San Francisco is a city full of excitement, so where can you go that is not filled with long lines, crowds of people? The Golden Gate Park is the perfect place to relax and reconnect! There is just so much to see and enjoy here. It’s a day filled wonders, amazing art, breathtaking flora, quiet moments, unique creatures, and time to relax your soul. Make it a day in the park! Bring a picnic to appreciate nature entirely and your camera is a MUST. Even if you are unable to take in all its glory in one day, the great news is, it is there awaiting your return.
This beautiful park has numerous different must-see gardens that allow you to enjoy a diverse array of different plant life. Those gardens include:
Japanese Tea Garden
This is a favorite spot for locals who want to feel like they have escaped into nature. There are more than fifty acres of plant life here from all around the world, organized by region. The garden is free for San Francisco residents and is free to all on certain holidays and the second Tuesday of each month. It is open daily, and there is a nominal fee on other days. These five acres of lovely gardens offer a serene place to sit down and drink a cup of tea. There’s a nominal entrance fee, and you can purchase tea and snacks inside of the garden.
On the west end of the park is a giant old windmill and a beautiful tulip garden. Check out the northern windmill here as well, which is one of two windmills established in 1903 that initially fed water to landscape the park.
The Golden Gate Park rose garden is another popular spot with visitors. Late spring through early fall offer the best rose displays although a pruning demonstration each January is also interesting. Besides its beauty, this place is a wonderment of fragrant scents that instantly calms the mind.
Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers
More than 200 different flowers are featured in this garden, which is also adorned with quotes from the famous plays and poems of Shakespeare.
Conservatory of Flowers
Flower lovers absolutely shouldn’t miss this indoor garden. It is one of the world’s largest indoor greenhouses built of wood and glass and both the exterior and interior of the building area eye-catching. This place is like visiting a tropical Island. You are instantly transported to a space of relaxation!
AIDS Memorial Grove
This beautiful memorial flower garden is worth stopping in at while you are in the park. It was set up in 1988 to recognize and honor the millions of people affected by AIDS. In 1996, Congress designated it a national memorial.
Feed the ducks or take a paddleboat ride here at this lake in the center of the park.
This lesser-known lake is located on the north side of the park. Model yacht clubs meet here so you might get to see them showing off their stuff when you visit.
Golden Gate Park Museums:
California Academy of Sciences
Start with a visit to California Academy of Sciences. This captivating science museum complex holds a San Francisco aquarium, a planetarium, a rain forest and other great displays. It also has a Living Roof that offers an excellent view of some of the park. This place is fantastic. You’ll want to spend the whole day there but save time for some of the other choices.
Right across from the California Academy of Sciences is this favorite art museum. This museum showcases a mix of contemporary art, History Sciences and a few pieces of Fine Art. They also have “guest” displays that change seasonally. Even if you do not have time to check out the exhibits, you should take the time to ride up to the top floor gift where an observation deck shows you an even better view of Golden Gate Park at no charge.
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 are staying at a centrally-located hotel). You can also take the underground MUNI N line to get quickly 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.
If you are visiting and driving in, I recommend using your car’s GPS. The last time I drove in, I thought no problem. However, with all the ‘one-way’ streets and the ‘no left turn’ signs, I could not get to what was right in front of me. Very frustrating, which is why you should let the computer figure it out for you. However, if you are up to the task, here are directions, whether coming from the North or South ( click appropriate word for directions).
Planning to make it a mini holiday affair Or perhaps, you are passing thru and want to experience a little more of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf area too. Below are some helpful tips for you.
Where to stay
I have stayed at the Best Western Tuscany Hotel numerous times and have always been delighted by their hospitality, cleanliness, convenient location and helpful concierge. The front door opens onto a large sitting room before your sleeping area. Comfortable large bed and bathroom. The only downfall can be when you are on the street-side rooms; it can be noisy from the traffic.
This traditional downtown boutique hotel is 0.2 miles from both the Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach and 6.5 miles from Golden Gate Park.
The refined, elegant rooms and suites offer free Wi-Fi, desks, and 40-inch flat screens, as well as minibars, mini-fridges, and coffeemakers.
Free perks include daily morning tea/coffee in the lobby, evening fireside wine receptions, and an area shuttle.
The cost for parking overnight is $42.00 and is an additional charge if you use this service. $$
Where to eat
The Pescatore Restaurant, located at ground level at the Tuscan Inn. This is a Tuscan-American fare restaurant with a beautiful bar area. I have eaten here many times, and their steaks were always perfectly prepared. Rustic yet chic is their decor.
The Franciscan Crab Restaurant has excellent seafood, but the main attraction is the exceptional view of the bay. My favorite is to sit in the bar area, enjoy their specialty of the day and watch the boats go by.