|by Justine Sharrock||Urban Parks, California, San Francisco||4|
Sure, you've heard of the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young, and the California Academy of Science, all located in Golden Gate Park's 1,017 acres (larger than New York City's Central Park—so there!) But the Golden Gate Park has a slew of other, lesser known activities, ideal for summer. Check out these five often overlooked attractions.
Boating Renting a rowboat at Stow Lake, the largest lake in the park, is perhaps the most romantic activity on offer here. The lake itself is stunning, with a waterfall and a pagoda-style gazebo surrounded by reeds and trees. Strawberry Hill, an island in the middle of the lake, is a popular picnic spots for couples. Boating on the lake is also a family-friendly activity—life vests are available for kids, as are paddle boats. 50 Stow Lake Dr. (between Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy Drives, near 19th Ave.), 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, 415/752-0347. Paddle boat, $20/hour, row boat $15/hour, one hour minimum.
Swing dancing Each Sunday, those light of foot flock to Lindy in the Park, a popular swing dancing meet-up that has become a weekend tradition in the last decade. The totally free afternoon starts off with a beginner lesson, then breaks into a huge dance party with a mix of jazz, blues, and swing music. The diverse crowd ranges from dancers who are completely green to professionals. Solos and couples welcome. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., weather permitting, JFK Drive between 8th and 10 avenues.
Fly fishing Even without fish, Golden Gate Park's fly-casting pools are considered some of best places in the country to practice casting. Located near the buffalo paddock, near JFK Drive and 36th Avenue, 415/386-2630
Remembering The National AIDS Memorial Grove is a somber yet peaceful memorial garden where visitors are encouraged to contemplate and pay tribute to loved ones who have passed away. The serene seven-acre sanctuary is filled with benches, various native plants, and trees, including California's famous Redwoods. Because the grove is off the beaten path, it's usually pretty empty, offering up a tranquil spot for remembrance. At the intersection of Bowling Green and Middle Drive East.
Playing The country's oldest public playground, the Children's playground (now officially called Koret Children's Quarter after a recent $3.8 million renovation), is great for kids of all ages. There's tons to do: spinning cups, a 50-foot climbing tower, rope structures, slides, and ziplines. It's perhaps the most popular playground in the city, so it gets crowded; mornings are definitely the best time to go. The adjacent carousel, built in 1912, is a real classic, with organ music and a range of ornate animals to ride, like camels, ostriches, and heavily decorated horses. $2 per ride, children ages 6-12, $1; free children under 5, 10 a.m.–4: 30 p.m. 320 Bowling Green Dr., between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Note: There is now a shuttle bus from the free Ocean Beach parking lot to various locations inside the park; it's just $2 for an all-day round trip pass.