Walking the Golden Gate Bridge | A Visitor Guide

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognized tourist attractions in the world. But for people visiting San Francisco for the first time, it can be a little bit tricky figuring out how to get there, what to do when you’re there, and even how to dress for taking a walk out on the bridge. But never fear! We have put together a complete guide on visiting the Golden Gate Bridge for you! Before you visit the city’s beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, you may have a few questions about it. We’ve got your key questions and answers below.  And please check out our free walking tours.

Where is the Golden Gate Bridge?

Arrive by Bus or Bike

4 Great Photo Spots

Guided Tours of the Bridge

TIP: If you are considering a hop-on, hop-off bus service while in San Francisco, then do note that Big Bus Tours and City-Sightseeing (2 open top double decker bus companies) make stops on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge.  If you are considering purchasing the City-Sightseeing ticket, keep in mind that it is included at no additional charge with the cost of a Go San Francisco tourist discount card.


Where is 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. The bridge stands approximately 3.5 miles west of Fisherman’s Wharf (25 min by bus – see below).  The Golden Gate Strait connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay. Parking at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center is very limited (particularly during the peak tourist season) and driving there is generally discouraged, but we provide a few alternative parking options that will allow you to drive to the bridge, if you so choose.


Where is the Golden Gate Bridge


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Parking at the Golden Gate Bridge

While parking at the visitor center is very limited and driving is generally discouraged during peak travel season. However, we feel that this advice only applies to those with mobility issuess  The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center has a small parking lot with a 2 hour limit.  There are 4 additional parking areas that you could park, though some will require uphill walking.


Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Center Parking


(OPTION 1) – Our choice (bright yellow).  Click the (map).  This lot is just a few minutes from the welcome center and the entrance to the bridge. There is no time limit and no fee.  BONUS – it is also near a small park for the ultimate photo opportunity.

(OPTION 2) – (map) Fort Point (orange). This lot is a 15 min walk (uphill) to the welcome center + entrance. BONUS – you can park for free, visit the Fort Point Historic Landmark and this location also offers another great photo opportunity.

(OPTION 3) – (map) If you are coming on a weekend, the employee parking lot (red circle) opens up approximately half of it’s spaces to visitors. This costs $5 with no time limit.

(OPTION 4) – (map) Crissy Field – Our last suggestion.  This lot is also free, and like Fort Point, is a 15 min walk (uphill) to the welcome center.  However, this location isn’t as photo worthy, and depending on the time you come, could also be full with families enjoying the park.

You can also park at the Palace of Fine Arts, at 3399 Lyon Street. That parking lot gives you 4 hours of free parking – ample time to walk the 2 miles to the bridge, enjoy your time there, and walk back.  Check out our map to get walking directions to the bridge from here. They’re a little bit complicated, but the views are great so it’s definitely worth it! You can also catch public bus #28 from the parking lot.


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Bus to Golden Gate Bridge Map


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. Coming 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.

TIP: If you are considering a hop-on, hop-off bus service while in San Francisco, then do note that Big Bus Tours and City-Sightseeing (2 open top double decker bus companies) make stops on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge.  If you are considering purchasing the City-Sightseeing ticket, keep in mind that it is included at no additional charge with the cost of a Go San Francisco tourist discount card.


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Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge

Possibly the most memorable experience in San Francisco is riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.  From Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s only 23 min along a beautiful (and mostly flat) waterfront to the bridge.  If you’re going to ride your bike to the bridge, you should take a look at our earlier post, Biking the Golden Gate Bridge and Ferrying back. This post gives a great overview on how to ride your bike across the bridge from San Francisco to Marin County, having a nice meal in the little bay-side town of Sausalito, and then taking the ferry back into downtown. If you’ve never done it, it makes for a wonderful vacation day!


Bike the Golden Gate Bridge


IMPORTANT: There are no bike rentals at the welcome center.  You need to rent a bike from downtown.  We provide the information of several bike shops where you can rent bikes for the trip across the bridge.

