What’s bigger than Central Park, adjacent to the beach and home to a herd of buffalo? Golden Gate Park is all those things and more to adoring San Franciscans who flock to the park in droves on weekends to the tune of 75,000 people strong. What are they doing you may ask? Well, you name it. Fly fishing, paddle boating, rollerblading, riding a carousel, walking in Japanese gardens, gawking at windmills or bison and any number of physical activities. Amazing in itself but even more so when you consider that a century and a half ago, this was all sand dunes with nary a tree in sight while now they outnumber all the people in the city. Being so close to The Haight, it has its hippie past and the end closest to it is still a bit seedy, but once you get to the meat of the matter or close to the beach, a more refined though thoroughly enjoyable park awaits you.
Golden Gate Park is over 3 miles long & 9 blocks wide, 1017 acres.
GG Shuttle is free & picks up riders at 15-minute intervals at 15 locations in the Park on summer weekends & holidays from 10:00am-6:00pm through Oct.
Conservatory of Flowers: Since 1879, the oldest glass-and-wood Victorian greenhouse in the Western Hemisphere with more than 10,000 plants from around the world. After damage during a 1995 storm, it is now open after a $25 million restoration. The plant life is spectacular.
Japanese Tea Garden: Many people's favorite part of the park, hidden throughout its five acres are beautiful sculptures & bridges.
Strybing Arboretum: this 70-acre horticultural extravaganza entices the senses with more than 6,000 plant species. The garden of fragrance brings flowers alive with scent alone. www.strybing.org
GG Park also offers:Archery, Basketball, Biking & Skating with 7 miles of paved trails that lead you by lush waterfalls & gardens, Dog Runs, Flycasting pools considered some of the best in the country, A nine-hole public golf course, Twenty-one Tennis Courts, Team Sports, Live Buffalo roaming on grassy acres.
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.
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.
Golden Gate Park is a bus ride from downtown, but well-worth the effort. It's a long, narrow park with more acreage than New York's Central Park; it offers something for everyone. Just a few of the things you can do in the Park:
·Take a ride on one of the few remaining wooden carousels in the country.
·Visit San Francisco's herd of bison in the buffalo paddock.
·Sip a cup of green tea in the Japanese Tea Garden.
·Whiz through the Park on rented roller blades, bikes, or Segways.
·Walk through a huge greenhouse, the Conservatory of Flowers, that contains waterfalls and 2,000 types of plants.
·Rent a pedal boat on Stow Lake for a closeup look at the turtles and ducks.
·See a real Dutch windmill.
·Buy a ticket to the Academy of Sciences and see the planetarium, rainforest exhibit, and the Steinhart Aquarium.
Be sure to download a map of the park before you go. It's a large park, and you could wander around all day if you don't know where you're going.
Larger than Central Park in New York, Golden Gate Park is a great escape from the urban jungle of SF.
There are so many things to do here and you feel like your a long way from the city. Activities include:
~ Watching the buffalo roam around several acres grazing away,
visiting the Japanese Tea Gardens,
~The arboretum (a flower garden that includes many plant life from different climates), Stowe lake which you can rent a paddle or row boat and get your self around),
~2 playgrounds and an 87 yr. old carousel for the kids, a rose garden,
~ California Academy of Sciences
~ waterfalls ( which when you hike to the top this gives you an amazing view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge)
~and plenty of live events including, live comedy in the park ( I caught Dave Chappelle there unexpectedly doing a free show one day a few years back),
~Reggae in the park,
~Opera in the park , and many other types of shows.
~There is always something going on here so if you're visiting this is a great way to spend one or two of your days.
Recently opened after years of extensive storm damage and earthquake retrofitting, the Conservatory of Flowers, in Golden Gate Park, is one of the most beautiful of its kind. Originally constructed in 1879, the wood and glass structure houses more than 10,000 plants from arround the world.
Open Tuesday - Sunday, 9:00 to 4:30
Admission $1.50 - $5.00
Favorite thing: Giant water lilies that can hold a small child. (but don't try it!)
A great retreat from the city. Beautiful and filled with smaller gardens and couryards within the park. Some of the highlights are: The conservatory of flowers, a Victorian Greenhouse built in 1879 that has just been refurbished and re-opened last year. There's the Japanese Tea Garden which is lovely and tranquil, the Legion of Honor Museum, and the Strybing Arboretum begun as a WPA project which contains over 6,000 plant species. Plus horseback riding, tennis, golf
and picnic grounds. Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park in New York City.
Can you believe not far ago it was all dunes? And now is a massive garden with gardens, lakes, waterfalls, bridges, etc..... Of course Museums and cultural attractions.....
What a size 3 miles long and one and a half wide! You can get easily lost there!
Golden Gate Park is a green oasis where locals as well as tourists have a rest from the daily chores or the sightseeing stress.
The park is huge - even larger than New Yorks Central Park. When we visited on a Saturday a lot of people enjoyed the various recreational possibilities. So we had the occasion to listen to a free concert of a brass orchestra while lying on the lawn and enjoying the sun.
