San Francisco’s Hottest New Attraction Is on Top of a Highway

They say youth is wasting youth, but what about the playground with a vision? After all, that’s what San Francisco’s youth have been given to the latest significant addition to the national park – Presidio Tunnel Tops. Now, every day, hundreds of children will climb, run, fall and jump with the Golden Gate Bridge surrounded in fog as the backdrop.

I went to San Francisco for the first time since the pandemic to check out a bunch of old and new things. My home is one of the city’s more upscale properties, formerly the Francis Drake Hotel, now known as Beacon Grand after renovation. To be fair, many of you have likely stayed here at least once in years, possibly with family as I did two decades ago. (The listing of the decades really makes one feel old, wow.) Since opening in 1928 in Union Square, it has been one of the standout Art Deco skyscrapers. more than that of the city. But by the 2010s, its attire was a bit worse, and by the end of the decade its decor was completely outdated. The new ownership has given the rooms a refreshed single-glass panel, softer colors, bathrooms with historic accents – and has revamped the dramatic foyer by moving the bar upstairs. mezzanine. If all goes according to plan, the iconic Starlight Lounge will be back up and running in a year or so.

View of the playground.

Presidio Trust

The fact that you can travel from the Union Square area, which is so central to your bustling city, and drive or bike three miles or so to a place like Presidio, all while staying in the same city city, asking to suspend suspicion. The park includes more than 1,400 acres of eucalyptus forest, fields, and dunes overlooking the bay and its bridge that make up this park. This part of San Francisco, right at the tip of the peninsula, where the Golden Gate Bridge shoots out, is where the Spaniards once built a military outpost (just a few months after the eastern colonies declared their independence. from England). The area remained a military base under Spain, then Mexico, and finally the United States until its closure in the late 20th century. During the 1990s and 2000s, the old barracks were converted to rental houses, museums, hotels; and industrial spaces are reused for breweries and activities such as rock climbing. There’s a golf course and a bowling alley that serves beer and burgers. Miles of trails through its forests and along its misty cliffs have opened up, making for one of the best parks of any city anywhere. Works by artists like Andy Goldsworthy have provided a level of coolness to the venue.

But, there is one big flaw. The highway that brings people to the Golden Gate Bridge cuts across the park, cutting its upper part from the shoreline below. After years of planning and fundraising ($118 million project), a design by James Corner Field Operations, the team behind the High Line, has finally come to fruition.

That plan involved connecting the highway into some nice new tunnels, and on top of that, building a series of terraces that would connect the main Parade Lawn to Crissey Swamp, the Bay Trail, and the beach. About 200,000 species of plants were added during construction, and although they are drought tolerant, rain has been so low this summer that it’s still hard to imagine what the space will look like when it’s all filled up. full.

Besides that, there were a lot of new parks to see and experience. Just behind the visitor center is a campfire ring that has been added to make the space look like a real national park. Across from it, with the rest of the park sloping down to the marsh and then Angel Island in the distance, it feels like a national park. Plus, there’s actually a campsite within the Presidio itself. If you’re facing the water, to your right is the transit hub as well as the Picnic Site, where several public grills have been located. The Presidio Trust has spent a lot of time figuring out how to make sure all of San Francisco will want to use this park and speak to the different constituencies, which means more than just public transit options but also have amenities like an oven.

Then there’s a series of lawns and views – the first sweeps across the horizon to the dome of the Palace of Arts to Alcatraz to Angel Island. Covering one of the lawns were benches made of fallen cypress at the Presidio.

It then descends down a terraced slope that will eventually be some kind of amphitheater with spring grass you can lounge on (final: now demolished, the lawn now looks more like a split-headed pet). Beneath it, one finds a playground, which focuses on theories of adventure games that are good for children, with climbing sticks and a huge tree felled with amputated limbs. go out. Bonus for parents of toddlers – there’s a section with a water pump and chute. For parents willing to look up from their phones, it’s the best viewable playground in the world.

The top half of the Top of the Tunnel area is structured and play-oriented. The area below the playground with restored wetlands and trails winds through rough and loose sand dunes and again contributes to the sense of wonder that something like This is in a big city.

My typical San Francisco visit involves classic urban activities – restaurants, museums, architectural promenades, etc. Next time, I think I’ll grab a bike and load it up. backpack with picnic items just to cruise around here and drop off to enjoy the Lunch.

And obviously I’m not the only one. It was the middle of the week when the park was bustling with activity. Friends in the city told me that by the end of the week it was packed.

In cities, much of the last twenty years or so has been about undoing the previous 50 years, about bringing communities together and giving people access to the natural wonders we so often see. experience. The new Presidio tunnel top is a great hit on that belt..

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