Thanksgiving Weekend was extra special because we got to do a lot of family time and touring together. One of the places we got to cross off our list was Golden Gate Park. We probably picked the worst possible day to go since it was rainy and dreary, but we still managed to have a great time.
Our only regret regarding the weather was that we weren’t able to fully appreciate the scenic drive. It was so rainy and foggy that the ocean seemed to appear out of nowhere. Even so, we still were able to appreciate the glimpses of ocean we did see.
Overall, our experience can be broken down into two parts. Part one: the nature adventure; and part two: the touristy part.
Part One: The Nature Adventure
We started at the western end of the park. This is the less touristy area of the park. We checked out the Bison paddock as well as some fly fishing ponds. We also managed to find the Polo stables and see the horses.
Along our self-guided tour route, we stumbled upon a small waterfall and a very scenic little lake – Lloyd Lake. We had some fun playing on the stepping stones that lead to a secluded area of the lake. We watched the ducks and enjoyed the peace provided by our surroundings.
Even though it was drizzling the entire time, everything smelled so fresh and clean from the rain. It was really refreshing! We don’t really consider ourselves outdoorsy people so we rarely expose our son to these kinds of adventures. But based on how much fun he had, we will definitely be putting more of an effort in to exposing him more to nature, and not just parks.
After a brief detour due to a road closure, we managed to make our way back into the park and found the more touristy section.
Part Two: The Touristy Part
In this section of the park, you will find the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Tea Garden, the DeYoung Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the California Academy of Sciences.
After finding parking (it was extremely busy for a rainy day), we adventured along the back pathways towards the music concourse. Once we found the concourse, it opened up to a large area with fountains, trees, and statutes. It was beautiful. On our left was the Academy of Sciences and on our right, the DeYoung Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. We played in the fountains a bit before checking out the Japanese Tea Garden, with the intention of getting something to warm up a bit. The entry fee was a bit steep at $9 but we forged ahead. The gardens were beautiful but don’t expect much in terms of tea.
While running around the gardens, the drizzle turned into a torrential down pour so we decided to seek shelter in the Academy of Sciences. After a 6 minute run across the concourse (and $40 each later), we entered the Academy.
We weren’t really sure what to expect but they really surprised us. Even our smallest family member was engaged and enthralled by what he saw. After a quick lunch, we wandered through their earthquake display and read some interesting facts. They also had an earthquake simulation but our little guy was too young. We went on to look at some fossils and then headed into the Bio Dome. It was fantastic! Birds, butterflies, and then tanks/terrariums with various reptiles and creatures, so beautiful and displayed in such a unique way. Winding all the way up the encircling ramp, we reached the 3rd floor and a set of elevators. Turns out they lead straight down to the Aquarium!!
After a quick butterfly check (as they like to stow away), we entered into the aquarium. It too was fantastic! We walked through an underwater tunnel (which you could see from the Bio Dome), and got to see a variety of sea creatures. At some points it felt like a maze and that you were going to miss displays but it seemed to work out in the end.
There is a planetarium that has different shows through out the day. Due to the age restriction of ages 4+, we unfortunately were unable to catch a show. Instead we looked at their colour theory display that talked about photosynthesis and then wandered through the African Hall, which was more of a traditional museum. We also managed to catch the traveling exhibit which featured Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs.
So even though it is expensive to enter, you get to experience a lot of unique and different aspects throughout the facility. Definitely time well spent!
Overall, we loved the whole day. We loved every bit of the adventure – from the unplanned wandering to the Academy visit. Definitely a must see in our books! And even though this visit was so recent, I think it definitely ranks as my favourite part of 2017!