Visitors to San Francisco are familiar with the city’s top iconic sites. Landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, and cable cars are certainly at the top of most San Francisco bucket lists. If you are planning to visit this fantastic city, then spending a day at Golden Gate Park should also be added to your list as a must-see and must-do.
Visiting an art museum, having tea in an authentic Japanese Tea House, searching for a shipwreck on the beach, and meandering through the gardens are just a few of the amazing places to explore in Golden Gate Park.
Spending a day, or more, at Golden Gate Park is not just for tourists. San Francisco locals come to the park to spend time with family, read a book or relax and recharge. Did you know that Golden Gate Park is the third most-visited city park in the United States and bigger than Central Park in New York City?
Take a look at our top picks for things to do in Golden Gate Park, for visitors and locals.
1) Visit The De Young Museum Of Fine Art
The de Young Museum houses an impressive collection of art with exhibits that include:
- American art from the 17th through 21st centuries
- Decorative arts
- Modern and contemporary art
- International textiles and costumes
- Artwork from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
Take the elevator to the ninth floor of the Hamon Observation Tower for a glass-walled, 360-degree view of San Francisco.
In addition to the many permanent exhibits, the museum showcases rotating special exhibitions.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Purchase tickets online in advance.
Allow 2 -3 hours.
Pro-tip: At 4:30 pm each day, the permanent collections are open free to the public. Viewing the special exhibits at that time still requires an admission ticket.
2) Stop For Tea At The Japanese Tea Garden
Step into the Japanese Tea Garden and find tranquility. The garden is an impressive landscape of Japanese architecture.
Wander the pathways to see:
- An arched drum bridge
- Stone lanterns
- Native Japanese plants
- Koi ponds
Stop by the Tea House for tea and Japanese refreshments.
Plan to spend 1 – 2.5 hours.
3) Discover A World Of Beauty At San Francisco Botanical Garden
You’ll find over 8,000 plants across 55 acres at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. You’ll see plants from Asia, South Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean, South America, and more.
The garden is open daily.
Plan to spend 1-2 hours.
4) Explore The Classic Shakespeare Garden
This classic garden showcases the many flowers featured in Shakespeare’s writing. You’ll find Shakespeare’s Garden in Golden Gate Park, close to the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Look for the sign directing visitors to the garden’s free entrance.
Plan to spend 1 hour.
5) Row A Boat Around Stow Lake
The 12-acre Stow Lake wraps itself around Strawberry Hill at its center. Rent a rowboat or pedal boat from the Stow Lake boathouse for a self-guided tour of the lake.
As you circle the lake, you’ll see fantastic sights such as:
- Stone bridge
- Huntington Waterfall
- A Chinese Pagoda
- Colorful wildlife
Monday – Friday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Plan to spend 1 – 2 hours.
6) Cross The Foot Bridge To Strawberry Hill
At the center of Stow Lake sits Golden Gate Park’s highest point, Strawberry Hill, so named for the fields of strawberries that once grew here. Access Strawberry Hill via one of two footbridges that cross the lake. It’s an easy uphill hike to the 430-foot top.
Plan to spend 1 – 2 hours.
7) Search For Shipwrecks At Ocean Beach
You’ll find Ocean Beach Park adjacent to the southwest edge of Golden Gate Park. It’s 3.5 miles of white sand beach that are great for walking and exploring.
However, the frigid water and hazardous currents are not suitable for swimming. At least 20 ships have wrecked at this infamous site. It is possible to see a partial hull of the wrecked King Phillip sticking out of the sand during a shallow low tide.
Take A Super Fun Guided Segway Tour!
Have an adventure in Golden Gate Park with a small group of like-minded explorers. You’ll see the famous landmarks, plus a few hidden corners of the park.
Your knowledgeable local guide will share the history, stories, and a few secrets about Golden Gate Park. No experience is necessary to ride the Segway. We’ll take time to make sure each person feels comfortable before we start the tour.
Whether this is your first time in San Francisco or you have lived here for many years, you are sure to learn something and have a good time doing it!