13 fascinating issues to find out about Golden Gate Park

13 fascinating issues to find out about Golden Gate Park

San Francisco is a metropolis of parks — 481 of them, to be actual — beautiful pockets of city inexperienced area which can be our backyards, playgrounds, gyms and secure areas. Each San Franciscan has a high quality park inside a 10-minute stroll from dwelling, and of those lots of of city oases, Golden Gate Park reigns supreme.

With greater than 24 million guests annually, Golden Gate Park simply ranks among the many nation’s most-visited city parks, alongside icons like Central Park in New York, the Nationwide Mall in Washington and Lincoln Park in Chicago.

However we’ll admit, with greater than 1,000 can’t-miss acres and historical past spanning greater than a century, Golden Gate Park may appear a bit daunting for the uninitiated. With a lot to discover and expertise — biking, boating, mountaineering, waterfalls, museums, gardens, hidden gems — the place do you even begin? Allow us to assist take a few of the guesswork out of town’s crown jewel, and also you’ll discover Golden Gate Park much more approachable than you may need thought.

With assist from locals, we’ve put collectively a primer that can assist you know what to do in Golden Gate Park to take advantage of your go to. From little-known info and must-see sights, to trip-planning suggestions and native lore, we’ll aid you take advantage of your first (or subsequent) go to to this sprawling getaway inside San Francisco.

13 fascinating issues to find out about Golden Gate Park

An aerial view of Golden Gate Park from the Pacific Ocean. Golden Gate Park is the third most visited metropolis park within the U.S.

Steve Proehl/Getty Photos

Golden Gate Park is greater than Central Park

The very first thing to find out about Golden Gate Park is that it is huge, with 1,017 acres of public grounds measuring 3 miles finish to finish. That makes the park roughly 200 acres bigger than Central Park. Golden Gate Park is dwelling to 680 forested acres, 130 acres of meadows, 15 miles of drives and 33 acres of lakes. However lest we get too cocky, the Belief for Public Land stories that, even with all that acreage, there are nonetheless greater than 100 metropolis parks within the U.S. which can be bigger than Golden Gate Park.

Bikers pass a long line of people for the SkyStar Observation Wheel Golden at Golden Gate Park on Nov. 28, 2020, in San Francisco, California.

Bikers cross a protracted line of individuals for the SkyStar Statement Wheel Golden at Golden Gate Park on Nov. 28, 2020, in San Francisco, California.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle 2020

Golden Gate Park has a Ferris wheel

If the London Eye has taught us something, it’s that nothing makes an city park extra spectacular than a Ferris wheel. The Golden Gate Park Ferris wheel stands on the northern fringe of the Music Concourse — the plaza sandwiched between the de Younger Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. The SkyStar Statement Wheel, because it’s formally recognized, was put as much as commemorate Golden Gate Park’s a hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 2020, and guests can take it for a spin by way of 2025.

The wheel options 36 totally enclosed, climate-controlled capsules, every seating six folks. It whirls riders 15 tales as much as allow them to get pleasure from birds-eye views from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean and from downtown’s gleaming skyscrapers all the best way to the Golden Gate Bridge. At 150 ft tall, the Golden Gate Park Ferris wheel is the biggest to ever be arrange in California — and it’s 2 ft taller than the de Younger Museum’s close by Hamon remark tower, which may additionally give you gasp-worthy views of the realm with out having to purchase a ticket.

Discover it:1 Bowl Drive, San Francisco, CA 94121

Golden Gate Park was a barren wasteland

It’s exhausting to consider immediately, however earlier than it was a sprawling greenbelt, Golden Gate Park was 1,000 windswept acres of rocky and sandy wilderness recognized within the 1800s because the Exterior Lands. Civil engineer William Hammond Corridor, a Maryland native, was the chosen architect of Golden Gate Park, who took on the big problem of conjuring a forest from the wasteland in 1870.

