Crissy Field is a recreation park near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Crissy Field is located at a former army airfield in San Francisco, with a spectacular waterfront path with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, beautiful beaches, a cafe and bookstore, and historic fortress to tour. Crissy Field is just one section of the larger 1,500 acre park known as the Presidio, a former U.S. Army post.
10 best things to do at Crissy Field
The best attractions at Crissy Field are along the stunning 1.5 mile Crissy Field Promenade. The path travels from East Beach to Fort Point, ending at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge, and is a flat, easy path, with lots to see along the way. This is easily one of San Francisco's most scenic walks (or bike rides).
You will see these attractions along the 1.5 mile Crissy Field path:
- START at East Beach.
- Pass the Greater Farallones Visitor Center.
- Pass the Warming Hut Bookstore & Cafe, and Torpedo Wharf.
- END at Fort Point.
You can also walk from Crissy Field, up to blufftop attractions at the Presidio:
- The Main Post has a visitor center, the Presidio Officer's Club (restaurant & museum), and the Walt Disney Family Museum. To get up to the Main Post from the waterfront, follow the trail up through the Presidio Tunnel Tops park that starts behind the Crissy Field Marsh.
- Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point South has another visitor center with the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge! To get up to Vista Point South from the waterfront, follow the short trail behind the Warming Hut Bookstore and Cafe.
Description of 10 best things to do at Crissy Field
1. Walk along East Beach towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
Start at the Crissy Field East Beach Parking Lot, then follow the path west along East Beach towards the Golden Gate Bridge. East Beach is popular for sunbathing and strolling, but dangerous currents make it unsuitable for swimming.
Crissy Field was originally a coastal wetlands, and a seasonal village for the Ohlone people. The wetlands were then filled in to build exhibit halls for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Later during WWI, these exhibit halls were replaced with barracks for 6,000 soldiers.
2. Learn about the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco.
The waterfront path at Crissy Field continues past the free Greater Farallones Visitor Center (991 Marine Drive), located beside the palm trees in the old Coast Guard Buildings (pictured), where you can see educational exhibits on the Farallon Islands Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco.
The grassed area at Crissy Field today was once an airfield. It was built in 1919 as a bastion of air defense for the West Coast, and a complex of buildings was also constructed, including hangars, a workshop, guardhouse, gas pump house and officers' quarters on the bluff. In 1921 the 91st Observation Squadron took over Crissy Field, and undertook duties, including aerial photography, aerial forest fire patrol, and search and rescue.
Crissy Army Airfield eventually became the cradle of aviation innovation, and many world firsts were achieved here. For example, in 1924 a team of three Douglas world cruiser planes were the first to circumnavigate the world in 5.5 months, and the first dawn to dusk transcontinental flight also happened here in 1924. This paved the way for the long distance flights we enjoy today!
The Crissy Army Airfield closed in 1936 after the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. It then became a staging area for troops in WWII, and fell into disrepair, with overgrown parking lots, chain-link fences, and junk and tires discarded on the beach.
The airfield was finally decommissioned in 1994, and rehabilitated by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to become one of San Francisco's most beautiful places.
3. Enjoy a coffee at the cosy Warming Hut Bookstore and Cafe.
Continue walking to the Warming Hut Bookstore and Cafe (983 Marine Drive), and grab a coffee or pastry or explore the great selection of gifts and books. There's also a kid's gift section with coloring books and other items to keep them amused.
This building was constructed in 1909, and originally used as an Engineering Storehouse.
4. Stroll along the historic Torpedo Wharf.
Step outside the Warming Hut Bookstore and Cafe and enjoy the brisk marine air on the popular fishing pier. Torpedo Wharf has a colorful history, and was once used by the U.S. Army in the early 19th century, to lay minefields to protect the Bay.
5. Take a tour of fascinating Fort Point.
Walk another 0.5 miles along the waterfront path at Crissy Field to reach Fort Point. Fort Point once had tremendous strategic importance in fortifying San Francisco from attack by foreign powers. The Fort is free to visit, and the views from the Barbette Tier on the roof are incredible.
6. Walk up the Battery East Trail for incredible views.
Just behind the Warming Hut Bookstore and Cafe, follow the sign marked "Battery East" up the hill towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The path ascends 850 feet up stairs, with soaring views across the Bay from Battery East.
7. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.
Continue a short distance from Battery East, to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center has maps, bridge themed gifts, and all types of fascinating facts and figures about the Golden Gate Bridge. By the end of your visit, you should be able to accurately describe how a suspension bridge is made!
8. Browse exhibits outside the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.
See fascinating exhibits outside the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, explaining the major engineering feat involved in the bridge construction. This includes the original 12-foot span test model that was used to stress test the bridge.
A cross-section of one of the main cables is on display, with an incredible 3-foot diameter. Two main cables are used to hold up the Golden Gate Bridge, weighing in at an astounding 24,500 tons each, and each of the cables is 1.4 miles long. A spinning technique with a reeling machine was used to install the 27,542 wires in each cable.
9. Pick up a snack at the Round House Cafe.
The Round House Cafe is located near the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center in a circular, art deco building, and sells a basic selection of snacks.
10. Get incredible, close-up views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Walk a short distance from the Round House Cafe, to a superb vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge. Wow! This has to be one of the best viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge, and connects to a thrilling walkway across the bridge.
Know before you go
- Shuttles: free shuttles from downtown to Crissy Field.
- Parking lots: yes.
- Cafe: Warming Hut Cafe.
- Museums: Fort Point, Greater Farallones Visitor Center.
- Beach: East Beach.