KQED Guides

Seven Quiet Spots to Read Outdoors

Updated: June 2, 2014

Flickr: Brit Selvitelle

One of the best parts of summer are the moments when you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything and you have a really fantastic book to sink into, or a deliciously long magazine article, and a pair of sunglasses and the sun is shining.

If you don’t have a backyard, it can be hard to find the perfect spot to stretch out and immerse yourself in a story without a barista glaring at you while you sit for three hours on the patio, nursing one tea. So whether you’re looking for a great sunny spot for a read on the weekend, or if you’re at work and looking for an outdoor break, check out these spots. Warning: The views can be distracting, but a little daydreaming doesn’t hurt.

Flickr: rick


This little-known spot is a refuge from the crowds in North Beach and Lombard Street in the summers. The building itself is generally open to the public and you can check out the galleries and the adorable fountain in the entrance. But the real secret spot is the roof, which looks out over the Bay. The friendly security guards won’t bother you at all and there are bathrooms!


If you’re looking for a park with a view in San Francisco, but don’t want to be bothered by a nearby party, head to McKinley Square, at the top of Potrero Hill off 20th and Vermont. Here you can bring a blanket and, if it isn’t too windy, lay with your book in the sun for hours, pretty much alone except for a few locals walking their dogs (the lawn is an off-leash dog area, but there are very few dogs around). When you’re done reading, check out the nearby community garden, then walk down Vermont, the genuine most crooked street in San Francisco.


China Basin is best known as the home of the San Francisco Giants, but when the team’s not playing, it’s an area that deserves exploration. Start in Dogpatch and ride your bike along Terry A. Francois Boulevard until you find the perfect view of piers and ships and the right picnic table or bench to watch it from, when you need a break from your book. While it’s rapidly changing, there’s still something a little other-worldly about this once industrial part of town.


Sometimes the quiet place can be as small as a bench surrounded by other people. The Jack London Square docks are a good place to become immersed in your own silent moment while the hustle and bustle of traffic goes on around you.

Flickr: jdnx


If you’re searching for a quiet place with trees and solitude, try Stern Grove in the outer Sunset (during the week when no concerts are happening). Bring your book and a blanket and pretend like you are a woodland fairy for the afternoon.


Crissy Field can be a little bit hectic on a sunny weekend day with all the beach-goers. It can also be windy. That said, it has a wonderful view and plenty of places to spread out a blanket (maybe bring another one to wrap yourself up in) and while away an afternoon. One excellent bonus: great people watching when you finish your book!


The nice thing about the Berkeley Rose Garden is that no supplies are needed for maximum enjoyment and relaxation. No blankets, no chairs — just bring yourself and your book and you will find benches and steps to sit on and roses all around you to smell. It’s not hard to find a nice secluded spot and if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your attitude about such things) you might run into a wedding.


– By Lizzy Acker


  • http://www.facebook.com/phyllis.roach.16 Phyllis Roach

    Berkeley Marina on a Sunday morning with coffee – pre-kite fliers.

  • allyson

    The Kaiser rooftop garden in downtown Oakland. http://www.kaisergarden.com/