Corridor relied closely on eucalyptus, Monterey cypress and Monterey pine — bushes that thrive in Northern California’s sandy soil — to tame the badlands. By 1875, historians consider 60,000 bushes had been flourishing within the once-hostile setting. Now, some estimates rely as many as 130,000 bushes in Golden Gate Park. To feed water to the fledgling inexperienced area, a pair of Dutch-style windmills had been constructed on the park’s west finish. They had been changed with a motor pump system in 1913, however the windmills nonetheless stand immediately close to the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Backyard.

Parking lot and signage, with Ocean Beach visible, at the Beach Chalet restaurant in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, August 27, 2016. (Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

Parking zone and signage, with Ocean Seashore seen, on the Seashore Chalet restaurant in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, August 27, 2016. (Photograph through Smith Assortment/Gado/Getty Photos).

Smith Assortment/Gado/Getty Photos

Free parking at Golden Gate Park exists however is hard to attain

You may get to Golden Gate Park through public transit, bicycle, automotive or having a ride-sharing service drop you off, and most guests will discover the latter to be the quickest, best and most dependable methodology, particularly contemplating you do not have to mess with parking.

Anybody driving to Golden Gate Park must be conscious that whereas the park has greater than 5,000 free parking areas, they’re robust to land in the course of the weekends and particular occasions. Complicating the search totally free parking is the truth that massive parts of east- and westbound thoroughfares are completely closed to autos. Road parking with cut-off dates will be discovered on these and smaller streets throughout the park. You may additionally discover lots of of paid spots within the storage beneath the de Younger Museum and Music Concourse, in addition to at Kezar Stadium, close to the park’s Stanyan Road entrance.

If you happen to’re touring by bicycle, Golden Gate Park is chock-full of motorcycle paths, bike lanes and bike parking. If you happen to’re taking public transit, use the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Company’s on-line trip-planning device that can assist you scope out the perfect path to the park from the place you are departing.

A Golden Gate Park Shuttle is the only vehicle on a 1.5 mile section of JFK Drive that is now permanently vehicle free for the use of pedestrians, bicyclists, and runners in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. on May 17, 2022.
A Golden Gate Park Shuttle is the one automobile on a 1.5 mile part of JFK Drive that’s now completely automobile free for using pedestrians, bicyclists, and runners in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Might 17, 2022.Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Golden Gate Park has a free shuttle service, even on weekends

If you happen to’re visiting on a weekend or main vacation and questioning the place to park at Golden Gate Park, you need to use the free lot at Ocean Seashore and journey a free shuttle to the park, courtesy of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Division. The shuttle operates each quarter-hour on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 9 a.m. to six p.m. Then, Monday by way of Friday, the shuttle operates each 20-25 minutes from 12 to six p.m. If you happen to determine to park elsewhere inside Golden Gate Park, you possibly can nonetheless hop on the shuttle throughout one in every of its many stops and hitch a journey to one of many many sights on the grounds.

Patrons of the California Academy of Sciences can look forward to seeing Claude the alligator again after-hours as the institution's "NightLife" series returns next Thursday, May 13. 

Patrons of the California Academy of Sciences can look ahead to seeing Claude the alligator once more after-hours because the establishment’s “NightLife” sequence returns subsequent Thursday, Might 13. 

Courtesy of the California Academy of Sciences

An albino alligator named Claude lives at Golden Gate Park

You learn that proper: An albino alligator calls Golden Gate Park dwelling. Within the wild, child Claude could have been somebody’s snack, however rising up below the watchful eye of the California Academy of Sciences, Claude turned a neighborhood movie star. Hatched in 1995, he’s the star of Golden Gate Park’s Steinhart Aquarium, a ghostly white 200-pound alligator and one in every of solely dozens of albino gators on the planet.

Claude possible wouldn’t have survived lengthy in nature, as a result of his conspicuous lack of camouflage and poor eyesight that include his albinism, however right here within the swampy security of the aquarium, he’s dwelling his greatest life. Claude spends most of his days posting up on his favourite heated rock, however fortunate guests could catch him gobbling down king crab —his favourite deal with — tussling with handlers throughout weekly private coaching classes, or frolicking on a deep dive with the snapping turtles and koi with whom he shares his tank.

