San Francisco has so many local treasures. Golden Gate Park is one of my favorites, especially now that I have children. Stretching three miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide, our city park is full of nature, wildlife, museums, athletic and sports venues, and entertainment for all ages. It’s way too much to cover in a single blog post, so I’ll focus here on the top things to see and do in Golden Gate Park with kids.
Things to See
You could spend a full year in the park, see something new every day, and still not see everything. Stroll through and find plentiful wild calla lilies, tree-covered groves, streams, waterfalls, ponds and more. Situated at the western end of the park is the buffalo paddock. Yep, that’s right. Live buffalo roaming around in San Francisco! They’re fenced in, of course; these giant creatures are a sight to see. Other interesting sights for families include two windmills, a lawn bowling club, and members of San Francisco’s Model Yacht Club (the oldest such club in the US at 120 years old) sailing their boats on Spreckels Lake.
Places to Visit
The California Academy of Sciences is one of the world’s largest natural history museums, with a giant aquarium, a rooftop garden, a planetarium all within its 400,000 square feet. Children’s activities abound, like the penguin feeding, opportunities to touch live snakes, a 4-story rainforest complete with butterflies, a children’s play area, a touch pond to feel live starfish and coral, and more. A cafe within the museum provides a great variety of healthy, locally-sourced food options as well as a coffee bar. At $36 per ticket ($26 for kids 4-11; under 4 are free), it’s not a cheap visit, but if you have a few hours to spare it’s worth every penny.
A smaller, less expensive, yet beautiful option is to visit the Conservatory of Flowers. Simply sitting on the lawn in front of the building and enjoying all of the outdoor botanical gardens is a treat (and free). Visiting inside the greenhouse is quite affordable at $9 a ticket for adults, $3 for children 3-11 and $6 for ages 12-17.
The Japanese Tea Gardens are yet another spot to take in beautiful scenery and nature of Golden Gate Park. The oldest public Japanese tea garden in the United States, this peaceful, serene spot has fish ponds, bridges, pagodas and many types of flowers to enjoy.
Things to Do
Other fun things to do in the park include riding the carousel next to the Koret’s Children’s Playground. A carousel ride is just $2 for adults; $1 for kids 6-12 years old and children under 6 years old are free! In addition to Koret’s, there are two other playgrounds within the Park. Rent paddleboats at Stow Lake or take a hike up nearby Strawberry Hill, the highest point in Golden Gate Park, to take in the views.
Sometimes, you just need to let the little ones burn off some energy! Kezar Stadium Track is great for this. A recently renovated, regulation size quarter-mile track, Kezar welcomes everyone from serious athletes to weekend joggers, grandmas and toddlers alike. Strollers are frowned upon, but there is a paved path on the upper level of the track that’s a little over 1/3 mile around and perfect for running or walking while pushing. My little guy also loves climbing the stairs and all the flip-seats, as well as chasing the worms who bubble to the surface of the track after it rains.
These are my family’s favorite Golden Gate Park experiences. I would love to hear about yours! Please share in the comments below.