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San Francisco’s golden anniversary

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge

Stretching majestically across the waters of San Francisco Bay, the towering and expansive Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most enduring images. But this structure is more than just an engineering feat or a national landmark — it’s also a bridge to the world of historic, cultural and culinary wonders that await visitors to the City by the Bay.

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and the city will mark the occasion with a series of festivals, events and new developments. Although the bridge is the guest of honor, the party is really about San Francisco itself. With famous attractions like Alcatraz Island and Chinatown, world-class museums and a food and wine scene that is second to none, this city has plenty of which to be proud.

This array of highlights gives tourists visiting the Bay Area numerous opportunities to explore their particular interests. Your group can choose to take part in the bridge’s 75th-anniversary celebration or make a day of it exploring some of the city’s classic attractions. Culinary connoisseurs will enjoy a number of hands-on food opportunities available to groups in the city as well.

Diamond jubilee
The Golden Gate Bridge’s diamond anniversary brings both special events and some long-term improvements to this grand dame of San Francisco.

“There’s a whole slew of activities planned around the anniversary,” said Hubertus Funke, director of international tourism for the San Francisco Travel Association. “It all culminates on Memorial Day weekend.

“They’re planning a special two-day celebration on May 26 and 27. It will give a background on the bridge and its history and provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to participate in a range of celebrations on the waterfront, with exhibits, music, festivals and art.”

The Memorial Day weekend event is being designed to recall the historic Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta of 1937 that marked the official opening of the bridge. There will be additional celebratory events throughout the rest of the year as a range of community organizations present “75 Tributes to the Bridge,” which will involve lectures, performances, tours and other activities.

From a long-term perspective, the bridge’s anniversary brings lasting improvements to the visitor experience.

“As part of the anniversary, the Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service are building a new Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion,” Funke said. “That will be a new visitor center for the bridge, and it will turn the bridge into a destination unto itself.”

Park officials are adding a variety of tour options as well. In addition to popular walks and bike rides across the bridge, groups will be able to take night tours. Two new scenic overlooks will provide distinctive vantage points from which to see the bridge and surrounding areas.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.