The Golden Gate Bridge, an internationally recognized landmark and San Francisco's most photographed monument, turns 75 years old on May 27, 2012. For the historic occasion, the bridge's caretakers are throwing a free, day-long party that stretches along the waterfront from Fort Point to Pier 39, and that includes entertainment galore, history and art exhibits, vintage cars and boats and special tours. The finale is a fireworks extravaganza at 9:30 pm.
For the Golden Gate Bridge's last momentous birthday, its 50th, it was closed to cars, and some 300,000 people converged on it, flattening the arch of the bridge deck. Not surprisingly, there's no bridge walk for the 75th.
Here's what to expect for the bridge's 75th birthday party, officially called the Golden Gate Festival. Most of the activities happen between Fort Point and Marina Green on Sunday, May 27, from 11 am to 11 pm, but the action also unfolds on Saturday and runs from Fort Mason to Fisherman's Wharf.
FROM FORT POINT TO MARINA GREENENTERTAINMENT
Crissy Field Stage, at the west end of the field, 11 am-11 pm; and Marina Green Stage, at the west end of the green, 11 am-10 pm
Dance and music ensembles, bands and DJs, some of them playing new works created specifically for the bridge's 75th anniversary. They include the International Orange Chorale (Crissy Stage, noon), which will sing the winner of its a cappella composition contest, Chrysopylae, written by a music professor at a Texas community college. The Golden Gate Brass Band (Crissy Stage, 4:30 pm) premieres a piece that uses steel girders and other chunks of the bridge.
HISTORY ON DISPLAY
- Before the Bridge: Sight and Sound at the Golden Gate
Montgomery Street Barracks, Building 103, at the Main Post, the Presidio. Open Wednesdays to Sundays, 11 am-5 pm
In the Presidio, take yourself back 75 years, with pre-bridge photos, maps, charts and paintings, along with sounds of foghorns, the ocean, sailors and soldiers.
- Bridge History Tent
West Crissy Field, 11 am-8 pm
Original bridge tools, parts, materials and memorabilia. Many items are on display for the first time.
Fort Point (beneath south end of Golden Gate Bridge). May 27, 10 am-7 pm. Other days May 25-Sept. 3, open daily, 10 am-5 pm
In the Civil-War-era Army post, 16 artists have created tributes to the bridge that include a magazine, live audio transmissions, fiesta gowns, a riff on its stand-out color, sculpture and photography.
Amphitheater at far west end of Crissy Field, near the Warming Hut, 11 am-5 pm
A display of shoes, and chalk outlines of shoes, to commemorate the 1,558 people known to have committed suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge, and those who haven't been counted.
Road Trip through History
East Crissy Field, 11 am-5 pm
Vintage cars and motorcycles, including a 1937 Packard that was one of the first vehicles to cross the bridge.
Historic Watercraft Parade & Display
From Crissy Field to Marina Green
Around noon, boats dating from the 1930s to the present will parade along the waterfront. USS Nimitz, one of the world's largest naval ships, will cruise into San Francisco Bay; festival organizers say its ETA will be posted online at www.goldengatebridge75.org. Vintage boats will also be on show at St. Francis Yacht Club (11 am-3 pm) .
From Fort Point to east Marina Green, 9:30-9:50 pm
Besides on the waterfront between the bridge and Marina Green, the best places to watch the splashy finale are on the hills above the Marina and Cow Hollow and in the Marin Headlands. You won't be able to see them from Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 to the Embarcadero. KFOG 104.5/97.7FM will broadcast the accompanying soundtrack.
Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Services
At the Bridge Plaza, at southeast side of the bridge. NOTE: This area caters to tourists and will probably be overrun with them May 26-28, 2012; best to visit another time and roam elsewhere along the waterfront.
- The new, International Orange-colored Bridge Pavilion is mostly a gift/souvenir shop (bridge models, magnets, mugs, prints, children's books, shirts, scarves, tote bags and Golden-Gate-Bridge inspired earrings and other jewelry, etc., some designed or hand-crafted by Bay Area artists). But it also has artifacts (e.g., hammers, a rivet, and a 40-cent, 1937 souvenir of a piece of the wood catwalk used during construction), wall photos and panels that explain the bridge's history and building. An information desk is staffed by the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
- The Bridge Round House, an Art Deco structure opened in 1938 as a restaurant, has been renovated and is the starting point for new, guided bridge tours, offered during the day and at night. The nearly floor-to-ceiling windows offer great views of the bridge--assuming the fog isn't too dense. If it is, you can get a digitally enhanced photograph of yourself on a wondrously clear day in front of the bridge, atop a tower or atop a cable.
- The Bridge Café sells sandwiches, salads, snacks and other to-go food. Outdoor seating only. Open 9 am-6 pm.
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