For further information regarding walking and biking on the bridge, please visit the Golden Gate Bridge biking information website.

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Pedestrians have access to the East Sidewalk, which can be reached from the parking lot on the Marin side and from either the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center parking lot or from the walking trail we mentioned before.

East Sidewalk Hours 

  • 5:00 AM – 6:30 PM November through early March.
  • 5:00 AM – 9:00 PM from early March through early November.

When is the best time to go to the Golden Gate Bridge?

The bridge is a beautiful entryway to the San Francisco Bay every day of the year! However, there are times when the bridge can be socked in with fog, making it a bit harder (or impossible!) to see these majestic views. Although there is no way to predict whether it will be foggy on the day of your arrival, we have a couple of good tips for you:

Best months to visit: September and October (beautiful, often warm weather)
More troublesome months to visit: July and August (usually cold, foggy, and windy!)

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Below are 4 spots that we think make for memorable photo opportunities.  The first two are on the south side of the bridge and the remaining 2 are on the north side.

(1) – If you are driving, the best place to park is just down the road from the welcome center.  There is a small field with a great view of the bridge.   This spot is alongside a hiking trail that leads from the water to the welcome center. Click the (map) for directions to this photo spot.  There are several other photo opportunities along the trail. In the background, you can see the Marin Headlands, which is on the north side of the bridge.


View of Golden Gate Bridge from Welcome Center


(2) – Fort Point – If you are planning to visit Fort Point or you decided to park there, you will be treated to an excellent photo opportunity.  This time, you will be at water level looking up to the bridge.  Click the (map) for directions to Fort Point.


View of Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point


(3) – Marin Headlands – For this view, you will need to cross the bridge to the north side.  If you are driving from downtown, you will need to pay the toll.  This vantage point is likely the most famous of the bridge.  You will see it on countless postcards.  This view allows you to capture San Francisco in the background.  You are also much closer to the bridge and looking down on most of the structure.  Click the (map) for directions to this spot.  If you are walking or biking across the bride, there is a set of stairs at the parking lot on the northeast side that leads under the bridge and to a path that takes you up to Marin Headlands.

NOTE: There is a vista point at the north parking lot with a vista point, but the view pales in comparison.

Best Golden Gate Bridge Photo Spot


(4) – Fort Baker – Not as easy to get to, as you will need to exit 101 and drive down to water level, but this is another great view.  You will pass Fort Baker if you are biking or walking to Sausalito.  Be sure to use this (map) for direction to Fort Baker.


Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Baker


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San Francisco golden gate
How long is the Golden Gate Bridge?

The bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964, measuring in at 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) from abutment to abutment.

How tall is the Golden Gate Bridge?

From the water, the highest tower of the bridge reaches 746 feet (227 meters).

Who designed it and when did it officially open?

The Golden Gate Bridge was designed by engineer Joseph Strauss and officially opened on May 27, 1937. On completion of the bridge, Joseph Strauss wrote The Mighty Task is Done, a poem dedicated to San Francisco’s newest installation.

What color is the Golden Gate Bridge painted?

Trick question! Although many people assume that our famous bridge will be gold-colored, they are surprised to see it painted some other strange shade.

Though often shrouded in a thick layer of fog, visitors can still see the bright color of International Orange paint peeping through the western skyline, beckoning visitors to its towering presence. That color was specifically chosen to stand out against the often-foggy days of San Francisco.

San francisco bridge view
What are some more interesting facts about the Golden Gate Bridge’s history?

Being one of Northern California’s most prolific beacons, naturally the Golden Gate Bridge has a long and storied history. Featured in over thirty Hollywood films, the bridge has also seen its fair share of real life drama. At least three babies have been born while crossing, one ostrich has escaped from a vehicle on it, one Guinness World Record has been set (largest number of people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period), dozens of protesters have used it as a platform, and countless other events have happened on the bridge. Sadly, the bridge has also seen a number of jumpers since it opened to foot traffic in 1937, prompting Bay Area officials to fundraise for a safety net which will may soon be installed. Renovations and maintenance continuously occur on the bridge, so you can be sure that the bridge will always be in tiptop order.

