More Of My Favorite Bay Cruises
4. Helicopter Tour: Are you looking for something a little more adventurous? Wouldn’t it be cool to see the Golden Gate Bridge from above?
If you love a thrill and are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, then consider a San Francisco helicopter tour. This magical journey starts with a shuttle from one of two central locations in San Francisco. Once you arrive at the helicopter, you will immediately board and get started on the amazing adventure.
Your helicopter ride includes 15 to 20 minutes of flight time. The flight is choreographed to music with spontaneous narration by your professionally trained pilot. It’s an experience you will never forget!
It runs three times a day. Find out more and check for availability on GetYourGuide.
Taking A Golden Gate Bridge Tour
You can also explore more of the bridge by taking a tour. You can go on the bridge on a bike tour which takes you into Sausalito and then back to SF on the ferry. You can go under the bridge with a sunset cruise . Or you can soar high above the bridge in a private helicopter tour.
We hope this guide has been able to answer your questions about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are looking for more things to do in San Francisco, check out these fun activities:
- Do the Lands End hike for some epic coastal views.
Parking On The Marin Side
Parking lots: there are two parking areas at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
#1: the Vista Point parking area , on the right just as you leave the bridge going north. This can get crowded on sunny days, so fortunately there is another…
#2: the North Tower lot , less-used, just on the other side of the highway.
To get to the Vista Point parking area, take the first exit off the bridge, the Vista Point Exit. That takes you right into the parking lot.
To get to the North Tower lot on the other side of Highway 101, take the Alexander Avenue exit . Coming from SF, take the first left after getting off the freeway, go under the freeway, and follow Alexander Avenue to the parking lot next to the bridge. See map above.
There’s a pedestrian walkway under the bridge that connects the two parking lots.
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Golden Gate Bridge Bus Tours
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
The Hop On Hop Off buses cross the bridge on their Sausalito loop. They stop at both ends of the bridge: the Welcome Center parking lot and the Vista Point parking lot.
You can admire some of the best bridge views at both ends of the bridge, plus you can walk across the bridge from one end and pick up the bus at the other end if you want.
City Sightseeing includes the Sausalito loop in all their 2-day and premium 1-day bus passes, so you have the option of crossing the bridge and exploring the town of Sausalito, along with using the routes around San Francisco. See Hop On Hop Off tours for more info and booking.
Fire Engine Tour
This is a different, but very popular tour. Ride a real fire engine over the bridge and down into Fort Baker and Sausalito, then back to the city. 75 minutes, $59. Leaves from Fisherman’s Wharf, stops at Fort Point. See fire engine tour for more info and booking.
Where Are The Best Places To Take Photos Of The Golden Gate Bridge
I went out and tracked down the best view points for the bridge and put together information on where they are and how to get there.
To find all of those places, with info on where they are, where to park, and how to get there by bus, plus photos of the views, see my page on the best Golden Gate Bridge views.
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Getting To The Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is very easy to get to. Driving is easy because there are number of parking lots close by, and city buses make frequent stops at the Welcome Center, near the southern end of the bridge.
Visiting The Golden Gate Bridge Bridge If You Dont Have A Car
- Take the bus from downtown to the Welcome Center: Take the from downtown or the from the Civic Center. $2.25 one way.
- Uber from downtown to the Welcome Center: ~$17-20 one way.
- Take the bus from downtown to Crissy Field and Fort Point : Take the PresidiGo shuttle to the Main Post, or take the 30 bus to the Sports Basement near Crissy Field.
- Take the bus from downtown to Baker Beach : The 38BX or the 1 to 25th St. Transfer to the 29 and get off at Bowley.
- Purchase the 2-day City Sightseeing hop on hop off pass. It will takes you on the tourist trail throughout the city. The 2-day pass includes a Sausalito add-on which stops at both the Welcome Center and the Vista Point so you can see the bridge from both sides without having to walk the round trip. However, this pass is only worth it if you are planning to visit a ton of the popular tourist sites in 1-2 days. If not, the bus or an Uber will be much cheaper.
