San Francisco To Do

Golden Gate Park San Francisco

This guide will help you find both the "must-do" and more unusual "secret" things to see in this amazing, giant San Francisco Park. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is huge; it over three miles long and covers more than one thousand square acres. This is larger than Central Park in New York City. You could spend an entire day or just a few hours enjoying your own favorite museums, gardens and attractions in this beautiful park that helps to define San Francisco's character. The park is also one of the best spots for a jog or run, with or without your dog!

Golden Gate Park History

Before we look at the amazing things that there are to do in this tremendous park, let’s look at why it is such an important part of the city of San Francisco. When it was established in the late nineteenth century it was due largely to the creativity of visionaries who could see a large urban park in an area of the city that was empty sand dunes at the time. 60,000 trees had to be planted to initially help stabilize the land that was shifting sand dunes. Scotland-trained gardened John McLaren became the park’s superintendent in 1887 and stayed in that position until 1943, helping to bring that vision to life for the city.

The first big event for the city was the 1894 Midwinter World’s Fair. A sunken open-air plaza called the Music Concourse was established at this time. More than 100 buildings were erected in the 200 surrounding acres and more than two million people visited during the months that the fair occurred. Some of the park’s most famous attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden and the building that became the DeYoung Museum, were set up during these early days.

Hippie Hill Golden Gate Park

In the days following the devastating 1906 earthquake Golden Gate Park became home to one of the largest refugees for displaced people. More than 40,000 people took shelter here, setting up their own camps and helping each other get through the tragedy. Outdoor kitchens were set up in the park to help feed the homeless and outdoor hospitals were set up to provide care to the wounded.

Golden Gate Park was a central gathering spot for many of the protests, contests and daily activities of the hippie generation during the 1967 Summer of Love and the years around that time. A nod to that history can be seen today in the daily gatherings at Hippie Hill.

Today Golden Gate Park receives more than thirteen million annual visitors. It is one of the top five most-visited city parks in the United States.

Gardens of Golden Gate Park

This beautiful park has a number of different must-see gardens that allow you to enjoy a diverse array of different plant life. Those gardens include:

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

 

Japanese Tea Garden

Other Nature in Golden Gate Park

In addition to the formal gardens, some great places to see nature and plant life in Golden Gate Park include:

 

Golden Gate Park Museums

Man-made creations are also celebrated in Golden Gate Park. The museums of the park are a great example of this.

 

DeYoung Museum San Francisco

de Young Museum of Art - Golden Gate Park

If you are a fan of art then you may want to keep an eye out for the many statues that have been erected throughout Golden Gate Park. These include historical figures like musicians (Beethoven), politicians (President Garfield) and authors (Cervantes) as well as fictional characters like Sancho Panza. Art lovers may also want to take advantage of the affordable all ages arts and crafts courses available at Sharon Art Studio in the park.

And Even More

If you have seen all of the above things in Golden Gate Park and are hoping for some more you will not be disappointed. Check out:

 

There are people who have lived in San Francisco for decades and still not seen all that Golden Gate Park has to offer. There is just so much to see and enjoy here.

Childrens Playground Golden Gate Park
How to Get to Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is located in the western half of the city, bordered on the north by Fulton Street and on the south by Lincoln Way. You can get there using several MUNI buses including the 5 on Fulton and the 71 on Lincoln (both of which you can catch near Union Square if you’re staying at a centrally-located hotel). You can also take the underground MUNI N line to quickly get from downtown to just a few blocks away from the park. If you are driving then you can look for street parking in or around the park or pay to park in the Music Concourse Garage located between the DeYoung and California Academy of Science museums.