Golden Gate Park is an expansive park in the city of San Francisco, loved by both locals and tourists, this sprawling park has many activities to offer. Some of the local attractions in the park do charge admission although there are still many fun free things to do. You can easily enjoy the many gardens, wildlife, lakes, flowers, waterfalls, windmills and so much more at no cost!
The 3 mile long park is one of the United States most visited parks, and is larger than Central Park by 20%. The park can get busy at times but if spend some time wandering off you can find yourself some peace and serenity at Golden Gate. Street parking can be found at MLK and JFK which are the main thoroughfares - although parking spots can be limited during weekends so go early.
Did you know there are bison in the middle of Golden Gate Park? The bison were transplanted in Golden Gate Park in the 1890’s, some of the animals even came from Yellowstone National Park, as part of a captive breeding program. At one point the herd caught a case of Tuberculosis and had to be moved to a new part of the park, which is where they reside today at Bison Paddock. The bison you see today are descendents of the herd that was gifted to former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, by her husband as a birthday gift in 1984. An additional 5 bison were added in 2020, and currently all of the remaining bison you'll see at Bison Paddock are females. They are such beautiful animals to admire and a great free thing to do in Golden Gate Park with the family.
Location 1237 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA
If you are looking to get in touch with nature and find some peace and quiet in Golden Gate don't miss out on Strawberry Hill. Accessible by two bridges - Roman Bridge and Rustic Bridge - enjoy the views of the city from the top and look out to the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Definitely don't forget to check out the two waterfalls in the park- Huntington Falls (110 feet tall) and Rainbow Falls.
Location: Access via - Stow Lake Dr, San Francisco, CA
Dutch Windmills + Tulip Garden
The Dutch Windmills have become a popular spot to take Instagram Photos in Golden Gate Park - while there are two windmills in the park - the Dutch Windmill in particular is the best one for photos. The Murphy Windmill is located just down the path and resides next to the historic Millwright Cottage. The Dutch Windmill is surrounded by the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Gardens - which also makes for a great picnic spot!
Location (Murphy): La Playa St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Location (Dutch): 1690 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA
Walk Around the Lakes
There are ten lakes in Golden Gate Park - some of the most notable to add to your list would be: Stow Lake, Mallard Lake, and Lloyd Lake.
Stow Lake: Watch the paddle boats go by and take some pictures of the charming stone bridge. You can rent boats by the hour if you please.
Location: Stow Lake Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118
Mallard Lake: Bird lovers will enjoy this more secluded lake to enjoy a picnic and admire the assortment of birds that frequent this lake. Keep your eyes peeled for geese, ducks, Campbell ducks, mallards, and gulls.
Location: 1031-1081 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, San Francisco, CA 94122
Lloyd Lake: Stroll by the "Portals to the Past," a memorial from the 1906 Earthquake - the columns were salvaged from the disaster and remain a popular place for visitors to take photos or even get married!
Location: Golden Gate Park, 800 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94122
Golden Gate Park Disc Golf Course
Break out your discs for this 18 hole course in the middle of Golden Gate Park. Playing this course may require some patience as it's a popular sport for city goers but if you wait your turn it's worth the visit!
Location: 99 Marx Meadow Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121
Japanese Tea Gardens
Wander around the oldest Japanese Tea Garden in the United States and admire the craftsmanship of the pagodas, stone stepping paths, koi ponds, zen garden and more. Admission is free before 10 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Friday - otherwise admission is a small fee of $9 for non-residents, $6 for San Francisco residents, and $2 for kids 5-11. Children under 4 are admitted for free.
Location: 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA
Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers building was constructed in 1879 - today it houses a botanical garden and greenhouse - and is also a registered historical landmark in California. Step into a whole new world and open your eyes to the beauty of the rare and exotic plants inside the conservatory. Admission is free to all visitors on the first Tuesday of the month. Regular Admission is a small fee of $9 for non-residents, $6 for San Francisco residents, and $3 for kids 5-11.
Location: 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA
Please note due to COVID-19 this location could be temporarily closed and I recommend checking with the location directly for up to date information.
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