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How to Spend the Day in Golden Gate Park
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How to Spend the Day in Golden Gate Park

Once you visit Golden Gate Park, you’ll surely leave your heart in San Francisco.

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5 min read

November 15, 2021

Most visitors spending a day in San Francisco say that they couldn’t have enough of Golden Gate Park. We totally get it—the 1000-plus acre park is hardly a place to simply enjoy a picnic. Golden Gate Park is where you can view great artworks, ride a carousel, enjoy the fragrance of exotic flowers, and indulge in delicious Japanese tea. Once you visit Golden Gate Park, you’ll surely leave your heart in San Francisco

With 24 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the third most-visited city park in the United States after Central Park and the Lincoln Memorial.

8:00 a.m. 

With a size of 1,017 acres, Golden Gate Park is pretty easy to find. Bordered by the neighborhoods of Haight-Ashbury, Richmond, Sunset, and Ocean Beach, the park is actually 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York City. If you choose to go to the park by car, you can find time-limited parking along John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Junior. For those who prefer a fuss-free ride, it’s best to use public transportation. 

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10:00 a.m.

Your day-long activities of fun things to do in Golden Gate Park is about to begin, but skipping breakfast is something we don’t recommend. So, the first thing you need to do is have a good meal along with your morning cup of joe at the cafe in the California Academy of Sciences. The Academy Cafe has fantastic breakfast options and delicious coffee to start your day. Opt for the house-roasted turkey and cheddar sandwich if you like savory meals. But if sweet is your jam, go for the sun nut butter and jelly sandwich. Enjoy your breakfast in the gorgeous cafe or head to one of the surrounding picnic areas in Golden Gate Park. 

Once you're done with your meal, check out the exhibits at the museum—from Malaysia to Cameroon and beyond, you’ll get acquainted with Mother Nature in a way you’ve never experienced before. 

The Conservatory of Flowers is one of the largest conservatories in the US, as well as one of few large Victorian greenhouses in the United States.

12:00 p.m.

You’ve always heard about the famous Golden Gate Park carousel, and guess what? Today’s the day you finally see it for yourself. Adjacent to the Koret Children’s Quarter, the historic merry-go-round was built in 1914. Enjoy a circular flight into a dreamland that people of all ages appreciate. 

Now that you checked the carousel off your list, it’s time to search for the oldest building in Golden Gate Park—the Conservatory of Flowers. This historic landmark is the state’s first municipal greenhouse featuring a large collection of rare and exotic flowers on display. The Victorian greenhouse has a 60-foot central dome that you just can’t miss. After admiring the attraction, walk towards the San Francisco Botanical Garden to explore 55 acres of natural beauty. As one of the most unique things to do in S.F., visiting this botanical garden exposes you to 8,000-plus species of plants, including hairy grey heather and fuchsia denticulata.

Named after M. H. de Young, the San Francisco newspaper magnate, the De Young Museum is a fine arts museum that was opened in January 1921.

2:00 p.m.

Whenever you’re spending the day at Golden Gate Park, you’re within walking distance from one of California’s best art museums, the de Young Museum. But before you go on a tour, stop at the De Young Cafe for a delicious meal for an energy boost. We recommend ordering the ratatouille quiche—prepared with Swiss cheese, potatoes, zucchini, caramelized onions, and sweet piquillo onions, it’s the most mouthwatering dish you’ll have. 

The de Young Museum is a historic display of art. American and international contemporary art pieces will keep you touring the museum for hours—search for the Frida Kahlo originals when you're here. Keep an eye out for textiles and costumes from different eras to inspire you. This Golden Gate Park museum offers free admissions every Saturday for Bay Area residents and the first Tuesday of every month for the general public. 

If you are a San Francisco local and frequent Golden Gate Park, floating or paddling about Stow Lake at least once in your lifetime is a must.

4:00 p.m.

One of the things you must do in Golden Gate Park is pay a visit to Stow Lake (if urban legends don’t freak you out). Prepare yourself for a whole lot of beauty as you make your way to the artificial lake. Rent a rowboat or a pedal boat from Stow Lake Boathouse to spend time relaxing at the park. The best part about Stow Lake is that it’s not as crowded as other attractions within the park—you just might have the whole area for yourself. 

Later on, head to Strawberry Hill that’s located in the middle of the lake and can be reached through bridges. Take a photo or two of Huntington Falls and go all the way up to the top of the hill for gorgeous views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. 

We’re not done with Instagram spots in Golden Gate Park just yet—the S.F. Japanese Tea Garden is where you’ll be snapping away. Pagodas, koi ponds, and an arched drum bridge add an oriental charm to the park—you can catch gorgeous cherry blossom trees in full bloom during spring. Make sure to indulge in an authentic cup of Japanese tea when you’re here.

The Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden is a quaint spot in the northwest corner of the park, next to an authentic Dutch windmill.

6:00 p.m.

Anyone wants to see little model yachts? Spreckels Lake is where you’ll encounter tiny model boat owners showing off their gorgeous creations. Members of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club gather here to launch their wind and motor-powered boats. Rent your own toy, set sail, and picture owning a life-sized yacht. 

Afterwards, make your way to the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden to check out the Dutch and Murphy Windmills. Back in the early 1900s, the windmills were used to pump water—nowadays, they serve as aesthetic backdrops that make Golden Gate Park the picturesque place it is. 

Enjoy quality seafood and handcrafted ales, served with a panoramic view of Ocean Beach at Beach Chalet. Photo courtesy of Beach Chalet.

8:00 p.m.

Now that you’ve covered most of the must-sees in Golden Gate Park, walk towards the end of the park for a well-deserved, world-class dinner at Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant. Located on the top floor of a Spanish Colonial-style building, the restaurant offers majestic views of Ocean Beach. Their baked oysters Rockefeller is what you need to get—three large oysters topped with creamed spinach, garlic, and gouda is what your dreams are made of. For the main dish, opt for the whole grilled branzino stuffed with citrus-herb with a side of green-garlic and chorizo paella rice. This is the perfect end to a perfect day in Fog City’s Golden Gate Park

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