In the late 1800s, California's first state engineer, William Hammond Hall, and his assistant, a Scotsman named John McLaren, transformed more than 1000 acres (405 hectares) of sand dunes into a wondrous haven in the midst of the city, christened Golden Gate Park after the eponymous strait nearby. Stretching over 50 blocks from Stanyan Street to the Pacific Ocean, the lush landscape is etched with numerous trails for walking, jogging, biking and horseback riding, alongside a golf course, bowling greens, a lake with paddle boats, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. From the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers to the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park encompasses a wealth of scenic beauty and cultural intrigue within is expansive embrace. There are also several playgrounds, a quaint carousel, an aquarium, a buffalo reserve and an outdoor bandshell where open-air concerts are hosted each summer.
Located at the western end of Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's biggest beach. It extends from Fort Funston in the south, to the Cliff House in the north. Typically, the cold winds, fog and low San Francisco temperatures deter any regular beach activities (unless you're lucky enough to be there on a hot day) but visitors fly kites or just walk along and admire the views of Seal Rocks and Point Lobos. Adventure seekers love surfing here. There are also bonfire pits provided on the beach for the general public; to claim one, go early in the evening.
Dolores Park is one of the main hot spots in San Francisco and is the major meet-up place for many citizens. Though it is not very large, it attracts crowds of people and the beautiful views make it worth the visit. Recreational resources include a few tennis courts, basketball courts, two soccer fields and a children's playground, but most of all Dolores Park is often used as a venue for special events such as movies in the park. Its surrounding area is known for some of San Francisco's major culinary attractions: Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina and the Tartine Bakery. It is also a great place to chill with some ice cream from the Bi-Rite Creamery. Saturday hang-outs in the park are often events themselves and it's always packed on weekends. Given its location, it's almost always sunny; the famous fog knows better than to ruin the oasis that is Dolores Park. Whether you choose to sit in Dog Beach, Hipster Beach, Speedo Ridge or partake in actual activity at the playground or tennis courts you are sure to have an unforgettable time.
Redwood Regional Park is located in the hills of Oakland. It boasts the largest remaining natural strand of coastal redwood in the East Bay. Early mariners used to use these tall redwood trees to help them navigate the San Francisco Bay. Many locals enjoy hiking and biking around the available trails, which offers gorgeous scenery. In addition to the deer, rabbits and squirrels that roam the park, it is also home to rare wildlife species such as the golden eagle and the striped racer snake. The Roberts Regional Recreation Area, a park within the park, features a swimming pool and playgrounds. Throughout the park, you will find access to a well-maintained system of restrooms, water fountains and picnic tables. The Chabot Observatory and Science Center is one of the park's most prominent attractions.
This shallow, 195-acre (7,89,137 meter) lake is considered by many to be the heart of Oakland. Once an arm of the San Francisco Bay, it actually served as a sewer for a time before Samuel Merritt proposed a dam in order to clean up the lake and have it become the focal point for civic pride and recreation that it is today. As the lake was also a common place to see many migratory birds and ducks, the lake was turned into the first wildlife refuge in North America in 1870. In 1925, the lake's "necklace of lights" was installed, and still stands today making the lake beautiful during day or night. The lake provides many recreational opportunities, including boating, playgrounds, picnic areas and the legendary Children's Fairyland storybook park.
This East Bay woodland canyon offers great panoramic views of the Bay Area. The 205-acre park sits next to UC Berkeley and has trails accessible from the city. There are no facilities such as picnic tables, just wilderness to enjoy. Several trails are available for hiking, and wandering off the trails is not advisable, as the East Bay Park Department maintains this land in its natural state to provide a secluded natural oasis in the heart of the city.
Purchased in 1877 by the city Municipality, this 11.9 acres of land came to be known as Alta Plaza Park and was re-designed and developed under the supervision of John McLaren. It was re-modeled from a rock quarry with green grass covering its gouged hillsides, to lush lawns, slopes and terraces. The Park is blessed with a breathtaking view of both the city and the San Francisco bay. People walking their dogs, family picnics, children in the playground are common sights here.
The Filbert Steps are said to be one of the most famous stairways of San Francisco. The length of the steps and the magnificent garden views that they provide is truly impressive. The steps cover the areas of Telegraph Hill to Montgomery Street and across from Montgomery Street median and down to Sansome Street. The art deco buildings alongside the steps are a delight for your eyes as well.
Fisherman's Wharf remains one of San Francisco's most popular tourist destinations. The Wharf consists of a long, waterfront row of seafood restaurants, street vendors, souvenir stores and beautiful ocean scenery. Fisherman's Wharf was originally a major fishing pier, and although San Francisco fishing industry is alive and well, it mainly appeals to the masses as a tourist sight. Some of the wharf's main attractions include Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Musee Mecanique and Madame Tussauds among many others. The wharf's shores are beautified by the presence of the majestic Balao-class submarine USS Pampanito. Parking is limited on the wharf itself so parking downtown would be highly recommended.
Blue & Gold Fleet is one of the most popular ferry services in the Bay Area, serving thousands of tourists and locals each year. Turn to them for a cruise around the San Francisco Bay, a trip to Alcatraz Island, or transportation to an amusement park in Vallejo. Some other tours offered go to attractions like Yosemite, Monterey, Carmel, the wine country, Angel Island, Muir Woods, Tiburon and Sausalito.