From San Francisco’s waterfront to the bird’s-eye views of Twin Peaks, this urban landscape is coupled with an amazing array of gardens and public parks. Residents and travelers to the worldwide destination can find respite from city life among the many natural wonders and historical sites. See below for our top picks.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Located at Fisherman's Wharf, the park specializes in the maritime history of San Francisco and the Pacific Coast. Be welcomed aboard several vessels on the Hyde Street Pier and see exhibits at the Maritime Museum, located inside the Aquatic Park Bathhouse building—the art deco construction was built to resemble an ocean liner. Hop on a Segway for a fun way to explore.
Golden Gate Park
Comparable to New York City’s Central Park in size and popularity, this 3-mile-long (4.8-kilometer-long) urban park spans some 40 city blocks to its western edge at Ocean Beach. Visitors can rent a boat at Stow Lake, observe tropical plants at the Conservatory of Flowers, stroll the Japanese Tea Garden, or visit the de Young Museum or California Academy of Sciences. Combine a sightseeing tour with an attraction pass for easy access.
Alamo Square is most famous for its so-called Painted Ladies, candy-colored Victorian and Edwardian homes that are quite possibly the most photographed lineup in San Francisco. However, there’s a lot more to Alamo Square than Postcard Row. Stroll the renovated 12-acre (4-hectare) park, planted with trees and drought-tolerant plants, or take a seat on a park bench to admire the view.
Panoramic vistas plus diverse plant and animal life make this site a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. Get there on a GoCar or double-decker bus, and be sure to leave enough time to explore. Nature lovers may spot endangered butterflies among the native lupine and nesting birds in the grasslands and coastal scrub.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Spanning beyond the city to include Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods, and more, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. An urban hike takes you from Crissy Field in the Presidio to the Palace of Fine Arts, or you can follow dedicated trails all the way to the Lands End Lookout. Hop-on hop-off buses, motorized cable cars, and rental bikes offer alternative ways to explore.