Presidio of San Francisco

Discover history, culture, open spaces, spectacular views and the Jedi Master Yoda at this former military base.

The Spanish set up camp here in 1776, and following a brief stint by the Mexicans, the Americans upheld the picture perfect outpost until 1994. This makes it the longest running military base in U.S. history. Today, it is designated a National Historical Landmark District.

This nearly 1,500-acre (590-hectare) expanse contains a championship golf course, a cemetery, hiking trails and the Letterman Digital Arts Center, one of the campuses of filmmaker George Lucas’ company. Wander among the evergreen pines and scramble over monolithic fortifications while the bright red towers of the Golden Gate Bridge seem to keep a watchful eye. For a seaside stroll and stunning views, head to the ruggedly beautiful Baker Beach to the west. The Presidio is home to over 25 miles (40 kilometers) of hiking trails that meander through pristine California coast, right on San Francisco's busting doorstep.

One of the most popular areas within Presidio is Crissy Field, a favored haunt of cyclists, joggers and rollerbladers. Sitting in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, this sprawling sandy stretch of restored marshland is a great picnic spot and the only beach in San Francisco that’s on the shore of the bay.

For intellectual stimulation, try the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Walt Disney Family Museum, the Battery Chamberlain or the Crissy Fields Center. These sites all provide excellent informative panels and the hands-on activities are sure to be a hit with the kids.

Relics of the Presidio's military past are evident in the parade grounds at Moraga and the San Francisco National Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 30,000 American military veterans and their families. The park’s exceptional diversity is its biggest attraction. In the morning, hike through shaded forests of eucalyptus and cypress trees, and along coastal bluffs. Later in the day, paddle in the Pacific Ocean or stand in front of the Yoda Fountain at the Letterman Digital Arts Center.

On the far north of the San Francisco Peninsula, the Presidio is immediately adjacent to the south of the Golden Gate Bridge. The San Francisco Municipal (Muni) buses, Golden Gate Transit services, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and PresidiGo shuttles all service the park. There is now a Presidio Transit Center, which makes the park even more accessible. You can easily ride a bike there, which has the advantage of being a great way to get around the park. A free PresidiGo shuttle service inside the park will also get you around the major points, and there’s also paid parking available within the park.