The park is cleverly planted so that there's something interesting to look at whatever the season. If you're seriously into botanicals, you'll go nuts here. I couldn't tell you the names of most of the blooming flora along our springtime walk but it didn't really matter; the eye candy was enough.
Below is a webpage that tells you what blossoms/foliage you'll see in any given month.
You can rent motor, paddle or rowboats by the hour on Stow Lake. It's not a swimming lake and the water looked pretty thick and nasty anyway so being ON rather than IN it is preferable. The boathouse is on the southwest side of the of the lake and they rent bikes and blades too. Best information I can get is that watercraft rent for around $20 - $25 an hour, depending on the type, with a maximum of 4 allowed in each boat - including infants. The rental office is open daily from 9:00 - 5:00 (last rentals at 4:00) weather permitting, and they don't take credit cards - cash only.
If San Francisco's hills have trashed your knees, go for the rowboat - then you can trash your shoulders too and even things out.
See the park map for location:
Like Central Park in NYC (which, incidentally, was the inspiration for GGP's master plan), Golden Gate Park could be a California destination all by itself: over one thousand acres in area, four miles long, and enough fun stuff to keep the active visitor busy for days.
I'd seen bits and pieces of the Mother of San Francisco Parks in the past and decided it was time to trot the thing from end to end. Trot we did: through gardens and plazas; past lakes and sunny playgrounds; through shaded groves and grassy meadows. It took the better part of a day and we STILL didn't see it all.
So, what to do in the park? If watching your pennies, take the kids to the playground, sunbathe on Ocean Beach, wander seasonal gardens of tulips, roses, rhododendrons and other botanical varieties, picnic, catch a Sunday swing dance lesson and occasional summer concert, or play Frisbee golf (bring your own) for free. If you have a bit more to spend, rent a bike or roller blades, paddle a boat on Stow Lake, play 9 holes of golf, brave the bus-tour hordes at the Japanese Tea Garden or cruise the art at the de Young Museum.
I'll cover some of this stuff in separate tips but the website (below) will give you the complete list of activities, directions and some helpful links.
Because it's so big, summer weekends are a great time to visit so you can grab a shuttle to various points in the park. It only runs on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays and costs $2.00 for an all-day pass. See the website here:
And here is a nice map of the park:
One note: The main visitor center at McLaren Lodge is only open during the week. Weird.
Wether you are a family with kids, young/senior couple or group of friends, Golden Gate Park offers a pretty wide range of things to do. You can literally spend a whole day here and:
- bike its 6 miles long trails. Read my Renting a Bike tip for rental locations.
- Enjoy a ride on a Carousel.
- visit de Young museum ($10. FREE on the 1st Tuesday of a month. Once inside, museum docents offer FREE tours).
- visit Japanese Tea Garden ($5 or FREE on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9am and 10am. Located on the left side of de Young museum, it offers FREE 1 hour tours every Wednesday and Sunday at 1pm at the main gate).
- visit Conservatory of Flowers ($5. FREE on the 1st Tuesday of a month).
- rent a paddle boat and explore the Stow lake.
- Buffalo Padlock can be quite interesting, especially for children.
- visit not too far away SF Zoo ($11. FREE on the 1st Wednesday of a month).
- visit Botanical Garden (FREE. Offers free guided walks daily).
You can easily spend a day at Golden Gate Park. It’s the ideal place if you want to cycle, jog, go for picnic, just walk around or visit the Japanese Tea Gardens or some of the museums that are located inside the park (DeYoung museum, Academy Of Science etc). For personal reasons Central Park in NY is number one but this one easily rises to second position.
The park is huge (covering the area west of Haight district till the pacific ocean!) and you can easily get lost on the maze of different paths but who cares, we enjoyed every corner of it. We even attended a bluegrass festival here! It takes place annually and if you are into music you will love it. It’s free by the way :) You can have a panoramic view of the park from the top of DeYoung museum. You also rent a rowboat at Stow Lake, walk around Botanical Gardens or take your children to the carousel. The park was created William Hamond Hall in 1871.
I was really looking forward to spending a day in Golden Gate Park checking out the sights, I researched renting bicycles and all the things you could do there but the weather was rather dreary and I wasn't feeling great so we ended up skipping the bike rental and walking through the entire length of the park which is 3 miles across and a 1/2 mile wide, we zigged and zagged a lot so all told we probably walked quite a bit more than 3 miles.
