About six months ago I noticed something happening at the corner of 17th and Folsom as I passed on the way to my weekly dance class at ODC. It took me a while to figure out that a new park was coming, and I stalked the site for details about the playground and cleared my schedule to attend the opening of the city's newest park. In Chan Kaajal Park is a beautiful addition to the Mission and features a unique playspace that appeals to kids AND adults!
I'll be honest—our visit to the playground on opening day was a bust. It was too crowded and there were "way too many big kids" for Mia's taste. Everyone came out to celebrate the new park, so we decided to come back another, less busy time before truly judging the space. On our second visit things were much less packed and we both had a great time.
The play area is comprised of a HUGE climbing structure (all those big kids there on the first day loved it—its great to see a playground that includes engaging activities for teenagers). On a recent warm morning the structure was mostly an afterthought for the younger kids, so Mia had it all to herself.
On the opposite side is a set of exercise equipment that's also designed for bigger people (or little kids with long arms and legs). It's a great setup if the grownups want to get a workout in while the kids are playing, and there are a few pieces of equipment that need two people to get going.
In between the two play areas are a set of water fountains that kept kids happily drenched on both visits.
Compared to other city parks, this one feels a bit nontraditional, which makes it perfect in such a dense and urban environment. There's a huge grassy field and an amphitheater that is begging for people to spread out blankets for Friday evening concerts or movie nights. There's a large community garden and neighbors are invited to come and tend the plants every Saturday. Unfortunately there is also no bathroom, so it isn't a great option to hang out for long periods unless you have a place to pee nearby.
Wondering what the name of the park means? It was a well-kept secret until the parks' opening, and In Chan Kaajal is a Mayan phrase that means "little town."
Name: In Chan Kaajal Park
Address: 17th and Folsom
Parking: Street or paid lot next door
Surface: Fake grass, rubber, real grass
Public Transit: MUNI 47/48-Van Ness, 19-Polk
Four Stars: Worth a trip across town
Three Stars: Nearby? Check it out
Two Stars: Use In Case of Playtime Emergency
One Star: Don't Do It
No Stars: No. Nope. Never.
These ratings are totally subjective and based on our experience on one or more visits. They are based on playability, location, accessibility, cleanliness, facilities, mood of a two-year-old, and the number of snacks in my purse. Please use your best judgement when visiting these playspaces and share your experiences with us with #SFPLAYGROUNDS on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!