5 Must-See Attractions at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

If you’re wondering what to do in San Francisco, start with Golden Gate Park. This enormous, beautiful green oasis in the middle of the city is stuffed with fun attractions and activities. It wasn’t easy to choose only a handful, but here are five that you just can’t miss. 

Golden Gate Park Carousel

1.) Take a ride on the Golden Gate Park Carousel

The enchanting Golden Gate Park Carousel was built in 1915 and retains all of its original beauty and charm. The glittering menagerie boasts 62 carved wooden animal figurines, from the beloved horses to frogs, dogs, and more exotic creatures! A magical whirl on the carousel is a sweet adventure for adults and children alike, and it’s hard to stop after just one ride! 

Where: 320 Bowling Green Drive, between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

When: The carousel is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and then Friday through Sunday from the day after Labor Day through the day before Memorial Day, from 10 am. The last ride of the day is at 4:15 pm

Admission: Adults, $2 per ride, children ages 6 to 12 years $1 per ride. Children 5 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult.

DeYoung Museum

2.) Explore the DeYoung Museum

This beautiful fine-arts museum showcases treasures from all over the world, and is one the most respected San Francisco attractions. You could spend days poring over the permanent collection, but the incredible textiles and costumes holdings are an especially spectacular sight. Spanning two millenia and featuring textiles of all types, from birchbark to beading, there are more than 12,000 pieces to enjoy. High fashion is well represented, with amazing 20th century couture pieces from all the major houses. Outside the statue garden is a peaceful spot to unwind while admiring contemporary sculptures.

Where: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, within Golden Gate Park.

When: Open Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30 am to 5 pm. Late opening until 8:45 p.m. on Fridays.

Admission: Adult,; $10, seniors 65 and over, $7, college students with ID; $6. Children 13 and under are free. There is no admission fee charged for visiting the museum courtyard, sculpture garden, tower, cafe or store. 

Conservatory of Flowers

3.) Wander through the Conservatory of Flowers

The building itself is unique: the beautiful traditional glass and wood framed conservatory was completed in 1878, making it the oldest building in the park as well as the oldest wooden conservatory in the country. As you stroll from room to room beneath the glittering glass, you will encounter almost 2000 species of exotic plants from around the world. It’s a peaceful escape from the bustle of the city, and your senses are soothed by the glorious natural scents and colors which surround you. The existing collection has been lovingly curated for generations, while special exhibits bring fresh and exciting specimens to the public all year round. It’s a place to relax, to learn, and to relish the very special beauty of flowers.

Where: The Conservatory of Flowers is located on JFK Drive.

When: Open Tues – Sunday, 10 am – 4:30 pm. Last entry admitted at 4:00pm. Conservatory is closed on Mondays but open on many major holidays.

Admission: Adults: $7.00. Seniors, students w/ I.D, and youth 12-17: $5.00. Children 5-11: $2.00 (Children under 4 are free)

On the first Tuesday of every month, the Conservatory offers free admission to all..

4.) Visit the Buffalo Paddock

The name is a bit misleading. You’ll actually be paying a visit to the noble American Bison, who have graced Golden Gate Park since 1890. They don’t get up to much, grazing peacefully throughout the day, (with the occasional head-scratch or wallow to break up the afternoon!) but their enormous size and strange beauty make them a can’t miss attraction. The sight of these majestic creatures is a stirring reminder of the glory of the American west. It’s also one of the most iconic Golden Gate Park activities, with fabulous photo ops!

Where: The Buffalo Paddock is with Golden Gate Park, just off John F. Kennedy Drive in the north/west corner of the park.

When: Any time!

Admission: Free!

Philippine Coral Reef at California Academy Sciences

5. Expand your mind at the California Academy of Sciences

This is one spectacular museum, encompassing sea to sky and everything in between. The name might sound a bit stuffy, but this cutting-edge, eco-friendly natural history museum is a thrilling place to visit for the whole family. It’s one of the largest and most comprehensive museums of its type in the world, with more than 400,000 square feet of display space and thousands of eye-popping exhibits. Part museum, part zoo, and encompassing the Steinhart Aquarium, a rainforest dome, and the largest digital planetarium in the world, this attraction is utterly not to be missed!

Where: 55 Music Concourse Drive (located right between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and JFK Drive).

When: Open Monday – Saturday, 9:30 am – 5 pm, and Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm.

Admission: Adults $29.95, senior (ages 65 and over) and students, $24.95, youth (ages 12-17) $24.95, children (ages 4-11) $19.95. Children 3 and under admitted.

With so many amazing things to see and do in Golden Gate Park, you probably won’t be able to visit all of these places in just one day, but that’s okay. It’s a great excuse to extend your visit!

This post was written by Dan Patterson, Director of Internet Marketing at CityPASS.

2 Responses to 5 Must-See Attractions at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

  1. Alexis Marlons March 14, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    The kids will surely enjoy this California Academy of Sciences. The fee is all worth it. Of course, it is also nice some of the best places without having to pay.

  2. Rebecca March 20, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    great list! I’ll keep these in mind for my trip