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Golden Gate Park

by Cyndy Ainsworth

Most visitors to Golden Gate Park today have no idea that the park began life as barren windswept sand dunes. Beginning in 1890 under the guidance of a young Scotsman named John McLaren, the landscape was gradually transformed into a green oasis of gardens, museums, and recreational facilities. With over 1000 acres of flower beds, meadows, lakes, playing fields, hills and forests, there's something for everyone at Golden Gate Park.

The first stop for many visitors is the Japanese Tea Garden. They follow the curving paths and arching bridges past carefully manicured flower beds and shimmering pools to the Tea House for tea and cookies, all too often missing the pleasure that comes from just sitting and enjoying the beauty of the place.

Just a short distance from the Japanese Tea Garden are the three museums located in the park. The Asian Art Museum displays a rotating selection from the museum's collection of over 10,000 paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jades, textiles, and other decorative objects from throughout Asia; while the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum features an extensive collection of American art, from colonial times to the twentieth century. Across from the De Young, the California Academy of Sciences delights both young and old with natural history exhibits, a fish roundabout, laser light shows, and a permanent collection of Far Side cartoons.

For ideas on what to plant in your garden take a walk through the Strybing Arboretum. It contains over 600 varieties of flowers, trees, and shrubs from around the world, with an emphasis on plants from places with climates similar to that of the Bay Area. The nearby Shakespeare Garden contains over two hundred flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare's sonnets and plays, along with bronze plaques engraved with floral quotations.

Other features at the east end of the park include a Rose Garden with 53 beds of award-winning roses; a Children's Playground, with a beautiful restored Hershell-Spillman carousel; the Conservatory, an ornate Victorian greenhouse housing tropical plants and an exhibit of rare orchids; and a Rhododendron Dell that honors John McLaren with over 3000 plantings of his favorite flower.

Stow Lake in the center of the park is the perfect place for strolling, picnicking, or touring the small lake in a rented rowboat, motorboat, or paddleboat. Spreckels Lake, a little further west, is often used by operators of radio-controlled model motorboats and sailboats. Those interested in more active sports will find baseball diamonds, a small golf course, riding stables, tennis courts, a bowling green, and an archery field scattered throughout the park.

Out at the very western end of the park are two windmills once used to pump water for irrigating the park. The Dutch Windmill at the northwest corner has been completely restored and in early spring is surrounded by a sea of color in the Queen Wilhemina Tulip Garden.

Golden Gate Park Details

Japanese Tea Garden
(415) 752-1171
Open 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Admission is $2.50/adults, $1/seniors and children 6 to 12.
The Conservatory of Flowers
Closed indefinitely due to storm damage.

De Young Museum
(415) 863-3330
Open Wednesday to Sunday 9:30 am to 5 pm (to 8:45 pm on the first Wednesday of the month).
Admission is $7/adults, $5/seniors, $4/children 12-17; admission is free until 5 pm on the second Wednesday of the month.
One admission charge admits you to the de Young and the Palace of the Legion of Honor on the same day.

California Academy of Sciences
(415) 750-7145
Open 9 am to 6 pm Memorial Day to Labor Day; 10 am to 5 pm the rest of the year.
Admission is $8.50adults, $5.50/seniors, students, and children 12-17, and $2/children 4-11 Admission is free the first Wednesday of each month.

Asian Art Museum
(415) 668-8921
Open Wednesday to Sunday 9:30 am to 5 pm (to 8:45 pm on the first Wednesday of the month).
Admission is $7/adults, $5/seniors, $4/children 12-17; admission is free until 5 pm on the second Wednesday of the month.

Strybing Arboretum
(415) 753-7089
Open daily 8:00 am - 4:30 pm weekdays, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm weekends and holidays
Admission is free of charge.

Stow Lake Boathouse
(415) 752-0347
Open daily 9 am to 4 pm weather permitting.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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