The 1,000-plus acres (412 hectares) of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park are home to museums, picnic sites, lakes, golf, hiking and biking paths, concerts, and more. From the attraction-laden east end to the wilder west side where bison roam, the park offers plenty of ways to relax, get a culture fix, exercise, or gather with friends.
Sitting between the Richmond and Sunset districts, Golden Gate Park stretches about 50 blocks across San Francisco from Ocean Beach on the western edge to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences are the two main cultural institutions (with entrance fees) and sit conveniently near each other at the Music Concourse. The Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco Botanical Garden, Shakespeare Garden, National AIDS Memorial Grove, and Stow Lake are other popular attractions in this tourist-heavy section of the park. Moving west toward the Pacific Ocean, the park spreads out with more trails (both paved and dirt), a 9-hole golf course, disc golf, meadows that host annual music festivals, windmills, and even a bison paddock. Park Segway tours and bike rentals are the top ways to explore.
Things to Know Before You Go
Free street parking is available around the park in some locations, and a parking garage is set near the de Young and California Academy of Sciences.
John F. Kennedy Drive is closed on Sundays and holidays from Kezar Drive to Transverse Drive. It’s also closed on Saturdays from April through September from 8th Avenue to Transverse Drive.
Roads inside the park close occasionally for special events; signs will be posted.
Food and drinks can be found at the de Young Café, the Beach Chalet, the California Academy Café, and the Stow Lake Boathouse, as well as at snack stands.
How to Get There
The No. 5 bus on the city’s Muni network stops at entrances to the park on the northern edge, along Fulton Street. Taxis and ride-sharing vehicles are allowed to pull up in front of the de Young and California Academy of Sciences for drop-off only.
When to Get There
San Francisco offers mild weather most of the year, so the park is enjoyable nearly every day (just be sure to wear layers). Music lovers may want to visit for the annual Outside Lands Music Festival in August or the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in October. Beware the city’s famous fog, affectionately known as Karl, which rolls in from the ocean in July and August, giving San Francisco its chilly summers.
The Golden Gate Park Bison Paddock
The most unusual thing about this city park is its bison paddock, home to a herd of American bison since the 1890s. Stumbling upon the animals is a delightful surprise for many visitors who make it to the western section of the park. To find the meadow, head along John F. Kennedy Drive just west of Spreckels Lake. Hopefully you’ll catch them near the fence, but know that they’re not always in view.