Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

4.5 out of 5 stars 106 Reviews

501 Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 831-2700
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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Best Free thing #5

    by goodfish Updated May 17, 2010

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    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:

    http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/recpark/summershuttle.pdf

    And here is a nice map of the park:

    http://www.sfgov.org/site/recpark_page.asp?id=17796

    One note: The main visitor center at McLaren Lodge is only open during the week. Weird.

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

    Directions: N Judah Muni line is the best way to access the park via public transit. If feeling ambitious, take the line all the way to the ocean and walk the length of the park back, or other way around.

    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/asystem/routedesc.php?rted=N

    Website: http://www.sfgate.com/neighborhoods/sf/goldengatepark/

    One of the entrances, near Ocean Beach Botanical Garden Botanical Garden Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden A walk in the woods
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  • sunshine9689's Profile Photo

    Many things to do in the park

    by sunshine9689 Updated Jan 29, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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).

    ENJOY! :)

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

    Biking in the Park. de Young museum. Japanese Tea Garden. March, 2008
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  • mindcrime's Profile Photo

    huge park

    by mindcrime Written Jan 20, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Address: John F Kennedy Drive & Transverse Dr, San Francisc

    Directions: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

    Website: http://www.parks.sfgov.org

    cycling at Golden Gate Park jogging at Golden Gate Park Golden Gate Park Cervantes statue at Golden Gate Park
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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Golden Gate Park

    by Dabs Updated Oct 14, 2009

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    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

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

    Website: http://www.sfgov.org/site/recpark_page.asp?id=17796

    Japanese Gardens Roses in the Botanic Garden Waterfall in Golden Gate Park Lounging bison Dutch Windmill

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    An ocean of green in San Francisco

    by Jefie Updated Oct 5, 2009

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    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!

    Directions: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton and Stanyan St.

    The colors of Golden Gate Park Shakespeare Garden at Golden Gate Park At the Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park Monument to Miguel de Cervantes, Golden Gate Park
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  • rkearns's Profile Photo

    wave organ

    by rkearns Written Sep 15, 2008

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    Another non-touristy thing to do is to head to the wave organ. It's a structure created with concrete and old tombstones to make sounds generated by the waves that hit the pipes which are set at the base of the tides.
    The wave organ is by the Marina. Just get to the Marina and walk toward Chrissy Field and the Yacht club. Take the road that juts out into the bay (about a 10 minute walk) and it ends at the wave organ. If you have problems finding it, ask any Marina local. There is not as much sound produced during low tide but from it, you can see downtown, particularly architecture associated with SF (Coit tower, Transamerica pyramid, etc.).

    partial view from the wave organ

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  • Karnubawax's Profile Photo

    Golden Gate Park

    by Karnubawax Updated Jun 6, 2008

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    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.

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan

    Directions: The 'N Judah' Line runs parallel to the park 2 blocks south of Lincoln and runs all the way to the beach. On the north side, the #5 bus runs the length of Fulton Street.

    Strybing Arboraetum

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  • poetjo's Profile Photo

    The Botanical Gardens

    by poetjo Updated Jan 29, 2008

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    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.

    Address: 9th Ave & Lincoln Way

    Phone: (415) 564-3239

    Website: http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org

    Japanese Moon Garden
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  • shohman's Profile Photo

    a let down

    by shohman Written Jan 16, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

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  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo

    The Japanese Tea Garden-Golden Gate Park

    by VeronicaG Updated Aug 22, 2007

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    I think Japanese Tea Gardens exude tranquility, don't you? The winding pathways, footbridges and ponds teeming with koi make these gardens a pleasure to visit. So it is with Golden Gate's Japanese Tea Garden.

    This serene gardenscape accented with vivid red Pagodas and Japanese inspired sculpture is a place of peaceful contemplation. Even with the hoards of visitors that stop by to enjoy its beauty.

    The garden was created and overseen by Maokota Hagiwara and his family. It was lovingly tended until WWII, which led to the internment of this family. Through the years, this garden has become a respite from the busyness of San Francisco streets.

    picture #2 gardenscape
    picture #3 footbridge
    picture #4 reflecting pool

    FYI: The Hagiwaras contributed a unique tradition to Japanese dining: the fortune cookie

    Address: Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA.

    Directions: Between JFK and Martin Luther King Streets

    Phone: 415-752-4227

    The Japanese Tea Garden Tranquil landscape Picturesque foot bridge A Peaceful Reflecting Pool
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  • heryanta's Profile Photo

    Serenity in the city

    by heryanta Written Aug 14, 2007

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    Golden Gate Park is a huge park located at Northwest San Francisco.

    I like this park because unlike the most famous park in the US, the Central park, when you are inside you cannot see the skyscrapers and buildings in the city. Thus you can totally relax and detach from the chaos and the hectic modern living.

