Up close and far away: Great spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge
By: Kathleen Jay
(May 18, 2012) — Originally completed on May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge, named for the strait leading from the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay, is one of the city's most popular and most photographed landmarks.
Spanning 6,450 feet, the single-span suspension bridge will mark its 75th anniversary this year with a public celebration to be held May 27, 2012 along the waterfront between Pier 39 to the foot of the bridge at Fort Point.
Visitors and locals can enjoy dramatic views of the bridge from several points throughout the city. Viewing spots listed below are all free and open to the public. Note for out-of-towners: San Francisco can be very windy, particularly in the summer. Remember to wear layers, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Crissy Field, a former military airfield located south of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio, was restored in 2001 and offers wide, fully-accessible walking and cycling trails between the Marina Green and Fort Point. Offering stunning views of the bridge, Crissy Field offers picnic areas and a small beachfront popular among families. Along Crissy Field, visitors can stop for lunch at the Warming Hut near Fort Point, the Beach Hut Cafe near the Marina Green, or check out the House of Air, a trampoline center in one of the repurposed buildings.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 2.4 miles from the Marina Green
For an up-close view of the bridge, visit Fort Point, a Civil War-era brick fort accessible via the Marine Drive lot at Crissy Field. Although Fort Point never had any military action, the Golden Gate Bridge's chief engineer Joseph Strauss redesigned the bridge to preserve the fortress as a "fine example of the mason’s art."
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 1.2 miles
Stretching a half mile below the rugged cliffs along the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Accessible by public transportation (Muni 29-line), the beach offers a picnic area with tables and grills, lots of parking and restroom facilities. Note: the northernmost end of Baker Beach is frequented by clothing-optional sunbathers.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 1.2 miles
Located in the Seacliff neighborhood, China Beach is a tiny, sheltered pocket of sand with a picnic area, a sunbathing deck, restrooms, cold showers and unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Note: the beach is only accessible by a steep, paved drive or natural stairway of approximately 100 steps.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 2.0 miles
The Eagle's Point trailhead of Lands End near Lincoln Park offers jaw-dropping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Near the popular hiking trail, which is also a short walking distance to the Legion of Honor, visitors can walk along a paved sidewalk near the 17th hole of the Lincoln Park Municipal Golf Course. Here, there are several benches and photo opportunities to reflect and capture the beauty of the bridge.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 3.0 miles
Glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge
For slightly obstructed, but nonetheless dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, visitors can enjoy views from several, unexpected vantage points.
Lover's Lane, the Presidio
As the oldest foot trail in the Presidio, Lover's Lane ,a half-mile, pedestrian friendly, paved trail, begins at the Presidio Gate at the corner of Presidio and Pacific Avenues in Presidio Heights. As you stroll down the trail, protected by majestic eucalyptus groves, you'll get a Hollywood-esque glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge which will eventually disappear as you continue down the trail toward the Presidio's Main Post.
Distance from the Golden Gate Bridge: 2.2 miles
De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park
Located in the east end of Golden Gate Park, the Hamon Education Tower Observation Deck at the de Young Museum offers dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as spectacular panoramic views of the city and Pacific Ocean. Touring the museum requires admission, but visiting the observation deck, open daily until 4:30 p.m., is free and open to the public.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 2.9 miles
Library at the University California, San Francisco – Inner Sunset
Keep quiet here. Located at 530 Parnassus Avenue in the Inner Sunset, the library at the University of California, San Francisco, offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge from its main reading room.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 4.1 miles
Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower, a slender white concrete column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill, provides 360-degree views of the city and bay, including the Golden Gate Bridge. The most-spectacular views can be seen from the observation deck, which is reached by elevator and requires tickets ($7).
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 4.9 miles
Golden Gate Bridge through the Waldo Tunnel
As San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge are hidden from the northern approach of U.S. Route 101 by the Marin Headlands, drivers going through the Waldo tunnel, the unofficial name of the tunnel on U.S. Route 101 between the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito, can enjoy the first view of the city and the bridge upon exiting the tunnel's southbound bore. This view may be one of the most dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Distance from Golden Gate Bridge: 3.1 miles
Suite Tributes to the Golden Gate Bridge
To celebrate the Golden Gate Bridge's history with San Francisco, hotels throughout the city have created specialty suites for visitors to immerse themselves in the Bridge's history.
To honor the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary, Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar San Francisco has created a "Golden Gate Suite," which includes several tributes to the orange icon, including furniture made out of reclaimed steel from the bridge. Located on the fifth floor of the hotel, the festive suite features blown-up photos of the Golden Gate Bridge's tollboth covering the doors and walls outside the suite; a printed opaque decal of the Golden Gate Bridge that expands across the five bay windows inside the suite; a headboard painted in a street-art style to capture the grandeur of the bridge; a lampshade made with historic photos from 1937, the year the bridge was being built; decorative pillows created with vintage photographs of the bridge from the 1930s; and nightstands and a coffee table created with reclaimed Golden Gate Bridge steel. Guests staying in the Golden Gate Suite will also be treated to a complimentary Golden Gate cocktail from Fifth Floor Restaurant, the restaurant at Hotel Palomar San Francisco. The cocktail, called Vermillion M.E.S., gets its name from the Orange Vermillion color painted over the steel, chosen by architect Irving Morrow. The suite will be available through the end of 2012.
