San Francisco’s Presidio rises on a hill covered with fragrant Monterey pines and century-old eucalyptus groves. With stunning views of San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge, the park attracts a mix of residents and visitors as new attractions, museums, activities, sightseeing, recreation, dining and lodging are added to its robust calendar of events.
Picture this: Only three miles west from downtown, the Presidio’s 1,500-acre expanse of green space contains 24 miles on 12 hiking trails, 15 miles of bike lanes, 8 scenic overlooks, 4 parade grounds, an 18-hole golf course, beaches, playgrounds, ball fields, tennis courts, even the Walt Disney Family Museum...plus the Golden Gate Bridge.
Imagine this: A nature and beauty spot that’s home to 330 native plant species, 300 bird species, 60 bee species, 30 butterfly species, five creeks, a freshwater lake and a tidal marsh.
Know this: The Presidio is open 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to enter. It’s an architectural open-air museum with 433 historic buildings among the Presidio’s open spaces and forests. Some are private residences, others are edgy studios such as Lucas Films, and still others have museum exhibits and restaurants open to the public.
San Francisco Starts Here
Long before San Francisco was dreamt of, the Presidio is where the Mexican expedition leader, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, led 247 colonists. Upon discovering the freshwater spring and lake, noting the strategic lookout over what we now call the Golden Gate, this was prime real estate for building a fortress (‘el presidio’ in Spanish) as New Spain’s northernmost mission. Although native Ohlone people occupied the land, De Anza staked claim for Spain and constructed a mission, now known as Mission Dolores, still standing three miles east. The year was 1776.
Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, and the Presidio changed hands with that. However, 25 years later, the U.S. grabbed California from Mexico, establishing a military base at the Presidio. Throughout the American Civil War, two world wars and the Vietnam War, the Presidio played a major role. By the early 1990s, the military no longer needed the post, and it was transferred in 1994 to the U.S. National Park Service to join the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Presidio Trust serves as steward and landlord.
Discover the Presidio, Where You Can...
Step into the Walt Disney Family Museum to see 26 Oscar statuettes and learn the story of the great innovator’s life and career.
See the most recent archeological discoveries unearthed at the Presidio in the free Heritage Gallery at the Officers Club.
Recognize the spot where director Alfred Hitchcock filmed scary drowning scenes for “Vertigo” at Fort Point.
See a real log cabin near Fort Scott, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Try authentic Mexican dishes at Arguello, the restaurant in a building dating from 1812.
Come for the giant picnic with 20 gourmet food truck vendors to choose from. (Sundays, April through October)
Walk on the sand at Baker Beach, dip your toes into the Pacific Ocean, take close ups with the Golden Gate Bridge.
Play a round of golf on the same links as President Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Charles Schulz, and Joe DiMaggio.
Live like a local: Attend Shakespeare in the Park, Film in the Fog, Family Kite Day or Concerts at the Presidio.
Pay your respects at the San Francisco National Cemetery, final resting place for 30,000 soldiers.
Check into a restored barracks, Inn at the Presidio, now a hotel with rocking chairs on the porch.
Did You Know?
- A full-size replica of Yoda sits atop a fountain in the courtyard of the Letterman Digital Arts Center, headquarters of Lucasfilm in the Presidio.
- Presidio Trust has a resident herd of 15 Boer goats to chomp away at non-native plant overgrowth in places too tricky for machinery.
- The Presidio encompasses more than five percent of San Francisco.
- About 3,000 people live in the park, another 3,000 people come in and out for work.
- Bay City Guide has discount coupons for visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum.