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|Name||Hours||Phone||Address||City||State||Zip||Type||Park Sevice Area||District||ADA||Parking||Restrooms||Acreage||SqFt||Latitiude||Longitude||Description||Photo URL|
|Bison Paddock||5am to Midnight||1237 John F Kennedy Dr||San Francisco||CA||94121||Museum or Landmark||GGP||Accessible||Yes||No||37.7698450||-122.4983870||
Visitors to Golden Gate Park are often astounded to stumble upon a herd of American bison browsing in a meadow in the park’s western end, but these huge, shaggy Great Plains denizens have been a beloved institution since 1892. Before San Francisco opened its first zoo in the 1930s, a menagerie of creatures were kept in Golden Gate Park, including elk, deer, bear, sheep, and bison, more commonly known as buffalo.
An emblem of the American west, bison had been driven nearly to extinction by the time Golden Gate Park’s herd was established. The herd’s first home was in the park’s eastern end, near where the Music Concourse now stands, but in 1899 they were moved to the meadow where you see them today, just west of Spreckels Lake along John F. Kennedy Drive. The small herd that remains is cared for by staff from the San Francisco Zoo, while Recreation and Parks Department gardeners maintain the enclosure.
|California Academy of Sciences||(415) 379-8000||55 Music Concourse Dr||San Francisco||CA||94118||Museum or Landmark||GGP||District 1||Accessible||Yes||Yes||37.7699700||-122.4665760||
The California Academy of Sciences, home to an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, is a groundbreaking research and educational institution. Devoted to studying and sharing the diversity of life on the planet, the Academy’s mission is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world. Its stunning home in Golden Gate Park, designed by architect Renzo Piano, combines innovative “green” architecture with inventive exhibits, including the four-story Rainforests of the World dome, the world’s largest all-digital planetarium, the Philippine Coral Reef, Water Planet, a “living” roof garden of native plants, podcasts, live penguin cams, and more.
The oldest scientific institution in the western United States, the California Academy of Sciences was founded in San Francisco in 1853 by a group of naturalists and scientists intent on surveying, collecting, and studying the natural resources of California and beyond. Its scientists set out on expeditions of exploration around the American southwest, into Mexico and Latin America, and across the Pacific to Asia, as well as to the Galapagos and other Pacific islands.
In the late 1800s, the Academy’s specimens and artifacts drew thousands of visitors, and its collections outgrew its first museum. It moved to a larger home on Market Street in 1891, and after the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed that building, built a magnificent Beaux Arts complex in Golden Gate Park. North American Hall opened in 1916, to be joined in later decades by Steinhart Aquarium, Simson African Hall, Science Hall, and Morrison Planetarium.
In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake caused structural damage to the Academy’s aging facilities in Golden Gate Park, which were filled to bursting from the size of its collections. The old complex closed in 2003 and construction began on the new building, in the same location. Opened in 2008, it is a model of sustainable, energy- and water-efficient design, and is the world’s largest “green” museum. Exhibits incorporate both old favorites like the Swamp and African Hall, new exhibits utilizing advanced technologies, and more than 38,000 live animals in displays that engage visitors in the interdependence of earth, ocean, and space.
The Academy continues to be a leading research and educational institution. Staff scientists and associates lead expeditions around the world and conduct cutting-edge research in 11 fields of study, with the goal of better understanding and protecting Earth’s living things. Its research collections include more than 26 million specimens. The Academy also offers a wide range of workshops, lectures, events, field trips, and special programs in the natural sciences for schoolchildren, educators, and the general public.
The California Academy of Sciences is located on the southern edge of the Music Concourse, in the eastern section of Golden Gate Park.
|Coit Tower||10am to 6pm||(415) 249-0995||1 Telegraph Hill Blvd||San Francisco||CA||94133||Museum or Landmark||PSA 1||District 3||Accessible||Yes||Yes||37.8025680||-122.4058060||
Coit Tower, a slender white concrete column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill, has been an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline since its completion in 1933, a welcoming beacon to visitors and residents alike. Its observation deck, reached by elevator (tickets can be purchased in the gift shop), provides 360-degree views of the city and bay, including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.
The simple fluted tower is named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy eccentric and patron of the city’s firefighters. Coit died in 1929, leaving a substantial bequest “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” The funds were used to build both the tower and a monument to Coit’s beloved volunteer firefighters, in nearby Washington Square. The tower was designed by the firm of Arthur Brown, Jr., architect of San Francisco’s City Hall. Contrary to popular belief, Coit Tower was not designed to resemble a firehose nozzle.
The murals inside the tower’s base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor to the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and depict life in California during the Depression. When violence broke out during the 1934 longshoremen’s strike, controversy over the radical content in some of the panels became quite heated. Some of the most controversial elements were painted over, and the tower was padlocked for several months before the frescoes were finally opened to the public in the fall of 1934.
