San Francisco Botanical Gardens: Tips to Visit

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: March 13, 2024

The beautifully designed San Francisco Botanical Gardens are in Golden Gate Park. This 55-acre gem houses over 50,000 plants from around the world.

With a large variety of plants and blooming schedules, I love that it's fun to visit any time of the year. The gardens are also well laid out with plenty of signs, so I find it's easy to get around too.

The other thing that's great about the Botanical Garden in San Francisco is that the walking trails are large and mostly flat.

Maps in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens showing the different areas.

It's also quiet and serene - and another place that I love to visit in Golden Gate Park.

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Visiting the Gardens

Because of the size of the gardens and the number of plants to see, I recommend picking up a map when you first enter.

The map calls out the highlights for each season - so you know exactly what part of the garden is the most beautiful at the time of your visit.

Here is an overview of those seasonal highlights so you know what to expect when you visit the the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

Winter Months: December to February

If you visit during the winter, the areas that are the most interesting are the South African and the Rhododendron Gardens.

They are both in full bloom during this time.

The Magnolias are also really beautiful during these months (they bloom from mid-January to mid-to late March).

You can find several of them throughout the Moon Viewing and Temperate Asia areas.

A large aloe plant in the SF Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate ParkThis is a large Aloe plant found in the South African Gardens
A pink magnolia tree in the SF Botanical GardensPink blossoms near the top of this Magnolia Tree

Spring Months: March to May

In the spring, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens come to life. This is when the California Poppies, Irises and other wildflowers are in bloom.

The Rhododendrons and some of the plants in the South African garden are also still in bloom during this time.

Here are a few pictures from my visit in March.

Red flowers in the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park
Pink blossoms on a tree in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens
Fire colored blossoms in the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco
A lily in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park

Summer Months: June to August

This is another beautiful time to visit. This is when the Garden of Fragrance is bursting with color. Lavender, Salvias, and Pelargoniums live here and bloom during this time.

This is also when you'll see quite a bit of color in the Andean Cloud Forest.

The Fuchsias and Brugmansias (also called Angel's Trumpet) are both bright and colorful during this time.

Fall Months: September to November

You can also see a gorgeous display during the fall. This is when you'll want to visit the Ancient Plant Garden.

Here is just one example of what you can see in this part of the garden.

Ancient garden in SF's botanical gardensA Chilean Gunnera in the Ancient Plant Garden

The Fuchsias in both the Andean and the Mesoamerican Cloud Forests are also still in bloom.

Make sure you also stop by and see the beautiful tree daisies in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest if you visit during this time.

Other Highlights in the Garden

No matter what time of year you visit, you'll want to stop by and see the Magnolia collection. It's recognized as the most important collection of Magnolia outside of China.

Another highlight of the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is the Redwood Grove. Here you can see several century old redwoods that tower high above the gardens.

You should also stop by Fountain Plaza. It's a beautiful, open plaza with plenty of places to sit and relax for a few minutes.

he fountain in the botanical gardens in San Francisco

Hours, Tickets, and Tours

The San Francisco Botanical Gardens open every day at 7:30 am. Closing hours vary by season:

  • Second Sunday in March through September: Last entry at 6 pm
  • October through early November: Last entry at 5 pm
  • First Sunday in November through January: Last entry at 4 pm
  • February through 2nd Sunday in March: Last entry at 5 pm

The Botanical Gardens are FREE for all visitors each morning between 7:30 am to 9 am. Admission is also free on the second Tuesday of each month, and on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Find more free admission days for local museums and attractions.


You can purchase tickets when you arrive at the gate.

  • Adults: $14
  • Seniors (Ages 65+) and Youths (12-17): $7
  • Children ages 5 - 11: $3
  • Kids 4 years old and younger: Free
  • San Francisco Residents: Free with ID with SF Address
  • Families (2 adults and all children under the age of 17 who live in the same household): $27

Free Tours

One of the best ways to learn even more about the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is to take one of the free tours. The tour leaves the main gate at 1:30 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. 

No pre-registration is required, but they do recommend it. You can also just find the "Free Public Tour" sign near the Main Gate for the starting point. If they have open spots, you are free to join them.

All tours are free with the general admission.

Note: All tours are subject to staffing availability.

Tips for Getting to the Gardens

The easiest way to get to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is by entering Golden Gate Park from the south via 9th Avenue. The fastest way to this entrance from downtown San Francisco is by taking the N-Judah light rail train.

You can pick up the train at any underground Muni stop along Market Street. Take the train to the 9th Avenue and Irving Street stop. This stop is just a block from this entrance into Golden Gate Park.

Here's a map showing both the train stop and the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

A map showing how to get from the N-Judah to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens

Another option is to drive. There is usually plenty of parking in Golden Gate Park near the gardens.

Other Top Golden Gate Park Attractions

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

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