Explore the best Gardens in Golden Gate Park at San Francisco now (updated 2021)
If your looking for some calm and green space in San Francisco, then Golden Gate park is the place to go to relax or just explore the fun attractions in the area. There many separate gardens to visit from formal to desert and the Mediterranean style gardens that thrive in this environment. If your in the mood to explore the beautiful parts of the park, check out some of these wonderful gardens located in the park and open to the public for viewing.
Enjoy the beautiful gardens of Golden Gate Park
Springtime in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and it seems like everything is starting to bloom all at once in the park. It’s a great time to go out and explore the park and see what is blooming now. Come and join me for an afternoon stroll and lets enjoy a day visiting these lovely gardens.
Where is Golden Gate Park in San Francisco located?
Golden Gate Park borders the Richmond and Sunset district and goes all the way to Ocean beach. You can get to Golden Gate Park by public transportation (Muni transport), by taxi or Uber, self drive or walking if you are in one of the neighborhoods close by. If you are driving, parking to the many gardens is typically streetside parking or in the parking garage around the main esplanade area with the Museums and Japanese Tea Garden.
When is the best time to visit Golden Gate Park?
San Francisco and Golden Gate Park is a year round tourist destination but the best time to view most of the beautiful gardens would be in springtime from late March to June and then into the summer time when many annuals, perennials are blooming in the various gardens. Gardeners prep up the annual beds with new colors and flowers for visitors to enjoy and also maintain other perennial beds to prepare them for producing gorgeous blooms in the landscape. Different events and programs are also offered at the park to support spring time gardening, garden tours and plant sales and a variety of other events that try to draw in plant people and visitors that want to enjoy the gardens and open space of Golden Gate Park.
Most of the showy gardens in the Rhododendron dell, Japanese tea garden and the San Francisco Arboretum show off their gorgeous floral displays in the spring time when everything seems to be blooming constantly in the gardens.
Golden Gate Park gardens – McLaren Rhododendron Dell
One of the most popular gardens within the park is this old Rhododendron dell – a favorite of John McLaren, one of the founders and superintendent of the park who’s bronze figure is located in the central part of the dell amidst all these purples, pinks and fuchsia colored Rhododendrons. Walking around the island shaped trails around the dell is slow, meditative and a wonderful way to look at every individual plant and admire its beauty.
The area has just been replanted with new seating areas, making a nice quiet spot to read or meditate. Don’t you just love this place?
Some of these Rhododendrons are aromatic so you have to get very close to smell their intoxicating aromas – a combination of vanilla and jasmine like fragrance.
Golden Gate Park gardens – Japanese Tea Garden
The stunning Japanese Tea garden is also in full bloom when I visited. You wouldn’t think that there would be a lot of color in a Japanese tea garden, but during spring time, there is a colorful palate of cherry blossoms, irises, azaleas and dogwood blooming throughout the garden. The five acre garden is quite large with meandering paths that lead to many vista points, garden ornamentation like a giant buddha and monumental pagodas or a gravel zen style garden.
You will find a lot of traditional Japanese garden elements such as an arched bridge, pagodas, tea houses, stepping paths and stone lanterns – there is even a section with is a zen garden that is perfect for meditation and contemplating the raked graveled landscape. At this time of the year cherry blossoms are blooming profusely all over the garden and add a nice accent color in taking photographs.
It’s fun to enjoy some tea and Japanese dessert at the tea house overlooking a small pond and outdoor bonsai area of the garden. I think that taking some time to relax and enjoy the gardens while sipping some Japanese tea is a wonderful way to experience Japanese aesthetic and design in a garden, without having to fly all the way to Japan.
Golden Gate Park gardens – Stow Lake
Stow lake in Golden Gate park is popular for joggers and walkers, the lake is also a popular spot to rent a paddle boat and enjoy a day out on the lake and exploring the forested to clear areas surrounding the circular lake. California wildflowers and native perennials are planted around the lake and bloom most of the spring, summer to fall. During our walk around the lake, there were a few native flower blooms to enjoy and take some pictures of the lake and other landmarks in the background.
There are interesting features to visit and take photographs. These include: a granite stone bridge, a Chinese pagoda and the boathouse where you can rent a paddle boat by the hour and row to all these landmarks.
Even though you can enjoy Stow Lake year round, the best times to visit this area when the California natives are in full bloom would be closer to late summer to early fall. Take a look at this post I did on Stow lake during the autumn timeframe when I visited the garden at its peak.