If all goes effectively, Clause will dwell to the ripe outdated age of 80.

Discover Claude at: 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94121

Five new bison were introduced to the herd at the buffalo paddock at Golden Gate Park on March 3, 2020, in San Francisco, California.

5 new bison had been launched to the herd on the buffalo paddock at Golden Gate Park on March 3, 2020, in San Francisco, California.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst N/San Francisco Chronicle through Gett

Golden Gate Park additionally has a herd of bison

Not solely does an albino alligator dwell at Golden Gate Park, so do a herd of bison. Wild because it sounds, bison dwell on the park’s western finish and have for greater than a century. Simply west of Spreckels Lake, alongside John F. Kennedy Drive, you’ll discover the Bison Paddock. Within the park’s early days, a coterie of animals had been on exhibit, together with zebras, goats, elk and deer. Most have since relocated to the San Francisco Zoo, however the bison nonetheless roam.

By the point bison had been launched to Golden Gate Park, populations had been pushed to the brink of extinction. Their meat and hides prompted years of grasping slaughter by European settlers. In an effort to spice up the dwindling numbers, the primary two bison arrived in 1891 from the Nice Plains. Via this profitable breeding program, the park’s herd was 30 sturdy by the Twenties, and now, greater than 100 calves have been born inside Golden Gate Park. 

When visiting the bison, don’t count on tips and daring shows. Whereas charging bison can run as much as 30 mph, these not often do. The Golden Gate Park bison a lot favor grazing, chilling and protecting to themselves — very similar to many park guests — although it’s fairly a thrill if you happen to can catch one munching grass close to the fence.

Discover the bison at: 1237 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA 94121

SFGATE culture editor Dan Gentile digs for buried treasure in Golden Gate Park next to the Powell Street Railway Shelter, on Friday, April 15, 2022.

SFGATE tradition editor Dan Gentile digs for buried treasure in Golden Gate Park subsequent to the Powell Road Railway Shelter, on Friday, April 15, 2022.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

Golden Gate Park reportedly incorporates buried treasure — and allows you to dig for it

For many years, treasure hunters have combed by way of Golden Gate Park searching a fabled buried treasure that has eluded seekers for practically half a century.

The sleuthing started in 1982, when a fantasy writer named Byron Preiss revealed a graphic novel referred to as “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt.” Within the e-book, Preiss hints, in cryptic riddles, on the location of jewels he himself buried in 12 cities throughout North America. “The Secret” incorporates 12 poems and 12 illustrations, and matching the correct verse to the proper illustration, the writer teased, would give clues to every treasure’s location.

Treasure hunters unanimously agree that one image-and-poem pairing factors straight to Golden Gate Park, although theories abound as to the place exactly within the park the treasure could lie. The park has a draft-style allowing system by which treasure hunters could make their case and rating the prospect to dig below the supervision of a park ranger.

If this all sounds too fantastical to be true, skeptics ought to know that three of Preiss’ treasures have been discovered to this point — the primary in 1983 in Chicago, the second in 2004 in Cleveland and the latest in 2019 in Boston. A purported Golden Gate Park discovery in 2019 turned out to be a hoax, that means the remaining 9 are nonetheless but to be found.

Depend it as one more treasure the park holds proper below our noses.

Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park’s Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.

coleong/Getty Photos/iStockphoto

A number of the landmarks and sculptures at Golden Gate Park date again to an 1894 competition

If the assortment of public artwork inside Golden Gate Park appears a random hodgepodge — from sphinxes and Roman gladiators to Grecian temples and pagodas — it’s as a result of many are surviving vestiges of the the California Midwinter Worldwide Exposition of 1894.

The honest was held to place San Francisco on the proverbial map, displaying town off in the best way that the World’s Columbian Exposition had achieved for Chicago the 12 months earlier than. The fairgrounds consisted of dazzling momentary constructions on 160 acres in Golden Gate Park, creating the footprint of immediately’s Music Concourse. Two million guests got here to see installations just like the Japanese Village, Egyptian Constructing and Spreckels Temple of Music, cementing San Francisco’s standing as a world-class metropolis and worthwhile vacationer vacation spot.

