Party Earth Review With eight lakes, two major museums, celebrated gardens, and an abundance of outdoor activities, Golden Gate Park is an idyllic getaway for the more than thirteen million people who pass through every year, looking for... ... read full review
Between Stanyan Street to the east
and Great Highway to the west,
and Fulton Street to the north
and Lincoln Way to the south
San Francisco, CA 94118
MUNI N Line: Carl Street & Stanyan Street, running parallel to the park all the way to Judah/La Playa/Ocean Beach
Hours listed are official park hours, park itself does not close
The Sunset, San Francisco –
With eight lakes, two major museums, celebrated gardens, and an abundance of outdoor activities, Golden Gate Park is an idyllic getaway for the more than thirteen million people who pass through every year, looking for a retreat from the urban crunch.
Outstripping New York’s Central Park by 174 acres, the park’s three-mile expanse was made up entirely of sand dunes until the late 1800s, when a major redevelopment campaign saw the planting of the first of seventy-five thousand trees.
Bikers, joggers, skaters, and casual strollers take to the winding dirt and paved paths, as well as the main thoroughfare of John F. Kennedy Drive, which partially closes to cars on weekends. Sports enthusiasts could spend days conquering all the options, from the tennis courts, archery field, golf course, and track and field stadium to fly-fishing and boating.
Visitors in the mood for a more relaxed adventure can wander through the collections at the de Young Museum, while de young and de old alike crowd into the California Academy of Sciences, a dazzling building featuring a living roof with nearly two million plants and a four-story rainforest home to thirty-eight thousand animals.
More wildlife roams further down the park at the Buffalo Paddock, but if the smell of bison inhibits a romantic meal, picnickers have plenty of other places to set their baskets, from private groves by cascading waterfalls to enormous botanical gardens and serenely hidden stone fountains.
And when the vast meadows aren’t taken over by sunbathers and Frisbee throwers, they’re usually alive with the sound of music, especially during popular festivals like Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
No matter what they’re after, visitors will quickly discover that Golden Gate Park is the city’s premier place for physical, mental, and spiritual diversion.
Head to the California Academy of Sciences on Thursday nights after 6pm for NightLife! For $12 you get access to a special 21+ event where you can wander through the exhibits and aquariums with a cocktail, listen to a live band or DJ, and enjoy various theme nights from sustainable seafood cookouts to salsa dancing.
Athletes, skaters, musicians, hippies, families, couples, tourists, yuppies, hipsters, and everyone else. All ages, though some organized events are 21+.
Museums and Gardens:
The de Young Museum with its American collection of thousands of paintings, sculptures, and objets d’art (free first Tuesday of every month and Fridays 6–8:45pm).
The California Academy of Sciences, which features a T-Rex skeleton, an indoor rainforest, a planetarium, and many aquariums (free every third Wednesday).
The San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers, which include hundreds of rare and exotic plants (Conservatory free the first Tuesday of every month).
Athletic Features and Activities:
Tennis courts, an archery field, Kezar Stadium (a 10,000-seat track and field complex), fly-fishing ponds, boat rentals, a disc golf course, a nine-hole golf course, free swing dancing lessons on Sundays on JFK Drive between 8th and 10th Avenue, and ultimate Frisbee in Speedway Meadow.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (October) is a massive free event that is hardly strictly focused – but still hosts a whole lot – of bluegrass bands.
Outside Lands (August) hosts dozens of hot indie rock, hip-hop, and electronica acts.
The de Young Museum Café for soups, salads, sandwiches, and hot entrées; the Japanese Tea Garden for tea and cookies; Ironwood BBQ at the golf course for sandwiches, burgers, and lots of ribs; and the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant right by the ocean for its full bar and restaurant serving everything from seafood to burgers and fries.
Many restaurant options in surrounding neighborhoods, especially down Lincoln Way and in the Haight.
Park entry is free. The de Young Museum $6–$10, California Academy of Sciences $20–$30. Botanical Gardens $2–$7. Golf driving range or full course $4–$15/M–Th and $6–$19/F–Su. Rowboats $13/hour and four-person paddleboats $17/hour. Tennis courts $4–$5 (residents), $6 (non-residents), and $2–$5 (seniors 65+), and free–$2 for youth under 18.
Archery site is free but visitors must bring their own equipment. Rentals available at the SF Archery Pro Shop (3795 Balboa Street). Food options in the park typically range from $10–$20 for entrées.
Anything goes: shorts, t-shirts, sandals, sweaters, athletic attire in the park, dressier at the de Young.
Weekday afternoons to beat the crowds, sunny weekends for a lively atmosphere, and at night for a popular scene, albeit a bit cold.
Outdoor fun continues along Ocean Beach, a three-mile stretch that runs right past the west end of Golden Gate Park.