San Francisco's Presidio: 5 Things We Love

In addition to its history and greenery, the Presidio is now a fine art and dining destination.

Mountain Lake at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, picture
Mountain Lakeʼs native plants have been restored.
Charity Vargas

Overlooking the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Presidio served as a military post for three countries before becoming a U.S. parkland in 1994. Today, it lures visitors not just with history and nature, but also with exceptional art, dining, and museums.

1. Housed in a refurbished 1900 guardhouse, the new William Penn Mott Jr. Presidio Visitor Center orients guests to the park's panoramic overlooks, cultural attractions, and nearly 24 miles of trails. Among exhibits such as an interactive video wall, visitors can spy remnants of old military jail cells.

2. Mountain Lake had accommodated Ohlone communities, European settlers, and an abandoned pet alligator before urbanization nearly destroyed its ecosystem. Thanks to restoration, visitors can now see the lake as Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza did in 1776.

3. It's easy to miss the unmarked Civil War–era munitions storehouse that holds Andy Goldsworthy's installation Tree Fall. But step inside the four-foot-thick walls to marvel at a suspended eucalyptus tree trunk and a windowless interior, both layered in cracked clay.

4. The Walt Disney Family Museum conveys, in immersive displays and special exhibits, Disney's story—which mirrors that of 20th-century entertainment, seen in advances in technology, materials, and depictions of nature.

5. Get craft brews and views at Sessions, a spiffy gastropub with a heated patio that lends glimpses of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The beverage list includes offerings from the Presidio's own Fort Point Beer Company.