Esplanade | Yerba Buena Gardens



The sound of water, the scent of flowers and the warmth of sunlight unfolds across Yerba Buena Gardens. Each of these public gardens combines design and plantings to reflect the diversity of cultures in San Francisco and the world. The open sky and the backdrop of buildings and bridges create a serene oasis in the middle of the bustle of downtown.


Yerba Buena Garden’s five-acre Esplanade of landscaped lawns, trees, flowers, falling water, public art, and small cafes is the perfect place to play, chill out, enjoy lunch or listen to a free outdoor concert. For residents and visitors alike, it is the front yard to the City. Conventioneers enjoy the stroll through the gardens on the way to Moscone Center.

Cho-En Butterfly Garden

Artist Reiko Goto created a graceful and serene Butterfly Garden whose plantings provide the habitat for a number of species of native San Francisco butterflies. Rest on a bench, learn about butterflies from beautiful painted tiles or just watch a self-sustaining population of butterflies including the popular Monarchs. The plants in the garden are also native to the Bay Area and encourage growth in all four forms of the butterfly: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

Reflection Garden

The Oche Wat Te Ou | Reflection Garden is one of the many public gardens and tribute to the native Ohlone Indians. The memorial is in the form of a semicircular wood wall patterned with Ohlone basket designs, which stand behind a crescent-shaped pool and a circle of moss covered rocks. It is a contemplative environment, set beside a redwood grove with a single live oak tree nearby. Artists Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and James Lunain intended the piece to serve as a performance area for poetry, storytelling and other events in the oral tradition. At one time this area held an Ohlone Indian burial ground.

Upper Terrace Garden

The Upper Terrace Garden provides dramatic views of the gardens and the city. Atop the terrace is a large reflecting pool surrounded by a distinctive granite-paving pattern, designed by artist Lin Utzon. The terrace includes cafés and seating. It is planted with evergreen trees and shrubs that frame the Sister City Garden, presenting plants native to the thirteen sister cities of San Francisco. These plants, combined with a seasonal flowers, flowering trees, and a Wisteria covered loggia, create a colorful year-round display.

Sister City Gardens

The Sister City Gardens along the entire length of the Upper Terrace feature flowering plants from San Francisco’s 18 Sister City relationships around the world. The result is a global quilt of colors, smells and vibrant contrasts, that remind visitors of community connections beyond the Bay Area. YBG’s Sister Cities include: Abidjan, Assisi, Bangalore, Barcelona, Cork, Estele, Haifa, Ho Chi Min City, Krakow, Manila, Osaka, Paris, Seoul, Sydney, Shanghai, Taipei, Thessaloniki and Zurich.

Children’s Garden

Designed by Adele Santos, the Yerba Buena Children’s Garden covers an amazing 130,000 square feet and is built on top of Moscone Center. It’s the perfect place for interactive and engaging areas for kids with an emphasis on discovery, nature and play. The Children’s Garden teems with astonishing colors, scents and textures and is an oasis for kids – and parents! –in the heart of downtown.

Playground and Tot Lot

The Play Circle (playground) has a sand circle, a playground, a xylophone and a 25-foot tube slide, all designed by M. Paul Friedberg. There’s a labyrinth of growing hedges to mimic a child-size version of those found in ancient castles. An outdoor amphitheater is also used for youth performances and public events. The Tot Lot (playground) provides a fun, safe and creative play space for curious little ones in search of adventure and learning. The Tot Lot features play structures for pint size imaginations surrounded by trees, flowers and lush landscaping. There are also ample places to sit and park strollers. These play areas are typically open daily from 8 am-6 pm.

East Garden

Located directly across from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the East Garden features a a dramatic cascading fountain and a small terrace where visitors sit and feel as if they’re in the water. John Roloff‘s 18-foot-high sculpture “Green Glass Ship—Deep Gradient/Suspect Terrain,” rises above the terrace accompanied by portholes that allow a hint of activity in the Moscone Center, located below the gardens. Roloff said, “At the site, land is an illusion with the gardens above and convention space below—a metaphor for the ocean, a different world, and the surface of the sea.”

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