As you know since my last post I have been “California Dreaming.” Of course, you can’t think of California without thinking about the Bay City’s landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. I have been to San Francisco several times for business meetings, but I only had viewed the famous bridge from afar. My last trip to San Francisco, however, was different. My son and I pretty much left an entire day to explore the Golden Gate and decided to do it on foot, hiking 3.7 miles along the bay starting from Fisherman’s Wharf. The walk should have taken about an hour and 15 minutes, but it took us longer because we stopped along the way to delve into the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Fort Mason, Marina Green, Crissy Field and Fort Point National Historic Site. After hiking south of the Golden Gate, we arrived at the star attraction where we explored the southeast visitor plaza and of course the iconic suspension bridge itself. We learned that the Golden Gate Bridge not only stands beautifully where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay but that is was constructed during the era of the Great Depression is truly an engineering marvel Follow our footsteps for highlights from our beautiful afternoon along the bay.
Fisherman’s Wharf and Maritime National Historic Park
We started our hike from Fisherman’s Wharf mainly because our hotel was steps away. As most know, it is a popular tourist spot that host waterfront markets, fishing boats, kitschy souvenir shops and of course those lazy sea lions. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is on the western end of Fisherman’s Wharf. The Argonaut Hotel houses the visitor center in the lobby. Some exhibits tell the story of the men and women who worked on the waterfront and sea. Across the street from the visitor’s center is Hyde Street Pier where there were sailing vessels and other maritime exhibits. Admission was free for the pier and to board the ships.
Fort Mason was a Civil War army post and now is a historic landmark. Today it houses offices for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Fort Mason Center is on the lower level and has exhibit areas, shops, and restaurants.
Marina Green Park
Marina Green Park is a beautiful oasis in San Francisco. As we walked, we marveled at all the activity. People were picnicking, walking their dogs, playing Frisbee, running, biking and even flying kites. The view included the Marina, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, which was quite incredible. The beautiful homes caught my eye as well. I can’t even imagine the price tag for such prime real estate offering such a spectacular view overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
Originally wetlands, Crissy Field served as an airfield for the Army from 1919 to 1936. In the 1990′s it was returned to its natural habitat where you can walk, jog or bicycle beside tidal marsh, dunes, and historic military structures.
Fort Point National Historic Site
This Civil War fort never saw combat. It survived demolition during the building of the Golden Gate Bridge because of its excellent design and masonry construction. There are exhibits, a book store, and tours.
The Bridge Pavilion is a great place to view the bridge and learn about its history. There were exhibits, a model of the tower, and a large screen replaying the black and white footage of the entire engineering feat and construction process. We learned many interesting, fun facts. For instance, in 1846, Captain John C. Fremont named the strait that the bridge spans “Chrysopylae,” which means the golden gate. Also, in case you didn’t realize, the bridge is not golden. It is painted an orange vermillion color, also known as international orange. One last fact that stuck with me was America’s first designated “Hard Hat Area” was set up at the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge construction site. The principal engineer, Joseph B. Strauss (no relation to Levi Strauss) was a stickler for safety and mandated the use of hard hats, safety goggles and the use of a safety net while building the Golden Gate Bridge. Strauss didn’t want any showboating like the men who ate their lunch on suspended beams while building skyscrapers in New York City.
The Bridge Pavilion also has a gift center which is pretty vast and fun to peruse for that perfect memento.
The outdoor interpretive panels were very informative. One of the most astonishing exhibits was the section of the bridge cable. When we stood next to it, we were able to get a better perspective of the size.
Bridge Round House
The Bridge Round House started as a restaurant in 1938; then it was converted to office space, then a gift shop and now host special visitor programs. Anyone visiting that is interested in the history of the Golden Gate Bridge would have to check out the twice-weekly free Bridge walks offered by City Guides.
The Golden Gate Bridge
There are so many ways to view San Francisco’s main attraction. Options run from biking and walking across the bridge on your own or with a tour guide to enjoy the many vista points. After walking 3.7 miles, we opted to venture onto the sidewalk access to the bridge for some pictures. We realized that the best pictures came from the pavilion, so we returned to Southeast Visitor Plaza and took in the view with awe.
What famous bridge has taken your breath away?