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Davis, California

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

How to make your Golden Gate Park visit more exciting

California’s ultimate urban park has something for everyone


By SAVANNAH BURGER — arts@theaggie.org


Looking for something fun to do in one of Northern California’s most iconic cities? San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is the place for you! Boasting 1,017 acres, the park is 20% larger than Central Park in New York and is the third most-visited urban park in the country. There are limitless activities in the park, ranging from permanent museums to seasonal festivals and weekly concerts. This article will detail a handful of fun ways to pass the time.

First off, for anyone who hasn’t been yet, consider going to the California Academy of Sciences. Although the ticket prices are a little hefty, especially for college students with general admission ranging between $33 and $45 for adults depending on the day and time, the Academy is full of hours worth of fun.

When visiting the Academy, you can experience the underground Steinhart Aquarium, which houses tropical, amazonian and bioluminescent fish (among many others). For more wildlife, visit the Osher Rainforest, a four-story dome-encased rainforest filled with plants, butterflies, reptiles, free-flying birds and amphibians. Lastly, the Morrison Planetarium transports you to distant galaxies while the Shake House, the Academy’s infamous earthquake simulator, brings you back down to Earth with simulations of the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. These are just a few of the things that the California Academy of Sciences has to offer.

Just next to the Academy, the Legion of Honor and de Young Museum, known as the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, offer a swath of amazing, world-famous works of art. At both museums, general admission is $20 and the student price is only $11 (bring your student ID). When visiting, you can see breathtaking art from the likes of Aaron Douglas, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keefe and Georges Seurat.

As far as flowers and nature go, the Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers and San Francisco Botanical Garden, otherwise referred to as the Gardens of Golden Gate Park, are phenomenal options. If you want to visit all three gardens for one discounted ticket price, the Gardens of Golden Gate Park Pass has a general admission price of $33. Otherwise, general admission for adults is $14 each at the Conservatory of Flowers and San Francisco Botanical Garden, with the Japanese Tea Garden ranging from $15 to $18 throughout the week.

Visiting the Japanese Tea Garden, you can witness a well-maintained Japanese-style garden, complete with pagodas, native Japanese plants, arched drum bridges, stone lanterns and koi ponds, all the while sipping on green tea in the tea house. Admission is free every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 10 a.m. 

The Conservatory of Flowers, modeled after the Princess of Wales Conservatory in Kew, England, is a jaw-dropping and humid collection of aquatic plants, highland tropical plants, lowland tropical plants and Scarlet, the famous and rare corpse flower. Admission is free every first Tuesday of the month. 

For a more cardio-centered garden experience, the 55 acres of the San Francisco Botanical Garden has plants from Australia, California, Southeast Asia, Temperate Asia, South Africa, New Zealand, the Mediterranean, Chile and Central America. There is also the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture, which has books available for public viewing about subjects ranging from garden design to ethnobotany and sustainable agriculture. Admission is free every second Tuesday of the month and between 7:30 and 9 a.m. every day of the week.

Golden Gate Park features a variety of experiences that you can walk into free of cost. Continuing the theme of gardens, the Shakespeare Garden has over 200 species of flowers and plants, including every flower mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and poems, hence the name. It’s also a popular venue for weddings.

You can also venture to the Dutch Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden for a little taste of Holland in California. The garden features hundreds of colored tulips that bloom in early spring.

Thinking of a hike? Golden Gate Park has 33 acres of lakes, with many having trails circling them. Some of the most popular lakes to visit are Blue Heron Lake, Spreckels Lake, North Lake, Middle Lake and South Lake. Spreckels Lake is where you can see a plethora of model boats speeding across the water.

If you want to see San Francisco’s version of the Davis cows, head on over to the Bison Paddock. This meadow has been the home of a herd of bison since 1891, as the park superintendent at the time, John McClaren, was afraid of the species going extinct. They’re totally free to check out!

Lastly, if you’re into roller skating or blading, 6th Avenue Skate Park, or “Skatin’ Place” is a popular, free outdoor roller rink that has oodles of fun events for skating. One of these events is the Golden Gate Park Sunday Roller Disco Party that happens every Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Go to get your dance on and meet The Godfather of Skate, David Miles Jr., who brings his mobile DJ to blast his groovy jams.

Next time you have a free day or weekend, think about paying a visit to Golden Gate Park. Only a little less than an hour and a half away from Davis, the fun you’ll have will be worth the drive.


Written by: Savannah Burger— arts@theaggie.org 


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