Located atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont San Francisco, one of a handful of hotels that offers rooms with Golden Gate Bridge Views, is celebrating one of its most iconic guests, Grammy-award winning singer Tony Bennett, with a special suite dedicated to him and his unique place in the hotel’s storied history. Located in the hotel's Tower Building, the "Tony Bennett Suite at The Fairmont San Francisco" is set to open May 24, 2012 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. The two-bedroom suite pays homage to Bennett, who in December 1961 took the stage of the Fairmont San Francisco’s Venetian Room and performed "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" for the first time. Guests of the suite will be treated with personal photos and memorabilia from Bennett, as well as an original painting of the Golden Gate Bridge, which he created specifically for the suite. In addition to his musical career, Bennett is also a noted visual artist. For Bennett fans, the hotel will also have a limited number of giclée prints of the Bennett painting of the Golden Gate Bridge for purchase. And as a special perk, guests of the suite will receive a copy of Bennett’s "Duets II" CD, which they may enjoy along with a bottle of champagne and heart-shaped dessert amenity.
Party like it’s 1937 at the Clift hotel for a 1930’s inspired weekend, May 25-27. Celebrations will include live music, DJ’s, 1930’s themed cocktails, and projection screens featuring films from the 1930’s. Guests are encouraged to come dressed in era-inspired clothing.
Across the Bay in Sausalito, Cavallo Point Lodge will be honoring the Golden Gate Bridge with weekend festivities to celebrate the bridge's 75th anniversary, as well as an art exhibit that will run through the end of June 2012.
To kickoff the weekend celebration, the luxury resort-spa will host a Golden Gate gala dinner on Saturday, May 26, 2012. Prepared by two award-winning chefs, Chef Justin Everett of Murray Circle and Chef Craig von Foerster of Sierra Mar, the dinner will feature a champagne reception followed by a six-course menu with wine pairings. On Sunday, May 27, 2012, the lodge will host a Terrace Party from 6-10 p.m. that will include a gourmet barbecue buffet, live music and stunning views of the fireworks display over the Bay. (Tickets are $75 per adult and $25 per child). Through June 30, 2012 the lodge will be hosting "Visions of the Golden Gate at 75," an exhibit linking the iconic span's past and present. The show will feature rare, black-and-white photographs of the bridge during the construction era taken by land surveyor and photographer W. Gordon Voorhies as well as contemporary interpretations by Bay Area photographers Robert Campbell, Emil Flock and Chris Honeysett.
Rooms with a (Bridge) View
For those in search of a room with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a handful of San Francisco hotels offers rooms with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Presidio: The newly-opened Inn at the Presidio offers several rooms with bridge views. Located in historic Pershing Hall, previously the post’s bachelor officers' quarters, the inn offers 22 rooms, 17 of which are one-bedroom suites.
Union Square: The historic Westin St Francis offers rooms with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Tower Building; request guest rooms starting on floor 26, or book one of its two suites, the Pacific and the Bridge View.
Nob Hill: The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, perched atop Nob Hill, offers several guest rooms with partial views of the bridge, as well as its California suite. Visitors can also drop by Top of the Mark, the hotel's popular roof-top bar, for an exquisite view of the bridge from the northwest corner of the room.
Across the street from the Mark Hopkins, the Fairmont San Francisco also offers multiple views from its Tower Building.
Fisherman's Wharf: The Argonaut Hotel, an easy walking distance to all of the shops and restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf, offers waterfront views of the Golden Gate Bridge from several of its rooms.
Golden Gate Bridge: By the Numbers
Span: 6,450 feet
Total length: 8,981 feet
Completion date: May 28, 1937
Cost: $35 million
Date paid in full: July 1971
Engineer: Joseph B. Strauss
Road height: 260 feet
Tower height: 746 feet
Swing span: 27 feet
Deepest foundation: 110 feet under water
Cable thickness: 37 inches
Cable length: 7,650 feet
Steel used: 83,000 pounds
Concrete used: 389,000 cubic yards
Miles of wire cable: 80,000
Gallons of paint annually: 10,000
Color: International orange
Rise, in cold weather: 5 feet
Drop, in hot weather: 10 feet
Traffic: 3 million vehicles per month
CashToll: $6 (southbound only)
FasTrak Toll: $5
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The San Francisco Travel Association is the official tourism marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, packages, activities and more, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel or call 415-391-2000. The Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market St. in Hallidie Plaza, lower level, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround. Join more than 400,000 people who follow San Francisco Travel on Facebook. Follow “OnlyinSF” on Twitter. American Express® is the official credit card partner for the San Francisco Travel Association. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 31 international points and over 69 non-stop cities in the U.S. For up-to-the-minute information on the Bay Area's largest airport, visit www.flysfo.com.
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