Salesforce Park is San Francisco’s answer to the New York high line. An elevated walking park that spans a 4 block distance, Salesforce park is a convenient way to escape city life. Because San Francisco is a tech city, it’s not surprising that a walk through the park can feel like a walk through a futuristic sci-fi film. The gleaming sky-scrapers (Salesforce Tower is the tallest building in SF) contrast with cultivated exotic gardens, and many of the park’s patrons are tech workers from the surrounding buildings.
CW Pro Tip:
Go at the right time. I went on a Saturday, and it was empty. Depending on your goals, this could be either good or bad. If you want to walk around the park and enjoy the views without having to worry about being yelled at by a jogger, then a Saturday afternoon is a great time to go. There’s plenty of open seating, and you will probably be able to choose any board game that you want (within reason). Clearly, the park was designed to accommodate many more people.
On the other hand, if you want to get food from one of the restaurants near the Salesforce Tower, then a weekday is much better. I arrived at the famed Salesforce Tavern (across the street) only to learn that brunch had just ended, and they were not planning to serve lunch. An outdoor food court is conveniently located one block away and is usually bustling on weekdays, but on Saturdays, it’s closed. You can still find food at Starbucks, the only restaurant inside Salesforce Park.
CW Pro Tip:
If you have kids, or are related to a child in some way, then you will want to bring them to Salesforce park. There are carts in the area near the Salesforce Tower that have free games, arts and crafts, and children’s books. The carts are adjacent to an open seating area, complete with tables and multicolored chairs. Additionally, when I went, there was a group art project in progress. The materials in these carts aren’t regulated, so you might want to use one of the free-hand wipes to be safe. It’s actually very surprising how effective the honor system is.
CW Pro Tip:
Wear sunglasses. A big part of what makes Salesforce park better than your typical ground-level green space is the proximity to skyscrapers. After all, in your daily life, you usually don’t get the opportunity to see a 20 story building at the fourth story. However, many of these buildings are made of reflective glass, so it can get pretty bright as the day goes on. Basically, you will want to protect your eyes from the glare. I would also recommend sunscreen, because the park gets a lot of sun.
I entered the park through an escalator near Salesforce Tower, but there are many ways to get to Salesforce Park. There are elevators, escalators, and even a gondola lift (it only goes up). If you walk the length of the park from street level, you will see an entrance at some point. After taking the escalator, I found myself on the “Bus Deck” level (Salesforce is also a transit center), before I stumbled around to find the elevator. Pro Tip: the elevator is the fastest way to get to Salesforce Park.
The best way to describe Salesforce Park is sci-fi utopian. When I exited the elevator I was met with a bamboo forest and a metal plaque listing all of the rules. Disappointingly, dogs are not allowed, unless they are service animals. The flow of the park is fairly intuitive - just walk straight, and eventually you will make your way around the park’s half-mile circumference. You can make the loop by staying on the paved concrete outer edge, which is sometimes lined with fountains (they are triggered in response to the buses below). The center is the “park” area, complete with grass, palm trees, and a host of exotic florals and pines.
As I walked the loop of the park, I often felt that I had been transported into the woods. However, a peculiarity of Salesforce park is that one minute you are enmeshed in forest, and the next you are face to face with a sixty story skyscraper. The juxtaposition of cultivated gardens with shiny metal towers reminded me of a scene from one of the Star Wars Prequels.
I walked to the central clearing, located directly in front of Salesforce Tower. Here you can find all of the carts with free stuff, as well as the Trail Blazer cafe, the only operating restaurant inside of Salesforce Park (that will change soon, with a Japanese restaurant slated for 2019). It’s just a Starbucks, but they do sell mugs that are exclusive to the Salesforce Park location. You can also pour yourself a free glass of water from a chilled dispenser, which I’ve never seen at another Starbucks. Protip: if you are visiting from an office nearby and want to get work done, they have a special table reserved for people to work on their laptops.
I ate here and had a standard Starbucks chicken sandwich. They have seating inside, but if you want to enjoy the sun, there were plenty of open tables outside as well. I also observed groups of people sitting in the grass. Basically, seating was plentiful.
The pavement itself was extraordinarily clean, which only proves my assessment of Salesforce park as a sci-fi utopia. My theory about the cleanliness is the lack of dirt from cars. I also saw very few homeless people compared to other Bay Area parks.
After I ate my sandwich, I went to inspect the game cart. They had Mancala, Connect Four, and a collection of other classic games that were all in fairly good shape. No one was supervising the cart, but the system seemed to work well enough. I didn’t play any of the games, but there were other people using them, including families. Again, a great place to take children on the weekends both for its cleanliness and communal atmosphere. As a side note, you can also buy beer and wine from a stand in this area on weekdays between 2pm and 7pm.
Something I noticed when I visited Salesforce Tower a few months ago was the Gondola. According to architects, it was designed to entice people on the street level to explore Salesforce Park. Well, it worked. I took the elevator down with the intention of riding the Gondola up (it only goes up). The Gondola lift is a large standing-room-only box that holds a surprising number of people. It can take you from the ground to the park in about 20 seconds. I have to say: it’s not worth it. If you want to ride the Gondola to Salesforce Park, then you should. The line was short, and like all things in Salesforce Park, the Gondola is completely free. However, the Gondola doesn’t really go that high, and you can probably get a better view of the city from within the park itself.
When it came time to leave the park, I exited through an escalator that passed through the heart of Salesforce Transit Center. It’s spacious and new, with high ceilings and a centerpiece that can be visually impressive as you slowly inch towards it. If you’re up on all the city planning gossip, there are probably at least three trains that might or might not be using this station, sometime in the near or far future (the planned San Francisco to LA train was supposed to end here). Regardless, it currently features a giant tv-screen that displays all the comings and goings of buses on the third floor, and you can reload your Clipper Card at one of the machines near the door.
If you go during a weekend, definitely make sure to checkout Salesforce Tavern, which is located across the street. All of the Salesforce buildings have a woodsy theme to them, and it’s on display at the Hawaiian themed Trailblazer Tavern.