The Glory of Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is one of San Francisco's most iconic landmarks. The 1,017 acre green space that runs from the tip of the Panhandle to the Pacific serves up an amazing amount of beauty and culture, including two renown museums, gorgeous copses of trees, play and picnic areas and miles of garden pathways perfect for a bike ride, leisurely stroll or even a Seqway tour.

If you're looking for a peaceful escape or a day of culture and exploration, look no further than Golden Gate Park. In addition to the Park's lovely green spaces, here are 5 of it's top cultural experiences.

1. Conservatory of Flowers

Bursting with elegant tropical plants, orchids and carnivorous species, The Conservatory of Flowers has captivated guests for over 100 years. According to their website, the Victorian architecture has a long and storied history, and is the oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America. As a city, state and national historic landmark, the Conservatory remains one of the most photographed and beloved attractions in San Francisco. Tickets are affordable and range from $2 to $8.

2. de Young Fine Arts Museum

Founded in 1895, the de Young Museum has been an integral part of the cultural fabric of the city and a cherished destination for millions of residents and tourists for well over a decade. In 2005, the museum re-opened in its state-of-the-art new facility that showcases priceless collections of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, Textile arts, and art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The museum also offers a variety of rotating special exhibits. Tickets $6 to $10.

3. California Academy of Sciences

This scientific-focused museum centers around the multi-story Osher rainforest exhibit that includes plants and animals from numerous tropical locations. From the rainforest, visitors can enter outer space in the Morrison Planetarium, then dive beneath the depths of the ocean in the Steinhart aquarium. Experience the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta temblor at the Life on a Dynamic Planet exhibit or take part in an interactive workshop, attend a lecture...or stay over night at the Penguins & Pajamas Sleepover! Tickets are available online and range from $25 to $35 per person.

4. Japanese Tea Garden

The oldest public Japanese garden in the United States and originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, today the Japanese Tea Garden provides visitors from around the block or around the world with the opportunity to experience the natural beauty, tranquility and harmony of a Japanese-style garden. The garden includes classic elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden. Stop for a cup of tea in the custom-designed irori (farmhouse style family table) Tea House. Entry fees are $2 to $8.

5. Koret Playground & Carousel

Opened in 1888, this play area dedicated to the sheer enjoyment of children is thought to have been the very first of its kind in America and has housed 3 separate carousels.  The current carousel was built in 1914 and operated at amusement parks as well as was part of the World’s Fair on Treasure Island before being placed in Golden Gate Park in 1940. Its 62 colorfully painted animals include a dragon, camel, and goat as well as horses, frogs, dogs, roosters, and pigs. Painted panels inside the carousel depict various Bay Area landscapes.  In addition to the carousel, the one-of-a-kind playground offers a place for kids to climb, slide, jump, swing and imagine. 

6. San Francisco Botanical Garden

A living museum within Golden Gate Park, it includes 55 acres of landscaped gardens and open spaces, showcasing over 8,000 different kinds of plants from all around the globe. Thanks to the City's unique microclimate, the Botanical Garden can grow and conserve plants from all over the globe, including plants that are no longer found in their native habitats.  Open 365 days a year, San Francisco Botanical Garden offers a place where visitors can experience nature, learn about plants and the environment in an 'outdoor classroom,' relax and seek respite from city life in an urban sanctuary. Admission ranges from $2 to $8.

Whether you are a naive San Franciscan, new to the area, a visitor from the Bay Area or across the globe, Golden Gate Park is bursting with adventure and culture as well as play and peacefulness.