For over 150 years, Golden Gate Park has been an outdoor public space worth spending some time in. Of course, a trip to San Francisco should be filled with all the sights and sounds of the incredible Golden City. So, by that logic, a stop at Golden Gate Park is a must. Even if you’re short on time, this incredible national park shouldn’t be left off your itinerary. With multiple museums, gardens, events, amazing views and more, why wouldn’t you want to visit this lush, fun and downright magical place every time you’re in town? That said, if you’re still undecided, here are ten reasons why you should visit San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
10 California Academy of Sciences
One of the main attractions in Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences, which is “an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum” all rolled into one. Visitors will find dozens of wonderful exhibits, educational programs, and even penguin and Pj sleepovers for families (do fur babies count as kids? Ask for a friend). All that aside, this academic all-bagel offers nightlife activities every Thursday from 6pm to 10pm. The nightlife program offers visitors more than just a few shows to explore, and grants them after-hours access to all of the academy’s exhibits.
9 San Francisco Botanical Garden
Visitors who want to stop and smell the roses should definitely do so at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. As well as being a charming outdoor space, this botanical garden knows how to put on a good show. In fact, there’s always a variety of events happening here, including the Flower Piano (at sunset and at night), free piano lessons, GardenFest, plant sales, bean sprout family days, and more. This beautiful space is even available for weddings, concerts and other private events.
8th DeYoung Museum
As mentioned, this popular San Francisco park has several museums, including the de Young Museum. Here, parkgoers can indulge in a bit of contemporary culture and fine arts. Plus, with ongoing exhibitions like Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs, it just makes sense to stop by this museum. There are also a variety of other notable exhibits showcasing African art, Oceanic art, photography, textile art and much more. Just being able to visit this special museum is reason enough to visit Golden Gate Park.
7 bison paddock
That’s correct; This beautiful and spacious park is home to more than a few species of animals, including a herd of American bison. These magnificent mammals reside near the west end of the park and can be seen along the way trudging through meadows and just living life. Since 1892, American bison have roamed this park along with bears, sheep, elk, and deer. Of course, most of the other wildlife has now been moved to the San Francisco Zoo. But the herds of American bison haven’t gone anywhere – another reason why you should come and explore this magnificent place.
6 Events & Festivals
If you ever thought that this incredibly large outdoor space would make an absolutely wonderful venue for concerts, events and festivals, trust you are not alone. Golden Gate Park hosts annual music festivals in early October, including the popular Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (there is no admission fee for this event). In addition to this amazing outdoor party, this park also hosts Outside Lands, another amazing annual festival that lasts three days and includes delicious food, local beers, art exhibitions, comedy shows and music.
5 The Conservatory of Flowers
For park visitors who love all things natural, the opportunity to explore the Conservatory of Flowers and its myriad of rare and endangered plants should not be missed. Visitors can marvel at the five galleries that showcase different and diverse ecosystems – the Highland Tropics, Aquatic Plants, Low Land Tropics, Plotted Plants and the West Gallery. So stop by and see which flowers are blooming right now. This peaceful and thriving spot in the park is truly a rare treat and just one more reason to make the trek to Golden Gate Park.
4 The Japanese tea garden
In addition to the phenomenal botanical garden and flower conservatory, park visitors can also visit the legendary Japanese tea garden. Established in 1894, this particular Japanese tea garden is actually the oldest in the United States. Not only has this garden been meticulously maintained to perfection over the years, but it also highlights the incredible beauty of traditional Japanese outdoor spaces. This lush garden has serene waterfalls, architectural wonders, a zen garden, and a teahouse that’s been serving fortune cookies and aromatic teas since 1914—what more is there to say?
3 Explore is easy
Golden Gate Park is far from small, and exploring this outdoor paradise on foot will take time. But that needn’t be a daunting factor, as visitors can see every corner of the 1,000-acre park on a bike or Segway. So there really are no excuses. On the edge of the park there are a few rental companies for both modes of transport. Guided tours are also available, so you can enjoy this wonderful place with a guide who will show you all the hidden gems and answer all your questions.
2 The SkyStar wheel
For park-goers looking for another way to see this sprawling park and take in some of the best views of the area, the 150-foot-tall SkyStar Wheel should definitely do the trick. This ride, designed in the style of a local carnival, allows you to explore the entire park and admire San Fran’s memorable cityscape. But that’s not all; Riders can also enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Overall, it’s a short and pleasant drive that’s definitely worth it. So hop on board and get ready to snap some amazing photos and create memories for a lifetime.
1 An abundance of outdoor recreation
Last but not least, Golden Gate Park is definitely a leisure paradise for outdoor fans. In fact, you can do almost any activity you can think of here. Boat lovers can enjoy an hourly charter “fun boat” at Stow Lake, go for a spin on a paddle boat, rent a classic rowboat, or snag an electric boat. There is also fishing, dog parks, archery, horseback riding, lawn bowls, picnic areas, hiking, golf and more. So if you’re looking for a major attraction in San Fran that has it all, this is the place.