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 lawn of planted gardens, flowers, and public art is the perfect place to play, chill out, enjoy lunch or listen to a free concert.
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.
The Oche Wat Te Ou | Reflection Garden was created by artists Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and James Lunain in 1993. This piece, a tribute to the native Ohlone, is in the form of a semicircular wood wall patterned with Ohlone basket designs which surround a small crescent-shaped pool and a circle of rocks. Oche Wat Te Ou is a contemplative environment that harkens the traditions of storytelling and poetry.
The Upper Terrace provides photo-worthy dramatic views of the Gardens and downtown. On this spot, above the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Fountain, is a reflecting pool surrounded by distinctive paving patterns designed by artist Lin Utzon.
Evergreen trees, shrubs, seasonal flowers, and wisteria frame the Sister City Gardens with plants native to the sister cities of San Francisco.
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.
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.
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 "Deep Gradient / Suspect Terrain" rises above the sidewalk with glass panel portholes that allow a hint of the activity in the Moscone Center, located just below ground. In the words of the artist, “at this 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."