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Honking cars, relentless construction and crowds of people from the newest startup making the line at your favorite lunch haunt waaaay too long… Sometimes you seriously consider moving to Iowa. But there are some urban safe havens from all the chaos. Here are some of our favorite spots to hide out when you just need some me-time.

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Fun Cheap SF

SF Botanical Garden

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Ninth Avenue (we simply can’t fight for a parking spot any longer) and treat yourself to a stroll through the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Since it’s free for residents (as long as you have ID), it’s a great place to stop for some quick midday quiet time. For an especially zen break, check out the Japanese-inspired Moon Viewing Garden, located in the mild-temperate climate section of the garden’s northwest corner.

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The Roof Garden at One Kearny

Enter the building at 23 Geary Street and take the elevator to the 11th floor. (Nod patiently as the lobby attendant rattles off some ground rules.) When the doors open, a 2,500-square-foot penthouse park with manicured bushes, benches and downtown views awaits. Bring your lunch or a good book and let the stress of the day melt away. Bonus: There’s a sparklingly clean bathroom, should nature come a-calling.

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Bay Area Dance Watch

Grace Cathedral

Don’t let the church part throw you. This is one of the most beautiful, tranquil and welcoming places in town. Walk the labyrinth anytime you need to quietly reflect or simply escape the frenzied pace of life outside. There’s even donation-based yoga here every Tuesday evening.

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100 Pine Street

Home to the New York Life Insurance Company and the Consulate General of Ireland, this hidden gem offers free access whether you work there or not. Decidedly modern with minimalist metal chairs, black granite floors, sculptures and a trickling fountain, this space feels more like a museum than a FiDi hideout. Look for the ramp next to the building’s parking garage and take the stairs up to the garden.

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Randy Dodson

James Turrell’s Skyspace at the De Young

Next time you venture to the De Young, skip the crowds and make your way to the side courtyard adjacent to the museum’s cafeteria. Follow the signs for James Turrell’s “Three Gems,” a site-specific work that was commissioned for the museum in 2005. Once inside, peerupward through the sculpture’s oculus, where the color of the sky changes depending on the time of day and the shifting LED lights in the domed space. It’s one of the most contemplative spots in the city, and few patrons even realize it’s there--free of admission.

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UCI

The Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park has so many little pockets and hidden groves, and if you haven’t yet stumbled upon the Shakespeare Garden, make it a new priority on your to-do list. Verdant with plants referenced in the bard’s work, the open space is tucked away just enough that most people miss it. Look for it right off Music Concourse Drive between MLK Jr. Drive and the California Academy of Sciences.  

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Chris Chabot/Flickr

555 California

You probably wouldn’t guess that we’d send you to one of the city’s largest skyscrapers for some peace and quiet, huh? Don’t worry, we would never lead you astray. This wondrous ground-floor garden (take the stairs to the promenade a few steps above the street) boasts a serene bamboo pond and olive trees, plus a huge black granite sculpture cheekily nicknamed “The Banker’s Heart.”

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