Golden Gate Park San Francisco

Best Things To Do & See in SF's Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park San Francisco is full of amazing attractions. Here you can visit the California Academy of Sciences - the most popular SF museum, relax in the Japanese Tea Garden or get away from the crowds at Stow Lake.

You could spend an entire day in Golden Gate Park and still only see a slice of what it offers.

golden gate park san francisco

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Top Attractions in Golden Gate Park

Here is a map showing all of the top attractions mentioned below.

golden gate park attraction map

1. Spend Time at the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is the gem in Golden Gate Park San Francisco. It's the most visited museum in San Francisco - and is really four museums in one. Here you can watch the butterflies in the four-story rainforest, get to know several species of fish in the Steinhart Aquarium and take a look at the museum's living roof. You can also catch a show at the planetarium, feel what it's like to be in an earthquake and check out the exhibits in the natural history museum. This is only a small amount of what you'll experience at the California Academy of Sciences.

Learn More: California Academy of Sciences

Are you interested in visiting the museum? If so, I highly recommend buying a skip the line ticket in advance. This gets you past the long lines, so you can spend more time enjoying the museum. Find skip the line tickets for your visit to the California Academy of Sciences.

2. Explore Exotic Plants at the Conservatory of Flowers

This living museum is set inside one of the oldest Conservatories in the United States. Here you will find four galleries with distinct climates and plants. Step inside this masterpiece to see what's new or blooming during your visit. Don't miss its amazing special exhibits located on the far western side of the conservatory.

Learn More: Conservatory of Flowers

3. Relax in the Japanese Tea Garden

Unwind in the Japanese Tea Garden on the eastern side of Golden Gate Park San Francisco. Enjoy a walk around this beautiful garden and learn more about its historic structures. Climb to the top of the Drum Bridge for the perfect photo opportunity. Grab a latte or a light lunch in the cafe as you soak in even more of this gorgeous 5-acre garden.

Learn More: Japanese Tea Garden

4. Uncover Plants & Flowers from Around the World at the Botanical Gardens

This 55-acre gem is a must visit for those wanting to see rare plants from around the world. With more than 50,000 plants, there is always something in bloom. Other areas you do not want to miss include the largest collection of Magnolias outside of China and the century old redwoods in the Redwood Grove.

Learn More: Botanical Gardens

5. Ride a Boat on Stow Lake

Stow Lake is a beautiful, relaxing retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the other Golden Gate Park San Francisco attractions. Here you can spend some time outdoors running, hiking or taking a boat out on the lake. You can also relax in the Chinese Pavilion or soak in the beauty of Huntington Falls.

Learn More: Stow Lake

6. Discover an Amazing Collection of Fine Arts at the de Young Museum

The de Young Fine Arts Museum houses more than 25,000 works of art from around the world. Here you can see everything from pre-Columbian American murals to works from sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea and Indonesia. During your visit, make sure you also take in the 360° views from the museum's observation tower.

Learn More: de Young Fine Arts Museum

7. Visit Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is on the far western side of Golden Gate Park San Francisco. Along this four-mile stretch of beach, there is plenty to see and do including surfing, grabbing lunch and admiring the restored Windmills. This is also where you will find the official Golden Gate Park Visitor Center in the Beach Chalet building.

Learn More: Ocean Beach

8. Stop & Smell the Roses

One of my other favorite things to do in Golden Gate Park San Francisco is to visit the Rose Garden. Almost all year around, you can see a variety of colorful roses in bloom.

You will find this garden at the entrance to the park near Park Presidio Boulevard and Fulton Street. It's also just to the north of John F. Kennedy Drive between Stow Lake and the de Young Museum.

Top Activities in Golden Gate Park

Here are more fun things to do in Golden Gate Park San Francisco.

1. Take a Segway Tour of Golden Gate Park

This Segway tour is one of the best ways to see it since it's both eco-friendly and fun. The other thing I really love about this tour is you get to see almost all of this attraction's 1000+ acres.

This two-hour narrated tour will take you past the top attractions here including the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. You will also ride past several hidden gems such as the gorgeous Redwood Tree Grove, Storybook Cross, and a pioneer log cabin.

On this tour, you get the chance to learn more about the history of it and how it turned into the popular destination it is today. Find out more and book your spot on this tour today.

2. Learn About the Park's History on One of These Walking Tours

Another way to learn more about Golden Gate Park San Francisco and its popular attractions is by taking a free walking tour through the SF Public Library. Each week, the library offers two popular tours. The first one is a 45 minute stroll through the Japanese Tea Garden. The other free tour offered includes a walk through both the Japanese Tea Garden and the Stow Lake/Strawberry Hill area.

Find Tours: Public Library Walking Tours

3. Bike Its 1,000+ Acres

Renting a bike is another great way to get around to all of the attractions in Golden Gate Park San Francisco. You can easily rent the bike all day and visit the attractions here at your own pace. Each bike rental includes a lock for your bike - so you can stop at anytime and take a closer look.

Find out more about renting a bike for the day in San Francisco.

4. Enjoy the Music at One of These Outdoor Festivals

With more than 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park San Francisco is the perfect place for large outdoor festivals. This is where two of the most popular music festivals are held in San Francisco: Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Read on to find out more about these popular festivals and other outdoor events throughout San Francisco.

Learn More: Festivals & Street Fairs

Where to Eat Nearby

There are plenty of places to eat both close to and inside Golden Gate Park San Francisco. Here are some of the options available.

Museum Cafes: Both the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum have cafes with great fresh, local food. There a couple of places to eat at the California Academy of Sciences. All options are inside this museum and only accessible for those holding a ticket to the museum. The de Young Museum has a cafe that is open to the public, so you don't need a museum ticket to eat at their cafe.

Food Trucks: One of the new options here is the gourmet food trucks. You will find them behind the pavilion between the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

9th & Irving Streets: Just to the south of this gem is the Inner Sunset neighborhood. Here you will find several great restaurants and bars that are less than a block from the 9th Avenue park gate. Almost all restaurants in San Francisco have their menu posted in the front window, so you can quickly find a restaurant that you will enjoy.

Beach Chalet: On it's western side, you will find the popular Beach Chalet restaurant. It's a right across the highway from the Pacific Ocean and offers both great food and beautiful views of the ocean. In the same building, you will also find the Park Chalet. This restaurant is a little more casual than the Beach Chalet and offers both outdoor seating and views of the park.

Getting Here

Public Transit: Taking public transportation is one of the most cost-effective ways to get to get here. From downtown San Francisco your three best options are:

  • 5-Fulton: This bus has several stops along Market Street. It will take you to the northern side of Golden Gate Park. The ride from downtown San Francisco to the park is about 35 to 40 minutes.
  • 21-Hayes: Another great option is the 21-Hayes bus. It has one stop on the far eastern side of the park. From this stop, it is about a 10 to 15 minute walk to many of the park's popular attractions.
  • N-Judah: The N-Judah light rail train is one of the fastest options. It drops you off in the Inner Sunset neighborhood - on the southern side of Golden Gate Park. From the 9th Avenue and Irving Street stop, you can walk to the park in less than 5 minutes.

Rent a Car: One of the best ways to get to get here is by driving. You can rent a car for the day at car rental places in both Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. This gives you the most flexibility and allows you to see the park attractions at your own pace. Before booking a car, read through my tips for renting a car in San Francisco.

Hop On/Hop Off: The Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour is another great way to get to the park. This narrated bus tour offers a stop right in front of the California Academy of Sciences. This stop is close to many of the key attractions in the park. Learn more about this bus tour and how you can book your seat today.

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