Golden Gate Park is the jewel of San Francisco—this narrow strip
of green stretches inland from the Pacific Ocean, creating a magi-
cal 1017-acre rectangle containing a myriad of treasure—museums,
bison paddocks, windmills, flower gardens, and walking, jogging, and
biking trails to name a few (see p 166 and bullet 7 on the next page
for bike rental info). I've listed my favorite stops and activities, but take
a day to explore this outdoor wonder at leisure. Note: If your schedule
allows, visit on a Sunday, when one of the main throughways (JFK Dr.)
is closed to car traffic. START: Fell & Stanyan Sts. Bus 5, 21.
1 McLaren Lodge and Park
Headquarters. This entry to the
park honors John McLaren, park
superintendent from 1890 to 1943,
who transformed the barren land
into a lush urban retreat and devel-
oped a new strain of grass to hold
the sandy soil, built windmills to
pump water for irrigation, and spent
40 years constructing a natural wall
to prevent erosion from the ocean.
Stop by for detailed information
on the park. Note: If you want to
explore the park by bike, see bullet
7 for rental info. @ 30 min. Fell &
Stanyan sts. y 415/831-2700. www.
parks.sfgov.org. Bus: 5, 21.
2 = Children's Playground
& Carousel. Built in 1887 as the
first public children's playground in
the U.S., it now features huge slides,
a fabulous climbing structure, and a
decorative 1912 carousel from Buf-
falo, N.Y. @ 30 min. Kezar Dr. (at 1st
Ave.). 50¢ per ride.
3 ★ Conservatory of Flowers.
In 1995 a massive windstorm dam-
aged 40% of the glass tiles in this
1878 public conservatory. It
reopened in 2003 after a $25-million
restoration, which also rescued from
the wreckage a century-old tropical
philodendron. The striking glass
structure and path-filled gardens
showcase rare orchids, carnivorous
flora, and plants from five conti-
nents. @ 1 hour. Off John F. Kennedy
Dr., near Stanyan St. entrance.
y 415/666-7001. www.conservatory
Built in 1967, the Conservatory of Flowers
is the oldest public conservatory in the
offlowers.org. $5; $3 kids 12-17, sen-
iors 65 & over & students; $1.50 kids
5-11. Open Tues-Sun 9am-4:30pm.
4 The Strybing Arboretum &
Botanical Gardens. Over 6,000
species of plants, flowering trees,
and theme gardens grace this splen-
did oasis. Docents give free tours
daily at 1:30pm. @ 1 hour. 9th Ave.
(at Lincoln Way). y 415/661-1316.
www.strybing.org. Free admission.
Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm; Sat-Sun