Golden Gate Park gardens – San Francisco Botanical garden
The botanical garden at Golden Gate Park is quite extensive with a series of Mediterranean zone gardens from around the world. The gardens are mapped out into clustered areas that flow from one garden into another, making it a leisurely stroll around the arboretum.
There are five major mediterrannean zones from around the world in which the California zone is quite large and covers a vast amount of botany within the state. The botanical garden has over 55 acres of gardens showcasing over 8,000 unique plants from around the world. Along with the Mediterranean gardens, there also unique gardens to discover including a Japanese garden, a bamboo grove, redwood grove and a very cool prehistoric garden with really large-scale and strange-looking plants.
The gardens are maintained with a small crew of full-time gardeners, so the majority of help is done through an extensive network of volunteers and interns. Having a dedicated group of volunteers who love gardening with each volunteer caring for a specific garden zones or task, these volunteers all help in keeping the gardens fresh and a wonderful place to explore the open spaces and enjoythe spring gardens in full bloom. The San Francisco Botanical Garden also houses the Helen Crocker library of Horticulture and a very nice gift shop close to the entry filled with garden related books and souvenirs. To learn more about the botanical garden, visit their official website here.
Golden Gate Park gardens – Rose Garden
The time I visited the rose garden was still a little too early for the roses here to bloom in a big flush of colors, but there were a few plants that were already blooming including a variety of hybrids, miniature and old fashion roses that have been planted and cared for through generations of rose volunteers from the local rose chapters. The garden typically gets 3 to 4 cycles of blooms per year with a major flush of blooms typically occurring during the July to August time frame.
The rose garden is easily laid out in two elevated and rectangular garden beds. This make walking around and visiting all the plants and flowers easy to access and enjoy their fragrant smells. Initially set up as a testing bed for the San Francisco American Rose Society in which a dedicated crew lovingly maintain the beds of over 60 different rows of roses. The rose garden is a quiet and popular spot to picnic and enjoy these scented beauties at the same time.
Golden Gate Park gardens – Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers with it’s stunning glass greenhouses and Cupola is one of Golden Gate Park’s showcase attractions. The Victorian glass house has captivated locals and tourists alike visiting Golden Gate Park for over a century. Inside the conservatory are three distinct areas that focus on horticulture of plants from the cloud forests of the Amazon to the South Asian tropics, and there is a special section reserved for rotating exhibits with a special theme.
The permanent displays over the central rotunda with the cloud forest and tropical flowers are quite impressive to walk through. There is enough signage and information to take a self tour of the gardens or you can also follow with a docent tour of the Conservatory. The docents are volunteer who love to give their audience some of the history, background, re-construction and current happenings at the Conservatory.
Golden Gate Park gardens – Cactus and succulent garden at the Conservatory
The Cactus and succulent garden just to the right of the Conservatory of flowers is an add-on to the conservatory that is ideally situated on a hill capturing southern exposure light- perfect for these mediterraneans. There are walks going uphill with views or the park and into a forested area, or you can easily walk through the circular area below with the dahlia dell in the center garden. The dahlias are also worth visiting when they peak around September until the end of the year.
The peak season for these succulents and cactus bloomers tend to be closer to the winter months in December to February time frame where many of these plants bloom in their native habitat. I’m showing you some pictures that I have taken when I visited the Conservatory during the winter time.
Golden Gate Park gardens – the dahlia garden (dell)
There are many more gardens and hidden dells that bloom at the park at different times of the year. In early springtime, the area around the windmill closer to the ocean is planted with thousands of tulips and is a gorgeous and colorful show to witness. Typically the tulips can last up to a month’s time frame from the start of the blooming cycles. Next to the the beautiful Conservatory of Flowers, is the dahlia dell which starts putting out a stunning display around the latter part of August all the way to November and even December timeframe. I have a post of the dahlia dell in full bloom during the autumn time frame, you can take a look at the garden in it’s peak here.
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Conclusion to visiting Golden Gate Park and gardens
As you can see, there is a lot to see at Golden Gate park if you are into gardens – along with beautiful architecture, historical landmarks, museums and other popular attractions within the park. It’s definitely a wonderful place to discover these gardens or some of the landmarks in the park.
Have you visited any of these gardens at Golden Gate Park?
Enjoyed visiting Golden Gate park and any of these beautiful gardens? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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