Believe it or not, this was my first visit (in memory at least!) to Golden Gate Park. I don’t recall spending time here in my youth when I was growing up outside of San Francisco. With that said, I wanted to make sure I dedicated the majority of a day to this beautiful location. The park is situated to the far west of the city and is about a 25 minute car ride or 45 minute public transportation ride away. There are so many sites to be seen in this 1,017 acres urban park. There are museums, memorials, different gardens, lakes and windmills! There is even a Bison paddock and polo field for crying out loud! I knew there was no way I would have time to see everything, so I decided to dedicate my time to two attractions I have always wanted to visit. Those would be the California Academy of Science and the Japanese Tea Garden.
California Academy of Science
Let’s start this by saying that the cost sounds fairly steep. $35 per person. However, it’s a natural history museum, aquarium and planetarium all in one! Which is pretty cool. I was able to spend about 3 hours inside of the California Academy of Science without getting bored, so you will definitely feel like you got your money’s worth. You can probably stay even longer if you are one of those people who literally reads EVERYTHING that’s available to them. As soon as you walk in there’s a dinosaur fossil there to greet you, that’s how you know it’s going to be a good time.
Follow that with the albino alligator and it’s a museum party!! There’s a wide assortment of exhibits to look at and plenty of strange and unique underwater animals too. My favorite were the jellyfish!
They show educational features inside of their high-tech planetarium, let you tour their solar paneled roof tops (which make you feel like you are on another planet or some future civilization where we now all live underground) and even have an earthquake simulator so you can imagine what it’s like to live in San Francisco. The California Academy of Science is an excellent place to visit if you want something out of the ordinary while visiting San Francisco. It’s nice to get out of that ultra tourist mindset while learning something new.
Japanese Tea Garden
I know I just said it’s great to get out of the tourist mindset, but the Japanese Tea Garden is a fairy touristy attraction. It’s a quick 5 minute walk from the Academy of Science so the two were extremely convenient for me to visit in one day.
There is a cost to enter the Japanese Tea Garden, it’s $8.00 per person. That was a bit of a bummer since I thought it would be free, but oh well! Once inside, you forget you are in an urban park. It’s fairly quiet inside and the greenery in the garden is gorgeous. People are walking around the garden for the sole reason of taking pictures. And with good reason! It’s a photographer’s dream come true.
With all of the beautiful flowers, picturesque trees, tranquil water features and fun architecture, how could it not be? I spent about an hour in the garden just admiring the layout. They have a teahouse, however, I thought the prices were a little steep, so I settled for simply taking photographs.
The Japanese Tea Garden truly is a sight to see if you love taking pictures or have an interest in Japanese culture. Still, once you have seen it once, you probably don’t need to keep going back. Maybe if there wasn’t such a high fee to get inside I would be more inclined. Regardless, I’m glad I had a chance to see it and you should go too.
All in all, Golden Gate Park is stunning and so very diverse. In general, it’s a destination I will return to. There is so much ground to cover, it would be impossible to do it all in one day. If you are ambitious and want to see it all, give yourself at least 3 days. But if you only have one, or maybe a half day, be sure to squeeze in the Japanese Tea Garden and Science Academy. But if you can’t don’t feel too bad! Golden Gate Park has plenty of excellent choices.