Beyond the Ballpark: An All Star Day in South Beach

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With summertime baseball season in full swing, you’re likely to hear your little ones begging you to take them out to the ball game. But even in the off season there are scores of awesome activities in the neighborhood surrounding the home of the SF Giants. Whether you head down to AT&T Park on Game Day or just want to explore the area any day of the week, you’ll find a line-up that includes a lost language, a long-forgotten shoreline, and gooey grilled cheeses, all just beyond the ballpark in San Francisco’s South Beach/China Basin neighborhood.AT&T Park SF  (640x480)

Where the Sidewalk Ends
You can start your adventures directly across from AT&T Park. On the north side of King Street (between 2nd and 3rd) you will find a piece of San Francisco history literally at your feet. You should be in front of the Ligne Roset furniture store. Now look down. What appears to be a brass snake in the sidewalk is actually the marker of the former San Francisco shoreline. Check out the plaque that tells the story and then take a minute with your kids to imagine you are on the edge of Gold Rush era San Francisco, looking down upon a bustling harbor instead of bustling King Street.

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On the opposite side of King Street and about a half-block up (between 3rd and 4th streets) the sidewalk has a lot more to say. 104 inlaid plaques pay homage to the language of the Rammaytush, a Native American tribe that once called this shoreline home. Common words like sun, daughter, sky, and arrow help kids relate to a language that was nearly lost to the written record.

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Both sidewalk secrets are part of the Barbary Coast Trail. Click here for more information about the trail and guided and self-guided tours.

Feel the Need to Read
The Mission Bay Branch is one of the newest branches of the San Francisco Public Library and it sports a generous selection of kid’s books with cozy tables and chairs, restrooms, and a serene location along the canal. They also offer classes like Toddler Tales and Baby Rhyme Time.

Insider tip: this library always has a good selection of movies and CD’s, significantly less picked-over than the Main or other smaller neighborhood branches.

Home Run
Just across the canal from the library you’ll find the lush grass of Mission Creek Park. Rolling (man-made) hills, pristine landscaping, a clean restroom, and a view of the clock above the Giants scoreboard means that you can lounge here, let the kiddos run wild, and keep track of when it’s time to queue up at the ballpark for the game. If you grab some deli from the Safeway on 4th and King, you can walk to this hidden gem of a park for a pre-game picnic. Bonus: you get to cross over a small lift bridge!

Tank your kids up before the fill up on peanuts and crackerjacks. In addition to deli from Safeway, you can find a Panini grill on 4th street. Kiddos will ooze for The Melt on 3rd and Townsend, which offers a variety of grilled cheese options as well as yummy soft serve ice cream. A little further off the path up toward South Park on 2nd (at South Park St.) American Grilled Cheese offers an upscale version of the classic grilled cheese, always served with a piece of fresh, seasonal fruit. You’ll also find several other delis, Mexican food, and pizza all within a few blocks of the ballpark.

Insider tip: keep your eyes open for food trucks that park along the streets, especially on game days!

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Play Ball
Once the kiddos bases are loaded, work off some of that soft serve at one of the nearby playgrounds or go for a stroll along the waterfront. South Park—between 2nd and 3rd and Bryant and Brannan streets—has a basic playground with swings. South Beach Park, which is part of the green space that extends just past the ballpark in all directions, has a minimalist playground to the east of the ballpark. Bigger kids will probably prefer walking along the nearby Marina and checking out the many boats. AT&T Park offers a play area but it has limited public hours on game days in particular. This is also an option if you are having a grand day out but aren’t attending a game.

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An American Tradition
The park also offers a cool viewing portal along the Port walk in Right Field. They call it a Knothole Gang named after the old tradition of viewing the game through a knothole in the fence. Get your Little Rascals there early if you want to take advantage of this, as it is a first-come, first-serve basis and fans line up in advance. This is a good spot to take a peek at the field on a non-game day, too.

Good to Know
AT&T Park offers a variety of tours and other kid-friendly events. Kids can run the bases after games on Sundays, weather permitting. Street parking is easy most days unless there is a game–then the prices for otherwise affordable garages go through the roof. If you are heading down for a game, be prepared to pay triple the usual fees and be careful with metered parking, as tickets are dolled out like candy. The N Judah and T line both go straight to the park and the Caltrain Station is just one block away. You can also find the 30, 45, 19, 12, and 10 MUNI lines all stopping somewhere in the general neighborhood.

What to Wear
Sunny South Beach can be warm in the daytime but the fog rolls in thick so a good fleece sweatshirt is always a wise idea. One with a Giants logo will really get you in the spirit!

AT&T Park
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, Ca 94107   

What totally awesome places have you explored around AT&T Park?

— Amber Guetebier (words and pictures)