This icon of the San Francisco Bay region that spans the Golden Gate is a 1.7-mile-wide strait that connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County, California.
Commuters travel daily across this landmark suspension bridge that has endured earthquakes, lead paint, and record crowds since its inception in 1937.
It was considered an engineering wonder at the time since it was the longest main suspension bridge globally, spanning 4,200 feet.
It held the record for over 25 years, but in 1964 New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge beat its record. Its 746-foot towers made it the tallest bridge of any type until 1993.
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan has the title for the world’s longest span and tallest towers.
Fun Fact: The bridge’s bright orange color was intended only to be the primer. The U.S. Navy suggested the bridge be painted blue with yellow stripes to increase visibility, but the architect decided the orange was more noticeable and attractive.
Visiting the Bridge
Exploring the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge is a rare opportunity you won’t soon forget. Whether you take a guided tour, hike, bike, walk, or gaze from afar, here are some tips to get the most of your experience.
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Bridge Welcome Center
Here visitors can check out the center for historical information and shop for cool Golden Gate merchandise. The Welcome Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can also shop at the online store on the bridge’s website.
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This onsite center reveals unique stories about the construction and completion of the famous bridge. The center provides an orientation and houses exhibits.
It also showcases the original 12-foot stainless steel Bridge ‘test tower’ used in 1933.
Photo Alert: The Golden Gate Bridge is impressive from just about any angle. Make sure to snap away at the ‘most photographed bridge in the world’ and the ninth ‘most Instagrammed attraction in the United States.’
The Welcome Center offers both interactive and stationary exhibits. Guests can also walk through the outside plaza and follow a pathway into an old bunker that houses more historical exhibits. A virtual version of the displays is also available on the website.
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Free Walking Tours
The Golden Gate Bridge features free walking tours twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays. San Francisco City Guides offers these tours. City Guides is a non-profit linked to the San Francisco Public Library.
Equator Coffee at the Round House
Enjoy a hot cup of joe as you take in the incredible views. The Round House offers coffee, tea, and delicious snacks.
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Pro Tip: Bring a light jacket when you explore the view. The area can be cool and windy at certain times of the year.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Both ends of the Golden Gate Bridge offer a recreation area to hike and explore. With numerous scenic trails and outlook points, this is the place to visit to experience one of the world’s largest national parks in an urban setting.
Visit the Parks Conservatory website or the National Parks Service-GGNRA website. Also, check out the new Golden Gate and Pacific Overlooks near the bridge for fantastic views and gorgeous pictures.
Golden Gate Bridge History
The bridge took only four years to build and was both under budget and ahead of schedule. With approximately 600,000 rivets in each bridge tower, the bridge wasn’t cheap to build, costing over $35 million, which was a lot considering it was the Great Depression.
Initially, the city rejected chief engineer Joseph Strauss’s plans for the bridge. In 1921, though feasible and functional, his design wasn’t as elegant as city planners had hoped, so he revamped his plans and brought onboard several co-engineers to help.
Fun Fact: San Franciscans traveled to Marin County by boat before the bridge. The ferry service began in the 1820s, transporting people and cars for over 100 years.
Strauss made the safety of his men a priority. The chief engineer required all workers to wear hard hats, the first in America. He also spent $130,000 for a workers' safety net below the bridge.
During its construction in 1935, an earthquake halted operations. With 12-13 men on top and of the swaying bridge, the safety net saved the lives of 19 men.
Only 11 construction workers died during the building process, which was an impressive record at the time. The construction workers who survived the earthquake became known as the “Halfway to Hell Club.”
On Pedestrian Day, May 27, 1937, over 200,000 people celebrated the bridge’s opening by crossing the bridge on foot. It cost only 50 cents each way to cross the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. Today, it costs $6.05 for the carpool rate to $9.05 for the toll invoice.
Fun Fact: During the iconic bridge’s 50th anniversary, on May 24, 1987, the city celebrated with a ‘Bridge Walk.’ An estimated 300,000 people caused the bridge to sway and drop seven feet with the unprecedented weight. The famous bridge’s arc was leveled, and officials quickly closed the bridge. Engineers said the bridge was never in danger of collapsing.
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Since the bay is famous for its fog, the Golden Gate Bridge’s fog horns are mounted at the middle and south tower to guide ships safely through the dense fog.
During the summer months, the bay’s foggiest season, the horns blare upwards to five or more hours a day.
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Sadly, the Golden Gate Bridge is the top suicide location in the world. Over 1,500 people committed suicide by jumping from the bridge.
More than 30 bridge jumpers actually survive their attempts. The bridge holds 11 crisis counseling telephones that connect to prevention counselors.
The city has discussed plans to build a net under the span as a suicide deterrent.