The Golden Gate Bridge – The Glorious Symbol of San Francisco
Of course, you know that the Golden Gate Bridge the gateway to fascinating places in northern California — including Wine Country — but we thought knowing a bit about its history and fascinating facts would make the crossing even more of an experience.
In addition, there are some fun activities — that include a trip across the bridge, or that take place around the bridge — we want to tell you about. Like always, though, we present only our top picks!
Golden Gate Attractions
There’s a whole city to explore outside of downtown San Francisco and its waterfront. Remember that big golden bridge? Well, there’s a lot going on around it these days. For instance, just across the bridge, and off to the right side of the road, is North Vista Point where you can take in the most remarkable views of the city, the bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Great views of the bridge can also be had from the waterfront of The Presidio, the former military base now transformed into an amazing urban National Park. The nearby Golden Gate Park is home to some SF attractions you won’t want to miss, especially if you’re traveling with kids. The California Academy of Sciences is an amazing place, and we love the Japanese Tea Garden.
The Golden Gate Bridge is not all alone out there in the western end of San Francisco. Around and nearby it is a number of places worth exploring.
For instance, neighboring the bridge is the Presidio, the former military base that has been transformed into a glorious urban National Park. Speaking of parks, we love the massive (over 3 miles long) Golden Gate Park where you find the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, and much more.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park Segway Tour Information…
This massive park entertains the city with playgrounds, windmills, lakes, cutting-edge museums, a Japanese tea garden and the 19th-century Conservatory of Flowers.
The 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park starts right at the Pacific coastline and then stretches like an elongated rectangle towards downtown San Francisco — It’s over 3 miles long. (See what we mean by massive?) There’s even a tulip park with a Dutch windmill!
One of the most fun ways to take in the whole park is on a Segway tour, and there’s one that specifically covers Golden Gate Park. For two and a half hours you ride one of those cool, crazy gliders around the greatest park in San Francisco.
Conservatory of Flowers
While at Golden Gate Park take the chance to visit the oldest, and one of the best, flower conservatories in North America.
A $4 million grant has elevated the horticultural exhibits to the cutting edge of botanical and conservation standards. From Uruguay to Uganda, see plants and flora from around the world including rare orchids, prehistoric palms, and carnivorous plants. The entrance is included with the GO San Francisco Card.
Japanese Tea Garden
Located in Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden is one man’s vision of transforming what were essentially sand dunes into an authentic Asian garden.
The plantings are stunningly lovely and there is an authentic Japanese Tea House where you can sample traditional brews of the country. You can learn more about the tea garden in our guide.
After a stint of 200 years in the military, The Presidio was released from service and turned into an incredible urban park.
There are hikes to take, historic sites to view, the Walt Disney Family Museum… the list goes on. The Presidio today is a rare US National Park located within city boundaries. In our review, we suggest the best way to see it is on a guided urban nature hike.
Golden Gate Bridge Tours
Make a special visit to this special bridge by joining a tour that arranges all the details for you. Take a boat, a seaplane, a helicopter, a mountain bike or — our favorite — a bright red vintage firetruck – across, over, or under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.
In all of these activities, you learn a lot about the world’s most loved bridge. How about this idea — a sunset cruise that puts you right under the bridge as evening descends on the City By The Bay. Read our reviews and recommendations to discover our fave tour options.
Golden Gate Seaplane Tour
Imagine this! — A seaplane takes you out over the Pacific Coast and then circles back over the Golden Gate Bridge. You fly over the bridge and then buzz over the city for up-close-and-personal views of the Financial District, Union Square, along the waterfront to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, and then out to Alcatraz, Angel Island and over the quaint towns of Sausalito, Tiburon, and Belvedere.
Every seat on the seaplane is a window seat, guaranteeing the best views of the deep blue Pacific Ocean, and the majesty of the Bridge.
This was one of the most wonderful things my husband and I have ever done, and we have travelled to more than 50 countries! Our pilot was superb and gave a comprehensive and interesting narration. We flew low all over the Bay Area and right over the city, even flying between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, I would highly recommend this trip.”
– 5-Star Review
Golden Gate Helicopter Tour
Are you more of a helicopter person than an airplane person? Then consider the Vista Grande Helicopter Tour.
Your pilot takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge, taking his time to show you the bridge from several angles. Then you fly north towards Marin County and back again to pass over Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and other dazzling SF landmarks. Your pilot relates the history of the city and the making of the bridge while you take in all the sights.
The day was perfect, the views spectacular, and the ride up, over and under the Golden Gate Bridge was breathtaking!! This flight was awesome and worth every penny!!”
– 5-Star Review
Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tour
Hop on a bicycle and explore the city— but start by gliding across the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll see so much more on a bike than you do from a car. (And it’s so much faster than walking!) An expert, local guide leads the way, so all you have to do is enjoy the ride. Once you’re on the other side of the bridge, it’s easy cycling to get to the sleepy, waterfront village of Sausalito.
At the end of your three-hour guided tour, you can keep the bikes and helmets and continue your adventure for the rest of the day. Your guide will leave you a detailed cycling path map to get you back to San Francisco where you can ride through Presidio, Ocean Beach, and Golden Gate Park. There’s a wide selection of bicycles, helmets, and maps for your cycling adventure.
We had an amazing time! Our tour guide…was the BEST! so informative and just took the extra time to get to know each of us… His knowledge of the area and the history was amazing.”
– 5-Star Review
Big Red Fire Engine Tour
Just imagine telling the folks back home about your ride over the Golden Gate Bridge in a shiny red fire engine!
The big red Mack fire engine takes you to The Presidio over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito. The authentic vintage fire engine has been retrofitted with the state-of-the-art safety equipement. So fasten your seat belts and don your firefighter jackets for one of the most fun tours in the city.
Golden Gate Dinner Dance Cruise
Watch the sunset over the Bay — Alcatraz, Angel Island, Tiburon, and Sausalito — before you approach the highlight of the evening, sailing directly under the Golden Gate Bridge.
The evening starts with cocktails on the deck. Then, as you glide by the Bay Bridge, piers, and skyline, you’re dining on a multi-course meal prepared on board by a team of chefs. After dinner the band plays live music from today and yesterday. Hit the dance floor or slip outdoors to an observation deck to admire the memorable city skyline.
Golden Gate Bridge Facts
As romantic as the Golden Gate Bridge is, you may also wonder how it was constructed when it was built, how much paint it takes to cover the massive structure, and exactly how much cable is used to connect the two towers. We’ll give you a hint — 80,000 miles is the answer to the last question!
If you’re into numbers, here are a few figures to chew on — the two towers stand 746 ft above the water. The total length of wire on both main cables is 80,000 miles. The Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles long, including the freeway approaches. The main suspended span stretches 4,200 feet. 600,000 rivets were used in the building of the bridge. It took exactly four years and four months to build the bridge, and it was completed in May 1937.
History of the Golden Gate Bridge
It was one man’s dream. It took 16 years of planning, was 4 years and 4 months in the making, and was at first mocked by its critics.
For something that seems such a solid symbol of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge has a surprising history. Men lost their lives and others made millions in the creation of one of the most powerful San Francisco attractions.