Golden Gate Park

#3 in Best Things To Do in San Francisco
Golden Gate Park picture1 of 3
Golden Gate Park2 of 3
Dean Krafft/Flickr

Key Info

Price & Hours

Free
Hours for park attractions vary by season

Details

Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Zoos and Aquariums, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.6

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

If California had a Central Park equivalent, Golden Gate Park would undoubtedly be it. Though Golden Gate Park sees a small fraction of the visitor's its New York counterpart does (Central Park welcomes upward of 25 million, while Golden Gate sees more than 13 million yearly), it's about 174 acres bigger (Central Park is 843 acres). The park offers so much to see and do, it could take an entire day to experience all that it has to offer. Trails, picturesque picnic spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, gardens, museums and more can be found within its evergreen borders. With so many options available, it's best to map out ahead of time what you want to do, though some attractions warrant a visit, regardless of traveler taste.

The Japanese Tea Garden is one of those standout sites. This attraction is one of a kind, serving as the oldest Japanese Garden in the USA. It features five acres of manicured gardens outfitted with cherry trees, bamboo-lined pathways, koi ponds, a five-story pagoda, Zen Garden and actual tea house, among other features. There's also the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest existing public conservatory in the Western Hemisphere. The conservatory offers visitors a look at a plethora of vibrantly colored blooms and a chance to learn more about the nearly 2,000 species of plants that call the conservatory home. 

Another big standout in the park is the California Academy of Sciences, a unique attraction that features an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and the Osher Rainforest, a 90-foot-tall dome-shaped facility that houses 1,600 live animals. Animal lovers will also take to Golden Gate Park's bison paddock located near Spreckels Lake. Those interested in art will take to the De Young Museum, which houses 20th century and contemporary art as well as a sculpture garden, and others wanting a good hike will enjoy exploring Strawberry Hill.

Recent visitors agree there are tons of things to do at Golden Gate Park. So much so that most admit they wouldn't be able to see everything in a day, and recommended travelers pick what they want to do before they go. Even if you have limited time though, visitors suggest making a trek to the park for a short stroll, the scenery is worth it. Some suggested to make sure your journey ends right at the ocean, which borders the park on the west side. If you want a little help navigating the park, consider signing up for a walking tour.

You'll find Golden Gate Park on the northwestern edge of San Francisco. Muni Metro light rails and several bus lines service the park. While entrance to the area is free, some attractions within the park (like the Conservatory of Flowers, the California Academy of the Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden) cost a fee. For more information on attractions, ticket prices, upcoming events and more, visit Golden Gate Park's website.

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California Academy of Sciences1 of 26
Golden Gate Bridge2 of 26
Type
Time to Spend
#1 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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