When you hear the words “Golden Gate” you probably think about the bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, but Golden Gate Park is pretty impressive in its own right. In spite of the name, it is not located close to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is easily accessible by bus or of course uber. Golden Gate Park is a little more than 1,000 acres filled with lots to do, so I would recommend allocating a full day to spend there if you can. In order to help you plan your day, I wanted to highlight my five favorite things. While entrance to Golden Gate Park is free, some of the attractions do charge admission.
My Five Favorite Things in Golden Gate Park
Stow Lake – I think it is the most scenic area in the park. We climbed the stairs up Strawberry Hill, which is in the middle of the lake for a great view of the park and also the waterfall. There are bridges on both sides of the lake so that you can cross to the middle. If you have time, you can rent a row or paddle boat from the boathouse and explore even more.
Conservatory of Flowers – Inside this beautiful Victorian style glass and wood greenhouse you will find many exotic plants and flowers. There is a $8 admission fee ($6 if you are a San Francisco resident) but you can go for free the First Tuesday of the month. Not too far from the Conservatory of Flowers, there is the Rose Garden, which is free to visit, and depending on the time of year filled with lots of varieties of roses.
Watching Roller Skaters – I could have watched these skaters for hours, it really was surprisingly entertaining. They were playing music and dancing/skating around the oval and some even had costumes. We saw all kinds of tricks on skates and even some crazy dancing. We went on a Saturday, so there might not be skaters during the week. If you are interested in skating, you will need to bring your own skates. The skating oval is located just west of the Conservatory of Flowers.
Japanese Tea Garden – You almost feel like you are in Japan in this small section of the park with Japanese style landscaping and buildings. You can have a Japanese Tea or just wander through the garden. The gift shop also has some nice souvenirs. If you can, try to go between 9 and 10 am Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, when admission is free. Otherwise, it is $7 per person.
Buffalo – Towards the west end of the park you can find buffalo. I enjoyed seeing the buffalo because to me they were so unexpected. We were driving through the park and saw them, so I had to stop and look. Not too far from the buffalo, you can see the two windmills that are in the park.
These are just a few of the things to do and see inside Golden Gate Park. Sometimes there are special events on the weekend. There are also two museums – De Young (art) and California Academy of Sciences. The De Young Museum also has a nice outdoor sculpture garden. You will also find other nice sculptures throughout Golden Gate Park.
Since there is a lot of ground to cover and so much to see you might want to try a Segway tour. Regardless of how much time you are able to spend in the park, I’m sure you will enjoy it and want to go back for more. Have you visited Golden Gate Park? What are your favorite spots?
Expert Tips for Visiting Golden Gate Park:
- There is a lot to see and do inside the park, so plan ahead.
- Some attractions that charge admission have certain days and times that are free.
- If you looking for a place for dinner, Cha Cha Cha is a nice casual tapas restaurant close to the east end of the park. They also have excellent sangria. On the south side of the park, I really like Napolito which has great Mexican food.
- Flywheel Coffee Roasters, located on the eastern end of the park, is one of the best coffee shops in San Francisco.
- If you have time, you should also check out the Walt Disney Family Museum while you are in San Francisco.