In the 1860s, the citizens of San Francisco decided they needed a public park.  Aiming high, they wanted a facility to rival New York City’s famed Central Park.  There was one small hitch: the western half of San Francisco consisted of barren sand dunes where nothing would grow.

Enter William Hammond Hall and his assistant, John McLaren. Within a few years, they transformed  a thousand acres of wasteland into a  lush garden with over 150,000 trees.

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Text and photographs (excluding those in public domain) © 2003-2012 by Mike Humbert.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza kneel before their “creator,” Miguel de Cervantes.  Sculpted by Jo Mora, 1916.

A leisurely stroll on a foggy morning.

The Japanese Tea Garden (a portion of which is shown here), was originally created for the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair.

The earliest version of The de Young Museum was also created for the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair.  It was eventually damaged by the 1906 earthquake, and replaced by a new, larger version. When that building was damaged by the 1989 quake, it was replaced by a even newer, even larger version.

In the early 2000s, the old Academy of Sciences was razed and replaced with an all new, state-of-the-art facility.

Unlike the de Young Museum and the Academy, the Municipal Bandstand has hardly changed at all over the years.

The Conservatory of Flowers.

The Bison Paddock.

The Dutch Windmill in Queen Wilhemina’s Tulip Garden.

The 1906 earthquake and fire left little standing on Nob Hill except this ornate entryway, which was later moved to Golden Gate Park, and christened “Portals of the Past.”

Today, Golden Gate Park cuts a green swath between the Richmond District to the north, and the Sunset District to the south.  It stretches three and a half miles from the Pacific Ocean to the middle of the city.  A narrow ribbon of parkland, called the Panhandle, extends another eight more blocks to the east, ending at Baker Street.

To invoke an old cliché, Golden Gate Park has something for everyone.  Gardens, picnic areas, soccer fields, tennis courts, fishing holes, horseback riding, hiking paths, a world-class art museum and much more.

Oh, and by the way, Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park, despite the fact that New York City has six times the area of San Francisco!