Sarah was born in San Francisco and has been to all the sites in Golden Gate Park many times.
What is Golden Gate Park?
Golden Gate Park is a public space in San Francisco that separates the Richmond and Sunset districts. Golden Gate Park is 1,017 acres of public park space and was created as San Francisco's version of Central Park in New York City. The idea for a similar park to Central Park was first brought up in the 1860s but it wasn't until about 1875 that Golden Gate Park truly became a park. The plan and developments for creating Golden Gate Park was overseen by John McLaren and he served as the superintendent for 56 years.
Today, Golden Gate Park has become one of the most visited parks in the United States. Golden Gate Park has something for everyone. If you don't mind to spend money, you can visit the art museum, science museum, conservatory of flowers or botanical gardens. However, if you don't want to spend money there's plenty of space for you to enjoy a relaxing walk or hike. In this article I will talk about the top 5 things to do in Golden Gate Park.
#1: The California Academy of Sciences
I have been to Golden Gate Park many times with my friends and family. My favorite thing to do if you've never been and don't mind paying money is to visit the California Academy of Sciences. The California Academy of Sciences is a science and educational museum that has many exhibits to see. You can experience being in a rainforest, see a natural history museum with fossils and live penguins, observe fish in a huge aquarium and see films about the universe in a planetarium. The California Academy of Sciences is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am - 5 pm and on Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
Admission costs $35.95 for adults, $30.95 for youth ages 3-17, $30.95 for students 18+ with their student ID and $30.95 for seniors 65+ with ID. You can also buy a year long membership to the California Academy of Sciences to get discounts on food and merchandise but currently it doesn't look like they are selling memberships right now. Due to the corona virus, tickets are only being sold online instead of both online and at the door. You also need to reserve a day to visit but reserving a day is done when you're purchasing your ticket online.
Due to the corona virus, the museum was closed but will be reopening to the public on October 23rd. Also the museum is opening at only 25% capacity and will require you to wear a mask while inside as well as pass a temperature screening upon arrival. The planetarium is temporarily closed due to the seating being indoors in a theater so it increases the risk of catching corona virus from someone being close to you. Also the rainforest requires a separate reservation and entry time due to the rainforest exhibit being in a closed area and having less space to move around. Getting a reservation and entry time for the rainforest exhibit is a first come first serve basis. You will need to scan the QR code posted in the lobby to see available entry times.
#2: The DeYoung Museum
When I was a kid, I remember going on many field trips to the DeYoung Museum. If you like art, I recommend visiting the DeYoung Museum. The DeYoung Museum has various exhibits that change every so often so if you've visited the museum a few years ago, there might be new exhibits now.
Admission is $15 for adults, free for youth 17 years old and younger, $6 for students 18+ with student ID and $12 for seniors 65+. You can also become a member and the admission will be free. Becoming a member is expensive though. The cheapest price is $119 so I don't recommend becoming a member unless you live in San Francisco or less than 30 minutes away. The DeYoung Museum is open every day except Mondays from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm.
Due to the corona virus, the museum is only at 25% capacity and you need to reserve a time slot to visit when buying your ticket. You will only be allowed to enter the museum within 90 minutes of your booked time slot. For example: if I booked 12 pm, I can visit up to 90 minutes before 12 pm but not later than 1:30 pm. You also need to wear a mask and practice social distancing while inside.
#3: The Botanical Gardens
If you like to see botanical gardens, I recommend to visit the The San Francisco Botanical Gardens. I visited a few times over the years with my friends and really enjoyed it. The Botanical Gardens are fully outside so except for observing social distancing and wearing masks, there aren't many restrictions like with indoor museums. The Botanical Gardens have many different plants from around the world such as; New Zealand, South Asia and South Africa. Walking around all the different areas is very relaxing even if you don't know a lot about different plants.
Due to the corona virus, admission is free for everyone from 7:30 am to 9 am every day and the second Tuesday of every month is also free for everyone. This helps promote social distancing because less people will be there during the normal hours and not everyone wants to wake up early. Admission is always free for San Francisco residents with your ID. Admission for everyone else is $9 for adults on weekdays, $12 for adults on weekends, $7 for seniors 65+, $7 for youth ages 12-17, $3 for kids ages 5-11 and children 4 and under are free. The Botanical Gardens are open at 7:30 am daily and last entry varies depending on the season but is usually between 4 pm - 6 pm.
#4: Explore Golden Gate Park
Everything I have talked about so far are good for tourists and locals but require you to spend money. Golden Gate Park is a free to use public space so if you just want a peaceful place to walk around or hike, you will love being here. Golden Gate Park is huge so there's plenty of trails to walk around. A few years ago my friend and I started walking around the Richmond district side of Golden Gate Park and after 2 hours we exited the park and found ourselves close to the beach. There's so much to explore at Golden Gate Park like trails, water falls, rose gardens and there's even spots where if you hike up you can see the entire city! My friends and I love coming to Golden Gate Park to just walk around because it makes us feel secluded from the rest of the world and is one of the few spots in San Francisco that doesn't feel crowded.
#5: Stow Lake Boathouse
The last place I recommend to visit in Golden Gate Park is the Stow Lake Boathouse. At Stow Lake Boathouse, you can rent a row boat or pedal boat with a few friends and enjoy being out on Stow Lake for an hour. Also at the boathouse is where you can enjoy a meal or a snack like hamburgers, hot dogs, coffee, ice cream and much more. The Stow Lake Boathouse also serves beer and wine if you're looking for a nice quiet place to have a drink with friends.
The Stow Lake Boathouse is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and the cafe is open from 11 am to 5 pm daily. I recommend not to leave renting a boat until the last minute because boat rentals stop an hour before the boathouse closes. The cost of a row boat is $22.50 an hour, the pedal boats cost $28.50 an hour and the pedal boats that hold 4-6 people cost $38.50 an hour. This seems very expensive but if you split the cost with 2-3 other people, it's not expensive at all. The Stow Lake Boathouse provides each person with a life jacket just in case so it's very safe.
In 2012, I went to Stow Lake Boathouse with 3 other friends and we rented a pedal boat for an hour. At first I was really nervous because I don't know how to swim but with the life jacket I felt really safe. Also the water at Stow Lake is very calm, it's not like the ocean that gets choppy. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed my experience at Stow Lake. In the future, I would rent a pedal boat again with a few friends.
Sarah Wong (author) from Florida on October 16, 2020:
Thanks Liz. I appreciate your comments
Liz Westwood from UK on October 16, 2020:
This is an interesting and well-organised article, packed with useful information.