The Golden Gate Park is the largest and most famous among all the parks in San Francisco covering an area of 411 hectare and its landscape is often compared to Central Park in New York City, but Golden Gate Park is 20% bigger. The Park attracts 13 million visitors every year making it the third most frequented park in the United States with Central Park ranked first and Chicago?s Lincoln Park ranked second.
The creation of the Golden Gate Park was prompted by the demand among San Franciscans to have a public open space similar to that of Central Park which was in the process of being built in the 1860s. The site of the park was formerly a shore and sand dunes that fell on what was considered ?outside lands?, well outside San Francisco?s undeveloped areas. The park became a reality thanks to the unrelenting efforts and dedication of Engineer William Hammond Hall who became the park commissioner in 1871. The initial phase of the park?s development involved planting trees to stabilize the dunes and by 1875, approximately 60,000 trees were thriving in the area and this number multiplied by two with 155,000 trees living abundantly here by 1879. The park remains lush up to today. There are also two Dutch-inspired windmills located at the outermost western boundary of the park which was used for irrigation. One of the windmills has been restored to its former appearance, adjacent to a beautiful flower garden which was a present from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
The mammoth size of the Golden Gate Park equates with a lot of attractions found within its confines. One of the premier attractions found here is the Kezar Stadium which was constructed from 1922 to 1925 and is situated at the park?s southeast corner. The original stadium which could accommodate 59,000 was torn down in 1989 and was replaced with a more modern and more expansive stadium that can seat up to 9,044 people.
Another popular feature of the park is the Conservatory of Flowers which is one of the most extensive and comprehensive flower conservatories in the world built in the traditional fashion of glass and wood. The conservatory has been closed and re-opened several times due to natural disasters, the most recent one in 1995 when a strong storm destroyed it. It was reopened for public viewing in September 2003.
Music lovers can also have their interest fulfilled here as the Golden Gate Park includes a sunken Music Concourse area. The centerpiece of this music concourse area is the Spreckles Temple of Music, also dubbed as the ?Bandshell? where several concerts have been mounted. The Spreckles Temple of Music is also an architectural wonder with numerous legendary figures and four fountains.
The most antiquated Japanese Tea Garden can also be found within Golden Gate Park. It is suggested that this Japanese Tea Garden is the site where fortune cookies was first introduced to the United States. Today, it is a relaxing spot with its Zen ambience with lush greenery and several authentic Japanese architectural elements including a bronze Buddha.
Other attractions found in the park include: an AIDS Memorial Grove which was recognized as a national memorial by Congress; the fine arts museum De Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences which is one of the biggest natural history institutions across the globe, the San Francisco Botanical Garden holding over 7,500 plant species, the man-made Stow Lake where visitors can rent boats and cruise along its calm waters, the Spreckels Lake where yacht enthusiasts can play with their remote-controlled yachts and a Bison Paddock where animal lovers can wonder at a herd of bison kept here.