Janice Joplin had a favorite tree she sat under in Golden Gate Park while she sang and strummed her guitar. Many hippies and musicians have dropped acid here. Buffalos still roam here and soon, comedian Robin Williams will have a stretch of green space named after him in Golden Gate Park; Robin Williams Meadow. Golden Gate Park (GGP) could easily be called the Peoples Park because it truly was designed for the residents of San Francisco, and those visiting our golden state to use and enjoy. What better way to explore this 3,100 acre public park than on a Segway?
Our daughter’s boyfriends parents were visiting from Portland, Oregon and we wanted to introduce them to one of our favorite patches of land in Northern California. In my youth I have roller skated in Golden Gate Park and splashed around on a paddle boat on Stowe Lake, but, to date, I’d never ridden a Segway through the park. San Francisco Electric Tour Company had approached me about trying one of their many tours offered on the streets of San Francisco. While I’d love to explore Chinatown’s back alleys at night or take a Segway down Lombard’s curvy street, I thought Golden Gate Park would better suit our group of active adventure baby boomers and three of our millennial offspring.
How to ride a Segway
It turns out that riding a Segway is as easy as it looks. “Never push and pull the Segway,” according to instructor Johannes. “It just shakes you around. Instead, lean forward with your hips.”
Mike MacPherson, 53, of Tualatin, Oregon said, “riding a Segway was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I liked off roading.”
“Riding a Segway was a lot easier than I thought it would be.” Mike MacPherson
One of the best reasons to take a Segway tour was getting a behind the scenes peek from our guide Johannes. Did you know that before the park was created in 1871, the area was called Outside Lands? Golden Gate Park is the largest urban park in the country; 20 percent larger than the 75 acre Central Park in New York. It’s over three miles from east to west and it’s a half mile across. Who knew that there were 14 lakes within GGP?
It’s hard to imagine that this entire park was originally sweeping sand dunes; visualize a giant sand box bordering San Francisco’s Panhandle neighborhood. Dr. John McLaren was the brainchild behind the park’s architecture and served as its superintendent from its inception until near his death in 1943. The Scottish born McLaren introduced over 600 species of plants into Golden Gate Park over his tenure, including the Ginko biloba tree at the entrance to Fuchsia Dell. As a native to northern California, I’m all too familiar with our drought patterns. Fortunately for the park, a natural aquifer runs underground, bringing precious groundwater to nourish the park’s numerous plants and trees.
We had a chance to get off our Segway and stretch our legs during a brief stop at the National Aids Memorial Grove. Former president Bill Clinton was at the grove in December to speak at World Aids Day. President Clinton signed legislation in 1996 designating the 10 acre grove as the only National AIDS memorial in the nation. On a side note, I was delighted to add my small rock to the other cairns on display in the grove. FYI, “cairn” derives from the Scottish Gaelic word “carn” – I think Scotsman John McLaren would approve.
Michael MacPherson, 25 of San Francisco said, “the Segway tour was a great way to see Golden Gate Park. Our guide, Johannes, was very knowledgeable of the area. We learned fun things about the park.”
Need to know:
Check in 15 minutes before your tour for the safety training and video. Our 2.5 hour tour was $75.00 per person, not including tip (check the website for current pricing.) Tours run rain or shine with a 72 hour cancellation policy. San Francisco Electric Tour Company has jackets, gloves, beanies & helmets to loan, as well as safety vests and walkie talkies with an ear piece for listening to the guide’s fun facts. Guests must be 12 years of age and older and weigh between 100 – 250 pounds. I have two hip replacements and others had knee replacements and we were all fine on the Segways. Do pay attention to the safety lesson as the Segway has the potential to run over your foot if you dismount improperly or you bump into your fellow rider while posing for pictures.
We signed up for the Saturday morning tour at 10:00 a.m. We arrived at the park with ample time allowed for parking. We packed a picnic lunch to enjoy after our tour. With some of San Francisco’s best museums inside Golden Gate Park, consider a visit to the de Young Museum or the California Academy of Sciences.
If You Go:
San Francisco Electric Tour Company (415) 474-3130
3 Locations: 757 & 417 Beach Street Fisherman’s Wharf and
82 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive – Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, California 94118
San Francisco Electric Tour Company, Golden Gate Park Segway Tour review, video and some photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. As is typical in the industry, I received a complimentary tour, however, all opinions are my own.