the counter. Plus they have a quiet patio out back where the kids can happily do some extra wiggling.

Mountain Lake Park + Good Luck Dim Sum (China)

Mountain Lake Park (Funston and Lake Streets) has an old school play structure which, while admittedly a lot less safe than the current designs, never fails to be popular with the kids. The playground is rarely crowded, adjacent to four tennis courts, and is just steps away from the lake itself for a little duck (seagull and pigeon) watching. Mountain Lake Park is unique because it's one of the few natural lakes in San Francisco and because it connects to some great Presidio walking trails. Mountain Lake Park itself stretches more than seven blocks with a paved walking trail that's perfect for strollers, jogging, and dog walking. If you make the trip, it's worth planning some extra time to grab a snack on Clement Street. Sample some cheap, tasty dim sum to go at Good Luck Dim Sum (Clement between 8th and 9th Avenues), try a scallion bun at Clement Restaurant (Clement between 7th and 8th Avenues), or for a sweet treat pop into Genki Crepes (Clement between 4th and 5th Avenues) for bubble teas, egg puffs, and crepes.

24th and York Mini Park + La Torta Gorda (Mexico)

A tiny but totally unique playground, York Street Mini Park (24th Street between York and Bryant Streets) perfectly captures the colorful essence of the surrounding Mission District and celebrates Latin artistic traditions. One side of the park features a bright, two-story mural, and on warmer days, kids can splash in the water fountains too, but the main attraction is the giant, climb-able, mosaic serpent that winds its way through the middle of the park.  When it's snack time, have your own taco crawl along this section of 24th street, watch tortillas being made at Las Palmas Mexicatessan (24th and Florida Streets), and browse Casa Lucas (24th Street between Alabama and Florida Streets) and other markets for an incredible variety of Mexican and Latin ingredients. For lunch, you can't go wrong with a torta, a Mexican sandwich with fillings ranging from chicken tinga to chorizo to egg and green chile. Try La Torta Gorda (24th Street between Bryant and York Streets) which has a nice selection of tortas and tacos, juices and horchatas and a patio out back.

Washington Park + Liguria Bakery (Italy)

The little playground at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park in North Beach may not be destination-worthy in its own right. It's probably best for little kids, but there's plenty of room on the big lawn to kick a ball or picnic and the North Beach Branch Library is down the street. When hunger pangs start to hit, take a walk down Columbus Avenue and transport yourself to Italy with stops at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Café (Columbus Avenue and Union Street), Molinari's Delicatessen (Columbus Avenue and Vallejo Street), or Caffe Greco (Columbus Avenue between Vallejo and Green Streets). But one of the best and most authentic treats can be found just across the street from the park at Liguria Bakery (corner of Filbert and Stockton Streets). You won't find a full-service bakery, just a spare storefront selling amazing focaccia baked the same way for more than 100 years. They're only open until 1:00 p.m., but do go early because they sometimes run out!

Lincoln Park + European Foods (Russia)

Lincoln Park, just down the hill from the Legion of Honor Museum at Clement Street and 34th Avenue, sports a great playground with separate areas for littler and bigger kids, climbing wall, picnic tables, and a grassy hill to climb up and roll down. Not only is it a perfect spot to enjoy some San Francisco fog, it's a great launching pad for a mini-Eastern European food adventure. Just down the street at European Foods (Clement and 32nd Avenue), you can browse an interesting selection of Russian and Eastern foods from sausages to smoked fish and frozen pierogis (dumplings). If you're lucky, there will be loaves of bread just out of the small oven or let the kids pick out some imported Russian cookies or candy.


Stacie Dong and Simran Singh are San Francisco moms with a passion for cooking, eating and exploring the world through food. On their blog, A Little Yumminess, they share recipes from around the world, favorite foodie destinations and ideas for bringing up adventurous eaters. In addition they teach kids' classes and camps throughout the year and are also available for private workshops and events. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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