Welcome to the San Francisco Series! In this series, I cover ‘Things To See and Do’ in San Francisco for the healthy, active tourist.
There are so many iconic places to visit while you’re in San Francisco but my blog aims to give you some extra ideas for those of us that love being outdoors, living an active lifestyle, staying fit or just have a love of all things healthy.
‘Frisco’, ‘The Bay’, ‘San Fran’ or ‘SF’, are just a few names you may hear this beautiful, eclectic, hilly and unique city in Northern California being called.
With so much to do here, you can be excused for visiting time and time again!
Golden Gate Park
With 1017 acres of San Francisco’s greatest treasures, I really don’t even know where to begin with the things to do in this huge urban park! All I know is, you will definitely need a whole day to explore this wonder! You can walk, run, bike, row boats or even Segway around this 3 mile long park. The Golden Gate Park was inspired by New York’s Central Park, it has the same rectangle shape, yet is 20% bigger. It holds gardens, playgrounds, lakes, picnic groves, trails, monuments, museums and memorials.
Wonder through the pagodas in the Japanese Tea Garden, mill around the magnolias in the Botanical Gardens or roam amongst the redwoods, planted in remembrance, at the spectacular AIDS Memorial Grove. There’s plenty of museums and galleries too, including the Academy of Sciences which has an indoor rainforest you can move through.
Hire a bike from just outside the east side of the park on Haight Street and travel the numerous bike paths available to encompass the whole park. Take in the sights of the last few remaining Bison in the Bison Paddock, the Carousel that was built in 1914 and maybe stop for lunch in the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant to admire the ocean views.
*I hired a bike a rode the length of the park
If you’re a keen runner or hiker, there’s plenty of landscape to take in at the park.
There’s the view of downtown San francisco from atop Strawberry Hill, which is an island in the middle of stow lake, connected by bridges. Here, you’ll find the stunning man-made Huntingdon Falls waterfall. Climb up the stairs at Huntingdon Falls past the sculpted rocks to look down on the waterfall and capture that Insta-worthy photo!
Another of the parks man-made waterfalls, Rainbow Falls has an intriguing hike you can follow called Prayerbook Cross. It’s trail leads you up a hill to a huge Celtic landmark with an interesting history. This is the tallest point in the park and you can find the trail sign posted from John F. Kennedy Drive.
The park also has two redundant windmill’s, which were built back in 1903, a hidden horseshoe pit (which you can play if you know how,) and 10 lakes to find and explore. Whether a short run or a long hike is intended, the Golden Gate Park has plenty of interesting and spectacular mileage for you to cover.
If you fancy trying something different you can sign up for a Segway tour in the centre of the park just behind the music concourse. You have to be over 12 years old to enjoy one of the guided tours and don’t worry if you have no idea how to use one (like myself) the tour includes a driving lesson first! This is a great way to see the park and its hidden locations, learn more about it and its transformation from when it was once sand dunes, AND learn a different movement skill at the same time!
Either a romantic row boat with your loved one or a fun pedal boat with friends, you can hire a boat on Stow Lake to get a glimpse of the park from a different perspective. Don’t forget your camera for a perfect photo opportunity of the stone bridge, Huntingdon Falls waterfall, or if you’re lucky enough, you may even spot a turtle!!
Whether you’re into playing sports or prefer to watch, then the Golden Gate Park has you covered for all possibilities.You can visit the park’s Kezar Stadium or the Polo Fields Stadium to watch a variety of sports. Between them both, they host baseball, rugby, football (translation: soccer), and lacrosse. The Polo Fields (don’t let the name full you, its pretty big!) also has a cycle track which is open to the public when not being used. You can also run the athletic track near the stadium which has recently had a much needed rejuvenation.If volleyball is your thing, a Monday night club allows you to join in a game for $2, or if you prefer something more casual or relaxed, there’s plenty of open fields and unofficial pitches around the park for volleyball and other sports.There are tennis courts in the park, that often hold tournaments, if you want to spectate, or if there’s not an event on, the court’s are open to the public for a game.At the western end of the park you’ll find a 9 hole golf course open daily for a lesson or a round with friends.
A Hidden Gem…
When people plan to go to San Francisco, it’s normally only for a few days visit. So, understandably, the Golden Gate Park tends to get overlooked in favour of more popular tourist attractions. I think this makes the park even more special, as it won’t be so crowded. You’ll be surrounded by and assumed as one of the locals, which in itself can be a nice experience.
*Outside the Japanese Tea Garden
I hope you enjoy the series. I’d love to hear from you with any feedback or questions. If there is anything you’d like to see in future blogs, the San Francisco Series or others, just get in touch through my socials (links below.)
Other posts in the series