Although most constructions had been demolished shortly after the honest, some — just like the Japanese Tea Backyard and lots of the statues you see immediately — had been preserved as public artwork that has lasted greater than 120 years.

An empty pedestal that housed a statue of Francis Scott Key in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

An empty pedestal that housed a statue of Francis Scott Key in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

MediaNews Group/The Mercury Information/MediaNews Group through Getty Photos

Golden Gate Park is reckoning with America’s racist roots

On the northern fringe of the Music Concourse, guests to the SkyStar Statement Wheel will discover an empty shrine sitting atop a large pedestal. Bronze eagles and a flag-bearing goddess stand sentinel above, however throughout the shrine — nothing.

It as soon as held a statue of Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” whom historians agree was a slaveholder and outspoken racist. Key, in his position as District Lawyer of Washington, D.C., actively fought abolition within the 1830s. The statue of Key was toppled in 2020 on the heels of the homicide of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police, as a part of a motion that rippled by way of the nation, forcing many public areas to reexamine their historic monuments.

Now, surrounding the empty plinth on all sides stand 350 Black figures in 5 rings. Monumental Reckoning is the identify of this new work created by Oakland artist Dana King. It represents the primary Africans stolen from their homeland in Angola, 350 captives ferried in 1619 to lives of slavery within the New World. These ancestral sculptures encircle the vacant plinth that after honored a racist, shoulder-height our bodies of vinyl tubing and black metal with braided hair and upturned faces. They stare down the reclaimed monument as if demanding accountability from the flag-bearing goddess cornered above.

Loria Fox (left) with James Fox and Donald Mullikan with Dawn Mullikan (right) celebrating 34 years of marriage today at the Beach Chalet in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, December 23, 2011.
Loria Fox (left) with James Fox and Donald Mullikan with Daybreak Mullikan (proper) celebrating 34 years of marriage immediately on the Seashore Chalet in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, December 23, 2011.Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle

Golden Gate Park has loads of meals

Picnicking in Golden Gate Park is a should — that goes with out saying — however if you happen to discover you’re not feeling the PB&J you packed otherwise you get a sudden candy tooth that solely mushy serve will fulfill, you do not have to depart the park.

Listed here are a number of of the perfect locations to eat inside Golden Gate Park:

Annie’s Scorching Canine — You’ll find 5 of those well-liked food-on-the-go spots all through the park, together with on the Music Concourse, alongside Spreckels Lake’s south shore, close to the SkyStar Statement Wheel, on the Conservatory of Flowers and by the Golden Gate Park Carousel.

Twirl and Dip Tender Serve — This cell ice cream parlor serves scoops, sundaes, floats and fresh-fruit ice pops on the Music Concourse, behind the Spreckels Temple of Music.

Annakoot — This little purple meals truck on the Music Concourse provides picnics a spicy kick with its curries, samosas, naan and pakoras.

Tea Home — This rustic spot contained in the park’s Japanese Tea Backyard gives a meditative cup of tea and Japanese refreshments. It is nestled within the middle of the backyard amongst koi ponds and sculpted bushes.

Stow Lake Boathouse — This waterside cafe gives burgers, wraps, paninis, baked items, beer and wine on the shore of Golden Gate Park’s largest lake. The pink popcorn is a San Francisco basic you owe it to your self to attempt.

Seashore Chalet Brewery and Park Chalet Beer Backyard — The place Golden Gate Park meets the Pacific, the Seashore Chalet and Park Chalet supply fashionable American delicacies with site-brewed beer, plus you may discover commanding ocean views and considerable free parking.

Eric Dettmann (left) throws to disc golf basket #16 at the disc golf course in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California on May 24, 2010. Travis Rybiski (right), from Millbrae, waits his turn.

