Golden Gate Park

This beloved park offers relaxation among trees, flowers and wildlife, right in San Francisco’s backyard. 

The Golden Gate Park is over three miles (five kilometers) long and about half a mile (800 meters) wide. It was designed in 1871 by park commissioner William Hall, who incorporated winding walking trails that wind through more than 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of beautifully landscaped gardens, woods, and lakes. Golden Gate Park is a lush and laidback refuge from the bustle of San Francisco, stretching all the way from the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to the Pacific coast.

This beautiful urban respite is where locals come to relax. Join a friendly drum circle, weave a daisy chain around the famous Janis Joplin tree, or take a paddle boat ride on Stow Lake. The low-key atmosphere still retains the vibe of the Summer of Love fifty odd years later. Pose for postcard photo opportunities in the tulip garden and soak up the sweet-smelling roses from late spring to early fall. The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, one of the world's largest, is a blooming bonanza.

For science and nature lovers, there's an aquarium, a planetarium, a rainforest and more. One highlight is the California Academy of Sciences, a stunning display of "green" architecture and interactive science. Be sure to check out the living building, topped by a rolling roof carpeted in greenery. The De Young Art Museum, completed in 2005, was designed by famed studio Herzog De Meuron and houses priceless tribal relics sourced from Asia to Africa. Don't miss the city views from this museum’s top-floor gift shop.

For utter tranquility head to the Japanese Tea Gardens where you'll find ornate bridges, manicured gardens, a great cup of tea and maybe even a little inner peace. It's a small slice of Kyoto in the heart of the city. For a faster pace, strap on a set of roller skates, but beware of the hills.

Nature lovers may be lucky enough to see herons, egrets, gulls, warblers and woodpeckers among the park’s lakes and gardens, as well as frogs and turtles. The highlight for kids and adults alike is the herd of bison who reside in an enclosed field next to Spreckels Lake, on the northern side of the park.

Golden Gate Park can be reached by car, the San Francisco Municipal (Muni) services or even by bike. There is a parking garage with reasonable rates located on Fulton Street and 10th Avenue, or you may be lucky and find a park along one of the streets in or around the park itself. The Muni runs to Golden Gate Park from stops throughout the city. Consider hiring a bike either to get there or to get around once you arrive.