Telegraph Hill takes its name from a semaphore telegraph erected on its summit in 1850 to alert residents to the arrival of ships. Pioneer Park, which surrounds Coit Tower, was established in 1876 on the former site of the telegraph station. As you wander the trails that wind around the tower and down the hill, you may hear the raucous chatter of the neighborhood’s most famous (and noisiest) residents, the flock of parrots featured in the 2005 film “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”
COIT TOWER DETAILS
10am-6pm May through October and 10am-5pm November through April.
Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day
Guided Group Tours
Docent-led tours are available to visitors with a complete tour of the Tower including the murals. The tours are available for groups of at least 4 people but not more than 8 people. The length of the tour is about 30 – 40 minutes. Visitors will learn about the Tower’s inception, the Public Work of Art Projects’ influence, and history of the twenty-six artists. A $8 fee per person will be charged for a full tour of the murals. A $5 fee per person will be charged for a tour of the second floor only.
Elevator Entrance Fees*
* A service fee will be added for pre-purchased online ticket sales.
Transportation: Muni #39; limited automobile parking
Please note that parking at the tower is very limited, and at peak times the line of cars waiting to reach the lot can be very long. Muni’s #39 Coit bus travels between Coit Tower and Fisherman’s Wharf. For a scenic hike to the tower, climb Telegraph Hill’s eastern slope via the Filbert Street stairs, which pass through the Grace Marchant Garden, or the Greenwich Street stairs.
|Conservatory of Flowers||10am to 4:30pm||(415) 831-2090||100 John F Kennedy Dr||San Francisco||CA||94118||Museum or Landmark||GGP||District 1||Accessible||Yes||Yes||12,000||37.7725900||-122.4602200||
A Victorian confection of wood and glass, the Conservatory of Flowers, which opened in 1879, is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park and one of San Francisco’s most beloved landmarks. It houses some 1,700 species of aquatic and tropical plants, many of them rare, including a 100-year-old giant Imperial philodendron, a world-renowned collection of orchids, giant water lilies, and carnivorous plants. Special exhibits have included such popular favorites as the Butterfly Zone and the miniature garden railroad.
The building is situated in Conservatory Valley, where intricately designed flowerbeds bloom from January through September. Palm trees along the stairs leading to the Conservatory provide an elegant frame for the central dome. To the east of the Conservatory are the Arizona Garden, with drought-tolerant species, and the Dahlia Garden, which is in radiant bloom through the summer months and into early fall.
The Conservatory’s story begins with eccentric millionaire James Lick, who ordered the prefabricated building but never had it erected; when he died in 1876, the greenhouse was still in crates. In 1878, several prominent San Francisco businessmen bought the kit and donated it to the city for construction in Golden Gate Park. The Conservatory was an immediate success, becoming one of the park’s most popular attractions. In 1883 the building’s dome was replaced with a slightly taller one after a fire destroyed the original. The Conservatory suffered no serious damage from the 1906 earthquake, and homeless survivors of the disaster camped in Conservatory Valley and throughout Golden Gate Park.
In 1995, a winter storm with high winds severely damaged the aging Conservatory and destroyed some of the collection. A campaign to save the beloved landmark resulted in a five-year, $25 million reconstruction with many needed upgrades. The building reopened in 2003.
In keeping with San Francisco’s policy of reduced pesticide use in all city parks and facilities, the Conservatory uses beneficial insects to control harmful pests, and is home to a population of geckos that keeps infestations by cockroaches and other insects in check.
The Conservatory of Flowers is at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, in the eastern end of Golden Gate Park.
|de Young Museum||(415) 750-3600||50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr||San Francisco||CA||94118||Museum or Landmark||GGP||District 1||Accessible||Yes||Yes||37.7713200||-122.4685800||
The de Young, San Francisco’s oldest museum, is housed in a strikingly modern copper-sheathed building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron. The building, which opened to the public in 2005, provides San Francisco with a landmark that integrates the museum’s superb art collections, architectural innovation, and the natural landscape in one multifaceted destination.
The de Young’s collection of American paintings, sculptures and decorative arts includes works from the 17th century to the present, representing a range of cultures and artistic movements, including Native American and Spanish colonial art, the Federal style, Hudson River School, Impressionism, Modernism, Surrealism, Abstract, Pop, and Contemporary. Works purchased from the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 form the core of the museum’s fine Oceanic art collection, which includes New Zealand Maori wood carvings, carved and textile works from Indonesia, rare paintings by Australian Aboriginal artists, and masterworks of New Guinea art from the Jolika collection. Art of the Americas includes the largest group of Teotihuacan murals outside of Mexico, while the textile arts collection features more than 13,000 textiles and costumes from around the world.
The de Young has its roots in the 1894 Midwinter International Exposition, which San Francisco Chronicle publisher M.H. de Young helped bring to San Francisco. After the exposition closed, its profits were used to convert the Egyptian revival-style Fine Arts Building into a permanent museum, called the Memorial Museum, which opened in 1895. The collection consisted of objects from the fair and de Young’s personal collections, as well as many artifacts of the Gold Rush era donated by San Franciscans. This building was badly damaged in the 1906 earthquake, and de Young donated funds to build a new wing, completed in 1919; a central tower and another wing were added later. In 1921 the name was changed to the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. The original Egyptian-style structure was demolished in 1929.
