The Golden Gate National Park and Recreation Area
The Golden Gate National Park is as central to San Francisco’s cultural and outdoor recreational interest as any other part of the city. A 1,017-acre rectangular greenbelt stretching 3 miles inland from just north of Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street, the park is home to several art and science museums and other cultural venues, and offers abundant opportunities for walking, jogging, biking, picnicking, roller blading, horseback riding, and even tennis and golf.
Exploring the Golden Gate National Park
Among the most notable attractions in the park, particularly in the closer-to-downtown eastern half of it, are the Conservatory of Flowers, an ornate Victorian greenhouse dating from 1876 that houses tropical plants and a lily pond, economic and medicinal plants, and a miniature rain forest; the Japanese Tea Garden, located in the same region of the park, comprising a 5-acre garden in a tranquil setting, with a Zen gravel garden, a pagoda, a hillside populated with bonzai trees, an 18th century bronze Buddha, and an oudoor tea shop in the Japanese tradition; and the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum which houses stunning collections of American art from the pre-Coulmbian era to present day, as well as collections of world textiles, European tapestries, African folk art, and the art of Oceania.
Also in the eastern part of the park are the Asian Art Museum, where collections range from Chinese paintings, sculpture and ceramics, to Korean and Japanese art, Indian art, Southeast Asian art, Islamic and ancient Persian art, and also artwork from Tibet and the Himalayan regions; the California Academy of Sciences, the oldest scientific institution in the West, originally established in 1853 and where you can now visit the Natural History Museum, one of the world’s ten largest, with nearly 15 million specimens, as well as the Morrison Planetarium and the nation’s oldest aquarium, the Steinhart Aquarium, which showcases some 200 exhibits; and the 70-acre Strybing Arboretum, where you can view more than 7,500 varieties of plants from all over the world.
Among other points of interest in the vicinity are Stow Lake that lies just to the west of the Strybing Arboretum, as well as a former polo field, the Bison Paddock where you can see a small herd of buffalo, Spreckels Lake which has park benches all around it, the Golden Gate Park Golf Course, the park stables, the Victorian-era Speedway Meadow, and, nearer to Ocean Beach, a windmill dating from 1902 and the adjacent Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden where thousands of blooming tulips can be seen in the springtime, usually around April.
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