Everything you need when planing a vacation trip to San Francisco
A sunny day in the park


Tea Garden Gate

In a Nutshell...

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is one of the great metropolitan parks in the world. 20% larger than New York’s Central Park, it reaches from the Pacific Ocean 3.5 miles inland into the city. On its 1017 acres are 11 lakes, 2 water falls, two major museums, an authentic Japanese tea garden, world class horticultural collections, a yacht club (for miniature yachts) and a miniature buffalo heard (the heard is small, not the buffalos). And all of this sprung out of a barren sandy wasteland that Frederick Law Olmstead, Central Park’s landscape architect, declared was folly to consider as a park’s location.

On Sundays the park closes to auto traffic from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm when it is overtaken by joggers, bikers and rollerbladers.


Some Golden Gate Park highlights...

Conservatory of Flowers

The Flower Conservatory


On the eastern end of the park, stands the Conservatory of Flowers, a Victorian greenhouse. It is home to some 1,700 species of plants in 12,000 square feet of space. Its collection is divided into four main divisions, aquatic plants, highland tropics, lowland tropics and potted plants. There is an area set aside for special exhibits. It holds the world’s premier collection of high-altitude orchids.

It is opened to the public daily 10:00 am to 4:30 pm (Mondays closed, except Memorial Day and Labor Day). Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year Day. Admission for adults is $7, youths, seniors and students $5 and children 5 to 11 $2. Admission free on the first Tuesday of the month. Details can be found at its web site at ConservatoryofFlowers.org.


Japanese Tea Garden

The Tea Garden


The park’s Japanese Tea Garden is the nation’s oldest Japanese garden dating from the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. Covering four acres of the park, just west of the de Young museum, it enchants visitors with a large bronze Buddha, a drum bridge, century old wisteria and azaleas, as well as a tea house where one can enjoy tea and cookies served by kimono clad waitresses. It is here where fortune cookies are claimed to have been invented. How they became a staple of Chinese food restaurants rather than Japanese, I can not say.

Such delights do not come free, unless one visits on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays before 10:00 am. Otherwise adults must pay $7.00, seniors and youths $5.00 and children (5-11) $2 for admittance.  It is open daily 9:00 am till 6:00 pm except for November through February when it closes at 4:45 pm.


Music Concourse

The Music Concourse


Between the Academy of Sciences and the de Young museum is a sunken area with a large circular fountain in the center called the Music Concourse. On one end stand the Victorian monument to Francis Scott Key, and on the other is the bandshell called the Spreckels Temple of Music after Claus Spreckels, the sugar king. He received the honor for funding it at the urging of the park’s superintendent who also happened to be his son. Finished in 1900, the Temple of Music is in classical style with two saucy muses of music flanking a corbelled shell.

From spring to fall the professional musicians of the Golden Gate Park Band put on free concerts in the Temple of Music on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 pm till about 3:00 pm. Details can be found at GoldenGateParkBand.org


The Museums

The de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park


There are two major museums in the park (on either side of the Music Concourse), the de Young art museum and the California Academy of Sciences. Being major San Francisco attractions, we have given them each their own pages at:

The de Young Museum

The California Academy of Sciences


Shakespeare Garden

The Shakespear Garden


Off of Martin Luther King Drive, near the western end of the California Academy of Sciences, is the small Shakespeare Garden. This is a flower garden in which gardening and literature enthusiasts volunteer to maintain all the flower species that are mentioned in the bard's works. The garden was established in 1928 by the California Spring Blossom and Wildflower Association.


Stow Lake

A spring day on Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park


Stow Lake is a man made reservoir that encircles Strawberry Hill and is the park's largest body of water. Its construction was paid for by railroad tycoon, Collis Huntington and here is a beautiful waterfall flowing artfully down the hill into the lake bearing his name.


The lake features a boat house where one can rent several different kinds of boats for an excursion around Strawberry Hill. There is also a picturesque Chinese Moon-watching pavilion on the lake's edge which was a gift from the people of Taipei, Taiwan, one of San Francisco's many sister cities.


Buffalo Paddock

Buffalo doing what they do best

Since 1891 buffalos have chewed their cuds in Golden Gate Park. You can stop by their enclosure and watch the small herd doing what buffalo do: eating grass, swishing flies away with their tails and standing motionless while staring blankly into space.


Dutch Windmill and Tulip Garden

The Windmill in Golden Gate Park

Most who see them, assume the Golden Gate Park windmills near Ocean Beach are just decorative curiosities, but this is not the case. One could even say they were essential to existence of the park. To turn the park from barren sand dunes into a lush city park required an enormous amount of fresh water. The only place in the park where wells were found that could provide an ample supply was at the western edge where the park meets the Pacific Ocean. Since this is also a particularly windy spot, the decision was made to build a giant windmill to pump the well. The first windmill, built in 1902, proved to be such a success that a second windmill was built in 1908, which was the biggest windmill of the old Dutch type ever constructed.

With the use of electric pumps in the park starting in 1913, the windmills became obsolete and soon fell into appalling disrepair. Over the years, efforts were made to save them, but it was not until the 1980’s that the northern windmill, known as the Dutch Windmill, was properly restored. Restoration on the southern one, the giant Murphy Windmill, is on going.

Near the Dutch Windmill is a large tulip garden, which is spectacular in the spring.


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