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    Little Saigon and Tendernob

    Little Saigon and the Tendernob are two Tenderloin neighborhoods that are home to large immigrant populations and some of the best food in the city. Join us as we take you on the only food tour of this district and explore the flavors of Asia, the Middle East, and beyond!
  • The Mission

    The Mission District

    San Francisco's 1st neighborhood, The Mission District is still the heart & soul of this vibrant city. This area is so rich in culture, that we have 4 Mission food tours & 2 neighborhood walks.
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    North Beach

    North Beach is that rare thing -- a neighborhood that manages to be a perennial hit with tourists, and also to remain beloved by San Franciscans. It's San Francisco's Little Italy and the home of the beatniks.
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    Scenic Running

    Just a short run from the urban landscape of San Francisco's busy city streets you will find numerous trails and parks offering phenomenal views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the City Skyline and other gems.
  • Chinatown

    Chinatown

    Established in the 1840s, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Our food and walking tours are 2nd to none.
  • Parrots!

    Parrots!

    Wild Parrots in San Francisco? Yes there are officially at least two flocks of wild Parrots here. These Parrots have evolved into a brand new species of parrot indigenous to San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO’S HIDDEN GEMS: PUBLIC TENNIS COURTS

Hidden Gems of San Francisco (Published in the Westside Observer)

PUBLIC TENNIS COURTSGolden Gate Park Early Map

San Francisco is home to an extensive park system which contains a surprising number of public tennis courts in varied settings. Many are surrounded by stunning panoramic vistas that only San Francisco could serve up. Many of these courts seem to barely be used, while others are wildly popular. All the courts have a story to tell as many of them are over 100 years old, dating back to the era when tennis first became a worldwide phenomenon. Although tennis as we know it is an old sport, the roots of tennis are older still…

While evidence is thin on the ground, the game of tennis is believed to hark back thousands of years, with several indicators suggesting the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans played precursors to tennis. For example, the Arabic word for the palm of the hand is rahat, similar to the word racket, while the Egyptian town Tinnis again bears a resemblance to tennis. More substantial evidence emerges from around 1000, when French monks began playing a crude courtyard ball game. This sport, played against their monastery walls or over a rope hung across a courtyard, took on the name je de paume – ‘game of the hand.’ According to this theory, the word ‘tennis’ was coined by these monks, who would shout the word ‘tenez’, the French for ‘to take’, “take that”, while they served the ball.

In 1850: Charles Goodyear invented a process for rubber called vulcanization, which made the material used to make tennis balls significantly bouncier. As a result, tennis could now be more easily played by the masses, outdoors on dirt, clay, pavement or grass. At that time, the game was more often than not called “Lawn Tennis”. By this time, the foundations for modern tennis had been paved, and this sport surged in popularity

A few years later, in London in 1874, Major Walter C. Wingfield patented the first rules and equipment for tennis, which he called Sphairistike, the Greek for ‘playing at ball.’ The ubiquity of croquet at the time meant there was a ready supply of smooth outdoor courts, which proved easily adaptable for tennis. Tennis soon spread to Russia and Asia.

It wasn’t long before tennis arrived in the United States in the mid-1870s separately and independently in at least six different places.The first formal lawn tennis club in the Americas seems to have been formed in 1876 in New Orleans, after English merchants in the city on business brought the game over with them.But whether the first lawn tennis court in the Americas was set up in San Francisco (as many claim), in Nahant, Mass. (north of Boston), or Staten Island (New York), in Canada, or even at Camp Apache in the Arizona Territory, or elsewhere – all possibilities – the game quickly became popular with the leisure class, on Army posts, and wherever British merchants and diplomats traveled, which in the 19th century was everywhere.

Coinciding with the spread of tennis was the era of public park creation. In fact, there were two distinct periods in the history of American park building, each defined by a distinctive attitude towards “improving” nature: the romantic approach, which prevailed from the 1860s to the 1880s, emphasized the beauty of nature, while the rationalistic approach, dominant from the 1880s to the 1920s, saw nature as the best setting for uplifting activities such as and education and athletics, including tennis. Public parks were being installed in cities worldwide about the same time as San Francisco was evolving into a full-fledged city.

In 1865, when San Francisco’s Daily Evening Bulletin asked its readers if it were not time for the city to finally establish a public park, residents had only private gardens and small urban squares where they could retreat from urban crowding, noise, and filth. Five short years later, city supervisors approved the creation of Golden Gate Park, the second largest urban park in America. Over the next sixty years, and particularly after 1900, a network of smaller parks and parkways was built, turning San Francisco into one of the nation’s greenest cities.

As a result of the popularity of tennis and the concurrent building of parks throughout the city, San Francisco became home just shy of 150 public tennis courts. These beloved courts, free to the public, and rich in history, are yours to use whenever you like (Please note that the Board of Supervisors under Supervisor Weiner closed the parks at night.) Being on public land, they are free from the threat of development and should enrich our communities for generations to come. The same cannot be said for the Bay Club, which looks like it may be soon torn down to make way for condos.

If you would like to explore our city’s tennis courts here are two good places to start:

SF Tennis League http://tennissf.com/

Tennis Maps http://www.tennismaps.com/index.asp?regionid=64

Here are the some of the city’s most popular tennis courts:

Golden Gate Park Tennis Complex

The largest tennis complex in the city was built in 1901, 5 years before the great earthquake and fire. The park’s 21 hard-surface tennis courts are nestled between the Conservatory of Flowers and the Children’s Playground. The trees deter the wind from ruining your serve, and courts are typically first come, first served. Players of all levels go for pickup games and private and group lessons ($50 and $20). It’s also the site of the annual City Open.

Alice Marble Tennis Courts

It can get windy on top of Russian Hill in George Sterling Memorial Park, but the views of downtown, Alcatraz, the Marina, and Golden Gate Bridge make it worth the occasional wild serve. The four courts have modern Laykold flooring that provides more cushion and bounce absorption than your average clay court.

James Moffet Tennis Court

Venture to the Outer Sunset’s Parkside Square, where you’ll find four courts in top condition. They’re largely occupied by longtime neighbors who have been playing here for most of their lives, and as such, the regulars are a little protective of their turf. Hard flooring provides high-bouncing balls, and the surrounding pine trees give off a nice scent.

Explore San Francisco is a locally owned co-op of guides who help us explore and discover the City’s “hidden gems”. For more information on touring SF, check out their website at ExploreSanFrancisco.biz or call them at 415.793.1104

September 2014

 

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