Since it was founded in 1776, the Presidio of San Francisco has had many lives, from a Spanish military site to an American Army post to a National Park Service location. Today, it draws visitors for its cultural sites, hiking trails, public art, restaurants, and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
The Presidio is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is managed mostly by the Presidio Trust. Perched on the city’s northwest corner, it’s unique among national park sites: In addition to a variety of recreational activities, it’s also home to residential houses, businesses, and a school. Visit on a bike tour, GoCar tour, or a small-group tour by VW van or vintage fire truck, or see it from above on a helicopter ride.
To explore on your own, start at the Presidio Officers’ Club or the visitor center to get oriented and ask any questions you have. Attractions and experiences on offer include hiking, golfing, bowling, sailing, beaches, military buildings, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and four pieces of art around the park by artist Andy Goldsworthy.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Unlike most national parks, the Presidio is free to visit.
- Most of its parking lots and street parking require a fee, but there are some free spaces.
- The Main Post is the heart of the park, where you’ll find the Presidio Visitor Center, Officers’ Club, the Inn at the Presidio, and the Presidio Trust offices.
- The Presidio is large, so you may end up walking more than you planned; wear comfortable shoes and keep water with you.
How to Get There
The PresidiGo shuttle operates a route inside the park, a route to Crissy Field, and a route from downtown. Biking from Fisherman’s Wharf or the Marina District is a pleasant way to get to the park, or take Muni bus 41 or 45.
When to Get There
Arrive in the late morning to plan your day from the visitor, while still leaving enough time to see everything you want. Events take place throughout the year, including outdoor family movies, live music, and cultural programs at the Officers’ Club. The Presidio Picnic runs on Sundays from March through October with a rotating selection of food trucks.
Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is not part of the Presidio but sits adjacent to the park’s northeastern edge, so it’s easy to visit at the same time. This European-looking monument was originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition; today, it’s a great spot for photos and relaxing by the duck pond.