Things to do in Golden Gate Park

Things To Do In Golden Gate Park

There are endless things to do in Golden Gate Park. I live a few blocks away and I’m constantly learning about new activities, experiences, and places to visit. It’s so much more than just a park.

I’ll share with you the best-kept secrets, where you need to visit, its history and more.

Let’s see why this park is the center of the city. Golden Gate Park is located in the northwest part of San Francisco. If you live in the Richmond, NoPa, the Sunset, Haight-Ashbury, or Cole Valley, you are on the perimeter of the park and have a very walkable access.

Fun Facts and History

San Francisco is seven miles wide, and the park spans about half of the width of the city. The park’s landscape is home to 680 forested acres, 130 acres of meadows, 15 miles of drives, and 33 acres of lakes. Did you know that the park is actually bigger than Central Park?

In 1871, a field engineer William Hammond Hall, who was only 25 years old, and the master gardener John McLaren carved out this urban oasis named Golden Gate Park.

Athletic Areas

There are a wide range of dedicated athletic fields, courts including soccer, basketball, tennis, football, track, horseshoe, pitching, golf, lawn bowling, archery, and Frisbee golf.


The park is host to several free annual events including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Opera in the Park, and Comedy Day. And then there are several other events required paid entry like the music festival Outside Lands and the infamous Bay to Breakers 12K race which finishes through the park.

In recent years, Golden Gate Park has introduced new initiatives to create car-free zones, closing certain streets to vehicle traffic. This allows residents and visitors to freely enjoy various recreational activities such as cycling, jogging, and even rollerskating.


Golden Gate Park is home to several world-class museums such as the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences.

The de Young Museum showcases a vast collection of fine art while the newer California Academy of Sciences combines a natural history museum, planetarium, and aquarium all under one roof.

For amazing views of the city, head up to the top of the de Young Observation Tower, it’s free. Visit the roof garden at the Cal Academy or hop on the SkyStar Ferris Wheel to see San Francisco from 150 feet.


The Conservatory Of Flowers, which is right behind me, is a greenhouse and botanical garden that houses a collection of rare and exotic plants. With construction having been completed in 1879, it’s the oldest building in the park.

Next to Cal Academy, you’ll find the Shakespeare Garden, which is a themed garden that cultivates some or all of the 175 plants mentioned in various works of William Shakespeare.

You can even experience the natural beauty, tranquility, and harmony of a Japanese-style garden without leaving the park. We have our very own Japanese tea garden.

See over 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world in the botanical garden. All of this is laid out in geographical groupings of similar plants or thematic settings. Once a year, residents look forward to Flower Piano, which is an event that transforms the botanical garden into the city’s own alfresco concert hall where everyone is invited to play and listen to musicians.

If you love roses, take a walk through the Rose Garden. It features a diverse and colorful array of rose bushes. At the very west end of the park across from Ocean Beach, you’ll find sensational blooms of colorful tulips in the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden with views of the historic Dutch Windmill.

Commemorative Groves

There are two windmills in the park, if you can believe that. They were both working windmills that were used to irrigate the land on the far end of the park. In addition to many gardens found in the park, there are many commemorative tree groves including the National AIDS Memorial Grove, Heroes Grove, and the Redwood Memorial Grove.


Golden Gate Park also contains five playgrounds. Interestingly, it’s home to the first public playground in the country. Originally called the Sharon Quarters for Children, today’s Koret playground was the first public playground in the United States.

Public Art

There is no shortage of public art on display here in the park. Some installations are permanent while others evolve and change periodically.

A recent effort is the Golden Mile Project, which keeps the newly car-free JFK Promenade alive with art by local artists and has spots for sitting and enjoying that art. There are even 100 chairs set up for socializing and relaxing.

This effort also includes Paint the Promenade by Paint the Void which is a diverse array of street murals along the JFK route. Entwined forest is an illuminated art installation that lights up Peacock Meadow in Golden Gate Park every winter since 2020. It’s an immersive experience that continues to introduce new sculptural artwork.

Golden Gate Park also offers a unique opportunity for hosting your next celebration or event. While much of the space in the park can be enjoyed by anyone at any time, you can also reserve space for gatherings big or small. You can do this through San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department.

Lakes and Waterfalls

Apart from the greenery, there are several bodies of water in the park as well. Make your way to Stow Lake where you can rent a boat and you can even grab breakfast. The surrounding views are also gorgeous on top of Strawberry Hill, which is right in the middle of Stow Lake. It’s the highest point in the park named for the wild strawberries that used to flourish there.

We also have Lloyd Lake, which is home to a wide variety of non-native, non-migratory birds. Head just a bit further and you’ll also discover Rainbow Falls. In the 1930s, colorful lights were installed to illuminate this beautiful waterfall, giving it its name.

Kezar Stadium

If the park needed another claim to fame, the 49ers actually used to play here. From the middle of the 1940s up until the 1970s, the 49ers called San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park home in Kezar Stadium. It used to be a much bigger stadium than it is today, but the stadium is still alive and well hosting multi-sport, hosting local lacrosse and soccer games. There’s also an eight loop track for people to run on so even though it’s much smaller than it was back then, it still can seat 10,000 people and is on the outskirts of Golden Gate Park.

Tennis Center

The Golden Gate Park Tennis Center has recently undergone a $30 million renovation making the 126-year-old site, one of the best public tennis facilities in the nation.


I live on the western side of the park, and one of my favorite things to do, especially with out-of-towners, is bring them to the bison. Yes, there are bison in Golden Gate Park. They’re not called buffalo. Sometimes they’re referred to that way. Relatives of this herd have been there for over 100 years at least. People think it’s crazy that we have these animals in the park, so I love to bring them by the herd.


Other things I like to do in the park, there’s two restaurants on the western edge. One’s called Park Chalet and one’s called Beach Chalet. They’re actually in the same building. One faces the ocean, Beach Chalet. The other faces the park, Park Chalet, which is a little bit more laid back. Grab a beer and then walk through the park, one of my favorite things to do on weekends, especially with visitors who want to explore the park.

Walking and Biking Trails

There’s also many options for walking, biking through the park. To name a few, the Golden Gate Park Loop the Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill Loop, the Panhandle and Music Concourse Loop, or you could always walk the whole perimeter of the park.

There’s truly so much to share about the park, which is why it’s truly world-renowned. So whether you’re planning a move to San Francisco or you’re a longtime resident looking to rediscover your city, Golden Gate Park offers an abundance of activities and attractions to explore.

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August 30, 2023
Living In San Francisco
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