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Opening Festivities And 50th And 75th Anniversaries
The bridge-opening celebration in 1937 began on May 27 and lasted for one week. The day before vehicle traffic was allowed, 200,000 people crossed either on foot or on roller skates. On opening day, Mayor Angelo Rossi and other officials rode the ferry to Marin, then crossed the bridge in a motorcade past three ceremonial “barriers,” the last a blockade of beauty queens who required Joseph Strauss to present the bridge to the Highway District before allowing him to pass. An official song, “There’s a Silver Moon on the Golden Gate,” was chosen to commemorate the event. Strauss wrote a poem that is now on the Golden Gate Bridge entitled “The Mighty Task is Done.” The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed a button in Washington, D.C. signaling the official start of vehicle traffic over the Bridge at noon. As the celebration got out of hand there was a small riot in the uptown Polk Gulch area. Weeks of civil and cultural activities called “the Fiesta” followed. A statue of Strauss was moved in 1955 to a site near the bridge.
A pedestrian poses at the old railing on opening day, 1937.
Opening of the Golden Gate Bridge
Official invitation to the opening of the bridge. This copy was sent to the City of Seattle.
Seismic Vulnerability And Improvements
Modern knowledge of the effect of earthquakes on structures led to a program to retrofit the Golden Gate to better resist seismic events. The proximity of the bridge to the San Andreas Fault places it at risk for a significant earthquake. Once thought to have been able to withstand any magnitude of foreseeable earthquake, the bridge was actually vulnerable to complete structural failure triggered by the failure of supports on the 320-foot arch over Fort Point. A $392 million program was initiated to improve the structure’s ability to withstand such an event with only minimal damage. A custom-built electro-hydraulic synchronous lift system for construction of temporary support towers and a series of intricate lifts, transferring the loads from the existing bridge onto the temporary supports, were completed with engineers from Balfour Beatty and Enerpac, without disrupting day-to-day commuter traffic. Although the retrofit was initially planned to be completed in 2012, as of May 2017 it was expected to take several more years.
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Parking For The Golden Gate Bridge
Driving to the bridge and looking for parking? Surprisingly, it’s easy to park near the bridge, especially on the San Francisco side.
There are nine parking lots at the southern end of the bridge, and some of them are free. Visit my guide to Golden Gate Bridge parking, with maps, directions, hours and fees for all the parking lots.
Why was the bridge so hard to build? Read the story of the design and construction of the Golden Gate Bridge at Golden Gate Bridge history.
Driving Across The Golden Gate Bridge
The bridge is open for cars 24 hours a day. After you cross the bridge, there are a number of parking options. But first, what about the toll?
The Bridge Toll
Only drivers coming into San Francisco pay the toll it’s free heading out of the city.
The toll for the Golden Gate Bridge is currently $9.05 for two-axle vehicles . If you’ve set up a FasTrack account, it’s $8.05.
It used to be free for motorcycles and carpools of 3 or more in a car during rush hour, but that ended in 2010. Carpools and motorcycles get a discount if they use FasTrack.
Unlike the Bay Bridge, there are no humans in the toll booths, and you don’t need to have cash to get through the toll plaza anymore.
It’s all electronic now. The sensor reads your FasTrack tag or photographs your license plate when you drive through the toll booth you slow down but don’t stop. There are various options for paying:
To set up an account, or make payments, see bridge tolls.
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Take The Batteries To Bluffs Trail
The 1 mile Batteries to Bluffs trail starts at the lovely Baker Beach. It goes up to the blufftops, past the abandoned gun batteries and ends up at the south end of the Bridge. From the trail, you can take a side trip down to and also spend time creeping around the abandoned Battery West, Battery Godfrey and Battery Boutelle military gun emplacements.
Crissy Field & Torpedo Wharf
Large chunks of land on both sides of the bridge were once a series of civil war gun batteries, army bases, WWII gun emplacements and cold war bunkers. Crissy field specifically, was an airfield serving the Pacific Air Coast Defense Station during both world wars. Its now been reverted back to a natural dune and tidal marsh habitat with a dog-friendly beach.
Nearby Torpedo Wharf juts out into the bay and offers unobstructed Golden Gate Bridge views and well as great shots of the city skyline.
Tips for visiting: There is parking along Crissy Field and in a small lot just north of the wharf. You can park once and do Crissy Field, Torpedo Wharf and Fort Point all in one go.
Other interesting stuff nearby: Have a cup of coffee or a snack a the Warming Hut Bookstore & Cafe.
Best time for viewing the bridge: Visit Crissy field at sunrise, if you can swing it. Youll be able to see dawn rise over the San Francisco skyline and then get ethereal views of the Golden Gate Bridge as the morning light spotlights the brick at Fort Point.
