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Golden Gate Bridge
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrFew things say “San Francisco” or even “California” like the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It has been named one of the Wonders of the Modern World , and the Frommers Travel Guide says that it is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and “certainly the most photographed bridge in the world.”
The bridge is named after the Golden Gate Straight, the title given to the entrance of the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean by famed explorer and US Presidential candidate Captain John C. Fremont . The 1.9 kilometers long suspension bridge connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County on the other side of San Francisco Bay. From 1937 to 1964 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and at the time of its construction was considered an almost impossible engineering marvel. Experts had said that a bridge spanning that much space with strong winds, swirling currents, and standing in nearly 122 meter of water just could not be built. Others said that the winds and fog would prevent construction from taking place. Thankfully, the doubters were wrong and the spectacular Art Deco bridge was not only built, but has stood the test of time through surging tides, violent winds, and even earthquakes.
HistoryPrior to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, the only way across the bay was by boat or ferry with a typical trip averaging 20-30 minutes. When the idea of a bridge was first brought forth, two main groups opposed it: the Department of War and the ferry companies. The war department feared that a bridge could not be built high enough off the water so that ships could pass under it safely, or that if the bridge fell down or was sabotaged it would trap the Naval ships in the bay. The ferry companies worried about their jobs disappearing once the bridge was built. The groups stalled the project successfully for the best part of a century, and it took nearly 100 years from the time people started talking about building the bridge until one was actually approved and completed.
The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was finally started in 1923; it was opened on May 27, 1927. Eleven men died during the four year construction when they fell over 61 meter into the icy water below the bridge. Nineteen others survived by being caught by a safety net, and 2 others miraculously survived the entire fall into the bay. They were known as the exclusive members of the “Halfway to Hell” club. The last surviving member of the club passed away a couple of years ago. A memorial plaque at the southern entrance to the bridge was placed in memory of the men who died during the building of this artistic marvel. Each man's name is listed on the plaque. Sadly, these men were not the only ones to die on the bridge as the Golden Gate Bridge holds the unfortunate honor of being the second-most used bridge for suicide jumps in the world, and the number one bridge in the North America.
When completed, the Art Deco bridge stood an average of 67 meter above the water allowing all naval ships to pass underneath. The massive supporting towers are almost 229 meter above the water. The bridge was painted an odd orange color known today as International Orange. While many thought the bridge should be painted gold, the “orange vermillion” was chosen because it blended well with its natural background and was one of the few colors that was able to be best seen through the thick fog that often covers the area. Today, extra visibility measures have been introduced such as lighting that outlines the bridge's cables and towers. Not only does this help ships see the bridge, but it adds to the amazing beauty of this historic landmark.
TodayToday, you can drive across the bridge for a small one-way toll, or you can walk or bike across the 1.9 kilometers expanse. If you choose to walk or bike the bridge you will be rewarded with outstanding views of San Francisco and the Bay. It is truly a must-do when in the city. Do remember to dress warm because the air swirling off the bay is cold even on warm days. Bikes can be rented at the north and south pavilions. Don't worry about traffic as walkways were built on each side of the six traffic lanes. Railings were added in 2003 to keep cyclists from using the roadway, accidentally or on purpose.
A pavilion at the south end of the bridge, known understandably as “The Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion”, serves as a tourist center, gift and souvenir shop, and small cafe. You will also find the Bridge Round House diner adjacent to it if you want more substantial food. The area often serves as a location for local artists to display their wares, outdoor exhibits, and a great place to just sit and relax while enjoying the gorgeous views. Public restrooms are located there as well.
Driving the BridgeIf you want to be in one of the more than 2 billion (yes, billion with a “B”) vehicles that have passed over the bridge since its construction you will have to pay a small toll. You will then join one of the six lanes of traffic that flows freely across the bridge. The lanes change during the day based on the traffic patterns. Typically, there are four lanes to San Francisco and two lanes out in the morning and the reverse in the evening. During non-commute times the lanes are usually split 3 and 3.
The movable median barriers were designed especially for the Golden Gate Bridge and the technology and methodology has since been used on many bridges around the world.
While you will not have the great views and photographic opportunities that you would if you had walked or biked the bridge, driving across this massive suspension bridge is an experience that you do not want to miss if you are in San Francisco, after all it is one of the most used American landmarks in Hollywood films and television shows. Next time you see it in a movie or TV show you can say, “I was there.”
Getting ThereThe Golden Gate Bridge is located on US Highway 101.
From the I-280N take the US101N exit and continue to the bay.
From the I-80 take the US101 exit just past Bryant Street. If you miss the exit you will be able to swing around a few miles down the road at the major intersection of the I-280, I-80 and US101.
From the I-580 take the US101S at California Park.
If you plan to walk or take a bike across the bridge, it is recommended that you take a bus or cab to the bridge pavilion since parking is limited and expensive.
You can take public transportation across the bridge by using the San Francisco Muni 76X Marin Headlands on the weekends or Muni line 28 during the week. Golden Gate Transit services also has many buses that cross the bridge during the week.
Other things to see and do in San FranciscoWhile the Golden Gate Bridge may say “San Francisco” more than any other monument, there are countless other places to see and things to do while you are there. A few examples include: Visit the monolithic Transamerica Pyramid, tour Alcatraz Island, ride the famous cable cars, explore the distinct and historic San Francisco neighborhoods (Presidio, Sea Cliff, Nob Hill, Chinatown, etc), be dazzled by the gorgeous architecture and elaborate details of the Fairmont Hotel or Hotel Whitcomb, stroll or eat your way through Fisherman's Wharf, or take a short drive out of town and experience the wonders of Yosemite National Park. While this is just a short list of a few of the more popular attractions, it should be enough to get you started!
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Author: Robert. Last updated: Apr 12, 2015