Play & Explore: San Francisco, CA

Expertise Provided By: “Frommer’s San Francisco”

Best of Golden Gate Park

“Everyone loves Golden Gate Park,” writes Frommer’s. “People, dogs, birds, frogs, turtles bison, trees, bushes, and flowers.” Bison? Yep, there’s a bison paddock in the park, as well as polo fields, baseball diamonds, and bicycle training tracks. San Francisco’s “arboreal front yard,” originally developed in the 1860s and 1870s, is a 1,017 acre park with hundreds of gardens that stretch to the sea.

De Young Museum

A work of art in and of itself, the museum was founded in 1895 and renovated in its copper-covered glory in 2005. It houses one of the finest collections of American art, from Colonial times to the present. The 144-foot observation tower offers awesome views of the entire city. Tasty organic food at the museum café.

Conservatory of Flowers

Dating to 1879, the Victorian glass structure is the oldest wood and glass public conservatory in the Western Hemisphere with over 1,700 types of plants, including species from far-flung locales such as the Congo. Check out Dracula orchids!

Japanese Tea Garden

Originally developed in 1894, this peaceful oasis includes a massive bronze Buddha from 1790, a wooden pagoda, and a drum bridge, one of a number of high-arched bridges over pools of water. If you need to mellow out from the rat race, this is the place. Japanese tea ceremonies every Wednesday.

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

Over 8,000 different kinds of plants, including the Ancient Plant Garden, many other rare plants, and a grove of California redwoods. Daily tours.

Strawberry Hill/Stow Lake

If you’re feeling uptight, even after a visit to the Japanese Gardens, perhaps circular Stow Lake will chill you out. Rent a paddle boat, canoe or electric boat, pick up lunch from the cafe and check out Strawberry Hill, an artificial island and the highest point in the park, for glorious views of the city and the bay, a peace pagoda and a waterfall.

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