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Bernal Heights has several great parks that are the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunshine regardless of if you have dogs or kids in-tow.
If you are on the south side of Bernal, Holly Park is the park that will be closest to you. It has a great playground for youngsters, as well as plenty of space for your pooch to roam while you catch up on the neighborhood gossip. It is relatively sheltered from the elements, so it is never particularly windy at this park. It is also surrounded by homes, so the odds of seeing wildlife like a coyote are pretty low.
Located close to the geographic center of Bernal is Bernal Heights Park, which in total is roughly 35 acres of park and open space. It’s at the top of the hill, so on a windy day it can be rather blustery. However, what it gives up in shelter from the elements it definitely makes up for in views. There are wonderful views of Twin Peaks to the west, downtown San Francisco to the north, and the San Francisco bay to the east. It is incredibly popular with dog owners and professional dog walkers, so if canines aren’t your thing then this might not be the park for you. And since it is at the top of the hill, be prepared for some good exercise to get there and to enjoy all that it has to offer. Your quads might kill you the first time, but eventually they’ll thank you!
If you find yourself on the north slope of Bernal, you owe it to yourself to check out Precita park. Relatively flat, it has great spaces to play soccer (or your favorite ball sport), as well as a great playground for kids. And just like every other park in Bernal, you can expect to see plenty of pooches. Since it is at the bottom of the hill, you don’t have much in the way of views. But you also don’t have to walk up a hill to enjoy it!
Bernal Heights is a neighborhood on San Francisco’s central-eastÂ side that has a huge fan club of residents and admirers. Photos like the one below give you some idea of why. Here are a few parts of Bernal Heights that I love.
1. Alemany Farmer’s Market – the first farmer’s market in California, it opened in 1943. It has a reputation for being much more laid back and affordable than the Ferry building farmer’s market. If you want to be seen fondling organic-sustainable-local arugula, head to the ferry building on Saturday. If you just want great ingredients without the attitude, you can’t do better than here. Open Saturday’s, 7:00am – 2:30pm at 100 Alemany on the backside of Bernal Heights.
2. Bernal Heights Park – Located at the top of Bernal hill, it is approximately 35 acres of open space, with dogs welcomed off-leash. Not a dog fan? Then come for the great views and neighborhood gossip. Coyotes surface from time to time, so use appropriate common sense.
3. Little Nepal – A great Nepalese restaurant along Cortland street. Go eat there. You’ll be glad that you did.Â What more can I say?
4. Sandbox Bakery – Located along Cortland street, not too far from Little Nepal, I can highly recommend their Triple Ginger Snap cookies. They have a variety of pastries, all of which look delicious. They close early at 3pm, so be sure to get their early so you can get your awesome cookies. Just try not to buy them all before I get there!
5. The Views – Depending on where you are in Bernal Heights, you can end up with wonderful views towards Twin Peaks, Downtown San Francisco, or the San Francisco Bay. Homes on the North Slope are most likely to have downtown views, while homes on the west side may have great views towards Twin Peaks. Houses on the far east side of the hill, if they are high enough up, sometimes offer great water vistas.
The Winfield Street slides of Bernal Heights were recently featured in the New York Times.Winfield street is a great little street on the northwest side of Bernal Heights that runs for several blocks from Coso to Cortland. I have had several clients live on or near Winfield street who would only consider moving within a 4 or 5 block radius, so strong was their love for the neighborhood and their neighbors in the area. If you want to live within walking distance to a BART stop, it is also one of the best parts of the neighborhood to be in.
The slides are located near the Esmeralda corridor on the map above, and I find it pretty hilarious to think of politicians like former Mayor Willie Brown or Senator Diane Feinstein sliding down them, although I can completely picture city supervisor Tom Ammiano (who has also done stand-up comedy) whooping it up on his way down the slides.
As I read the article, it sounded very much like a true Bernal story to me, in particular the level of neighborhood activism, as well as the diverse and colorful characters (the article mentions a circus co-founder, community activity, and sexologist) that either built or fought to keep the slides open when the city wanted to tear them down.
While you are in the neighborhood, I can also recommend Emmy’s spaghetti shack if you get hungry and need a filling bite to eat. So what are you waiting for? Find your kids (or a neighbors, or just yourself) and head on over to Bernal Heights to enjoy the great Winfield slides. While they might just look like two slides, at the end of the day the embody a lot of truths about San Francisco, from our love of fun to our tightly-knit neighborhood communities, and our love-hate relationship with city hall and government.