    There are a lot to do at the park: you can of course jog, picnic and do the usual park-things but there are also attractions worth seeing including the Japanese garden, the conservatory, and de Young museum of fine arts.

    I spent half a day at the park but if you like nature you can spend the whole day - a truly great way to relax and detach.

    Address: Northwest San Francisco

    Directions: You can take the Muni line N from Downtown (Powell) to Ocean Beach Station

    Website: http://www.golden-gate-park.com

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  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo

    An Aged Buddha-Japanese Tea Garden

    by VeronicaG Updated Aug 10, 2007

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    A paved walkway wound throughout the gardens, taking visitors up a gentle knoll and down, around a gnarled tree, past the still waters and sometimes to unanticipated breaks in the landscape (pictures 2 & 3).

    When you emerge from the lush plantings and little hidden spaces, you'll soon come across this hefty bronze Buddha. He sits to one side of the pathway, beneath a leafy bower of trees.

    The piece was cast in 1790 in Japan and is named, Buddha Who Sits Through Sun and Rain Without Shelter, which seems very appropriate!

    Address: Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA

    Phone: 415-752-4227

    Bronze Buddha Secluded Walkways An Exotic Landscape
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  • worldkiwi's Profile Photo

    Relax in peaceful Golden Gate Park

    by worldkiwi Written May 12, 2007

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    For a low cost, relaxing day in San Francisco, take a bus out to Golden Gate Park in the western suburbs. This surprisingly extensive park is home to a beautiful Japanese garden with a popular tea-house that you have to queue for if you want to sit and sip tea in a picture postcard setting, while tourists gawk and take photos of you. To enter the Japanese garden you must pay a small fee of about US$3.50 from memory. The Strybing Arbouretum is located in the park too, and makes a really interesting stroll. There is a section of the arbouretum dedicated to trees from New Zealand. Watching squirrels play in a pohutukawa tree is a strange experience!
    Take a picnic lunch and enjoy a sunny day in the peaceful surrounds of Golden Gate Park.

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

    Directions: Buses #5, 7, 71 and 21 will get you to Golden Gate Park from the downtown area.

    Golden Gate Park. Japanese Teahouse, Golden Gate Park.
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  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Golden Gate Park

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Apr 25, 2007

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    Golden Gate Park is larger than New York's Central Park and is considered the third most visited city park in America after Central Park and Lincoln Park in Chicago. The park was created in the 1870s and has been continually upgraded and developed while maintaining a very peaceful, serene natural environment. During my visit I walked a few of the trails on the north side of the park around Lloyd Lake then took a driving tour of the entire park perimeter stopping at various sites such as the Conservatory of Flowers, the Windmill and Tulip Gardens, the Stow Lake Drive, and the Music Concourse Area. Unfortunately I arrived in the early evening when the Japanese Tea Gardens were closed. The Park is also home to the De Young Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, the AIDS Memorial Grove, Spreckels Lake, various athletic fields, and a herd of bison. Throughout the year the park holds a variety of events including numerous 5k and 10k runs, charity walks, concerts, and art exhibits.

    There is a lot of parking along all of the park's roads with a four-hour limit, but you can also use the garage at 10th and Fulton at an expensive $2.50 to $3 per hour.

    Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.

    Directions: The park is easily accessible from Highway 1 which cuts across its center.

    Website: http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide/sf/neighborhoods/ggpark.shtml

    Trail through the trees LLoyd Lake The Music Concourse near the De Young Museum Conservatory of Flowers The Dutch windmill at the tulip gardens

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  • Tom_Fields's Profile Photo

    Golden Gate Park's Panhandle

    by Tom_Fields Written Jan 7, 2007

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    If you approach Golden Gate Park from the east (from around Market St), you pass through this delightful little "panhandle" area, a strip of greenery with footpaths. Think of it as an appetizer before the main course.

    Address: Bounded by Fell, Baker, Oak, and Stanyan St

    Directions: From Market St, head west on Fell or Oak St (towards Golden Gate Park).

    Phone: (415) 831-2700

    Website: http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/site/recpark_index.asp

    Golden Gate Park's Panhandle area Statue of President Garfield Park benches Warning: Death Monsters Ahead
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Comments (1)

  • Aug 9, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Can I visit the Botanical Gardens at Strybing Arboretum during music festivals at Golden Gate Park without having to go to or pay for the music festival (I have no interest in going to the music festival).

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Aug 9, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Welcome to VT. Very few people will see your question here. If you re-post it in the VT San Francisco travel forum you will get some helpful replies. Either use the 'Instant Answers' box directly above your post or go straight to the forum by clicking this link:

      forum.virtualtourist.com/San...