If you are interested in gardening visit the Japanese Tea Garden. You have to pay entrance fee there but it's a nice spot.
Golden Gate Park is bigger than New York’s Central Park, and has over one million trees, nine lakes, several fly casting pools and a lily pond. It covers 1,013 acres and about three miles long and a half mile wide. You can rent a boat and paddle around Stow Lake the largest of the lakes.
The Japanese Tea Garden is very popular, there was a long line to enter and it costs $4 - adults and $2 - children, so passed on this garden to see the lakes and the botanical gardens.
The Japanese garden is known as a wet walking garden, although it has a Zen garden, and a dry garden area as well. The Japanese Tea Garden was first developed as the Japanese Village at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, or World's Fair. It’s the oldest public Japanese Tea Garden in the United States. Probably should have stood in line to see it..next time.
Besides the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens to see, there is the California Academy of Science building.
We'd plodded the entire stretch of the park (and then some) so were good and thirsty by the time we reached Ocean Beach. What's this?? Nirvana! A microbrewery with an outdoor oasis, live band and heaps of happy humans lounging in the sunshine! OK, we're in.
The chalet is a 1920's-era structure which once offered changing rooms for beach-goers and later served a short stint as a barracks. Today it contains a second-floor eatery with sweeping views of the ocean (Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant), a more casual bar/cafe with outdoor seating on the first floor (Park Chalet Garden Restaurant), and a visitor center for Golden Gate Park. It also retains some great murals, mosaics and carvings produced in 1930's under the WPA program.
Give it a go to see the artwork and swill a couple of their microbrews on the lawn. Can't vouch for the food 'cause we didn't eat but the place was packed so it must be good. See the website for brew list, hours, events, weekend music schedule, happy hours, menus and other stuff.
Golden Gate Park is as huge as it is beautiful. Once you are inside, you forget all about the fact that you are in a major US city. It contains many smaller parks within its limits, such as the Japanese Tea Garden and some beautiful botanical gardens. You owe it your self to spend at least a couple of hours here.
Looking at backsides from a stroller all day gets old in a hurry so give the wee folk (and yourself) a break at the Koret Children's Quarter. This awesome kid's heaven has been a park fixture since 1887 and is said to be the nation's very first public playground. The equipment is thankfully not original - it's been recently updated with everything a tot could desire: swings, slides, stuff to climb on, jungle gyms, playhouses, sand piles and water-play area. Large parts are also covered with a soft, cushioned surface to reduce skinned knees. Restrooms are nearby - nice for the recently potty-trained set. Most of the activities are geared for kids 3 and up but there's enough to keep the toddlers busy too.
There's a small concession stand for drinks and snacks, and a fabulous carousel; not free but only $1 for kids 6-12, and $2 for a grownup with a little one under 5 and under.
Bring a picnic for lunch on the lawn, bandaids, wet wipes and a dry, clean change of clothes for after enthusiastic play in the puddles. And do keep a sharp eye on them - this is not a secured (fenced) area so make sure they don't wander away or are approached by strangers.
See the park map for location:
See the website below for parking (if driving), hours and operating times for the carousel. Wish I had more pix but parents are understandably nervous with shutter bugs around their kids so just a quick shot from a distance here.
The largest and best known park in San Francisco is the 1,017 acre Golden Gate Park. Its history goes back to 1870 when the site was an area of wild sand dunes. At the time, the area , known as 'outside lands', was well outside the city's developed limits. A three-mile rectangle of green that runs from the upper Haight all the way to the beach, Golden Gate is one of the best urban parks in America and offers something for almost every city dweller, and a whole lot of visitors besides.
In 1871, William Hall Civil engineer was hired as superintendent of the park to convert the sand dunes into forested parkland. Innovative sand reclamation techniques were used and a dike was built to protect the park from the sea. In 1887 nature lover, John McLaren succeeded William Hall, and during the next 56 years he planted thousands of trees and converted the area into the park as we know it today.
Today the park is popular for its sports facilities which include tennis, pétanque, golf, fly-fishing, biking, inline skating, archery, handball and horseback riding. On weekends, the meadows in the park are used by many visitors as picnic grounds. Attracting more than 12 million visitors yearly, Golden Gate Park is a great place to feel far away from the hustle & bustle of the city. I have fond memories of breaking out the Frisbee and tossing it with friends. Of course the hair is just a fond memory also.
Nature lover? Wander through jungle-like rhododendron dells, trickling waterfalls and a million trees. Music lover? Catch a concert at the outdoor bandstand or join the everlasting drum circle on what locals call Hippie Hill. Just a lover? Rent a rowboat on Stow Lake or get married at the Shakespeare garden.
While the park also houses main attractions (Conservatory of Flowers; M.H. De Young Museum; Japanese Tea Garden, Buffalo paddock, Morrison Planetarium, Asian Art Museum, Steinhart Aquarium and the Strybing arboretum.), I don’t think of them as really part of the park. See info on them on separate entries.