Which movies have I seen the Golden Gate Bridge in?Golden Gate Bridge close up

To name a few:

  • Terminator: Genisys (2015)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • X-Men: Last Stand (2006)
  • The Sweetest Thing (2002)
  • Princess Diaries (2001)
  • Homeward Bound II – Lost in San Francisco (1996)
  • The Rock (1996)
  • Nine Months (1995)
  • Final Analysis (1992)
  • A View to Kill (1985)
  • The Love Bug (1968)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • Dark Passage (1947)


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If you would prefer to walk across the bridge with the help of a guide, consider one of the following options. There are a lot of different walking tours of this famous landmark, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a guided excursion that fits your itinerary. Learn a lot about the history of the Golden Gate Bridge and its construction as you stroll across its length. Discover why America is in love with the unforgettable visual aesthetics of this modern marvel during an in depth walking tour.



Believe it or not, one of the best ways to discover the Golden Gate Bridge by foot is actually entirely free (well, donations requested). San Francisco City Guides provides free walking tours for small groups, and one of their tours will take you across this bridge. Although the experience is free, donations are accepted. Considering that similar walking tours can typically go for between $20-$40, this could be a great way to save money while exploring some of the most popular areas in and around the city. The only catch is that this Golden Gate Bridge walking tour is only available two days per week! Make sure to prepare for this one in advance and show up early.

San Francisco City Guides has a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor. They are one of the premiere tour services in the bay area, so it makes sense that so many guests would have such positive things to say about their experience. When it comes to their Golden Gate Bridge walking tour, this organization has not yet received any negative reviews. Most comments suggest that this is an excellent way to learn about the history behind San Francisco and its notable bridges. Some reviewers went so far as to state that other cities should implement similar programs because they enjoyed the trip so much!


Ticket Price

  • Pay what you want. This is a free tour, but if you enjoy yourself, we recommend providing tips to your tour guide!
  • If you have a group of more than 8 people, you can ⦁ book a private tour.



If you’re looking for a walking tour that will take you far further than the bridge, this should be an excellent option. This tour begins with a walk out onto the Golden Gate Bridge, but continues on to the beach and beyond. Feel the surf, take in breathtaking views and enjoy a side of San Francisco that is often reserved for locals! This is a great opportunity to discover some of the most interesting locations in the city while learning a lot about the history behind its most beloved landmarks. Group sizes are limited to keep things nice and personal, so this might also be a good choice for anyone who wants to avoid large crowds and tourist activities.

Just like their competition, San Francisco Urban Adventures has a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor. There are no negative reviews of the Golden Gate Bridge tour which explores far more than just the bridge. Some comments have described the tour as both informative and diverse, while others proclaim that the guides provided them with helpful local tips for after the walking tour. Everyone who has reviewed this excursion has found it useful to take the journey with a local resident and discover aspects about the bay area that you may not hear about on other tours!

Schedule/Tour Hours

  • Tour is available Monday-Friday every week
  • Weekend tours are also sometimes available
  • Tour starts at 1:30 PM and lasts for 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours
  • May be a bit too much walking for some guests
  • Max group size is 12

Ticket Prices/Information

  • $48 per person
  • Must be at least 6 years of age
  • Drinks and snacks are not provided, so make sure to bring them along



Those of you who are looking for a more active experience that will take you to a variety of different locations may want to consider Urban Trek USA. They offer a variety of different walking tours, including one which will take you to the Golden Gate Bridge. This tour will also have you travel to areas such as Russian Hill, the Marina Neighborhood, Union Square, the Palace of Fine Arts and Pacific Heights. Being that you will be walking all over the city, it’s important to note that this walking tour may not be suitable for every audience. That being said, you are sure to learn a lot about San Francisco as you discover an eclectic variety of neighborhoods and landmarks.

