One of the prettiest drives in San Francisco is through the Presidio, where the scent of eucalyptus trees fills the air. With commanding views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge, it is one of the most desirable pieces of property in California. For more than 200 years it was a military base until it was decommissioned in 1993. Its future undecided, there were endless debates and arguments about how the Presidio would evolve.
Today the Presidio is successfully and jointly managed by the the Presidio Trust, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the National Park Service. There's certainly a lot to see and do in the modern Presidio — Fort Point, the Palace of Fine Arts, the new Walt Disney Family Museum. This unique urban park should definitely be on your "top places to go in San Francisco" list.
This former military airstrip is now an urban environmental area, thanks to years of coastal habitat restoration, the removal of hazardous wastes left behind by the military, and a massive dose of San Francisco civic pride.
It's rewarding to see plants and wildlife returning, and even thriving, in this bayside marshland area that was first filled in for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and then converted to an air field until the military transferred the land to the National Park Service. Now, with all the restoration completed, there's a lot to do at Crissy Field, and we'll tell you all about it.
The best way to experience the Presidio is by walking it. So we recommend you sign up for his urban hike through the historic site — following your guide through groves of pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees. (All this is within the San Francisco city limits!)
You visit the National Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 30,000 Americans including military veterans, and Lover's Lane, one of the oldest foot trails in the Presidio, nicknamed for the site where soldiers visited their sweethearts in the 1860).
Hike the Ecology Trail as you soak in views of Alcatraz and the Palace of Fine Arts. From the Tennessee Hollow Watershed to Inspiration Point you see rare serpentine grasslands and eucalyptus canopies. This hike definitely shows you a different side of San Francisco — the varied forests, green spaces and monuments of the Presidio.
At the Presidio's eastern end is one of the San Francisco's most admired buildings, the Palace of Fine Arts. Its domed rotunda, arches and lily pad pond were designed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and was modeled after a mysterious painting titled The Island of the Dead.
The hands-on science museum, The Exploratorium, was formerly located here, but that has now moved to Pier 15. However, it's still home to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.
Fort Point National Historic Site is a brick guardhouse, built around 1860 and today is run by the National Park Service. The fort was once the base of operations for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Golden Gate Promenade — which extends from the bridge past the Palace of Fine Arts and onward through the Marina District to Fisherman's Wharf — is the most scenic way to approach Fort Point at the northern end of the Presidio.
New to the Presidio is this attraction that takes you on a journey into the life and legacy of animation legend Walt Disney. Learn the fascinating story of Walt's life told through exhibits narrated in his own voice, 200 video screens, and early drawings, cartoons and films.
Watch classic Disney films playing in the Fantasia-themed theater, see a model replica of the original Disneyland, and catch stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge through the museum's wall of glass.
The collection includes thousands of artifacts including rare clips, scripts, musical scores, original animation cels and cameras used to create the DisneyWorld masters. See family photographs and home movies from Walt Disney's estate. With 40,000 square feet of interactive galleries and exhibits, the museum is a good reason to visit the Presidio. 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio.
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The resting place of 30,000 Americans — privates, generals, Buffalo soldiers, and spies among them — this peaceful expanse of 29 acres in The Presidio commands a striking view of the bay and the bridge. Take an afternoon and explore the gravestones and think about the lives of those who lie here.
The Inn at the Presidio is a wonderful place to settle in for your SF vacation. Once an elegant home for officers, called Pershing Hall, the Georgian Revival building has been carefully restored into a modern guest inn with 22 luxury rooms, 17 of which are large suites with their own fireplaces. There's also plenty of space for weddings and other celebrations. It's the perfect place to discover California's most unique national park.
• Palace of Fine Arts…
• Crissy Field…
• Fort Point…
• Walt Disney Family Museum…
• San Francisco National Cemetery…
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