In 1989, another earthquake, the Loma Prieta, badly damaged this de Young building. Deemed unsafe, it was closed in 2000; construction on the new building began in 2003. The new de Young is noted for its perforated copper skin, which will acquire a patina over time. Outdoor landscaping incorporates elements from the old museum, including the sphinx sculptures and the Pool of Enchantment, with new features such as the public sculpture garden and children’s garden. The public observation floor at the top of the building’s 144-foot tower provides panoramic views of Golden Gate Park and the city.
The de Young Museum is situated on the Music Concourse just east of the Japanese Tea Garden, at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive.
|Geneva Car Barn||2301 San Jose Ave||San Francisco||CA||94112||Museum or Landmark||Limited Wheelchair Access||37.7203130||-122.4466470||
Designed by the Reid Brothers (who also designed the Fremont Hotel and the Cliff House), the 1901 building served as a depot for the San Mateo Railroad, and then later for all San Francisco’s rail lines. In 1985, the Car Barn was declared a San Francisco city landmark. Heavily damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, it was left to deteriorate. In 1998, the Car Barn faced demolition, which galvanized the community, who convinced Mayor Willie Brown to save the building. Ownership was transferred to the Department of Recreation and Parks in early 2004. In 2006, the Department completed a seismic retrofit to the structure which addresses some of the major concerns with the stability of the building. Most recently, The Friends of Geneva Car Barn are moving forward with a strategic plan that will address new programming and capital improvements.
|Legion of Honor||(415) 750-3600||100 34th Ave||San Francisco||CA||94121||Museum or Landmark||PSA 1||District 1||Accessible||Yes||Yes||59,527||37.7845000||-122.5007700||
The Legion of Honor, San Francisco’s most beautiful museum, displays an impressive collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art in an unforgettable setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I, the Legion of Honor is a beautiful Beaux-arts building located in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco, the Legion is most noted for its breathtaking setting. Its collections include Rodin’s Thinker, which sits in the museum’s Court of Honor, European decorative arts and paintings, Ancient art, and one of the largest collections of prints and drawings in the country.
|Music Concourse||5am to Midnight||50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr||San Francisco||CA||94118||Museum or Landmark||GGP||Accessible||Yes||Yes||37.7706400||-122.4675100||
The Music Concourse, a landscaped basin between the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum, is a vital civic and cultural space within Golden Gate Park, hosting free concerts on Sundays during the summer and serving as a respite and picnic spot year-round for visitors to nearby cultural facilities.
The oval-shaped basin was excavated in 1893 to create the Grand Court for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, also known as the Midwinter Fair, and statuary and other relics from the exposition can still be found scattered around the concourse. The Music Concourse itself was built in 1900 to accommodate audiences for concerts at the Spreckels Temple of Music (often referred to as the Bandshell), built the same year as a gift from Claus Spreckels, the “sugar king.” The original layout of the concourse was much as you see it today. The depressed elevation was intended to provide protection from summer winds, and terraces around the perimeter were designed to seat an anticipated capacity of 20,000.
The Spreckels Temple of Music and the original M.H. de Young Museum, which was built for the Midwinter Fair, were the first structures in the Music Concourse area. The California Academy of Sciences was added in 1916, and the concourse’s central fountain, Rideout Fountain, in 1924. Many other monuments and statues are located in and around the concourse, and other historic features include three pedestrian tunnels under adjacent roadways. The striking modern building that now houses the de Young’s collection opened in 2005, and the California Academy of Sciences’ innovative “green” building opened in 2008.
The concourse’s grove of pollarded (severely pruned) trees are primarily London plane trees and Wych elms, with some maples and walnuts. It’s not clear when the present trees were planted. Original drawings and photos of the concourse show fewer trees.
The Spreckels Temple of Music, damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was rededicated in 1994 after a complete seismic reconstruction. The concourse and its four fountains have also been restored.
|Portals of the Past||5am to Midnight||760 John F Kennedy Dr||San Francisco||CA||94122||Museum or Landmark||GGP||District 1||Limited Wheelchair Access||Yes||No||37.7707780||-122.4824850||
The Portals of the Past is an unusual little monument at Golden Gate Park. Standing on the shores of Lloyd Lake (just to the west of the DeYoung Museum), these columns actually have an interesting history. During the big earthquake and fire of 1906, most of Nob Hill was flattened by the destruction. However somehow, the entranceway to the mansion of A.N. Towne managed to remain standing. It was later removed and brought over to Golden Gate Park, where it still stands today, as a symbol of the perserverence of San Francisco… working towards an optimistic future, regardless of the tragedy of the past.
Courtesy of San Francisco Memories
|Randall Museum||(415) 554-9600||199 Museum Way||San Francisco||CA||94114||Museum or Landmark||PSA 5||District 8||Accessible||Yes||Yes||18,081||37.7644233||-122.4382062||
The Randall Museum offers children and adults a place to explore, investigate and create from the natural world at a spectacular site overlooking San Francisco. The Randall features a live animal exhibit displaying native California animals, vibrant interactive exhibits, and classes for children and adults in the arts and science.