This tour company has earned a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor and there are no negative reviews for their service. Every guest who has left a comment seems to be genuinely pleased with their experience. Many comments imply that the places you will visit on these walking tours are off the beaten path, allowing you to avoid the large crowds of other tourists. Reviewers also have a lot of great things to say about their guides, who are reported to be very organized and informative. If these reviews are accurate, Urban Trek USA is a highly trustworthy walking tour service in San Francisco.

Schedule Information

  • The Urban Trek 2 tour takes guests to the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday and Friday.
  • This tour begins at 9:30 AM and ends at 4:45 PM. Expect a lot of walking.
  • There will be a lunch break and an afternoon break in addition to Metro rides.

Ticket Prices

  • $63 per person
  • $48 per person (when taking tour with one other person)
  • $45 per person (when taking tour with two other people)
  • $42 per person (when taking tour with three other people)
  • $39 per person (when taking tour with four or more others)


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The tour begins just outside the Golden Gate Bridge gift shop, at the large bronze statue of Joseph Strauss.

Stop 1: Joseph Strauss Statue

Joseph Strauss Statue Golden Gate BridgeWe’re going to start our tour at the statue honoring Joseph Strauss. For every major infrastructure project in America, there is often one person who has to push the project through with sheer force of personality. For the Golden Gate Bridge, that man was Joseph Strauss.

Joseph Strauss is credited for being the designer and chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge (even though Strauss himself wasn’t even an engineer!)

Strauss, over everybody else, was the person responsible for the bridge being built. When most people thought that it would be an impossible task, Strauss was able to convince the government, the public, and the banks that the bridge was possible.

Strauss had an ego as big as the bridge itself. But for a project as massive as this one, a huge ego can often be a useful trait rather than a drawback. When everybody believed that building this bridge would be an impossible task, somebody had to have the confidence to believe that they could achieve the impossible. And Joseph Strauss was that man.

Starting at the Strauss statue, turn to the right and walk down a small flight of stairs. Follow the walking path as it curves to the left.


Stop 2: Men of Vision Plaque

3 Men of Vision Plague Golden Gate BridgeAlthough Joseph Strauss had a vision for the Golden Gate Bridge, he could not build it alone. The first thing he needed was money. And building what many thought was an impossible bridge was going to require a lot of money!

Luckily, San Francisco was home to another visionary. His name was Amadeo “A.P.” Giannini. If you have taken our North Beach/Little Italy walking tour you would have heard about Giannini!

Giannini was willing to lend all the money that was required to build the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a huge undertaking with massive risk involved, but he believed it was the right decision.

The plaque that you are standing in front of commemorates the meeting of Giannini and Strauss which sealed the future for the bridge.

Continue walking down the path as it curves to the left. You will see a patch of dirt just off the paved road with a great view of the bridge.

Stop 3: A Great Photo Stop!


Since we are always on the lookout for the best photography spots, we have to mention this one. This area is possibly the best place in all of San Francisco to take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. So get out that camera and snap a memorable photo (or selfie!) to store in your photo book.

Take a few steps back to return to the paved walking path. Walk up the hill towards the bridge. As you continue on the path, you will walk underneath the bridge (and another great stop for a photo)! Continue to the other side of the bridge, and you will see a large steel beam that is the same color as the bridge. Stop in front of that.

Stop 4: Earthquake Testing and Retrofitting

As many people know, San Francisco has suffered through many major earthquakes in its history. The largest of these was the 1906 earthquake, which was estimated to be a 7.8 on the Richter scale (we don’t actually know precisely, because the earthquake was so intense that it damaged the machine that was built to measure earthquakes!) Since 1906, the city has experienced numerous other strong earthquakes.

