Golden Gate Park's Hidden Treasures
Within its 1,000-plus acres, Golden Gate Park contains some of San Francisco most famous and most visited attractions; but there is still plenty to see that you might not know about yet. Read through our list of Golden Gate Park's hidden treasures and do some exploring for yourself.
Located at the west end of the park (47th Ave. and Fulton St.), the archery field is open to archers of all skill levels. The field has nine hay bales for shared use, and equipment can be rented nearby. Archers are encouraged to bring their own targets, bows and arrows.
Why visit a home on the range when you can see real buffalo roam right here in Golden Gate Park? See these majestic creatures in an open, safe habitat along John F. Kennedy Blvd. The herd has grown recently; in 2020, five new baby bison were added to the group.
Located steps from the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the park is the Beach Chalet. Stop by for a lunch, dinner or drinks. Come out for Taco Tuesday, featuring live music from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., cheap tacos, handcrafted beers and half-price margaritas. The Spanish Colonial architecture and history associated with the building (formerly a changing house for beach frolickers) is worth checking out, too.
Dutch and Murphy Windmills
Standing at 75 feet tall, the north windmill was originally constructed in 1902 to pump water. Today it’s known for the thousands of colorful tulips that surround the historic landmark in the northwest corner of the park. The windmill is worth a visit anytime, but tulip time (February and March) is the best. A second windmill, the Murphy Windmill, is located in the southwest corner of the park.
Inhabited by drum circles and covered in a haze of pot smoke, Hippie Hill was always good for an adventure. Infamous for the flower children who gathered there during the 1960s, the meadow and slope are still a good place to enjoy the city and people-watch on a sunny day.
From 1946 to 1970, the San Francisco 49ers called Kezar Stadium home. Today, Kezar remains a multi-purpose stadium that hosts collegiate football games, and other sporting events, like local lacrosse, soccer, and track and field teams. There's also an eight-lane track open for public use.
Located at the center of the museum district of the park, the Music Concourse was originally built for the festivities of the 1894 Midwinter Fair. Check out free performances of the Golden Gate Park Band on Sundays from April to October, and keep an eye out for other major headliners. Don’t forget to say "hi" to Ludwig Van Beethoven, Ulysses S. Grant, and the other statues of historical figures that line the concourse.
National AIDS Memorial Grove
The National AIDS Memorial Grove is dedicated to the millions of lives AIDS has affected. This space is open to the public for picnics and regularly hosts performing arts events and weddings. It is a beautiful, peaceful place to gather, remember, explore and experience.
As part of the park's 150 anniversary, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed in Golden Gate Park Apr. 3-5, 2020. This will be San Francisco's largest-ever display of the AIDS quilt.
There's plenty of public art to see throughout the park, and it's easiest to explore by renting a bike to go on a self-guided tour. Jean-Michel Othoniel's "La Rose des Vents" is a can't-miss sculpture that's installed in front of the Conservatory of Flowers. This kinetic sculpture made from gold and aluminum pays homage to the compass rose.
Located in the Koret Playground are Vicki Saull's sandy creatures. Children are free to frolic and play amongst these aquatic forms.
There are multiple bronze monuments scattered throughout the park, too. Learn about the important roles that public figures like John McLaren, Thomas Star King, General John Pershing, and many others have played in San Francisco.
Make your way to the western end of Golden Gate Park to Beach Chalet, where you'll find an impressive mural by Depression-Era muralist Lucien Labaudt, who spent most of his career in San Francisco. He's also best known for the murals he created at Coit Tower.
Arthur Page Brown's "Portals of the Past" is a relic of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, consisting of the marble remains of the Towne mansion. This public art can be found on the north shore of Lloyd Lake. Today, it's used as a popular backdrop for weddings and photo ops.
In the 1930s, colorful lights were installed to illuminate this beautiful waterfall, giving it its name. The falls greet visitors as they enter and exit the park near Crossover Drive. If you’re up for a hike, check out the Prayerbook Cross near the top of the waterfall. Dating back to 1894, the Celtic-style landmark is the tallest in the park.
Hellman Hollow and Lindley Meadows
One of San Francisco’s biggest music festivals, Outside Lands, brings thousands of people to Golden Gate Park and, specifically, to these two meadows every August. You can head to these grassy patches any time of the year for a nice picnic, a sweet outdoor nap, or a game of frisbee.
A favorite attraction for all ages, Spreckels Lake is the perfect place to stroll, jog, bike, or read under the Monterey Cypress trees. Keep your eyes peeled for frogs, turtles and fish among the model yachts.
A pristine man-made lake located in the heart of the park where you can rent a boat from the Stow Lake Boathouse. The surrounding views and grounds are gorgeous. The boathouse café sells food, snacks and drinks to keep you going throughout your park adventure. It’s a lovely place to spend the afternoon.
Situated in the middle of Stow Lake and measuring 430-feet-high, the island is the highest point in the park. Take the Rustic Bridge or the Roman Bridge on either side, and hike to the top to see a stunning view of Mt. Tamalpais and the Golden Gate Bridge. Don’t forget to meditate at the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, a Chinese temple-like structure that was a gift from the city of Taipei to commemorate early Chinese settlers. Take the southern bridge to get there. You may never want to leave.
Golden Gate Park celebrates 150 years in 2020, so be sure to participate in some of the park's special events throughout the year.