The Golden Gate Bridge skyline at night is more than a pretty sight—it’s an iconic American landscape. One of the enduring engineering marvels of the 20th century was completed in 1937, a time when America was still reeling from the Depression and San Francisco was shaking off the devastation of the great quake. Today, it’s one of the most visited attractions along the California coast, the centerpiece of an expansive park, and the highlight of the San Francisco skyline.
When the bridge opened in 1937, the local paper declared the bridge a $35 million steel harp. Adding in many factors, that would be more than $1 billion in today’s money. When you consider the importance to the millions of drivers and pedestrians who count on the bridge for transportation and its contribution to tourism, the bridge really is priceless.
Whether you’re using the bridge as a quick way to get to Marin County or you’re on a slow sightseeing mission, there’s always time to soak in the views. The bridge, painted in a color officially called international orange, crosses the Golden Gate, the strait that connects the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. Looking in one direction, you’ll see a wide-open vista of water and a man-made marvel in the other. The city skyline is punctuated by the piers, the towering Transamerica Pyramid, and a total of 400-plus skyscrapers. On the West Coast, only Los Angeles has more (and taller) buildings in its skyline.
While walking or driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco, it’s just the beginning of your options. The bridge shares a name with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the largest urban parks in the world. This popular gathering place certainly is one of the best places to see the Golden Gate Bridge skyline at night and watch the sun sink below the horizon. By day, it’s a bustling place with trails to hike, wildflowers to admire, visitor centers to explore and an island to visit. The island is, of course, no ordinary island—it’s Alcatraz.
The National Park Service has done a lot to upgrade the visitor experience at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, inviting everyone who visits to learn about the history behind the bridge the experts said could never be built. The Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion has opened as a welcome center and museum, while the nearby round house and the art deco-style Bridge Cafe have been upgraded. Even the landscaping was refreshed with interpretive signs and trails that wind through the park.
For many years, those who wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge skyline at night had to go on their own. With the addition of nighttime tours, the National Park Service made it more interesting to visit the park after the sun has set. Park rangers will narrate tours that showcase the unique history of the park and the majesty of the San Francisco skyline.
The bridge and the park are easy to find in San Francisco, whether you’re traveling by car, foot or public transportation. Several major highways lead here, including famed Highways 1 and 101. Highway 280 also connects the Golden Gate Bridge region with points north and south. Highway 880 heads to the East Bay and back.
Few places have more public transportation options than San Francisco, so it’s easy to get to the park without driving a mile. Because parking is so tight, it’s smart to leave the car behind anyway. Many tour companies and sightseeing tours include the Golden Gate Bridge and park in their San Francisco itineraries. After all, the bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. so it’s the first thing many people want to see when they visit the City by the Bay. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge skyline at night is a memory that really needs to be made.