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Exploring the Gardens of Golden Gate Park

Exploring the Gardens of Golden Gate Park


If you are a lover of botanicals of all flavors, Golden Gate Park is a must-see sanctuary on your visit to San Francisco. Every month of every season, you will be pleasantly entertained and amazed at what you find: this park just never stops blooming!


Encompassing 1,017 acres, it’s a year-round, magical display of nature at its best. From well-known gardens, such as the Conservatory of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden, to lesser-known delights, such as the Rhododendron Dell and Rose Garden, the park is one great big bouquet of flowers at your footsteps. There is always something to experience – so go on a garden treasure hunt and see what you can find!


Note: The first three gardens listed below have a fee – the rest are free. Click the links for each site for payment schedules, free days, open hours, and additional information.

Conservatory of Flowers

Since 1879, locals and visitors have marveled at Conservatory of Flowers, which is housed in the oldest existing glass-and-wood Victorian greenhouse in the Western Hemisphere. Four permanent exhibits feature different climates around the world, showcasing more than 2,000 plant species. This year-round jewel is a living museum of rare aquatic and tropical plants.

Japanese Tea Garden

Built as part 1894 Midwinter International Exposition, this is the oldest public Japanese tea garden in the U.S. The five-acre garden is a treasure of paths and ponds featuring Japanese and Chinese plants. Look for the hidden, beautiful riches in the sculptures, statues, buildings, and bridges. Traditional tea and cookies are served in the newly refurbished Tea House. The most spectacular time of the year is February, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

Botanical Garden

Here you will truly find gardens-within-a-garden. This example grows and conserves plants from around the world, with more than 8,000 varieties thriving in 55 acres of landscaped grounds and open spaces. Stroll through a redwood grove or a cloud forest, and explore gardens of flora from Chile, Australia, California, and more. Look for the Garden of Fragrance, Zellerbach Garden of Perennials, the Bamboo Grove, California Redwoods, and the Succulent Garden.

Rhododendron Dell

Recently renovated, the Rhododendron Dell is a lovely place to wander and get lost. Take the winding staircase to a shaded mound with out-of-the-way benches, and discover interesting narrow unpaved paths that lead up into the hillsides. Notice the artful fence at the entrance. Best bloom time is April.

Rose Garden

Feast on an award-winning banquet of roses, where the unique variety of rose blooms in 60 different beds will enlighten you with their beauty and fragrance. Peak time is summer, although you will find blooming bushes year-round.

Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers

Designed to reflect the plants and flowers mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare, this garden features more than 200 species mentioned somewhere in the pages of his masterpieces. Bronze plaques list the quotations from his works. Crabapples bloom in April.

Queen Wilhelmina Tulip and North Windmills Gardens

Located at the ocean’s edge, two windmills hold court over a gorgeous tulip garden. Queen Wilhelmina, queen of the Netherlands, donated the windmills back in 1903: they were once responsible for pumping as many as 1.5 million gallons of water daily to nurture the gardens. The tulips that surround the windmills show off their glory in February and March.

National AIDS Memorial Grove

The National AIDS Memorial Grove is a “living tribute to all whose lives have been touched by AIDS.” This tranquil, seven-acre space was designed and dedicated for people to gather, heal, hope, and remember. Here you’ll be inspired by the plot of trees, flowers, rocks, memorials, meadows, and overwhelming scenes of natural beauty.

Other Lesser-Known Gardens

Heroes Redwood Grove

Arizona Garden

Tree Fern Dell

Lily Pond

Fuchsia Dell

Dahlia Garden

Golden Gate Park Information

Daily Park Hours 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Map of the Gardens

What is blooming

More information

History of the Park

—By Shannon Kilkenny
West Marin resident Shannon Kilkenny is a writer, event planner, travel concierge, and adventurer. Visit her at Enterprising Events.


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