Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

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Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park

© Daniel Powell

One of the best ways to take advantage of a clear day in San Francisco is to spend some time exploring Golden Gate Park. Filled with museums, lakes, gardens, and even bison – this 1017-acre park is an urban sanctuary.

When the park was conceived and built in the 1860s, the area was an unincorporated region outside of the city's borders. Covered in sand dunes, the largely uninhabited area was referred to as the "outside lands." It is now the third most visited city park in the world and boasts 13 million visitors per year.

Music Concourse Drive is a convenient and central location from which to view many of the park's institutions. On the north side of the roundabout, the DeYoung Museum, named for M.H. de Young, founder of the San Francisco Chronicle, houses fine art collections from America, Africa, and the Oceanic region, and offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the city and surrounding bay.

Next door, wander through a zen garden and pagoda at the Japanese Tea Garden.

Designed for the 1894 World's Fair, it is the oldest public Japanese Garden in the U.S. and the alleged birthplace of the fortune cookie.

Across the street, it is easy to spot the Academy of Sciences by the giant landscaped domes on the roof. Inside this Platinum LEED-Certified museum, you will find a Philippine Coral reef, a four-story rainforest, a planetarium, Claude the Albino Alligator, and enough exhibits to keep you learning for hours.

Conservatory of Flowers sits at the east end of the park, near the famous Haight-Ashbury district. Divided into various rooms, it houses over 1,000 rare and exotic species from around the globe. Special exhibits change every six months; recent favorites include butterflies, orchids, carnivorous plants, and a model train passing by San Francisco landmarks made entirely of found materials.

Lakes, waterfalls, and even a heard of bison decorate the path through the park toward the ocean. At the park's western edge, sits the Dutch Windmill, the structure responsible for establishing the park. At the turn of the century, the North Windmill, as it was originally called, took advantage of the winds in the area to supply water and help convert sand dunes into the largest botanical garden of the time.

In present day, the park is the site of many outdoor music festivals, and a haven for bikers, runners, and anyone looking to enjoy the sun, or take in a little culture.

Golden Gate Park Resources

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