Skip to main content

The Top 5 Things to Do In Golden Gate Park

Sarah was born in San Francisco and has been to all the sites in Golden Gate Park many times.

waterfall in Golden Gate Park

waterfall in Golden Gate Park

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.

main entrance of California Academy of Sciences

main entrance of California Academy of Sciences

#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 coronavirus, the Academy of Sciences recommends that you purchase tickets at least one day in advance online. I think they are also selling tickets at the door but they say that they can sell out on busy days due to capacity reasons. You also need to reserve a day to visit but reserving a day is done when you're purchasing your ticket online.

The museum has been back open for a while now but there are many restrictions due to the coronavirus. All guests that are 12 years of age and older need to provide proof of vaccination which includes their booster shot. Also, guests ages 18 and older need to show their ID with their proof of vaccination. Starting March 1, 2022, guests ages 5-11 will also need to show proof of vaccination but they don't need a booster shot to go to the Academy of Sciences. If guests haven't gotten their booster shot yet, they can also show proof of negative Covid test as an alternative. Also, all guests must wear a face mask while inside the Academy of Sciences even if they are fully vaccinated with a booster shot.

#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 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 coronavirus, everyone must wear a facemask while at the museum. However, proof of vaccination isn't required to enter, only to attend certain events at the DeYoung and to eat at the cafe at the museum. The onsite cafe is open from 11 am to 3 pm only for outdoor dining to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Scroll to Continue

#3: The Botanical Gardens

If you like to see botanical gardens, I recommend visiting 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.

On the second Tuesday of every month, the Botanical Gardens are free for everyone. Admission is always free for San Francisco residents with their ID. Admission for everyone else is $10 for adults on weekdays, $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 the 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.

Related Articles