Golden Gate Bridge

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Perhaps no image is more present in our minds when it comes to San Francisco than the 4,200 foot-long, 746-foot tall Golden Gate Bridge. It is a massive achievement in structural engineering that is as impressive today as when it was constructed in 1933. Visitors to San Fran will not want to miss the photo opportunities and memories that a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge will create.


Designated by Frommer’s travel guide as “the most photographed bridge in the world,” San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge connects the city proper to the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula in Marin County, California. It spans over an area known as the Golden Gate which is the opening between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

The idea of constructing a bridge over the Golden Gate was not new to the people of San Francisco. For years, ferry service between the city and Marin County was the only way to travel and the convenience of a bridge was clear. However, the first real commitment to the span was made in a 1916 article in the San Francisco Bulletin by an engineering student named James Wilkins. Though the estimated $100 million cost of building the structure was considered too much for the time, the idea never left the collective consciousness of the San Francisco community from that point, leading to a quest to reduce costs and gain approval for the bridge’s construction.

Finally, in 1923 the Santa Rosa Chamber began discussions about the bridge, eventually forming the “Bridging the Golden Gate Association.” They began the process of circulating a petition that would be the next step to building the bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District was officially charged with the design, construction, and financing of the bridge in 1928, but the stock market crash of 1929 delayed progress once more. A bond for the building was obtained in 1930, but it wasn’t purchased until 1932 when the San Francisco-based Bank of America decided to help out for the sake of the local economy.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge officially began on 5 January 1933. It would take over four years to complete, but the final structure, designed and overseen from start to finish by engineer Joseph Strauss, was completed in April of 1937. The grand opening of the bridge was celebrated on 27 May 1937. Over the course of a week automobile was traffic suspended and 200,000 people crossed the 4,200-foot span of the bridge on foot to celebrate.

At the time of its construction, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspension bridge main span in the world. It held that title until the 1964 construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, New York. Today, the Golden Gate’s span is ranked 11th largest in the world. It is also classified by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Wonders of the Modern World.

Its iconic role as a symbol of its city, state, and nation cannot be disputed. As such, the Golden Gate Bridge has featured prominently in popular culture showing up everywhere from calm inclusion in television series openings such as the 1990s sitcom Full House, to crumbling down in movies such as X-Men: The Last Stand, Monsters vs. Aliens, and The Incredible Hulk. All told, the bridge has been prominently featured in more than 50 films and two dozen television series along with being the subject of two documentaries, The Bridge and Life after People.

Main Attraction

Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge when in the San Francisco area is almost a requirement. Every day millions of people use the span to commute into the city and thousands others take advantage of its walking and bike lanes for fitness and pleasure. As a part of both California State Route 1 and U.S. Route 101, the bridge is open 365 days a year, though it has been closed three times over the years because of high winds.

The views from on the bridge as well as lookout points on both the northeast and southeast ends provide excellent photo opportunities of the city of San Francisco and Marin County (Berkley). Visitors can access the bridge on foot from the east entrance. Its total length (including the 4,200-foot span) is 8981 feet, or about 1.7 miles, so those planning to walk the whole thing are advised to wear appropriate shoes.

In addition to self-guided walks on the bridge, visitors can also take advantage of partially-guided tours offered through the Round House, part of the Golden Gate Bridge Strauss Visitor Plaza on the bridge’s southeast end. Tours run from 45 to 60 minutes and include interesting facts and history about the bridge and its construction. The Center is open daily from 9-6 and also includes a gift shop and the Bridge Café.

Why It’s a Must-See

The iconic nature of the Golden Gate Bridge as a symbol of San Francisco makes it a huge draw for many who travel to this city. However, taking the time to really ‘see’ the bridge by walking over it, enjoying a tour, and photographing it from different vantage points will give visitors a new perspective on one of the world’s most famous bridges and one of San Francisco’s most treasured sites.