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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.
Inside San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Park lies Stow Lake, a small recreation area complete with waterfall. Here you can rent paddle-boats, have a picnic, or just feed the ducks. Those who would rather remain on land can rent bikes and roller blades. Ride or skate through Golden Gate Park, then afterward stop by the concession stand for popcorn, hot dogs, and ice cream. Stow Lake is an ideal place to go to for a fun family day out of a romantic day date.
Beginning at the south of Golden Gate Point, this half mile long beach was part of the Presidio, a military base of the Spanish from 1776 until 1997. Since the military base was decommissioned, the beach is now administered by the National Park Service. This scenic beach provides a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and has a nude beach towards its northern end.
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.
Precita Park, located on Folsom Street is a wonderful shaded haven smack between the Mission District and Bernal Heights. The beautiful park features several benches, playgrounds, and is exceedingly popular with kids from the neighboring school areas. Although not as popular as the neighboring Dolores Park, it has all the trappings of a low-key fun day out where everyone in the family can enjoy. Established in 1894, Precita Park witnesses many a fun kiddie birthday party, dog training session and quick lunch relished by workers from neighboring areas. It makes for a nice stop-by when you're in Bernal Heights with the family.
This is a living museum in Golden Gate Park that is home to a wide array of rare and exotic plant life from around the world. Visit the 70-acre garden and explore seemingly endless trails with duck ponds, an arbor, herbs, flowers, blooming trees and redwoods, and smaller, specialized gardens with names like the Garden of Fragrance. Also on hand is an education center that provides different gardening, horticulture, botany, and environmental classes for adults and children, plus a horticulture library and bookstore. Admission is free for San Francisco residents and there is a small fee for non-residents.