Golden Gate Bridge

#1 in Best Things To Do in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge picture
Golden Gate Bridge
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John Lund/Tom Penpark/Getty Images

Key Info

Lincoln Boulevard, near Doyle Drive and Fort Point

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Sightseeing, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
5.0scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 5.0Atmosphere

The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and the city's most popular tourist attraction. The bridge's name, "Golden Gate," actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay), and was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat. 

There are plenty of great spots to capture a snap of the majestic bridge. But if you want a truly postcard-worthy shot, head to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, situated high on a hill overlooking San Francisco. If you have extra time, make sure to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The actual span of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area encompasses multiple places in San Mateo (south of San Francisco), San Francisco and Marin Counties (Alcatraz and Muir Woods included), but notable parts of this recreation area can be found just a stroll away from the Golden Gate. From the bridge, travelers will find some scenic, bayside trails, some of which lead to secluded beaches, including Kirby Cove and Black Sands Beach. If you really want a trek, journey to the Point Bonita Lighthouse for sweeping views of the bay, found at the very tip of the Golden Gate Strait.

Like many travelers who came before them, recent visitors were awestruck by the incredible architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the incredible views it affords. Some visitors made sure to point out to drivers not to turn right (heading towards the Marin County side) to the first lookout point, as it is crowded with tourists. Instead, venture into the hills for more space and greater photo ops. Travelers also suggested walking across the bridge for a scenic stroll (if it's not too windy or crowded). If you want to let someone else do the driving, consider signing up for an organized bus tour – many of which traverse the bridge.

The bridge is accessible all day every day by bus, car, bicycle or on foot. If you drive, parking is available but very limited and accessible on both the north and south ends of the bridge. The Northeast Side Parking Lot is free up to four hours, while the Southeast Side Visitor Parking Lot costs about $1 an hour. If you drive, you may be subject to a toll. Tolls are only assessed if you're traveling from Marin County into San Francisco. The tolls are taken electronically only and are $7.50 or $6.50 if you have a FasTrak account. For more information on how to pay your toll, and more about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, visit its website

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California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park
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Time to Spend
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#2 California Academy of Sciences

Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 

The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 

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