Golden Gate Park is to us San Franciscans what Central Park is not to Manhattanites, i.e. an oasis of oxygen in the urban jungle. Why? Because for one, we have way many more green patches packed in our tiny city and second, Golden Gate Park is just not any other park. It is home to some very cool attractions and is not simply meant for jogging or hiking or strolling. Plus, lots of hidden nooks and corners to explore! So without further ado, here are some awesome things to check out at the park, which you should not give a miss if you visit fog city!
Cal Academy, as we so fondly call it, is a natural history museum and hosts over 26 million specimen, being one of the largest natural history museums in the USA. One of my favorite places in the city and a candy land for the geek/nerd/science enthusiast in you, this science museum in Golden Gate park is a must visit for adults and kids alike for their amazing, detailed exhibits on topics as varied as geology, anthropology, chemistry and botany, which provide a glimpse into the scientific phenomenon in our natural world and help us build a better understanding and appreciation of things. They also have adult only nights (called nighttime at the Cal Academy) where bars are set up for you to roam around with a drink and themed parties such as Halloween bash, again for adults only. They have a ton of events for kids too, specially during the Christmas holiday break. Science can be fun too, and Cal Academy just shows you how. The coolest feature is the 100% green, self sustainable, solar panel powered rooftop that is so very rad!
This green garden of zen is beautiful and tranquil with its perfectly coifed topiary, stone paved paths, buddha statue, koi ponds, native japanese plants and pagodas. Admission is free on Mon-Wed-Friday, before 10 AM. This garden, in the Golden gate park, is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Finally, you do get traditional Japanese tea service inside at the centrally located tea house.
Named after San Franciscan M.H. deYoung, this is one place in the Golden Gate park, that art lovers should not give a miss due to its permanent and special exhibits ranging from classical art to subculture and fashion themes. Don’t forget to go all the way up to the topmost floor which is surrounded by glass walls for amazing views of the park and the city! Also, stroll in the adjoining sculpture garden for some beautiful, bizarre and quirky installations or Instagram a photo of you next to the majestic lion heads at the entrance. Finally, do visit its sister museum Legion of Honor on the other end of the city if you get a chance to keep that art mojo flowing.
D) Strawberry Hill
You never know what hidden treasures you will stumble upon once you are in GG park! Strawberry Hill is a beautiful Shangri-la of dog friendly trails surrounding a tiny lake in one corner of the park and is a great place to take your pooch out for a walk! Bonus: a beautiful waterfall! Read more about it in my previous blog post.
This is a themed garden within Golden gate park that is filled with blooms and plants mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare, the bard of Avon and makes for a pleasant, romantic walking venue when the flowers are in full bloom.There are more than 200 varieties of flowers and foliage and this spot transports visitors into the pages of some of the Bards most famous literary works via quotes engraved on stones accompanying the floral arrangements. Shakespeare’s Flowers also doubles as a popular outdoor wedding venue.
San Francisco Botanical Garden, formerly known as Strybing Arboretum is 55 acres of beautiful gardens showcasing diverse plants from around the world & a fantastic magnolia collection, with as many as 7500 different species on exhibit. The Conservatory of Flowers is the oldest conservatory on the west coast and the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America, resplendent with Victorian architecture. Both these places in the Golden Gate park make for a great morning or afternoon stroll and help you get closer to nature.
G) Food options
Both Cal Academy of Sciences and de Young have their own cafeterias, but barring that and a few scattered food trucks (which are best avoided), the park itself does not provide a lot of food options. However, this being San Francisco and Golden gate park being in the center of neighborhoods like Haight, Richmond and Sunset, there are plenty of options once you leave the park. My favorites are Aziza (Moroccan), Cinderella Bakery and Cafe in Inner Richmond, Pomelo (Californian-Asian fusion), Lavash (Persian), Arizmendi bakery and Lime Tree (Singaporean) in Inner Sunset along with many other restaurants that you will find in these two bustling neighborhoods. So happy eating post exploring our beautiful Golden Gate park!