San Franciscans have perfected the art of bringing the Great Outdoors in

May 2, 2004
Outside
Outside Magazine
Destinations, April 1997


City guide:
Glissading? That's on Level Two.


San Franciscans have perfected the art of bringing the Great Outdoors in
By Dana Sullivan


San Franciscans tend to believe in looking sleek and in being outdoors. Unfortunately, springtime often conspires against them: When it's not wet, it's chilly. So making a virtue of barometric adversity, athletes here have avidly brought the outdoors in, creating some of the country's most offbeat indoor "gyms."

For climbers, the city's closest approximation of Yosemite is at Mission Cliffs Rock Climbing Center (415-550-0515), one of the largest indoor climbing facilities in the country. Its 14,000-square-foot gym has lead-rope and top-rope areas, more than 30 belay stations, and four 55-foot routes. You can also practice overhang moves at the 3,000-square-foot bouldering area. A day pass costs $14.

Prefer blading to bouldering? San Francisco has the nation's largest indoor roller hockey arena, Bladium (415-442-5060), which hosts nightly pickup games--so popular that three-day advance reservations are required, making the term "pickup" a bit dubious. A one-game pass costs $10. Pads, helmet, and skates can be rented for an additional $10.

Beach volleyball is also plenty popular here--and who needs the seashore? At City Beach (510-428-9252), 20 minutes from downtown San Francisco in Emeryville, an artificial beachscape has been built inside a big, open warehouse. The gym has two heated sand volleyball courts, as well as traditional hard courts. Pickup games run every Friday and Saturday night--no reservations required here--with weekday nights devoted to drills. A guest pass costs $5.

Even many of San Francisco's more traditional gyms skew toward the trendy, with a particular emphasis on the mind-body axis. For instance, at its two locations, the new Gorilla Sports offers classes in yoga, dance therapy, power sculpting, spinning, and boxing--but de-emphasizes dance aerobics. A first visit is free; after that, a day pass is $10. Call 415-777-4653 or 415-474-2699.

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