Stern Grove (Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove) is another amazing San Francisco haven located in the Sunset District just off of Sloat Boulevard. The 33-acre site has an interesting history, in and of itself, including squatters settling there back in the 1840s; a family from Maine named Green who also built the Trocadero Clubhouse in the park in 1892. The Greens later sold the property to Rosalie Stern, a relative of Levi Strauss, who dedicated the park to her late husband and gave it to the City as a park.
Like in other parts of the City and the state, you are going to find many eucalyptus trees, which were brought here intentionally to build artificial forests as far back as the 1850s. Oddly though, unless you are a tree expert, the trees do not look out of place and help mitigate erosion on the steep slopes.
Getting there and around
Although there is usually plenty of parking around, albeit not always next to the park, I still recommend biking or taking public transit. Traffic can be stressful on both Sloat as well as on 19th Avenue. And it makes little sense to go to a park for some fresh air while our cars spew fumes. Additionally, there are plenty of bus routes that go by the park and easy access with a bike. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, visit www.sfmta.com to schedule and plan your trip to Stern Grove.
Things to see
Stern Grove has something for everybody. You can walk around, walk your dog, take your kids to the playground, check out one of the few natural lakes in the City, have a picnic, or attend a free concert during the summer months. Some of the highlights are:
- Pine Lake Park at the western edge of the grove. The centerpiece of this park is the natural lake fed by aquifers. Though it looks green and murky due to algae, it is a haven for ducks, frogs, carp, and all kinds of insects and birds. Most people walk around the lake, but you can also find a clear spot to sit and relax by the water. There are also restrooms to the east of the lake.
- Trocadero Clubhouse is located on the southeastern side. The building is a historical San Francisco site and a venue for weddings and other events. Though you may not be able to check out the inside of the clubhouse, you can walk around the grounds and admire the late 19th-century architecture.
- Stern Grove Dog Park is located adjacent to the Vale Avenue Parking Lot, right in the park’s middle. However, you will notice that dogs walk around the park, both on and off-leash; the latter option is more common. I personally have many good memories of walking my dogs around the grove, as well as tossing the ball for them across the vast open spaces.
- Stern Grove Playground is located on Sloat Boulevard just west of 19th. It is a good place for your kids to burn off some energy before and/or after exploring the full grove. They have the typical playground equipment and, usually, it is well maintained and relatively underutilized, especially during the week.
- Frances M. McAteer Tennis Courts are located adjacent to the playground. Usually, you can walk up and start playing. However, you may want to visit sfrecpark.org for tennis court rules and reservations, where applicable.
- Stern Grove Concert Meadow is tucked near the northeastern corner of the park, off Wawona Street and just west of 19th. It is a great place to hang out, listen to music, watch a performance, or whatever is on the schedule while you sit on the lawn and have a picnic. For more information about the Stern Grove Festival, visit www.sterngrove.org. I myself have attended various events here and, whether the event itself was good or not, just being in the grove with other people in this particular setting was great.
Where to eat
There are no actual eateries or shops within or adjacent to the park. Most of the cafes and restaurants and a Safeway supermarket are on Taravaval Street, three rather long blocks north of the park. Your best option is to take food and beverages with you, as well as other picnic stuff, and either find a spot in the park or a picnic table and enjoy the fresh air. There are picnic tables and picnic spots in different locations all over the park.