Rust and chains under the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point
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Ride A Bike To The Bridge
There are a number of excellent bike paths in the area near the bridge on the SF side this is a popular biking spot for both locals and visitors.
Bike rentals: There are no bike rental offices near the bridge, but you can rent bikes at several places near Fisherman’s Wharf and on Lombard Street en route to the bridge. From there, it’s a relatively easy, and very scenic, ride to the bridge. Fun for kids, too, and mostly flat.
See my tips on where to rent the bikes, plus information on biking across the bridge and taking the ferry back. There are some good deals available for both renting bikes and taking bike tours over the bridge.
Option #: The Luxury View
Youll have to travel across the bridge to access this last viewing spot, but I promise it will be worth it! Not many tourists enjoy the view from just inside the Golden Gate on the Marin side of the bay. Or more precisely – from Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate.
This luxury hotel sits on the edge of the 10-acre parade grounds of Fort Baker, another U.S. Army post turned over to the Golden Gate National Park service in 2002. Some guest rooms are in restored officers residences and there are also rooms in newer buildings. I personally enjoy hitting up Farley Bar for a slow cocktail. Cant think of a better way to end a day of Bridge viewing.
Actually a picture of the Buena Vista – another great SF Bar!
If you have someone in your group under 10 years old, youve got to head over to the Bay Area Discovery Museum at Fort Baker. Youll get more incredible Bridge views, and the museum is just so much fun!
Without a doubt, there are fabulous views of the Bridge from the Marin Headlands, where you can look back and down onto the bridge – and San Francisco – from the Pacific…you and a gazillion of your closest friends in their cars and jammed tour buses.
Its a killer view – no doubt – but with three other phenomenal options – why stress?
There are so many nooks and crannies that let you see the Golden Gate Bridge without having to be wrapped into a human ace bandage of other travelers Have you been there? Did I miss anything? Tell me, please, in the comments below!
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The Golden Gate Bridge Color
The color was chosen sort of by accident. When the bridge was being built, the metal structure was coated with a reddish primer.
One of the architects noticed that the color went beautifully with the blue water and golden-brown hills, and came up with the current color. Plus, it stands out in the fog. Thank you, Irving F. Morrow!
Tip: if you want to paint something the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge, it must be the right shade of International Orange there are several versions, used for different purposes.
The official formula for the Golden Gate Bridge color is Cyan 0%, Magenta 69%, Yellow 100%, Black 6%. The correct hex triplet is F04A00.
Painting the bridge: there is an urban myth that the bridge is continuously painted from one end to the other, then over again. Not so. There is a staff of 34 full-time painters that work just on the spots that need touching up. And they are currently using Sherwin Williams paint.
How To Get To The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is located over its namesake, the Golden Gate Strait, and stretches from San Francisco on the southern side to Marin County on the north.
It’s a must-do on most itineraries and is #1 on our things to do in San Francisco post.
The bridge stands approximately 3.5 miles west of Fisherman’s Wharf .
Parking at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center is very limited and driving there is generally discouraged, but we provide a few alternative that will allow you to drive to the bridge if you so choose.
It’s easy enough to arrive by mass transit. There are numerous buses that will take you to the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
We recommend using this Google map for directions to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center from anywhere in San Francisco.
From downtown San Francisco, you can take Golden Gate Transit buses number 10, 70, 92, 93, and 101.
They will all stop at the toll plaza, which will allow you to walk out to the Bridge. The cost of a bus ride is $2.50/person each way.
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Best Views From San Francisco
These are some of the views you see in calendars and coffee table books.
- Fort Point
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Fort Point is the old Civil War fort sitting right under the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The outside areas are now open to the public again.
There’s a road that runs out to the fort, Marine Drive, with two parking areas. You can also ride a bike there from Fisherman’s Wharf, or hike down to it from the Welcome Center at the bridge.
The fort itself is quite interesting and worth a visit. It’s a museum and you can go up on the roof for another amazing view looking right up at the bridge. Admission is free.
Summer hours: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm.
Winter hours: Friday-Monday, 10 am to 5 pm.
When it’s closed, you can still walk around it, but you have to enter it to get up on the roof.
The hours vary as the seasons change see fort schedule to check.
Parking: there are two parking lots at Fort Point which provide a good number of spaces. Even if it fills up, people come and go frequently, so you should be able to get a spot there. Parking is free, with no time limits.