The Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and its record-breaking attraction. You’ll never guess what it is!
The Golden Gate Park is San Francisco, California’s largest park. The park, which spans over 1,000 acres, stretches nearly halfway across the San Francisco peninsula, from the University of San Francisco all the way to the coast, and is by far the largest amount of continuous green space in the city. When visiting the Golden Gate Park, one is immediately immersed in a myriad of lively attractions and activities frequented by millions of tourists and locals year-round.
The park is home to scores of both permanent and seasonal attractions, including several museums and gardens as well as community events, some of which may surprise you.
The Social Scene
Aside from the big tourist attractions for first-time visitors, the park also has several community events available for those who have a little more time at their disposal to explore San Francisco life and culture.
A large outdoor theatre space in the park is well-equipped to host year-round concerts, including those for well-known artists and composers such as John Williams, whose music reached the park just last May.
Groups like the San Francisco Rose Society hold membership meetings in the park and offer classes and programs throughout the year for anyone who may be interested.
A swing dance society meets on Sunday afternoons in the park, just behind the de Young Museum building where all can join in on the dancing for free and take part in group lessons. Whether you’re a shy dancer who comes equipped with his or her own partner or a lone socialite looking to meet a myriad of new faces, a weekly gathering like this is a great way to meet interesting people from around the world and is just another example of San Francisco’s diverse collection of accessible culture and events.
Getting around the park
Visitors to the park can tour in style mounted on two-wheel Segways. These are especially convenient for navigating the famous hilly terrain characteristic to of San Francisco. Taking one of these tours allows you to enjoy the directed narration of a walking tour while giving your legs a break.
A variety of bike rentals are also available to those inclined to pedal their way through the thousand-acre park. Some bike tours even allow you to bike from the park all the way up along the coast to the Golden Gate Bridge and back, a trip that takes the moderate bike rider approximately two to three hours—and a healthy dose of leg power!—to complete. But whether it’s a leisurely surrey ride pedalling up and down the light hills of the park, or a biking trek up to the bridge, these rental vehicles allow you to make your own adventure, equipped with a map of your route and a fully-charged camera.
The Golden Gate Park is replete with attractions that rise above the tree line, giving the first-time visitor a sampler of just a few of the many wonders contained within the park’s vast limits. Among these is one of San Francisco’s famous windmills, the North or Dutch Windmill. It’s sibling, the South or Murphy windmill, stands a few miles south in full view of the California Coast.
Once essential to city plumbing, these windmills rise along the coast like stationary sentinels on and around the garden grounds. In the 80s and 90s, these retired windmills were restored that they might continue to stand guard, connecting past utility to modern San Francisco aesthetic.
The Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, created in the 1980s, crouches in the shadow of the North Windmill and is now a popular photo destination for tourists and professionals alike.
The Japanese Tea Garden
This garden is the oldest Japanese tea garden in the United States and, it may surprise you to know, was originally created as a showcase exhibit for the 1894 World’s Fair. It was later transformed into a permanent fixture in Golden Gate Park, complete with arched bridges, koi ponds, and a teahouse where today visitors can stop and relax with a cup of hot tea.
The $8 entry fee into the gardens admits park visitors into the five acre spread of plants and pathways, bridges and ponds and allows them to experience Japanese culture much like that originally showcased in the 1894 World’s Fair.
Much like other areas in California and the US as a whole, Japanese immigrants connected to the design of the garden were affected by anti-Japanese sentiment during World War II. The family of the park’s original designer were uprooted and sent to California internment camps, and much of the garden was changed in order to remove their influence from the grounds.
Fortunately, however, reparations have since been made amidst improved US and Japanese relations. The Japanese Tea Gardens within Golden Gate Park now contain many tributes to the Japanese people as well as tokens of Japanese-US friendly relations. Such token include a bronze Buddha from eighteenth century Japan, seated near the entrance, and a large peace lantern installed to commemorate the 1950s San Francisco signing of a US-Japanese peace treaty after the second World War.
A little known fact concerning the garden’s designer Makoto Hagiwara: he may have been responsible for the invention of the fortune cookie, which was originally introduced in the city of San Francisco!
The de Young Museum
When riding the Muni bus into the park to its first in-park stop, one of the first visible structures is the metal tower of the de Young Museum, twisting up like a chimney over the museum’s sculpture garden. The building, made mostly of copper, is seated across the main courtyard from the park’s Academy of the Sciences and is home to thousands of art pieces celebrating art and architecture from all around the world.
It may surprise you to know that this too grew out of a World’s Fair exhibit and is about as old as its neighbour, Makoto Hagiwara’s Japanese Tea Garden.
Both the de Young Museum and the Academy of the Sciences are accessible to San Francisco visitors through the San Francisco tourist package CityPass, which also affords you admission to public transportation busses, the iconic San Francisco cable cars, and a cruise tour of the city’s water-accessible attractions, must-see attractions for any San Francisco visit.
The California Coast
The San Francisco Muni bus system takes you right back out of the park again, and the 28 bus will take you right up into the area of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. On a nice day, you might want to pause and take the 5 bus to the coast where locals throw Frisbees for their dogs and fly kites in the beautiful, windy California weather. Turn around and you’ll see the green foliage of the Golden Gate Park stretching for miles, a remarkable spread of green land in such a metropolitan American city.
Authored: Elle Eccles