To call the San Francisco Botanical Garden a living museum of plants does not adequately describe this remarkable conservatory. With 55 acres (22 hectares) of landscaped and open spaces, the urban garden is a veritable sanctuary, an escape from the hustle and bustle, in the heart of Golden Gate Park.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden comprises an array of landscapes. From a rhododendron garden to a lush tropical cloud forest garden, a wealth of natural, globally inspired greenery awaits. You can spend hours experiencing the garden’s more than 8,500 different kinds of plants. If you have limited time, docent-led tours, held daily at 1:30pm, are a great way to have a comprehensive experience of the vastness.
Many San Francisco tours cruise through Golden Gate Park, and some popular tour packages include entrance to the garden. But most city tours via Segway, surrey, and hop-on hop-off bus take you to the park or garden but do not include the entrance fee.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a must for lovers of the outdoors.
- Wear comfortable shoes that can get wet and are designed for walking.
- Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month as well as on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
- The garden has public restrooms but no food services.
- Most of the garden’s paths are accessible to wheelchair users and strollers.
How to Get There
The San Francisco Botanical Garden is located in Golden Gate Park, walking distance from the DeYoung Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. MUNI’s N-Judah, 7, and 6 lines stop a block from the garden’s main entrance near Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way. If driving, there is a parking lot at the Music Concourse; from here, it is a 2-block walk to the garden’s second entrance on Martin Luther King Drive.
When to Get There
The garden is open daily from 7:30am; last entry is between 4pm and 6pm, depending on the season. One of the most popular exhibits, the Magnolia Collection, is at its peak bloom from approximately mid-December to mid-March. The California Collection flourishes from April through June. The Southeast Asian Cloud Forest Collection is lovely year-round, as are the Redwood Grove and California Natives. Arrive via the main gate at 7:30am to experience the garden at its quietest.
Laying the Garden’s Seeds
Golden Gate Park Supervisor John McLaren designed the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s master plan in the 1880s. The project did not become a reality until Helene Strybing infused the founding organization with needed funding in the late 1920s. After years of construction, the San Francisco Botanical Garden opened in 1940. New projects, such as the Center for Sustainable Gardening, are ongoing, and events take place throughout the year in the garden’s buildings and on its lawns.