We started from the east side of the park where they were setting up for an Opera in the Park performance, we passed through the National AIDS memorial garden, took a peek at the Japanese garden although we passed on going in (small admission charge, free admission on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9-10 am), through the botanic gardens (free) and then a long walk until we got to the bison paddock where we saw some lounging bison. The 1st bison were brought to the park in 1891 when they were practically extinct, now there's a thriving population in North America. Our final stop was at the Dutch windmill where they were having a wedding before heading on to see Ocean Beach and the Cliff House.
There's a ton more to see in the Park that we just didn't have time for, the De Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers and an abundance of recreational activities plus some seaonsal flower displays that weren't in bloom while we were there. SF Gate has a great rundown of all the things to do and see in the park and how best to get around
If green spaces are few and far between in San Francisco, one could say that Golden Gate Park does its best to make up for it! Created at the end of the 19th century, the park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. One of the main inspirations for Golden Gate Park was New York City's Central Park, which had just been completed a few years before. However, Golden Gate Park is considerably larger, leaving enough room for such features as the Japanese Tea Garden, a Shakespeare Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, an arboretum, and two large museums: the California Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum.
Because we were a bit pressed for time, we only had time to cover the eastern part of the park, but that was sufficient to give us a pretty good hint as to what hidden wonders one might discover in this beautiful park. The Shakespeare Garden, in which all the plants mentioned in the English playwright's works are grown, was small but delightful, as were the little walking trails winding through the park. Several monuments dedicated to famous writers and musicians are spread throughout Golden Gate Park, such as the one to Cervantes which I spotted as we were exiting the park.
Because it is so big, I think you could spend several days at the park and you still would not have seen everything it has to offer. Next time I'll make sure to rent a bike or use the shuttle service to see more of Golden Gate Park!
The completely reconstructed Steinhardt Aquarium again places San Francisco at the top of the heap in this sort of presentation. Folks from Southern California ought to visit this, because there's nothing down there to compare. Even the Long Beach Aquarium doesn't measure up. I actually like the Monterey Bay Aquarium slightly better, because it has otter shows and natural pumped in seawater right on the coast, but the Steinhardt no doubt uses ocean saltwater and has many exhibits of undersea life that are thematically arranged by selected regions of the world. The largest tanks are devoted to California's Pacific undersea habitat, with separate tanks representing the Southern and Northern California undersea ecosystem. The Northern California kelp forest tank is very large and impressive. Some specimens, such as the giant sea bass shown here, are endangered species.
If you like gardens don't miss Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers. It includes over 2000 plant species from various temperate zones including lowland tropics, highland tropics and aquatic plants.
From March to November every year they also have a large Butterfly exhibit called: The Butterfly Zone.
Tip: Eat something sugary with your hands before you go in and the butterflys will be all over you!
Hours are Tuesday - Sunday, 9am - 5pm. The Conservatory is closed Mondays.
$5.00 for Adults
$3.00 for Youth 12-17, Seniors 65 & over, and Students with ID
$1.50 for Children 5 - 11
FREE for Children 4 and under
The Conservatory is free to all visitors on the first Tuesday of every month.
The California Academy of Science is a wonderful way to spend the day with the kids, especially if it is raining. It includes an extremely large coral reef aquarium and numerous smaller aquarium exhibits some of which are unique only to this aquarium.
There is also a large rainforest exhibit - a large sperical dome in which the walkway spirals around so you can experience the different levels of the rainforest. Tropical birds, butterflys and frogs fly and hop around while you spiral upward.
There are anumber of interactive exhibits for the kids including virtual bug catching and rainforest floor.
Tickets prices: $25 for adults, $20 for youth (12-17), $15 for child (7-11)
We walked & drove over the bridge, enjoyed the gift shop & historical information re. this bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed in 1937 and has become an internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco. Despite its red appearance, the color of the bridge is officially an orange vermilion called international orange. The color was selected by consulting architect Irving Morrow because it blends well with the natural surroundings yet enhances the bridge's visibility in fog.
