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The Golden Gate Bridge is undoubtedly one of the first things that come to mind when people think of San Francisco. With its unique orange color and distinct towers, the Golden Gate Bridge is quite possibly the most famous bridge in the world, and draws more than 10 million visitors on an annual basis. On a clear day, the bridge offers breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas. If you are visiting the Bay Area for the first time, you absolutely must go see the bridge to soak in the experience.
Parking and public transportation at the Golden Gate Bridge
Unless you plan to just drive across and keep going, it's best to take public transportation to the bridge as parking is extremely limited, like most places in San Francisco. Golden Gate Transit, San Francisco Muni, and PresidiGo Shuttle all offer a variety of bus options to get to the bridge.
Best and worst time to go to the Golden Gate Bridge
Fog is a staple of San Francisco and the bridge, but it often burns off at midday, so it's best to go then if you want a clear view. The fog is usually less prevalent in the months of May, June, September, and October.
Admission to the Golden Gate Bridge
Tolls are collected in only one direction, headed southbound into San Francisco. Tolls are calculated based on the number of axles on a vehicle. For example, standard vehicles with two axles (and motorcycles) pay $7. For three axles the price jumps to $21 and increases by $7 for every additional axle. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the bridge for free. Pedestrians are only allowed on the east sidewalk (the side facing San Francisco).
Must see/do at the Golden Gate Bridge
The Bridge Pavilion, open daily from 9 a.m. 6 p.m., welcomes visitors to the bridge and has information services, exhibits, and a variety of merchandise. The Bridge Café, also open from 9 .a.m. to 6 p.m., features local food and beverages. If you want to tour the bridge, San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours of the bridge on Thursdays and Sundays. There are also a number of outdoor exhibits located just outside of the pavilion.
Other places to visit near the Golden Gate Bridge
If you don't want to venture too far, the historical Fort Point military fortification is located at the southern side of the Golden Gate and is sure to enhance your bridge experience. Alamo Square, home to the famous "Painted Ladies" Victorian houses, is a short drive away from the bridge, and Alamo Square Park has a fantastic view of downtown San Francisco. Feel like stimulating your brain? The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, which has many fun things to do in its own right, hosts an array of fascinating exhibits and activities for the whole family.
Insider tip for visitors to the Golden Gate Bridge
It might be confusing to get to the bridge and see there's no toll takers, but that's because tolls are collected electronically on the Golden Gate Bridge. There are a variety of options to pay, but some of them require a registered account, which may not be ideal for tourists and infrequent visitors. Most people who cross the bridge simply wait for a toll invoice to be mailed to the owner of the vehicle, which is usually sent out four days after crossing the bridge. Please visit the FAQ on the Golden Gate bridge website for more details on paying tolls.
Author's bio: Dennis Biles is a freelance journalist who was born and raised in the Bay Area.