Eric Dettmann (left) throws to disc golf basket #16 on the disc golf course in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California on Might 24, 2010. Travis Rybiski (proper), from Millbrae, waits his flip.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst N/San Francisco Chronicle through Gett

Golden Gate Park is greater than only a park … it is a heaven for athletes 

Athletes of all sports activities know Golden Gate Park because the place to coach whereas taking within the sights, sounds and contemporary air. With Pacific breezes whipping in from the west and tranquil views from each sports activities discipline on web site, there’s no place fairly like Golden Gate Park to look at, be taught, follow or just get pleasure from your favourite sport.

Golfers, whether or not they play with balls or discs, will discover phenomenal programs on the grounds. Golden Gate Park Golf Course, on the west finish of the park, is a nine-hole par-3 public course that rubs towards the Pacific Ocean for views even tour execs would envy. It is splendid for inexperienced persons and weekend hackers, as greens charges are inexpensive and golf equipment can be found for rental. In the meantime, Golden Gate Park Disc Golf Course is free to make use of and situated on Marx Meadow Drive. This wooded 18-hole course opened in 2007 and was funded and constructed by the San Francisco Disc Golf Membership, whose volunteers preserve it.

If you happen to’d somewhat hearth arrows than drives, Golden Gate Park Archery Subject is a type of gems that leaves you questioning the way you by no means found it earlier than. Positioned on the park’s west finish, at forty seventh Avenue and Fulton Road, the Archery Subject is scattered with hay bales for shared use and is free for inexperienced persons and marksmen alike. The town’s Rec and Park Division even gives classes for all ages and skills if you wish to change into the following Katniss Everdeen. Tools will be rented close by, however archers are urged to carry their very own targets, bows and arrows.

You possibly can play tennis on one in every of 16 courts on the century-old Lisa and Douglas Goldman Tennis Middle, which underwent a $30-million renovation in 2021. That replace included the addition of a devoted pickleball court docket, garden bowling and a brand new clubhouse. The tennis middle is situated towards the east facet of the park.

An aerial view of the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Tennis Center in Golden Gate Park.

An aerial view of the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Tennis Middle in Golden Gate Park.

Maurice Chee

For many who favor group sports activities, you may discover no scarcity of locations to play them round Golden Gate Park. On the western edge, Seashore Chalet Athletic Fields host a variety of sports activities, particularly soccer, on 4 synthetic-turf fields that even have stadium lighting for nighttime play. On the southern edge, Massive Rec Ball Subject has two spacious fields for leisure baseball motion and will be reserved for follow. However Kezar Stadium is essentially the most spectacular discipline on the grounds, boasting 10,000 seats and enjoying host to the whole lot from soccer to lacrosse to rugby, in addition to runners on its eight-lane oval monitor.

Runners additionally flock to the Golden Gate Park Polo Subject and Stadium, the biggest recreation space within the park. As soon as used for horse racing and polo, it is now a vacation spot for jogging, biking, soccer matches and main occasions just like the annual Exterior Lands music competition. You’ll find it on the western-central facet of the park, on John F. Kennedy Drive.

Skate boarders and curler skaters, in the meantime, will discover a pair of devoted areas to make use of their wheels. The Sixth Avenue Skate Park, on the northern edge, is a beacon for curler skaters, curler bladers and their followers, particularly on sunny Sundays. Waller Road Skate Park, within the southeast nook of Golden Gate Park, has reworked a dead-end road close to Kezar Pavilion right into a devoted spot for ollies, kickflips and different skateboarding tips.

People ride a pedal boat on Stow Lake during autumn in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, on October 20, 2022. 

Individuals journey a pedal boat on Stow Lake throughout autumn in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, on October 20, 2022. 

Anadolu Company/Anadolu Company through Getty Photos

Golden Gate Park is dwelling to 10 lakes 

Lastly, if the water is your favourite discipline of play, you may discover loads to get pleasure from. Stow Lake is a 12-acre, doughnut-shaped physique of water that hosts rowboats, pedal boats and whisper-quiet electrical motor boats that may be rented by the hour. To do some fishing, head to one of many three serene swimming pools situated simply past the Bison Paddock, that are completely free to make use of. Cease by Anglers Lodge, at 1232 John F. Kennedy Drive, to take a category from an professional member of the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Membership.