Exploring the Iconic Golden Gate Bridge: History and Must-Visit Tips
The Golden Gate Bridge, a San Francisco icon known the world over, has a captivating history and offers visitors an unforgettable experience. In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating history of the bridge, how to get there, and what to see and do once you arrive. Additionally, we’ll share 16 fun facts about the bridge that will deepen your appreciation for this engineering marvel.
History of the Golden Gate Bridge
A Bold Plan
The Golden Gate Bridge, now synonymous with San Francisco, was once just a bold idea. City officials, led by architect Michael O’Shaunessy, envisioned a bridge that would connect San Francisco to Marin County over the challenging Golden Gate Strait, where the bay meets the Pacific Ocean. Many believed it was impossible, both financially and physically. However, a visionary engineer, Joseph Strauss, stepped forward with a daring claim – that the bridge could be built for much less than the projected $100 million.
Residents of Marin and Sonoma counties rallied together, putting their homes on the line to secure funding for the project. It was a true community effort.
Construction of the Golden Gate
Construction began on January 5th, 1933, but it wasn’t without opposition. Some locals feared the bridge would disrupt their lives or even collapse in the event of an earthquake. Despite these challenges, Strauss’s design team forged ahead, working on the iconic art deco towers and selecting the bridge’s distinctive “International Orange” color for safety and visibility.
The construction was a marvel in itself. The towers were completed first, followed by the spinning of the suspension cables, with over 25,000 individual wires in each cable. It seemed to defy the laws of physics.
The Grand Opening
In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed ahead of schedule and under budget, costing just under $27 million. A week-long celebration, known as the “Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta,” marked its grand opening, featuring nightly entertainment, fireworks, parades, and pageants in neighboring Crissy Field. Over 200,000 people joined in the festivities during that memorable week.
Joseph Strauss even penned a poem, “The Mighty Task is Done,” to commemorate this remarkable achievement.
Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge
Now that you know the history, let’s explore how to make the most of your visit to this iconic landmark.
Crossing the Bridge
- On Foot: Walking the bridge is the best way to appreciate its architectural majesty. Allow 35-40 minutes for a leisurely stroll and ample time for breathtaking photos against the San Francisco skyline.
- Driving: If you’re driving into San Francisco, only southbound vehicles pay the toll.
Parking at the Golden Gate Bridge can be a challenge, so consider alternatives:
- Southeast Side Visitor Parking Lot: Metered parking with amenities like a café, gift center, gardens, and scenic vistas. Additional weekend parking is available nearby.
- Northeast Side Parking Lot: Offers free parking with a four-hour limit and restrooms.
What You Can See From the Eastern Side
- Take in the stunning San Francisco Bay panorama.
- Spot landmarks like Coit Tower, the TransAmerica Building, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and Sausalito on clear days.
- Keep your camera ready for dolphins, porpoises, harbor seals, and sea lions often seen from the bridge.
- Consider bringing binoculars for closer views of wildlife and the bustling port.
Best Photo Spots
- Don’t miss Crissy Field for a dramatic ocean backdrop framed by the Presidio and Marin County hills.
- The Vista Point overlook at the Northern end offers a perfect shot of the bridge and the city skyline.
- Be prepared for wind, even on warm days. Dress in layers, and during winter, wear a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves for a comfortable visit.
16 Fun Facts About the Golden Gate Bridge
- The bridge weighs a staggering 887,000 tons.
- Local ferry operators initially opposed the bridge’s construction.
- Its official color is “International Orange.”
- The bridge is constantly being painted to maintain its vibrant hue.
- Each tower stands at impressive heights of 500 and 726 feet above the water.
- A safety net during construction saved around 20 workers.
- The toll used to be just 50 cents.
- The bridge is an American civil engineering wonder.
- It spans 1.7 miles, perfect for walking, biking, and tours.
- While once the longest, it’s no longer the longest suspension bridge.
- The billionth traveler was a dentist.
- 200,000 people crossed the bridge on opening day in 1937.
- Over 40 million vehicles cross the bridge annually.
- There are 300 shipwrecks in the bay near the bridge.
- A fog horn is activated during thick fog.
- An earthquake struck during the bridge’s construction in 1935.
The Golden Gate Bridge is not just a bridge; it’s a testament to human ingenuity, community spirit, and the enduring allure of San Francisco. Whether you’re walking, biking, or driving, make sure to savor every moment and take in the rich history and stunning views this iconic landmark has to offer.