Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s largest park, and is bigger than New York’s Central Park. About 3 miles long and 1/2-mile wide it covers 1,013 acres. Golden Gate Park has over one million trees, nine lakes, several fly casting pools and a lily pond within its borders. The California Academy of Sciences, deYoung Museum, Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers are some of its many attractions.
Rent a boat and drift or paddle around circular Stow Lake with Strawberry Hill in the center. The largest of Golden Gate Park’s lakes, Stow Lake was completed in 1893 as was its Rustic Bridge. In 1984 The cascade at Stow Lake was dedicated and named Huntington Falls after Collis P. Huntington, who contributed $25,000 for the project. William Hammond Hall was hired to prepare a survey and topographic map of the Golden Gate Park site. He become commissioner in 1871 and selected John McLaren as his successor in 1887.
John McLaren, having apprenticed as a landscape gardener in Scotland, spent the next fifty years improving Golden Gate Park. One of his stipulations before taking the job was, “There will be no ‘Keep off the Grass” signs.” By corresponding with gardeners and botanists all over the world, McLaren was able to gather plants—and particularly trees—from every land but one, Bolivia. McLaren Lodge—a Moorish-Gothic style building originally designed to be both home and office of the Golden Gate Park Superintendent— serves as the headquarters for the Recreation and Parks Department and as the home base for Friends of Recreation and Parks.John McLaren, for whom the building was later named, lived there from the time it was built until his death in 1943 at the age of 96. “Uncle John”, as McLaren had become known to San Franciscans, refused to retire at age 60, as was customary, then City government was bombarded with letters when he reached 70 resulting in a charter amendment exempting him from forced retirement.
James Lick was instrumental in getting the Conservatory placed in Golden Gate Park. You can learn more about the history of the Conservatory, including many exterior and interior pictures and panoramas taken days before its re-opening to the public on my Conservatory of Flowers page. Additional details are on the San Francisco Parks Alliance (formerly friends of recreation and parks) website. By the way, the San francisco Parks Tust gives free Historical Guided Walking Tours, year-round in Golden Gate Park.
You’ll also want to visit our Japanese Tea Garden page which has more pictures and history of one of the most well known areas of Golden Gate Park.
Click to view the Golden Gate Park Section of our City Guide