New York has the Empire State Building, and Washington DC has the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. Almost every major American city can boast at least one major masterpiece of architecture. In San Francisco, that emblem is the Golden Gate Bridge, recognized as one of the most graceful steel spans in the world. A tourist’s visit to the San Francisco Bay Area isn’t complete without a panoramic vista of this gorgeous structure. This isn’t a feat of engineering; instead, it is a work of art.
To truly appreciate the Golden Gate Bridge, one must first have a solid grasp of the history that lies behind it. Conceived in the boom years of the Roaring 1920’s but constructed during the depths of the Great Depression, the Bridge represents American perseverance and determination. The great project was completed in 1937, and the Golden Gate Bridge stood as the longest steel suspension bridge in the world until 1964, when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was completed connecting the New York City boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn.
The Golden Gate Bridge garners wide praise for its aesthetics. The American Society of Civil Engineers declared it to be one of the modern Wonders of the World. According to Frommer’s Travel Guides, it’s “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.”
Though the Bridge can be viewed from points across San Francisco, the best vistas are to be had from Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Surrounding the San Francisco Bay, the GGNRA is one of the most visited units in the National Park System. Over 13 million people come to this area each year to view the great red bridge, among other activities.
The Park is deceptively large, as it is not one contiguous land area, but rather a collection of parks that runs from northern San Mateo County down to southern Marin County. It runs along 59 miles of coast. The GGNRA shouldn’t be confused, however, with Golden Gate Park, which is run by the city of San Francisco as a separate entity.
There is no shortage of things to do in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On a warm summer day, it’s not unusual to see people biking, rollerblading, and jogging on some of the countless well-maintained paths. In addition, photography is only one art form that is used to capture the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge. Other artists employ paints, pencils, and sculpting clay to interpret the span.
A trip to the GGNRA isn’t complete without a visit to its most infamous attraction. The island of Alcatraz has been the feature of countless movies. Although it hasn’t housed prisoners since 1963, its since reopened as a museum. Its positively haunting to walk the halls of this chilling structure, once home to Al Capone and “Birdman of Alcatraz” Robert Stroud.
Spend a day or two exploring Golden Gate National Recreation Area; you’re sure to appreciate the Bridge, along with all of the rest of the GGNRA has to offer.