Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Golden Gate Bridge's 75th Bash

Anyone around San Francisco 25 years ago remembers the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, a gorgeous day where it seemed everyone in the Bay Area wanted to walk across the span, closed to auto traffic for the celebration.

Fast forward to 2012: the big celebration for the bridge's 75th anniversary will be quite different from that unexpected frenzy of tens of thousands cramming onto the bridge. The focus of this year's carefully-planned festivities will not be the bridge itself but the waterfront below, along the wide grassy expanses of the Marina Green and Crissy Field, culminating in a grand fireworks finale at 9:30 p.m.

During the day, Crissy Field will have dance and live music from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with vintage cars and motorcycles on display. A historic watercraft parade with classic boats is on tap at the St. Francis Yacht Club from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. while, at adjacent Marina Green,  dance troupes and bands will perform from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

But no doubt the showstopper will be fireworks over the bridge's iconic towers, with soundtrack aired live on KFOG 104.5/97.7 FM. Like all fireworks in San Francisco, much will depend on the weather. If it's a clear evening (fingers crossed), they should be amazing. The best place to see them will be any place along the bay from Fort Point to the eastern part of the Marina Green, organizers said. The city's hills (particularly the ridge above Cow Hollow) and the Marin Headlands should also provide terrific views.

But don't drive there, said officials from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District and the city of San Francisco. Parking will not be available in the Presidio, Crissy Field or Marina Green. "Severe" traffic congestion is expected, they say.  The tear-down of Doyle Drive and maze-like Presidio detours are also complicating matters. So, plan to take public transportation and give yourself plenty of time. Or walk or bike.

If you go, wander and explore. There's so much to like about what's new in the Presidio and bridge area, including a sleek new visitors center, gift shop and plaza open at the bridge (photos here), for the first time offering the millions who come to San Francisco to see the city's most famous landmark a place to learn about the span, buy some very cool and unique souvenirs and grab a bite (a cafe is planned to open in a few months). The beautiful new area -- all done in "International Orange," the bridge's special color -- is fitting to such a spectacular setting.