Self Guided Walking Tours in San Francisco
July 14, 2014 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Me and my wife are planning a San Francisco trip and are dedicating a day to Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. I am interested in self guided walking tours for these two areas. I'm looking for something like this from Frommers: but for the areas that I mentioned.

Our goal is to see the best of both parks in a day or less.

I tried searching through the mass amounts of info on San Francisco on AskMe, but if I didn't look hard enough and this has been answered before just point me in the right direction.
posted by R.F.Simpson to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In Golden Gate Park, I wouldn't miss the Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Garden, and Stow Lake. But, really, I'd just recommend making a full circuit of the park (with a stop at Ocean Beach) if you're up to the distance, which is about 7 miles. The park is long but not wide, so you can see just about everything that way. It's all lovely, and the ever-changing landscape is part of the appeal. Map.
posted by aws17576 at 7:44 PM on July 14, 2014

Oh, also: if you want to build a lunch stop into a walk around Golden Gate Park, I recommend heading a few blocks north to Geary St. near 19th Ave., where there is an abundance of great Russian food. The Moscow-Tbilisi Bakery at Geary and 20th Ave. is phenomenal.
posted by aws17576 at 7:51 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another good area to stop is my 'hood, the Inner Sunset. Lots of good food around 9th and Irving.
posted by radioamy at 8:41 PM on July 14, 2014

Best answer: Option 1: use the GG Park guide to navigate around the park.

Option 2: take one of the (not self-guided but generally excellent) City Guides tours. I've been on the Japanese Tea Garden tour and it was quite good. There are a whole set of GG Park tours.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:26 PM on July 14, 2014

Best answer: Here's one tourist's DIY walking guide to GG Park.

And I second gingerbeer re: the City Guides tours -- you'll get a ton of walking in and the tours are generally stellar. And the price is right (free, plus donation if you choose).
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:01 PM on July 14, 2014

Seconding City Guides Tours. They're free, usually small, 10-12 people, and really fun. I live here and I go on them!
posted by Gusaroo at 10:33 PM on July 14, 2014

Really you're not going to get an optimal experience doing the Presidio and Golden Gate Park in one day. You'll be exhausted. Better to pick one.
posted by trip and a half at 10:49 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I lived in SF for twelve years and a tour of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio in one day is ambitious. I dragged people all over SF when they visited. I wore them out.

I would pick one and the one would be Golden Gate Park.

Wear sensible shoes.
posted by vapidave at 12:09 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to say, those are both MASSIVE parks and I don't see doing them both in one day. You'll need a day for each. I think that Golden Gate park has more things to offer, I heartily endorse the Japanese Tea Garden. I really love everything in the park to be honest.

Here's some info about transporation within the park.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:51 AM on July 15, 2014

Yep, everyone is right that you'll not really be able to enjoy both in a day. For the Presidio, I'd recommend starting at the Palace of Fine Arts, built for the World's Fair and featured in countless movies, including "The Rock", and also conveniently has the old Exploratorium parking lot. Head south on Lyon, cross into the Presidio at Gorgas Ave and swing by the Yoda Fountain at Lucasfilm's Presidio campus. Keep heading southwest to Letterman Dr. and have brunch or lunch at the Presidio Social Club (try the Ramos Fizz cocktail!). Go back the other way on Letterman to Lincoln Bl. until you see the main parade ground to your left. Walk up Montgomery St. (not the one in the Financial district), on your right is the visitor's center and the next building is the Walt Disney Family Museum (closed Tuesdays), which has a really interesting historical perspective on Walt Disney. Keep going on Montgomery, make a right on Sheridan Ave., then a left on Portal Dr., which will be about 2 miles from where you started, according to Google. You'll now be at the San Francisco National Cemetery, the first national cemetery on the west coast. I would start at the flagpole and rostrum, by the main entrance, and walk in a loop, either a shorter one down Main Dr. until the big circle ("OS" on the cemetery map) or a longer one from Main to South Dr. to First Dr. and North Dr. so you can see the Mothers' Plot and the Unknown Soldier's Monument.

It's only a little more than a mile from there to the Golden Gate bridge overlook, but I'm not as sure on the sidewalk situation there, especially since it's under construction. The rest of the Presidio is pretty lightly trafficked, so even if there isn't a sidewalk I'd feel comfortable walking around, but getting across the freeway to the bridge could be dicey. Take an Uber or be prepared to backtrack. Once you're at the bridge (go in the afternoon to give the fog a chance to burn off, or check the fog forecast, which is a thing), you can head down the steep paths under the bridge to the Civil-War-era Fort Point (closed Wed.), then back along the water on the San Francisco Bay Trail for more sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Angel Island, as well as Alcatraz Island, the city, and the Bay Bridge in the distance. Keep going to see Crissy Field, including a very pleasant beach. Eventually the trail will cross Yacht Road, which heads south and becomes Lyon Rd., and you're back where you started. Total walk is about 6-7 miles, and obviously it will take all day unless you're striding briskly the whole time. I have my own preferred tour of Golden Gate Park, if you're interested.
posted by wnissen at 10:46 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Golden Gate Park is large and the sights are spread out. If you want a thorough look, I'd highly recommend renting a bike. Even better if you can go on a Sunday when much of the park is closed to cars.

You could use this list to come up with a route. Combining that with a visit to the Academy of Sciences or the de Young Museum would be a full, busy day. Even if you don't visit the latter, it's free and worthwhile to go up to the observation deck.

If you'd be interested in exploring off the beaten track, Google's Field Trip app can help you locate some lesser-known points of interest.
posted by mshrike at 3:17 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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