Golden Gate Park
Encompassing more than 1,000 acres of meadows, lakes, forests, and exotic gardens, Golden Gate Park provides plenty of refreshing green space and amusements for the urban dwellers and visitors it serves.
Extending from Haight-Ashbury for more than three miles to the Pacific Ocean, the park makes a great spot for a long walk or bike ride; plenty of marked trails and paved pathways link the park’s highlights. On weekends especially, the entire place is a hub of recreational pursuits, with softball teams and Frisbee tossers sharing grassy stretches with picnicking families.
Incredibly, this lushly landscaped haven, set aside by the city in 1870, was coaxed out of barren, wind-swept sand dunes. While the park’s founder, William Hammond Hall, was the first to bring the dunes under control using innovative sand-reclamation techniques, it was his handpicked successor, John McLaren, who devoted most of his life to the landscaping and development of the park.
Thanks to his foresight, winding pathways discourage speeding traffic, rich foliage attracts birds and wildlife, and more than a million trees shelter visitors from harsh winds.
Some of the park’s most popular attractions — the Japanese Tea Garden, the Music Concourse, and the Bison Paddock — were part of the 1894 Midwinter International Exposition, Golden Gate Park’s official opening extravaganza. A century later, the park became famous for its “Summer of Love” spectacles, including the 1967 Human Be-In, and a few decades later, Jerry Garcia’s memorial.
The popular Conservatory of Flowers (JFK and Conservatory Drs., 415/666-7001, www.conservatoryofflowers.org) reopened in 2003 after an eight-year renovation. The treasured Victorian landmark houses hundreds of exotic plants and flowers. A highlight is the Aquatic Plants exhibit, where beautiful pools of water feature floating flowers and giant lily pads.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition