At over 1,000 acres Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is larger than Central Park in Manhattan. And, no less impressive too!
In one of the busiest cities anywhere, visitors can enjoy archery, basketball, biking, skating and a host of other activities. There are tennis courts, a golf course, even flycasting pools.
Or you can take a break from all the hustle and bustle and simply relax and enjoy viewing the many sculptures, bridges and flowers and let the dogs do all the running around.
Since the end of the 19th century, where once there was only barren sand dunes, the Golden Gate Park site has been cultivated by a succession of creative entrepreneurs. Beginning even before John McLaren, who shaped the first gardens, the park has offered both natural and man-made art of dizzying variety.
Since 1879 the Victorian Conservatory of Flowers has provided visitors with a refreshing walk through what are now over 10,000 plants from around the world. Enjoying a recent $25 million restoration after damage from a 1995 storm, the greenhouse is one of the oldest extant in the Western Hemisphere.
The Strybing Arboretum continues the theme with 70 acres housing more than 600 species. The enclosed Shakespeare Garden - a popular theme with botanical garden designers - has on display over 200 flowers and plants mentioned in the works of the Bard.
For a more minimalist style, visit the Japanese Tea Garden. The curving paths and low arching bridges pass around and over small pools and precisely kept flower beds in traditional Japanese style. Enjoy a cup of tea and rest a while.
Nearby, the Asian Art Museum offers an ever changing selection of over 10,000 paintings, sculptures and pottery from throughout Asia. For those who prefer Western art, spend some time at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. Here you'll find a large collection of American art from colonial times to the present.
Stow Lake in the center of the park is a wonderful place to take a mid-tour rest and watch paddleboats glide by or enjoy a noontime picnic. Just a little further west, at Spreckels Lake, visitors can watch the locals as they demonstrate their expertise with radio-controlled model motorboats and sailboats.
But no visit to Golden Gate Park is complete without spending at least a little time checking out the live buffalo that wander around the meadow. Long a fixture, these amazing animals would be unexpected residents of a park anywhere else but San Francisco.
Finding Golden Gate Park is easy. Located at 9th Ave at Lincoln Way there are numerous car and bus routes. Admission to most museums is no more than a few dollars and many are free. Incidentally, Golden Gate Park has no connection to the Golden Gate Bridge.