Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Abode of culture, fine arts, science, and recreation; the Golden Gate Park seems to be the most loved place of not only humans, but also of flowers, bushes, trees, birds, and animals. I am not joking; factually, all the creatures feel united in this huge green yard of San Francisco. Stretching from the Pacific in a rectangular shape, the Golden Gate Park is a small world in itself, which offers hundreds of gardens and other highlights along the paved roads as well as wooded paths.

Although most of them are clearly seen, some of them are hidden gems. Therefore, to ensure that you do not miss any, inquire at the McLaren Lodge as well as Park Headquarters that offers maps for $3 at the Stanyan and Fell streets. The Golden Gate Park is the abode of two premiere museums named as the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young art museum, an outdoor botanical garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, and buffalo herd.

There are two ways to explore the park – drive or walk. Driving is via the 49-Mile Drive on which signs of a white-sea gull having a beak in orange will guide you. I would rather recommend for the guided walking tours that provides a window for peeping into the history of the park.

If you start from the Great Highway, you will first come across the Beach Chalet that looks towards the Ocean Beach. This is an ideal place to stop for those who want to taste some of the good dishes while having good views of the beach upstairs. Now, take right and be on the John F. Kennedy Drive for spotting the Queen Wilhelmina’s Windmill where spring brings up the blooming tulips at its base. Go further east and you can see the Buffalo Paddock that is the address of herd of American bison. Then, you will spot the Spreckels Lake where weekend is the good place to be for fun when the boating is just very exciting.

Across Park Presidio Drive, travel in the east to marvel at one of the famous attractions of the Golden Gate Park – Conservatory of Flowers. Shining pure white, this conservatory aims at preserving a tropical area, a rotating exhibit of potted plants, and a water lily garden. You need to pay for exploring all these highlights. From here, just walk for some minutes to the AIDS Memorial Grove. As the name suggest, this is built to pay homage to all those who struggled against AIDS. Seriously, this is very silent zone to relax and reflect.

Now, cross the park and drive south of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Turning right will bring you on the parking site along the road. This is now the time to visit the museums. After much renovation, the California Academy of Science just began to welcome the public in 2009. This is where you will spot a white alligator, some interesting multimedia displays, aquarium, and planetarium. A green roof is layered above with the native plants, which is great watching. And yes, there is also an observation deck here. One of the main art museums is De Young Museum that charges entrance fee for its visit.

Do not forget to explore the Japanese Tea Garden reflecting a pastoral style and complementing the surroundings. Going by its name, it offers good tea and peaceful stroll tracks. You need to pay entrance fee here too. Next, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the splendid home of thousands of plants. For a true botany lover, this is a must. There are no admission charges and that guided walks take place every day.

Now go ahead in the west on the Martin Luther King Drive to reach the Stow Lake and enjoy a loop drive here. Shakespeare Garden reflects the works and characters of this famous writer. Regarded as the largest lake in the park, the Stow Lake is famous for its paddle boating. Going further in the west will take you on the Great Highway where you can have some refreshments at the Cliff House or Beach Chalet and watch the pleasing sunset.


Any time.

Park entry fees



One hour to full day as per your choice.

Best time to visit

Any weekday if driving, Sundays for walking.

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