Monday, April 13, 2009

San Francisco treat: tulips in Golden Gate Park

I've always meant to make a spring pilgrimage to visit the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Last week, I finally made the trek and I'm so glad I did. At the far west end of John F. Kennedy Drive and wedged into a corner of the city's big, oblong park, this little gem is pretty enough to be a park all by itself.

Laid out before a tall, Dutch-style windmill, this garden was named in 1962 for the late queen of the Netherlands (a fascinating, fiesty, and complex lady). The windmill once worked—it pumped irrigation water into a reservoir on Strawberry Hill, inside the park—but now serves mostly as a postcard-pretty backdrop for visitors snapping pix of the flowers (like me). But the real stars are the wide variety of tulips and other annuals (including Icelandic poppies). They were still at their peak when I snapped my pix, but go soon—the show is an ephemeral beauty, and can disappear with the next rainstorm.

Details: In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden is open, free, on John F. Kennedy Drive near the intersection with the Great Highway. Bring a picnic and make it a totally free day. Or, since you're out at that end of the park, pop into the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant for a pint of their California Kind (amber) or Fleishhacker Stout handcrafted beers and a pile of garlic fries and wild Dungeness crab cakes. Yum.

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