When the Koret Children’s Quarters Playground opened in 1888, it was known as the Sharon Quarters for Children and was the historic first public playground in the United States.
Renovated in 2007 with the support of the Koret Foundation, thankfully, many of the beloved earlier features were retained, including the historic concrete slide and the magnificent 1914 Herschel-Spillman Carousel.
It might have been the United States’ first public playground, but with an Art Studio, an historic carousel, multiple play areas for all ages, and an unbeatable location in the heart of Golden Gate Park, Koret is also one of this nation’s favourite playgrounds
An open playground with easy pushchair/wheelchair access, Koret is surrounded by a vast area of lawn – there is, after all, the entirety of Golden Gate Park to enjoy post-runaround!
The playground itself incorporates a generous ocean themed sandpit (complete with ‘breaking’ concrete wave, which also acts as a wind barrier for sand-play loving toddlers) along with four other play areas for school age children and tweens with rubber matting, sand or concrete surfaces underfoot. There are multiple climbing structures, from the two plastic and timber forts and castles for school age children to the seriously dizzying Octa-Net rope climbing feature for tweens.
The Herschel-Spillman Carousel Alongside the playground is another historic piece of play equipment – the Herschel-Spillman Carousel.
Built in 1914 and installed here in 1940, there are 62 painted carousel animals that children can ride ranging from a dragon to a camel, a goat to a frog, as well as horses, dogs, roosters and pigs. On the interior of the carousel painted panels depict iconic Bay Area landscapes. Shut down in 1977 due to a fault, the carousel was restored and reopened in 1984.
From Memorial Day (last Monday of May) through to Labor Day (first Monday of September) the carousel runs daily from 10.00–16.30 (the last ride begins at 16.15); and the same hours on Fridays and weekends only from Labor Day through to Memorial Day. Children under 40″ (102cm) in height must be accompanied by a paying adult. Rides cost $2 per adult and $1 per child (ages 6 to 12); children five and under ride free with a paying/supervising adult.
Play equipment Large fantasy themed sandpit with ocean themed sculptures including two waves, turtles, pelicans, crabs and a mosaic encrusted alligator; swings (four baby swings and four big kids’ swings); two forts – one for toddlers, the second for school age children – with suspension bridges, wobbly bridges, ladders, multiple slides of varying heights (tunnel slides for toddlers), platforms, tunnels, fireman’s pole; houses with benches; rope bridge; spinning cups; spinning cat tail poles; marble game; monkey bars; concrete slide (which requires you to throw sand on it, and then use a cardboard ‘sled’ to slide down); a huge Octa-Net climbing frame.
Why go The very first public playground to have opened in the United States in 1888, this is playground history in the flesh, not to mention a pretty cool contemporary play space in one of the world’s finest parks!
Who is it best for All ages from toddlers to tweens
Top three features The sandpit with its mosaic crocodile (or is it an alligator?), and the historic carousel for toddlers; the massive Octa-Net and the concrete slides for older kids
Facilities Some seating, toilets, one picnic table, but also a number of concrete benches that can be employed for the purpose of picnicking if the lawn does not entice, and a drinking water fountain
Shaded Areas There are no effectively shaded areas, but if all else fails, a dash into the Sharon Art Centre might save you from a downpour.
Our favourite bit/s The location in this amazing park and this venue’s record making history
Don’t go Without a sheet of cardboard – older kids will need it for sliding down the concrete slide (unless you’re happy spending the rest of the day with holes in one particular spot on their trousers!)
While you’re here Visit the Sharon Art Studio, and if visiting for more than a few weeks, book your kids into one of the Studio’s children’s workshops and classes
In the area Stop in at Haight Groceries on your way here to pick up some fine organic picnic fare before making your way into the park. After you’ve played and picnicked, take a do-able walk to the California Academy of Sciences for an edifying afternoon indoors.