Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California
If you are planning a trip to San Francisco, you might have heard about Golden Gate Park from friends and family or even found it via an internet search of the best attractions in the city. Well we are here to tell you that this park absolutely deserves to be on everybody’s list of things to see in San Francisco, but there’s a lot you need to know.
First of all, Golden Gate Park is huge. It has over 1000 acres of land and most of it you can explore. How big is 1000 urban acres? Well the perimeter of the park measures to over seven miles and it’s a long rectangular shape so walking from end to end is about 3 miles. It’s not super hilly like most of the city, but it’s not flat either. GGP has over 250 feet of elevation change from the highest point in the park to the lower end near the Pacific Ocean.
The walking and biking paths in Golden Gate Park might add up to 100 miles when you include all the paved sidewalks and paths, and all the dirt and gravel trails. It’s the best place to get outside and walk around in San Francisco because you are less likely to bump into other folks. And there’s so much to see!
As far as walks go, consider the path around Stow Lake and the trails on Strawberry Hill Island in the middle of the lake. There are other lakes in the park that also have perimeter trails, including Spreckels and Lloyd Lake, but Stow is the largest. You can rent row boats and pedal boats on Stow Lake to see the island from the water.
If you like architecture, another great place to walk is at the Music Concourse. There you’ll look at fountains, statues, historic structures, and the facades of de Young Fine Arts Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. Other structures in the park to find and photograph include Portals of the Past with its ionic columns, Prayer Book Cross, the tallest monument in the park, and McLaren Lodge, a lovely stone brick home built in the late 1800s.
This is a park with typical ballfields, courts (including tennis, racquetball, and basketball), many playgrounds for kids, picnic areas, and other sports facilities, but it has a lot of tree groves, open meadows, and tourist attractions packed into it too.
If you like gardens then seek out the Rose Garden, the Dahlia Garden, Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden (which has a massive Dutch windmill), the Japanese Tea Garden (get some tea too), and the San Francisco Botanical Garden with 55 acres of separate gardens and groves. The Conservatory of Flowers is an inside facility with a domed roof that shouldn’t be missed if you have a green thumb (or worship those that do).
Like fauna more than flora? Walk down to the GGP Bison Paddock where you can see bison (aka buffaloes), bears, deer, sheep, and elk. Also swing by the Bercut Equitation Field and the Polo Field where you might see slow horses with riders in training and fast horses with experts chasing a ball, respectively. If you have your own animal of the canine variety, head to Golden Gate Off-leash Dog Park and Training Area.
Other facilities on the Golden Gate Park property that you might be interested in for yourself or watching others include:
- Golden Gate Park Golf Course (top ranked 9-hole, par 3 public course)
- Golden Gate Disc Golf Course
- Waller Street Skate Park
- Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club
- Golden Gate Archery Field
- Golden Gate Park Horseshoe Pits
- San Francisco Lawn Bowling Club
- Golden Gate Park Model Yacht Pond
A great place to start your visit is the Beach Chalet Visitor Center where friendly folks can give you a current map and brochure and point you in the direction of any of the sites mentioned above. The Beach Chalet has a brewery, beer garden and restaurant and there are many other eateries inside the park and nearby.
Golden Gate Park has so much to see that it could be a vacation destination by itself. Or it can be a stop on every vacation you make to San Francisco.
Oh and be sure to check out Ocean Beach across the street from the park (and the visitor center).
1000 Great Highway
San Francisco, CA 94122
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