The Presidio of San Francisco, California has served as an army post for three nations over more than 200 years. In addition, the 1500-acre site is home to hundreds of years of architecture, has been host to World’s Fairs, an historic airfield, a national cemetery, and includes forests, open grassy fields and beaches.

There are five Visitor Centers in the park, and three museums. Visitor Centers include the William Penn Mott Jr. Visitor Center, a refurbished historic guardhouse from the early 1900’s offering views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Interactive exhibits there include a state-of-the-art large-scale model of the park surrounded by informative touch screen panels. Video walls display daily events, and shadow art displays accompany oral histories of community members explaining the Presidio’s importance to them. Fort Point is a brick fort built in 1861 to defend San Francisco Bay. The Fort is the only of its type on the Pacific Coast, and stands just below the Golden Gate Bridge. Guided tours and informative exhibits can be found at the Fort Point Visitor Center. A Welcome Center at the Golden Gate Bridge is located nearby as well. The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary offers hands-on educational exhibits at their Visitor Center, which is located in a historic 1890’s Coast Guard station at the shore’s edge, to the west of Crissy Field. Museums within the Presidio include the Presidio Officer’s Club. This museum houses several exhibits that teach the history of the Presidio’s role in shaping the nation and serving the public of California. Photographs, displays and artifacts begin with the 10,000-year old history of the park’s site. The museum is housed in a historic colonial adobe building from the early 1800’s. The Battery Chamberlin Museum displays coastal defense artillery dating as far back as the late 1800’s. Demonstrations of the Pacific coast’s last ‘disappearing gun’ take place on the first full weekend of each month. The Walt Disney Family Museum tells the story of Disney’s life, and his innovative achievements. The museum includes early animations and drawings, music, movies and recorded oral histories, some told by Walt Disney himself. As a park, the Presidio offers 24 miles of hiking and bicycling trails. Eight scenic overlooks offer views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the National Cemetery, Lobos Valley and the Pacific Ocean. Sports and recreational facilities at the park include a golf course, tennis courts, bowling alley and several athletic fields. Crissy Field, formerly a U.S. Army airfield, is now a recreational field offering picnic areas, beach access, a swimming pool, climbing center and trampoline house.

History: The history of the Presidio dates back to the Ohlone people who lived on the land before the arrival of Europeans. In the 1700’s, the Spanish arrived to establish the northernmost point of their North American Empire. Before the U.S. Army seized control of the area in the Mexican-American War of 1846, it had been under Mexican rule for 24 years. The Presidio was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 to help preserve the history of its buildings, landscape and military features, which spanned three nations and hundreds of years. In 1994, the site was formally transferred to the National Park Service with the closure of its last military installation. The park is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In 1996, the Presidio landed under the management of the Presidio Trust, which had battled to prevent the site from being sold at auction. The Trust is a U.S. government corporation that manages the park in partnership with the U.S. National Parks Service, who manages the park’s coastal areas. The Presidio Trust reached its goal of financial self-sufficiency in 2006 and shortly afterward set out to refurbish many of the park’s long neglected historical features. The trust continues to earn money by leasing many of the buildings in the park to commercial enterprises, which host recreational activities for the public for a fee.

Ongoing Programs and Education: A variety of recreation and wellness events are hosted throughout the park and on the trails. Cycling events include family-friendly bike rides and learn-to-ride days for young children. An annual Monarch Butterfly Walk and Presidio Bird Walks take advantage of the nature trails. Guided Art Hikes visit the park’s outdoor art installations. Most all of the events meet at one of the park’s four Visitor Centers. Ranger led tours at the park include Fort Point History Tours, Main Post: Past and Present, and other walking architectural tours.

210 Lincoln Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94129, Phone: 415-561-4323

More Day trips from San Francisco, Things to Do in San Francisco