When you hear the words “Golden Gate” you probably think about the bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, but Golden Gate Park is pretty impressive in its own right.
In spite of the name, it is not located close to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is easily accessible by bus or of course uber. Golden Gate Park is a little more than 1,000 acres filled with lots to do, so I would recommend allocating a full day to spend there if you can.
Keep reading to find out the best things to do in Golden Gate Park.
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My 5 Favorite Things to See in Golden Gate Park
In order to help you plan your day, I wanted to highlight my five favorite things to see when visiting Golden Gate Park:
I think it is the most scenic area in Golden Gate Park. We climbed the stairs up Strawberry Hill, which is in the middle of the lake for a great view of the park and also the Huntington waterfall. There are bridges on both sides of the lake so that you can cross to the middle. If you have time, you can rent a row or paddle boat from the boathouse and explore even more. You will also find the Chinese Pagoda, one of many popular Instagram spots in San Francisco.
Conservatory of Flowers
Inside this beautiful Victorian style glass and wood greenhouse, you will find many exotic plants and flowers. There is an $8 admission fee ($6 if you are a San Francisco resident) but you can go for free the First Tuesday of the month. Not too far from the Conservatory of Flowers, there is the Golden Gate Park Rose Garden, which is free to visit, and depending on the time of year filled with lots of varieties of roses.
Watching Roller Skaters
I could have watched these skaters for hours, it was surprisingly entertaining. They were playing music and dancing/skating around the oval and some even had costumes. We saw all kinds of tricks on skates and even some crazy dancing. We went on a Saturday, so there might not be skaters if you visit Golden Gate Park during the week. If you are interested in skating, you will need to bring your own skates. The skating oval is located just west of the Conservatory of Flowers.
Japanese Tea Garden
You almost feel like you are in Japan in this small section of the park with Japanese style landscaping and buildings. You can have a Japanese Tea or just wander through the garden. The gift shop also has some nice souvenirs. If you can, try to go between 9:00 and 10:00 am Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, when admission is free. Otherwise, it is $7 per person.
Buffalo in Golden Gate Park
Towards the west end of the park, you can find the Buffalo Paddock. I enjoyed seeing the buffalo because to me they were so unexpected. We were driving through the park and saw them, so I had to stop and look. I was in the middle of San Francisco and there is a field with bison in it! Not too far from the buffalo, you can see the two windmills that are in Golden Gate Park.
Other Things to Do in Golden Gate Park
These are just a few of the fun things to do and see inside Golden Gate Park. Sometimes there are special events on the weekend. The Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden is another area worth exploring.
There are also two museums – De Young (art) and the California Academy of Sciences. The De Young Museum also has a nice outdoor sculpture garden. You will also find other nice sculptures throughout Golden Gate Park.
Kids will love Golden Gate Park. Check out this list for more ideas of things to do with kids in California.
Golden Gate Park Segway Tour
Since there is a lot of ground to cover and so much to see you might want to try a Segway tour. You can do a 2-hour tour and see many of the highlights in the park including the Japanese Tea Garden. Segways look like so much fun too! I think it’s got to be the best way to see Golden Gate Park. Don’t worry if you haven’t ridden one, they will train you before your Golden Gate Park tour starts. Click here to check tour availability.
Golden Gate Park Parking
If you drive to Golden Gate Park, you have a few options for parking.
- During the week when it is not a big event, you can park along some of the main drives inside the park.
- During weekends, you can park for free in the parking lot at Ocean Beach and take the Golden Gate shuttle to major attractions within the park. The free shuttle runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays.
- Directly underneath the de Young Museum, there is a pay-per-hour parking facility.
- You can also park at the Kezar Stadium parking lot which is located near the Stanyan St. entrance for an hourly fee.
Restaurants Near Golden Gate Park
After a day in the park, I am sure you will have worked up an appetite. The food choices in Golden Gate Park were lacking. If you looking for a place for dinner, Cha Cha Cha is a nice casual tapas restaurant close to the east end of the park. They also have excellent sangria. On the south side of the park, I like Napolito which has great Mexican food. If you want to grab a bite in the morning, Crepevine Restaurant is a great option for breakfast near Golden Gate Park.
Golden Gate Park is one of my favorite places in San Francisco. Regardless of how much time you are able to spend in the park, I’m sure you will enjoy it and want to go back for more. Have you visited Golden Gate Park? What are your favorite spots?
Expert Tips for Visiting Golden Gate Park
- There is a lot to see and do inside the park, so use this Golden Gate guide to plan ahead.
- While entrance to Golden Gate Park is free, some of the attractions do charge admission. Some of these attractions will have certain days and times that are free.
- Check out this San Francisco photo journal for more travel inspiration.
- Flywheel Coffee Roasters, located on the eastern end of the park, is one of the best coffee shops in San Francisco.
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