Because of the danger that earthquakes pose, we have to know to a high degree of certainty that the Golden Gate Bridge will survive a strong earthquake. As part of the design process during the creation of the bridge, scientists put models of the bridge under severe stress to figure out which parts of the bridge would cause trouble.

As you can see from this large beam that is bent in the middle, the research discovered one possible fault in the bridge. They fixed it before the bridge was ever built, but they kept this bent beam for visitors to see.

Walk back under the bridge, and walk up the hill towards the right. At the top of the hill, you’ll see a set of stairs with a large flagpole at the top. Walk up to the area with the flag

Stop 5: A View of the Bridge

How Did the Golden Gate Bridge Get Its Name?

Many people think the Golden Gate Bridge was named because of the gold that was discovered in California during the famous Gold Rush. Not true! If you go all the way back to the year 1846 and you stood in this spot, you would see a wide open area between San Francisco and Marin County to the north. In that year, Captain John C. Fremont sailed a ship through that area into San Francisco Bay. As he was sailing through, he commented that it was so beautiful that he was going to name it “Chrysopylae,” which, translated into English, means “Golden Gate.” This area kept that name for over 80 years, and when the bridge was built across it, they kept the Golden Gate name.

What to See from This Spot

If you’re looking at the bridge, the first thing you will see behind it is a vast open expanse of land called the Marin Headlands. This open space was one of the biggest victories that conservation groups have ever achieved in the United States. Many developers wanted to build houses and businesses on this land, but the local citizens banded together to protect this amazing land.





Looking out at the bay, you’ll also see two important islands. The first is Alcatraz Island, the famous prison that has turned into a tourist attraction (for information on visiting Alcatraz, check out our post on how to get to Alcatraz.  To the left of Alcatraz, you’ll also see Angel Island. This island has been called the “Ellis Island of the West.” When immigrants from Asia sailed into the United States in large numbers hoping to start a new life, their first stop was always on Angel Island. From there, they were able to begin their lives in America.




While looking at the bridge, turn left. You will see a concrete wall with bushes in front of it. There is a walking path through the wall. Walk through that path until you are right next to the road. From here, you can begin your walk over the bridge. You can walk as far as you like, but we’d recommend stopping at the second concrete pillar on the bridge.

Stop 6: The Anchorage


The Construction of the Bridge

From this point, you can look all the way up to the top of the tower, and all the way down to the water. From top to bottom, the bridge is 746 feet (227 meters) tall. When the bridge was built, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a distance between towers of just under three quarters of a mile (1.3 km). And as a testament to the bridge’s incredible engineering, it stayed the longest suspension bridge for nearly 30 years.

Looking up the South Tower, you can just begin to imagine what it must have been like for the workers to be over 700 feet above the water, working in some of the windiest conditions anywhere. (The idea gives us sweaty palms just thinking about it!) But their work created the amazing bridge that we can enjoy today.

The Bridge Cables

The Golden Gate Bridge has two types of cables. The first, and most prominent, are the main cables. These cables are 36.5 inches (93 cm) in diameter, and are made of over 27,000 individual steel cables.  These cables are the structures that bear the weight of the entire bridge.


a section of the steel cable supporting the golden gate bridge



The smaller cables, hanging in sets of four every 50 feet along the roadway, are what transfers the weight of the road to the main cables.

Painting the Bridge

There is a common myth that the bridge gets painted from one end to the other, and by the time the painters finish the bridge, it’s time to go back to the beginning and start painting all over again. Although this is not exactly true, it does have some bit of truth.

The bridge does get painted constantly. There is a team of painters who is on the bridge all year long. But they do not go from one end to the other. They go wherever they are needed to paint the spots that need the most work. This is a constant process, since the bridge gets exposed to salt air that corrodes the bridge on a daily basis.

From here, you can walk as long as you want. But we recommend stopping at the first tower of the bridge. There is a small alcove as you walk around to the right of the tower, and you can pause there and look out at the scenery. It is a bit quieter here without all the automobile noise!

