San Francisco Home To This Year’s Most Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

The Golden Gate Bridge Turns 75 and the City by the Bay is Celebrating

Golden Gate Bridge

The Bridge that needs no introduction turns 75. Image: San Francisco Travel Association

It’s not often you get to celebrate the birthday of a world-famous icon (and no, we don’t mean Adele, besides her birthday was May 5). This Memorial Day weekend, something indeed memorable is taking place in one of our favorite cities. San Francisco’s iconic (we know, but there’s really no other word) Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th birthday.

The photogenic span was originally opened on May 27, 1937, and on the same date this year, San Francisco’s world renowned bridge connecting the city to the Marin headlands will be feted with a day-long Golden Gate Festival stretching four miles along the San Francisco waterfront from Fort Point to Pier 39.

The celebrations start at 11 a.m. and end at approximately 9:30 p.m. with a grand finale and spectacular fireworks show featuring a soundtrack provided by local radio station KFOG. An homage to the historic Golden Gate Fiesta of 1937, the Golden Gate Festival will celebrate the world-famous landmark with music, art, dance, historical exhibits, a display of cars from 1937 to the present and a classic waterfront parade. Free public events will be held throughout Sunday with major programs planned for Crissy Field and the Marina Green. Additional activities and events will be held at the Presidio, Fort Mason Center, Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. The Golden Gate Festival is an alcohol-free event.

Highlights of the Golden Gate Festival and other events happening during the weekend include:

  • Film night Saturday evening at 6 p.m., Main Post Lawn, across from 103 Montgomery Street, Presidio of San Francisco
  • “Before the Bridge: Sight and Sound at the Golden Gate” exhibition and sensory experience using large historic photos, maps, charts, etc. combined with a natural, nautical and military soundscape in newly rehabilitated Montgomery Street Barracks, Building 103, adjacent to Main Post Green, Presidio (also on Saturday)
  • Art installations at Fort Point (also open Saturday)
  • Interpretive talks by San Francisco City Guides and self-guided walks (also on Saturday)
  • Displays of historic bridge artifacts and memorabilia (also open Saturday); look for the large high top tent at Crissy Field where these artifacts will be displayed
  • Stages at Crissy Field and Marina Green with local groups performing their tributes on Sunday
  • Outdoor art installation and bridge-related art show at SFMOMA’s facility, Fort Mason Center (also open Saturday)
  • Historic watercraft parade on the Bay from Golden Gate to Alcatraz in early afternoon on Sunday sponsored by St. Francis Yacht Club
  • Yerba Buena Gardens Festival: Liturgy of John Coltrane
  • Carnaval “Spanning Borders; Bridging Cultures”
  • Treasure Island Flea Marketplace
  • USS San Francisco Memorial
  • Alcatraz Challenge Swim
  • Presidio Memorial Day Ceremony
  • San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

The city will also be hosting traditional Memorial Day commemorative ceremonies over the weekend. For a complete calendar of events, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel.

Public transit is the best option to reach many of these events and highly recommended for the Golden Gate Festival events; complete details will be posted on www.goldengatebridge75.org. Officials are encouraging spectators to walk or bike to the events; there will be ample free bike parking. For additional transit information call 511 (within the nine Bay Area counties) or 510-893-8729 or visit www.511.org. 

A number of local sailing charter and scheduled cruise companies have also announced special cruises. Among those offering cruises during the day as well as a few scheduled for fireworks viewing are Adventure Cat; Blue & Gold Fleet; SS Jeremiah O’Brien and Red and White Fleet. For more details visit Fisherman’s Wharf.

And for a stay that matches the Golden Gate fever of the festivities, check out Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar, located in the heart of the city near SFMOMA. The hotel recently unveiled their new Golden Gate Suite in honor of the bridge’s 75th anniversary. Available until the end of the year, the suite gives guests an up-close-and-personal encounter with the celebrated span, thanks to details like a vast printed opaque decal of the bridge that spans across the bay windows, a lampshade decorated with historic images from 1937 and even nightstands and a coffee table fabricated by a local artist from steel reclaimed from the bridge. Other amenities include a themed complimentary cocktail (vermillion orange in color of course) and a book about the bridge’s design and history. (The special rate code is GG75.)

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