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A day in the bay Hidden treasures of Golden Gate Park

The city of San Francisco offers more than sports teams, shopping and eateries that rival the finest in the world. Flanked by bridges on each end, skyscrapers in the middle and the ominous fog which keeps visitors at bay, the City by the Bay is the ideal place to find some sun and enjoy the fall season.

Traditionally known as the coldest place to spend one’s summer months, the city just 90 miles west of the Central Valley typically hosts an Indian Summer in the October and November months, making for ideal weather to get outside and explore.

Modeled after New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park is believed to be one of the best city parks in the United States. It is the largest manmade park in the world, spanning over 1000 acres and over three miles long (50 blocks). It is reported to host over 13 million visitors per year.

Among the park’s numerous attractions, it offers a number of affordable activities ideal for a family picnic, first date or touring for out of town guests. Situated less than one mile apart and with ample public parking options the city’s Stow Lake, Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden are one such way to spend a day.

Stow Lake is the largest of the 10 lakes located within the park. On the northwest side of the lake, visitors can rent a row boat or paddle boat and enjoy an hour of leisure on the water while taking in the scenic views.

As one circles Strawberry Hill located in the center of the lake, they are treated to turtles sunning themselves on boulders and branches, birds taking flight and the sounds of an unexpected waterfall. There are also a number of foot bridges boaters pass under as they float around the lake, offering a whimsical bit of fun and storybook feel.

Staff members of the boat house are both cheerful and friendly, offering assistance, as well as advice to persons loading and exiting the boats.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a true hidden treasure for the nature walk enthusiast or persons seeking a beautiful quiet setting to picnic. A key part of Golden Gate Park history, 2015 marks the 75th anniversary since the garden opened to the public.

It is commonly visited by locals wishing to escape into nature. The location offers more than 50 acres of plant life showcasing over 8,000 different kinds of plants from all around the world.

San Francisco’s mild temperatures provide a unique climate range which allows it to grow and conserve plants from all areas of the globe. Large lawn areas, flanked by regional garden offerings, allow visitors places to both relax as well as explore and learn.

Just steps away from the North Gate entrance on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Golden Gate Park visitors will be treated to the uniqueness of the Japanese Tea Garden.

Originally built as part of the World’s Fair in 1894, it is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Throughout its serene five acres, those visiting are able to meander down a number of paths. Of those many paths, one may be led across a koi fish filled pond, a tea house or its five-tiered pagoda.

The pagoda was obtained was obtained by Japanese immigrant, gardener and the visionary behind the permanence of the tea garden, Makoto Hagiwara.

Hagiwara was the park caretaker from 1895 to 1925. He secured possession of the pagoda as well as the garden’s two large ornamental wooden gates at the conclusion of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Tours of the garden are offered daily. The tours include a tour of Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill. Information includes origins of the gardens, history of the various structures and elements, as well as personal offerings by the guides. While picnicking is prohibited, an alfresco dining area is available for visitors.

All attractions are opened 365 days out of the year.


Stow Lake Boathouse
50 Stow Lake Drive
San Francisco, CA

Hours of operation:
Monday thru Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last boat released at 5 p.m.)

Rental Rates:
Row Boats - $20/hour
Pedal Boats - $25/ hour
Electric Boats - $34/ hour
4-6 Passenger Pedal Boats - $34/hour

SF Botanical Garden
San Francisco Botanical Garden is open 365 days a year. Hours of operation vary by season. Entrances to the park are located the corner of Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Adults: $8
Youth 12-17: $6
Children 5-11: $2
Child 4 and under Free
Families: $17
(2 adults and all children under 17)

Japanese Tea Garden
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA
(East of Stow Lake, between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King. Jr. Drive)

The Japanese Tea Garden is open year round, including all Holidays.
Hours of operation:
Summer (3/1 through 10/31): 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Winter (11/1 through 2/28): 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Adult: $8
Senior (65+)/ Youth (12-17): $6
Child: $2
Children 4 and under: Free
*Mon., Wed., Fri.: Free Admission if entered by 10 a.m.