17 Fantastic Things to Do in Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is even more significant than NY’s Central Park and is the biggest park in the city. With an area that stretches over 1,000 acres, it’s no surprise that there are many Golden Gate Park attractions.
We’ve narrowed it down to a more manageable amount – 17 things to do in Golden Gate Park.
Skip the question “what to do in Golden Gate Park,” and dive right into these fantastic activities we’ve hand-picked for you. Check out our top list before you visit Golden Gate Park.
What to Do in Golden Gate Park: 17 Fun Activities and Attractions
Sit Down for Tea at the Tea House inside the Japanese Tea Garden.
Initially built for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, this tea garden was intended to be a temporary exhibit. However, with some encouragement from the landscaper Makoto Hagiwara, it was transformed into a permanent attraction. Now, you can enjoy tea and light snacks.
Visit the Conservatory of Flowers.
The conservatory is one of the first formal buildings in the park and now houses an impressive array of flowers, from orchids to water lilies and even carnivorous plants. There are 1,700 various plant species present at the conservatory, which features outdoor areas and a Victorian-style greenhouse.
Watch the Sunset From Ocean Beach.
Ocean Beach is actualy part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and not an official part of the Park. However, it’s magnificent in its own right. It’s beloved by surfers, joggers and stretches 3.5 miles. The Pacific Ocean water is frigid and the currents and sneaker waves are hazardous for all but the most experienced surfers. Keep an eye out for the shipwreck that appears during low tide.
Reignite Your Belief in Fairies.
Search the park for the tiny fairy doors hidden in different areas. These doors were initialy part of an art installation created by Tony Powell and his son Rio Powell. More doors have magicaly appeared throughout the park. Kids are encouraged to leave presents and notes for the fairies behind the doors.
See Global Plants at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
If you didn’t get your fill of flowers and plants at the conservatory, you could head to the botanical garden, which features 8,000 plant varietals from around the world. The garden also houses fun events like moonwalks and a temporary exhibit of grand pianos throughout the year.
Spend Time With Live Animals at the California Academy of Sciences.
This natural history museum is excellent for visitors of all ages. Don’t be surprised if the aquarium and planetarium dominate your visit to Golden Gate Park. It’s easy to spend quite a few hours here learning about the 40,000 animals present.
Picnic at Stow Lake.
Stow Lake is the largest of the 10 lakes present in the park. Many visitors spend a few hours boating on the lake or hiking to Strawberry Hill nearby. It’s a great spot to enjoy while taking a Golden Gate Park segway tour. You can also view the cascading Huntington Falls and enjoy the relaxing sound of flowing water as you enjoy a picnic lunch.
Become an Art Connoisseur at the de Young Museum.
You’re not limited to outdoor activities as you visit Golden Gate Park. The de Young Museum offers views of various art mediums like paintings, sculptures, and more from global locations. There’s a good mixture of permanent and temporary exhibits, so no two visits will be the same. There’s even a 144-foot tower that offers incredible views of the park that you can enjoy.
Hike Through the Oak Woodlands.
Golden Gate Park was once covered with sand dunes until a windmill irrigation system and dedicated superintendents planted trees, barley seeds, etc. You can view evidence of the once rugged terrain in these woodlands. Now, there are paved paths that you can hike on while viewing some of the oldest coast live oak trees.
Take Your Kids to Koret Children’s Playground.
This playground is also known as the first public playground for children in the nation. It opened in 1888 and now houses the Herschel-Spillman Carousel. Jump on one of the available rotating animals like a pig, dragon, or goat for a nostalgic ride around the carousel.
Visit the National AIDS Memorial Grove.
During the 1980s, as the AIDs pandemic hit, many people were pushed into a state of fear. Eventually, as medicine advanced, people better understood the disease and became more accepting. Thus, this grove was dedicated to learning about those affected by the disease. It’s also meant to inspire the continuous progress of medicine in connection to AIDS.
See the Historic Windmills and Tulip Field.
As mentioned, two windmills were built in the early 1900s to shift water around the park, making it easier for plants and trees to grow on the sandy dunes. These historic windmills are still standing and the northern one is surrounded by lush tulip fields. On occasion, the windmills are run for maintenance and holidays. So don’t be alarmed if you catch one moving during a visit.
Catch a Free Concert at the Music Concourse.
Nestled in the center of the museum area lies the music concourse, which often holds free summertime concerts. Search for the Spreckels Temple of Music, built for the Mid-Winter Fair of 1894, to enjoy one of these concerts. They typically occur only on Sundays from April through October.
Read Verses in Shakespeare Garden.
This garden features an impressive bust of Shakespeare himself and quotes from some of his famous works. Take a few moments to check out the lovely flowers in the garden – they’re all mentioned in Shakespeare’s works!
View Bison at the Bison Paddock.
The paddock is situated on the west end of the park and holds a small herd of American Bison taken care of by the San Francisco Zoo. Golden Gate Park once held many live animals before the San Francisco Zoo was established. The bison continue to reside here as a nod to the park’s history.
Stop by the McLaren Lodge.
John McLaren had a huge part in creating Golden Gate Park and was the first superintendent of parks in San Francisco, though he was the second superintendent of Golden Gate Park. He built McLaren Lodge to live in to keep a constant watch over the park. Now, it’s the headquarters for the SF Recreation and Park Department. You can stop by the lodge to see a part of the park’s history and the former residence of McLaren.
View the Portals of the Past.
You’ll find these columns reflecting in the surface of Lloyd Lake. Located on on JFK Drive near Transverse Drive. After a fire and earthquake in 1906 destroyed most of the Nob Hill area residences, these columns continued to stand. Now they’re a symbol of the resilience of San Francisco.
More What to Do in Golden Gate Park
If you only have a few hours to explore the park but want to see as much as possible, try taking a guided Segway tour with Golden Gate Park Segway Tours, the official park tour operator. Find them in the Music Concourse area near the entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden..
You’ll be fully trained to operate a Segway before your tour. Smaller groups are taken on each guided tour for a more intimate experience. Learn about the park through earbuds as you zip through the park. Tours are available daily, with the option to choose private group tours.