Stop 7: The South Tower

What to See from This Spot

From here, you can see a huge amount of downtown San Francisco! Here are some of our favorite sites:


1. Coit Tower

Coit Tower is an art deco-style tower that was created in 1933 in honor of one of our favorite San Francisco ladies: Lillie Hitchcock Coit. You can learn more about Lillie Coit on our North Beach/Little Italy walking tour. But she was a fascinating lady who lived in San Francisco in the late 1800s. When she died, she left her large fortune to the City of San Francisco for them to create beautiful additions to the city. San Francisco used a large portion of her fortune to build Coit Tower (with some money left over to create a statue in North Beach that honors the city’s volunteer firefighters). If you want a fantastic view of downtown SF, you can’t beat Coit Tower.

2. Transamerica Pyramid

The 853-foot (260-meter) Transamerica building is currently the tallest building in San Francisco (though that title is about to change). It was created to be the headquarters of the Transamerica company. When it was first designed by William Pereira, it was a very unpopular design. But over the years, it has come to be not just accepted, but celebrated as the most famous building in this extremely famous skyline. If you want to learn more about this building and its Italian heritage, you can join our North Beach/Little Italy walking tour!

3. Salesforce Tower

This building, currently under construction, will soon take over the title of the tallest building in San Francisco. In fact, it will be taller than the Transamerica building by over 200 feet (63 meters)! This will also be the second tallest building in the entire western United States.

Salesforce is one of the largest companies in San Francisco, and they are building this incredible tower to be the flagship building in the company. This building will be connected to the San Francisco Transbay Terminal, a massive new public transportation complex that will connect the subway, buses, and new California high speed rail.

4. Palace of Fine Arts

This Beaux-Arts masterpiece was created for the 1915 World’s Fair, held in San Francisco. The city hosted the World’s Fair to show off how much San Francisco had advanced since the massive destruction of the 1906 earthquake and fire. One of the largest natural disasters in history, the 1906 earthquake destroyed about 80% of the city. San Francisco wanted to show off to the entire world how much the city had rebuilt and modernized.

The Palace of Fine Arts was designed to only last a short time–for as long as the year-long fair was running. But the people of the city loved the building so much that the city decided to rebuild it in a more permanent way. Since it was rebuilt, it has remained standing and has become one of the most popular sights in San Francisco.


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Things to Do Near the Golden Gate Bridge

There are plenty of interesting activities near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge Yoda

1. If you are any kind of science fiction/fantasy fan, you can’t miss out on seeing Yoda and Darth Vader! Although this is a bit of a hike from the welcome center to the bridge, George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Studios has a location at the Presidio, the old military base at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Standing guard outside the main studio entrance is a “life sized” bronze statue of Yoda. Inside the main entrance is a full-size statue of Darth Vader! This is a perfect trip for fans of the Star Wars movies. Follow our map to get there!

2. For some fantastic underside views (and pictures!) of the Golden Gate Bridge, take a walk down the hill to Fort Point. There are some great bay views as well. This is a fun place to walk around and experience while gazing at one of the world’s most famous bridges! We put together a walking map to make your trip easier.

3. The Walt Disney Family Museum is a fun and exciting trip for people of all ages. No matter how old the visitor is, there are fun artifacts from their favorite Disney movie in the museum. In fact, did you know that Walt Disney was only able to make Snow White because a famous San Francisco banker provided the seed funding for the movie? (Take our North Beach/Little Italy tour to hear the full story!) And visit this map to get directions to the museum!

4. For the really adventurous soul, head on over to the House of Air trampoline park! The park has 42 TRAMPOLINES to thrill and excite. You can take a look at a video of the place to see what they have to offer. But remember: if you are going to visit this amazing place, be sure to make a reservation as far in advance as you can. The place sells out very quickly.

So have fun, and enjoy your visit to the Golden Gate Bridge!

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