The Yerba Buena Gardens District is a vibrant downtown neighborhood comprising more than 15 museums, performing arts facilities, and other cultural institutions; a 5.5-acre park; restaurants; hotels; movie theaters; shopping; housing for a variety of income levels; and one of the most heavily used convention centers in the world. It is a destination for locals as well as tourists and has been hailed as one of "the most concentrated arts districts west of the Hudson River" (Newsweek, January 1995). Spend a day in neighborhood, take time to explore the entire area — there's literally something for everyone at Yerba Buena Gardens.
Walking Tour of Yerba Buena Gardens
The Esplanade Gardens, adjacent to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, face Mission between Third and Fourth Streets. On the northeastern side of the Esplanade lies the Butterfly Garden, created by Reiko Goto. Its plantings provide a graceful and serene habitat for a number of species of native San Francisco butterflies. The garden features the flowing forms of dry steam beds lined with low plantings.
In the southeastern part of the Esplanade is Oché Wat Té Ou/Reflection by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and James Luna. This tribute to the native Ohlone Indians has been created in the form of a semicircular wood wall, patterned with Ohlone basket designs standing behind a crescent-shaped pool and circle of moss-covered rocks. It's a contemplative environment, set beside a redwood grove with a single oak tree nearby. The artists intended the piece to serve as a performance area for poetry, storytelling and other events in the oral tradition. 701 Mission Street.
Overlooking the Esplanade is the Sister Cities Garden, located on the upper terrace, which features flowering plants from San Francisco's 13 sister cities around the world. On the terrace are two cafés which provide a pleasant location overlooking the gardens and downtown skyline.
Shaking Man, by Terry Allen, is a life-size bronze statue of a business executive who totes a briefcase and conveys a sense of motion as its arm extends for a handshake towards visitors on Yerba Buena Gardens' Upper Terrace.
The East Garden, designed by Willie Lang of Omi Lang Associates, is a synergism of Eastern and Western ideas. Built upon the principle of the triangle — which represents the Japanese symbol of Heaven, Earth and Man — the manifestation is a three-sided bosquet of European sycamores. The gardens form a visual common among three major cultural buildings, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Galleries and Forum, Lam Research Theater at YBCA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Other features include an intimate performance area and a quiet lawn fountain which illuminates at twilight along the street edge, masking the noise of traffic from Garden dwellers.
Literally jutting out of the East Garden is Deep Gradient/Suspect Terrain, a 20 foot-tall, deep green, ship-like sculpture constructed of painted steel and glass, which sits at a steep angle. Two glass viewports, set flush with the paving on the eastern side of the Visual Arts building, allow obscured glimpses of activity in the Moscone Convention Center below.
The undeniable centerpiece of Yerba Buena Gardens is the 22-foot-high, 50-foot-wide waterfall that leads to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Behind the waterfall are 12 shimmering glass panels engraved with quotes from Dr. King's writings and speeches, in English with translations in African and Arabic dialects as well as the languages of San Francisco's Sister Cities. The Memorial is anchored with a carved image of Dr. King at one end and an image of San Francisco's community leaders during the 20th anniversary of the March in Golden Gate Park at the other. The Memorial is the first of its kind to truly embrace Dr. King's vision of peace and international unity in the United States. Collaborating artists were sculptor Houston Conwill, poet Estella Majoza and architect Joseph de Pace.
South of Howard Street, The Rooftop Gardens are nestled among attractions that include Zeum, a one-of-a-kind young people's art and technology museum and their historic carousel, a bowling alley and an ice skating rink. Catering to families, these gardens feature a popular children's play area.
The Yerba Buena neighborhood is considered to be one of San Francisco's premiere cultural districts. In addition to YBCA and the Yerba Buena Gardens, it is home to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), SF Camerawork, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the California Historical Society, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art and numerous contemporary art galleries.