GGP is a HUGE park, modeled after New York's Central Park. There's some great history here, and, normally, a lot of cool sights as well. However, GGP is undergoing a major renovation, and some of the tourist attractions are closed and will be closed for the near future.
Going from East to West, GGP actually starts with the Panhandle, an 8-block long/1-block wide strip of park containing a nice bike trail, basketball courts, and dog-walking spaces. It is bound by Oak & Fell Streets, which are both major thoroughfares - making the Panhandle a very pretty freeway meridian. No reason to come.
At the East End of GGP proper, where Haight Street ends, is Alvord Lake - easily the worst part of the park. Lots and lots of homeless, bums, and drug dealers. Definitely avoid this area at night! The good news is it quickly gets better. As you go under the bridge and past the softball diamond you will come to Sharon Meadow - site of the original "Be-ins" in the 60's. The hill to the right is "Hippie Hill."
Moving west, you pass tennis courts, bowling greens, and the impossible-to-miss Conservatory of Flowers. The Dahlia garden next to the Conservatory is spectacular (if it's bloomin' season).
If you'll all look at your maps, you'll see a large oval near 9th Ave, containing the museums and music concourse. This is the area under construction. The new DeYoung is finished and open, but the Hall of Science won't be until October 2008. Don't miss the Rose Garden behind the DeYoung! Ninth Avenue a block south of the park is also a little shopping district, with some nice restaurants and cafes.
The Strybing Arboraetum is a great hidden treasure of SF, and, best of all, it's FREE!
As you go West, the park gets wilder and the crowds thin out. There are great biking trails, pretty lakes, redwood groves and gardens. Now, more than usual, I would recommend spending time here rather than in the more touristed Eastern part.
9th Ave & Lincoln Way
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 564-3239 San Francisco Botanical Garden
Category: Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens is my favorite spot in all of the City. I try and get out there once a week. I don't know that much about plants etc... but I love being surrounded by nature while still being within the City limits.
I come here to find inspiration, to take photos and to write. It's absolutely beautiful seeing all the lush greenery and tropical plant settings. I usually spend at least 4 to 5 hours there just exploring and writing. There's so much to see and learn that even as often as I go I always find something new.
The best time to visit is early in the morning during the week when there are not that many people around and you can just experience, the birds singing, the leaves rustling and the squirrels playing along the paths. You may even be lucky enough to see people practicing their morning tai chi ritual with traditional Asian music - simply beautiful.
For you photographers out there this is a must. You can even bring a picnic lunch and spread out and enjoy the beauty the gardens has to offer. There are also guided tours available on a daily basis however I like to go and explore on my own.
You'll love it.
I was Really looking forward to Golden Gate Park, but withing 10 minutes of being there, I had been approached 10 times by dealers offering 'nuggets'
quite sad, really. I'm sure the park is very nice, but I grew tired of this quick and left pretty quickly.
After 5 years and a complete tear down and rebuild, the MH DeYoung Museum is finally open again!
Now, to start off, let me say again that San Francisco has had a reputation for having not very good museums - and the old DeYoung was often sited as an example. The new DeYoung, however, is a vast improvement! The architecture is bold and provocative, eliciting all kinds of praise and grumbles from locals.
Is it a great museum, artwise? I would have to say... probably not. But the overall package of the architecture, the setting, the views from the observation deck, and (some of) the art make it a must see. It is also right next to the Japanese Tea Garden, scross from the soon-to-be-opened Academy of Sciences, very close to Strybing Arboraetum, a few blocks away from the 9th Avenue shopping district, and about a mile or so away from the Haight/Ashbury, so you can make a very enjoyable day out of the area.
Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for youths, but you get $2 off for showing your MUNI transfer or pass! Your ticket also provides same-day admission to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, which is a long ways away, but is actually even better than the DeYoung (artwise, at least).
When you get in, check out the cool courtyards and entryway! The first floor contains a largely uninspiring assortment 20th c. and Contemporary art. The good news is it gets better on the 2nd floor. The African Art is amazing, as is the collection from Oceania and New Guinea. These two areas alone are worth the price of admission.
The observation tower looms 9 stories over GGP, and has incredible 360 degree views. The other 4 photos are taken from there.
Tuesday thru Sunday, 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Open 'till 8:45 PM on Friday