USA series: San Francisco – Golden Gate Park

 

Conservatory of flowers

Conservatory of flowers

Alex and I are in San Francisco and today we are heading out to explore Golden Gate Park.  Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park, only larger. 

Golden Gate Park covers an area of 1,017 acres so Alex and I need to get a hat and our most comfortable walking shoes.  Given we have one small backpack of clothes each, our most comfortable shoes would also actually be our only walking shoes.

9:00am
We first need to work out how to get to Golden Gate Park from our reasonably priced hotel on Geary Street, Union Square.  After giving our trusty city map the once over, it seems we need to firstly walk downtown to Market Street. 

Market Street, San Francisco

Market Street, San Francisco

From Market Street we can take a No. 5 “Fulton” electric driven MUNI bus. 

One electric bus thanks

One electric bus thanks

This bus will take us directly to Golden Gate Park…eventually.

An electric powered MUNI bus is a novelty for us and although the bus trip will take about 40 minutes, for USD$2 (each), we can sit back and enjoy the ride and get a glimpse of the everyday along the way.

Golden Gate Park according to Wikipedia:

“Golden Gate Park, located in San Francisco, California, is a large urban park consisting of 1,017 acres (412 ha) of public grounds. Configured as a rectangle, it is similar in shape but 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York, to which it is often compared. It is over three miles (4.8 km) long east to west, and about half a mile (0.8 km) north to south. With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the fifth most-visited city park in the United States after Central Park in New York City, Lincoln Park in Chicago, and Balboa Park and Mission Bay Park in San Diego.”

It is a beautiful day of mid 20-degree temperature and perfect for a park visit, right Alex?

We get off the bus at the first stop near the corner of Fulton Street and Stanyan Street. This delivers us to the Haight-Ashbury end of the park.

As we wander through Golden Gate Park, the first buildings we come across are the crisp white buildings that make up the Conservatory of Flowers.

Crisp White Buildings

Crisp White Buildings

Although I normally have a “plan of attack” when visiting a park this size, I am today handing over the reigns to Alex.  “Ranger Alex” is going to take me on my own leisurely guided tour of Golden Gate Park… in his usual random approach.

Which way Ranger Alex?

Which way Ranger Alex?

Alex does manage to find both the Japanese Tea Gardens…

Japanese Tea Gardens look nice

Japanese Tea Gardens look nice

and the Botanical Gardens.

Botanical Gardens look nice

Botanical Gardens look nice

While they both look lovely, unfortunately they require a USD$7 entry fee (each) and we decide to instead take a free peek from the main gate and move on.

Our free peek inside the Japanese Tea Garden

Our free peek inside the Japanese Tea Garden

Getting onto Martin Luther King Jr Drive, we next come to Stow Lake.  Stow Lake is located centrally within the park and is the largest of the several man-made lakes located within Golden Gate Park.  We take the path that follows the edge of the lake, moving anti-clockwise around the lake. 

Bridge to the island

Bridge to the island

Stow Lake complete with paddle boats and ducks

Stow Lake complete with paddle boats and ducks

We notice people in paddle boats, which looks like a pleasant enough activity to do… for others that is.

Managing to avoid the squirrels, we continue around the bottom side of the lake and eventually stumble across the boat hire and café where we stop for a coffee.

Be warned this one looks evil

Be warned this one looks evil

Boat hire and cafe ahead

Boat hire and cafe ahead

It has taken us all day to reach this point which is basically only half way through Golden Gate Park.  Initially, I was hoping we could make our way along the full length of Golden Gate Park to where it ends at Great Highway, abutting the beach and looking towards the North Pacific Ocean. What was I thinking!

This park is far too big for us to conquer in one day and we decide on “Plan B” which is to return to the neighbourhood of Haight for dinner.  This will also give us the advantage of being able to more easily get a bus back to Union Square.

5:00pm
Putting “Plan B” into action we now complete the rest of the circuit along the bottom end of Stow Lake and hook onto Stow Lake Drive.  Stow Lake Drive takes us to John F Kennedy Drive. 

John F Kennedy Drive

John F Kennedy Drive

John F Kennedy Drive is one of the main roads running through the park and leads us back to Staynton Street, Haight and virtually back our starting point of this morning.

More park paths

More park paths

The walk to Staynton Street, Haight, via John F Kennedy Drive from Stow Lake takes about 30 minutes.

5:30pm
We wander Haight Street, Haight. 

Haight Street, Haight

Haight Street, Haight

Haight according to Wikitravel:

“The Haight is made up of two neighborhoods: Haight-Fillmore, usually called the Lower Haight, and Haight-Ashbury, also known as the Upper Haight. The two neighborhoods are separated by a large hill and are bisected by Divisadero Street. The neighborhoods have two separate histories whose cultures and identities merged in the 1960’s as poor, young white hippies moved into the Upper Haight and began to make contact with the poor, young black residents of the Lower Haight. Together, these outcasts forged the counter-culture movement the Haight is most well known for. Today, the two neighborhoods remain similar, yet distinct. The Upper Haight is more of a tourist destination, more identified with its hippy roots, and is safer, especially since the 1990’s. The Lower Haight retains more of its black roots, has a more active nightlife scene, but is unfortunately poorer and therefore dirtier and less safe at night.”

The shops are very alternative and grunge and have an interesting assortment of items for sale.

Haight Street shops

Haight Street shops

Haight Street shops

Haight Street shops

Even hat shops

Even hat shops

This is also our destination for an early dinner as there are a decent selection of eateries on offer.

Casual dining which is a winner

Casual dining which is a winner

7:00pm
We are keen to leave Haight and make our way back to Union Square while it is still light. 

Checkout the jeans used as planters

Checkout the jeans used as planters

We make our way towards Fulton Street and find the No. 5 electric bus back to downtown, eventually getting off at the corner of Market Street and 6th Streets.

San Fransisco city streets

San Fransisco city streets

And so endith our day out at the park.  I have to say, it’s been another good one.

Tomorrow we will travel on the famous San Francisco cable car, visit crooked Lombard Street and walk the Golden Gate Bridge… like we haven’t done enough walking![showmyads]

For previous USA series post see Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf – Pier 39 and Coit Tower
For next USA series post stay tuned…