The Most Photogenic Gardens in San Francisco
We all know about those classic San Francisco Instagram spots visitors love to take when they travel to California. Iconic sights like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alamo Square with the Painted Ladies, and Lombard Street. Even Alcatraz Island and the Ferry Building gets lots of love from shutterbugs. But I’m here to tell you that there’s some serious gems hidden among these beautiful San Francisco gardens. From lush greenhouses, to traditional roses and even urban skyline terraces, I’ve got it all listed below!
1. Conservatory of Flowers - This garden holds a special place in my heart. We used to walk my dog Holly through the park and it was the place my boyfriend first asked me to be his girlfriend. If you are planning on visiting San Fran in the springtime I highly recommend a visit to the conservatory and surrounding grounds in Golden Gate Park. They have beautiful outdoor gardens and a lush greenhouse filled with exotic blooms. It feels like all of sudden you are transported from the city into a tropical paradise! Adult admission to the gardens costs $9, but you can get free admission the first Tuesday of every month! When you’re searching for photo inspiration and posting on Instagram, use hashtag #conservatoryofflowers.
2. San Francisco Botanical Garden - Located at 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122. Some of the most photo-worthy spots include a large magnolia tree with gorgeous pink blossoms, the tall bamboo forest and the succulent garden. Another option is a quaint little picnic on the Great Meadow lawn with all spruce trees in the background. The tilted flower piano is also a popular photo spot. Admissions is $9 for adults if you’re not a member. Follow their Instagram for FREE days announcements! Use hashtag #sanfranciscobotanicalgarden.
3. Japanese Tea Garden - Located at 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118. This very well manicured garden has many popular Instagram spots including the oriental style tea house and the famous circle bridge. Shutterbugs also love the Buddha statue and the koi pond. Search the hashtag #japaneseteagardensf for inspiration ideas!
4. Yerba Buena Gardens - Located at 750 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103. This spot contains a mix of actual green gardens and features exhibits and rides. The classic carousel is always fun for photos, and the ice skating rink is great for holiday themes pics. There’s a “LOVE” mural that gets lots of Instagram love. My personal favorite is the Upper Terrace Garden, it looks great on camera. Search hashtag #yerbabuenagardens for inspo!
5. Shakespeare Garden - Located at 335 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118. This garden is popular for weddings, in fact the most popular wedding spot in Golden Gate Park. Along with the colorful flower beds and brick pathways, the the charming iron gate entrance with the name “Shakespeare Garden” welded on is worth a photo stop. Use hashtag #shakespearegardensf.
6. Rose Garden - Located inside Golden Gate Park on John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94117. This beautiful garden is home to over 60 rose beds with so many colorful varieties of roses. My favorites are the lavender-pink roses called the “Lavender Lassies.” I’ve learned from experience that rose gardens are great for photographing children because the rose bushes don’t grow taller than about 5 feet. They make for a great photo of a toddler standing among the roses. Search hashtag #sfrosegarden and #sanfranciscorosegarden for photo ideas.
7. Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden - Located at 1690 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121. By far one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco! This windmill and tulip garden looks like you’ve been transported straight to Holland (it’s named after the most famous queen of the Netherlands!). The tulips are at their most vibrant in early spring so plan accordingly. Search the hashtag #queenwilhelminagarden for photography inspiration.
8. Roof Garden at 100 First - Located at 100 First Street, 100 1st St, San Francisco, CA 94105. If you’re looking for an epic garden with skyline views, try this POPO (Privately Owned Public Space) Roof Garden centered in the heart of downtown. Located on the roof of 100 First Street's parking garage, building hours are Monday-Friday: 7 am – 6 pm but I’ve read online that the terrace is open 24/7. If you have questions about how to access the garden, the management office is located at 100 First Street, Suite 150, San Francisco, CA 94105.
9. One Kearny Rooftop POPO - Located at 1 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108. This second rooftop garden is located on the 11th floor of One Kearny and the views are STUNNING! Especially the close-up views of the Flatiron Building. Search hashtag #onekearnyrooftop for great examples of photos.
To get access One Kearny Rooftop: Walk around to 23 Geary Street (opposite side of Market). Tell the guard you are there to view the roof. They will ask for you ID. Then go the first elevator down the hall on your left. Go to Floor 11. The rooftop is open Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm.
10. Lands End and Sutro Baths - Located at 1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121. While this is technically more of a natural habitat/historical ruins, it has so many of the elements we love from gardens. There are multiple paths taking you through lush greens, forests of trees and even a cave. As a bonus you also get awesome ocean views! Use hashtag #sutrobaths.
BONUS INSTAGRAM SPOT! The famous 16th Avenue Tiled Mosaic Steps are located on Moraga St. between 15th & 16th Ave. This spot is especially awesome because the photos from far away are cool and then detailed close-up pics are even cooler! Search the hashtag #16thavetiledsteps for over 1,000 posted photos of this popular spot.
Pro Tips for San Francisco Instagram Photos
If you are headed out to any gardens in San Francisco, check the blooming season of the flowers before you head out. For the best photos, you want to hit it right when the flowers and blossoming trees are at their peak. For example, if you headed to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown (located at 1759 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115), the festival dates run around mid April and the cherry blossom trees start blooming around the first week of April (give or take a week).
If you haven’t met Karl the Fog yet, if you stay long enough in San Francisco you surely will. We’ve given our fog a name because he is so present in our everyday lives and he has so much unpredictable personality. He even has his own Instagram account! As far as taking photos goes, sometimes Karl makes a photo awesome, other times he just ruins it. At his best he gives your photos a cool and mysterious vibe, at his worst he makes the air look gray and smoggy. He is also know for completely covering up the Golden Gate Bridge, even when you’re standing right at the foot of the bridge. Judge your day accordingly for photo taking.
The best San Francisco hashtags to get more views on your images are: #mysf, #sanfrancisco #karlthefog #sf #citybythebay #sanfranciscoblogger #sfblogger #sanfran #visitsf #visitsanfrancisco #conservatoryofflowers #GoldenGateBridge #SutroBaths
If you didn’t already know this trick, you can put up to 30 hashtags into a comment below your Instagram image and it totally works! That way you don’t have to put a million hashtags in your post. This helps to avoid looking spammy and the reader isn’t distracted by a huge block of hashtags.
If I’m being real honest, San Francisco has a real homeless problem. And every once in a while, a homeless person will hassle you while you’re out and about taking photos. Usually they’ll ask for money and I strongly advise against pulling your wallet out. The good news is that they’re mostly harmless and after a firm “No” they’ll usually move on.
As a general photography rule, you want to avoid the times of day when the light is harsh and will cast shadows. 12 noon is usually the toughest time of day to take photos, unless Karl the Fog is offering some cloud cover which gives you the coveted diffused lighting. I suggest either heading out in the morning before the fog completely burns off, or shooting around 5pm. I always google sunset time and plan to start taking photos about an hour before sunset.
San Francisco tends to get its best weather during August, September and October which is great because that’s when everyone else is experiencing heat waves. On the days when it isn’t overcast the city is beautiful, especially at locations near the water.
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