As a San Francisco parent, you probably think you’ve seen and done everything that could be remotely interesting to a kid in Golden Gate Park. Think again! Check out Shaheen Bilgrami's recommendations for lesser-known places to visit and things to see in the park this summer, ranging from the ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ Observation Tower at the de Young to the more elusive Faery Doors.
Faery doors are scattered around GGP. Two are hidden at the base of trees in the courtyard between the de Young and Cal Academy. At least two more can be found east of the Japanese Tea Garden and close to Stow Lake, at the end of felled logs. Kids will love to open the door to see if the ‘faery’ is home.
Get stunning 360-degree views of the park and city from this Golden Gate Park gem. Walk through the foyer and take the designated elevator up to the tower. It’s free and you don’t need a ticket to the gallery to visit!
Another free and family-friendly part of the de Young is the sculpture garden. Amid the fun sculptures, which include giant safety pins and ceramic apples, kids will love exploring the tucked-away interactive ‘Skyspace’ installation by James Turrell. The entry ramp to the central dome is hidden by hedges, so it’s easy to miss.
Take a gentle hike to see this almost-60-foot-tall Celtic-style landmark, a gift from the Church of England, which was erected in 1894. Although situated on one of the highest points in the park, behind the beautiful Rainbow Falls, it’s hidden by trees and is easy to miss.
Experts and volunteers have been cultivating this butterfly habitat over the past few years, and now the whole family can enjoy the sights of colorful butterflies fluttering by, while taking in the stunning view from the summit, the highest point in the park!
Kids will love to check out this stream of water that looks as though it’s flowing uphill! Head toward the ocean on John F. Kennedy Drive, near Lloyd Lake. Just after the Park Presidio overpass, stop by a tall pine tree and look to your right. You’ll see the stream. It is an optical illusion, but a pretty convincing one!
Animal-loving kids are sure to enjoy visiting this small herd of bison, who were given to then-mayor Dianne Feinstein as a birthday present in 1984.
Not far from the paddock are the Casting Ponds, part of the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club. The ponds are open to anyone who wants to learn to fish or practice their technique. Free public lessons are offered once a month and beginners are welcome.
Model boat fans will love checking out the array of model boats sailing past in this purpose-built lake, which is also the home of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club.
Of course there’s an archery range in the park! It is staffed by volunteers, so it may be a better place to just watch the action for the younger set, but older kids can sign up for beginner lessons at www.goldengatejoad.com.
Shaheen is freelance writer, editor, and the mom of a kindergartener. Contact her through her website, www.shaheenbilgrami.com
The original version of this article appeared in the June/July issue of GGMG Magazine.
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