Golden Gate Park (GGP) in San Francisco contains a multitude of areas that cater to unique sports, activities, and hobbies. The park contains 1,017 acres of land with specialized areas for numerous sports and activities to enjoy if you know where to look. Here are a few unique activities that have a home in Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco has a surprisingly long history with archery, with the current range dating back to 1933. It’s a fairly simple range with 9 large hay bales sitting at the edge of a field, which archers affix targets to. On a given day you’ll run into archery enthusiasts from all walks of life wielding powerful compound bows, popular recurve bows, and traditional longbows, to name a few. If you’d like to use the range, plan ahead, as there are no equipment rentals or instruction available on-site. Several local shops can get you outfitted and teach you, beginner, to advanced lessons. For rentals and lessons check out SF Archery, with lessons also available through SF Recreation and Parks.
Location: 47th Avenue and Fulton
2. Disc Golf
Disco Golf was invented in the 1960s and formalized as a sport in the ‘70s. It’s similar to golf but instead of balls and clubs, players use flying discs, with a goal of reaching each hole in the fewest throws. GGP built its tightly wooded 18-hole course near Marx Meadow in 2007, which is fun for beginners and challenging enough for experts. No equipment rental or instruction is available on-site but the SF Disc Golf Club is a great resource for information and upcoming events.
Location: 99 Marx Meadow Drive
3. Fly Fishing
You probably won’t catch any Rainbow Trout in GGP, but you can definitely keep your casting and fly-fishing skills sharp at the Angler’s Lodge and casting pools. The Lodge and pools were dedicated in 1938 and have hosted casting classes and national tournaments ever since. The site is managed by the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club (GGACC) and has served as a refuge for local anglers as well as a hub of innovation in the angling and casting community. The casting pools are open to the public and free to use. More information on equipment rental and lessons is available on the GGACC website.
Location: 1232 John F. Kennedy Drive
4. Lawn Bowling
The SF Lawn Bowling Club (SFLBC), established in 1901, holds the title of “America’s oldest municipal lawn bowling club.” With two beautifully maintained rinks and a historic clubhouse, the game is frequently and enthusiastically played here by newcomers and veteran bowlers alike. Related to other similar boules games like bocce and petanque, Lawn Bowling is played by throwing a small ball or “jack” down the rink and then taking turns rolling flat-sided balls or “bowls” with the goal of getting them as closer to the jack than your opponent. The SFLBC offers free lessons on an appointment basis.
Location: 320 Bowling Green Drive
A ride through GGP on horseback isn’t just for the park rangers. Chaparral Ranch uses the park’s Bercut Equitation Field as a home base and offers children’s pony rides, riding lessons, and exciting trail rides. For an enjoyable outing in the park individuals and groups can book a 60-minute ride through the park or 90-minute rides on Ocean Beach. Rides are available Wed-Sun 10am-5pm.
Location: Bercut Equitation Field
The GGP horseshoe pits are fairly well hidden in the northeastern corner of the park and occupy what feels like a micro canyon. Constructed in 1926, the site features 16 pits, and a giant bas-relief of a horseshoe pitcher built into the hillside. No equipment rental is available, but if you have your own horseshoe the pits are free to use and first come, first served.
Location: Conservatory Drive East, just North of the Fuschia Dell.
7. Pickle Ball
This fun and accessible sport is a mix between tennis, badminton, and ping pong, and you can play it at the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Tennis Center in GGP. The sport was invented in 1965 but has has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity.
Location: Lisa & Douglas Goldman Tennis Center
Two beautiful Bocce courts are available to use in the park’s Stanyan Edge recreation area. Bocce is an Italian ball game where teams take turns rolling large balls (bocce) towards a smaller ball (pallino), with the goal of getting your bocce closer to the pallino than the other team. It’s a great party game that rewards precision over strength and is equally easy to play with an Aperol spritz in hand. The bocce courts are conveniently located next to Flywheel Coffee’s outdoor cafe, adding a nice Italian vibe to the whole experience.
Location: Stanyan and Page Street
Spreckels Lake is home to ducks, turtles, and most importantly, miniature yachts. Yes, the lake is home to SF’s Model Yacht Club where white-sailed replicas of classic yachts, both powered and sail, are lovingly built, stored, maintained, and launched on Spreckels Lake. The club started in 1898 and maintains a clubhouse directly across from the lake. The best time to see these boast in action is Saturday for sailboats and Sunday for powerboats.
Location: Spreckels Lake
10. Drum Circle
A weekly drum circle is held every Saturday and Sunday at the base of Hippie Hill, from mid-day until late afternoon. This casual drop-in consists of a core group of performers who bring guitars, didgeridoos, and a variety of percussion instruments. In an area with ’60s icons plastered on every storefront and t-shirt shop, the drum circle feels like a rare and honest connection to the area’s Summer of Love roots. Bring your own drum or just lay down a blanket and enjoy the music.
Location: Hippie Hill at Robin Williams Meadow
Hidden behind Big Rec Fields baseball diamond are the park’s handball and racquetball courts which offer two indoor and two outdoor courts for the sports. Both games are fun, and strenuous, and enjoy a dedicated following across SF. Bring your own equipment but no reservation is required to play.
Location: Between Big Rec Ball Field and Nancy Pelosi Drive.
12. Roller Skating
Skatin’ Place is a small paved area for anyone on rollerskates and blades who wants to join the fun. You’ll find a dedicated community of skaters present throughout the week with a vibrant community of skaters converging on the weekends. Expect some impressive dance moves, funky tunes, great outfits, and a welcoming community.
Location: East of the 8th Avenue entrance off of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park.
The Waller Street Skate Park is a local hub for the skateboarding community where all skill levels are welcome. The large concrete area features boxes, rails, and ramps that attract skaters of all ages.
Location: Waller and Stanyan
Big Rec baseball diamond is one of several venues where you can enjoy Bay Area Vintage Base Ball, a league of teams that play with 1886 rules equipment, and etiquette. They play with hand-turned baseball bats, vintage-style baseball, and other era-specific equipment. It’s a little bit of history and a lot of fun.
Location: Big Rec Ball Field – Nealon Diamond
Whether you choose to row or paddleboat your way around Stow Lake, you’re in for a very good time. The scenery is incredible and it’s a fun and easy way to explore the area. Migratory birds, stone bridges, flowers, and towering trees all make for a storybook experience.
Location: Stow Lake Boathouse.
Featured image: @sfrecpark via Instagram. Photo by Jim Watkins