I already introduced you to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park recently in my post about the Japanese Tea Garden, now I would like to provide you with an overview of the remaining 1,017 acres! As mentioned, this park is enormous! It is significantly larger than New York’s Central Park which occupies 840 acres. The park is bordered by the Great Highway on the west, Lincoln Way on the south, Fulton Avenue on the north and Masonic Avenue on the east. There are soccer fields, fly casting pools, dog runs, picnic areas, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, everything imaginable to provide recreation for San Francisco’s urban masses.
Starting from the Great Highway on the western edge of the park, visitors are greeted by the Dutch Windmill. Completed in 1903, the Dutch Windmill is one of two functioning windmills in Golden Gate Park constructed to pump ground water for park irrigation. (Murphy Windmill was completed in 1908.) The Dutch Mill was capable of pumping 30,000 gallons of water per hour. Five years later the Murphy Mill pumped an additional 40,000 gallons of water per hour to the park. By 1913, electric water pumps had replaced the need for windmills and the two mills fell into neglect. By the 1950s the mills were in a state of ruin. It wasn’t until 1964 that a citizens commission restoration effort led by Eleanor Rossi Crabtree was formed and the full restoration of the dilapidated Dutch Mill was completed 1981! The Dutch Mill was placed on the San Francisco Designated Landmark list on December 6, 1981.
Located near the Dutch Mill is Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant (http://www.beachchalet.com/). The two-story building was opened in 1925 and served as a changing room for people frolicking about the ocean, which is located across the street. As decades passed the building sat empty and fell into disarray. In 1997, the site was transformed into the brewpub and restaurant that stands there today. The building, set in a Spanish colonial design, is the last one designed and built by architect, Willis Polk, who was well known in the San Francisco community. As you enter the first floor you will encounter a wraparound mural created by Lucien Labaudt which highlights the San Francisco area as it appeared during the 1930s. If you take the time to read the many panels accompanying the endearing scenes, you will gather bits and pieces of how it felt to live in the city during Depression-ridden times.
Heading east along Fulton Avenue between 36th Avenue and 30th Avenue you will find The Spreckels Lake Model Yacht Facility, commonly referred to as “Spreckels Lake.” The lake is an artificial reservoir completed in March of 1904 for the use of model boaters. It is considered one of the most beautiful of the naturalistic styled, man-made model boating facilities in the world. The Japanese Tea Garden is located just south of Spreckles Lake.
Located further east past Park Presidio Drive you will find another man-made lake called Stow Lake. This lake dates back to 1893 and provides San Franciscans with an outdoor escape with its many hiking and bike trails, picnic areas, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Visitors can rent a row boat, electric boat or pedal boat from the Stow Lake Boathouse. The Boathouse is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the week. Free parking is available along Stow Lake Drive. However, keep in mind that no cars are allowed on John F. Kennedy Drive on Saturdays (April to September) or Sundays (year-round) – access is only available then from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Moving further east, you will find the San Francisco Botanical Garden (formerly Strybing Arboretum). Plans for the garden were originally laid out in the 1880s by park supervisor John McLaren, but funding was insufficient to begin construction until Helene Strybing left a major bequest in 1927. Today, the garden sits on 55 acres and includes over 50,000 individual plants from around the world. The garden is broken down into the following sections:
a) Mediterranean: Native plants from California, as well as specimens from Southwestern Australia, Chile, and South Africa are situated within the Mediterranean section of the gardens, which also provides access to the John Muir Nature Trail and the Redwood Trail.
b) Mild-Temperate Climate: Some of the mild-temperate climate plants include items from Eastern Australia and New Zealand. A Japanese design called the Moon-Viewing Garden is also integrated within this section.
c) Montane Tropic: Here, visitors will come across plants positioned in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest and the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest.
d) Specialty Collections: Some of the gardens incorporated within this category include: primitive plants, succulents, Dwarf Conifers, as well as presentations of Dry Mexico. The Garden of Fragrance, and the Zellerbach Garden of Perennials are also part of the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
If you are an art aficionado, you will have to stop by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum located on 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, within the Golden Gate Park! The museumis one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international contemporary art, textiles, and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific and Africa. Originally, the museum opened in 1895 as an outgrowth of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 . The art collections were moved to several locations over the years due to growing audiences and earthquake damage to the existing structures. The new building housing the collection today was erected in 2005.
Hidden away along a small dirt path, you will find the enchanting Shakespeare Garden, with an arched iron-wrought gate. The Shakespeare Garden contains numerous plants that are referenced in Shakespeare’s actual writings, and on the back brick wall, quotations and passages from his plays are engraved on stone tablets for visitors to read.
Continuing to move east within the park, you will encounter The National AIDS Memorial Grove, or “The Grove.” Congress and the President of the United States approved the “National AIDS Memorial Grove Act” in 1996, which officially set aside the deLaveaga Dell land in Golden Gate Park as the site for the first AIDS memorial in the nation. The Grove is a dedicated space and place in the national landscape where the millions of Americans touched directly or indirectly by AIDS can gather to heal, hope, and remember. The mission of the AIDS Memorial Grove is to provide a healing sanctuary, and to promote learning and understanding of the human tragedy of the AIDS pandemic.
Located at 320 Bowling Green Drive, between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive adjacent to the Koret Children’s Quarter (formally the Children’s Playground) in Golden Gate Park you will find the Carousel. The Carousel was built in 1914 by the Herschell-Spillman Company. It showcased 62 animal figures, decorative benches, alluring picture panels, and even an organ and enjoyed a long, continuous run until 1977 when a mechanism failed to work. The Carousel was restored and retrofitted reopening to the public in 1984.
Finally, near the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park you will find The Conservatory of Flowers. The Conservatory is a greenhouse and botanical garden which houses approximately 1,700 plant species. Its collection of high-altitude orchids, more than 700 of the 1,000 known species, is described as the largest and most comprehensive public collection in the world. With construction completed in 1878, it remains the oldest building in the park, and the oldest municipal wooden conservatory remaining in the United States. It is also one of the first municipal conservatories constructed in the country.
You can practically spend a full day at the park and still not have an opportunity to see everything! There is something for everyone to enjoy and the park continues to draw over 13 million visitors each year!