Anyone with plans to visit San Francisco in the next year should take advantage of a program of “75 Tributes” that the Bay Area is planning to honor the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Bay Area museums, cultural centers, universities, arts organizations, and more are coming together to create a roster of exhibits, lectures, performances, concerts and film screenings that honor the iconic span–most of which are absolutely free. A full schedule of events is available at goldengatebridge75.org.
The main event, however, is a birthday bash set for May 26-27th. Unlike the 50th anniversary celebration, officials won’t close the bridge to traffic (last time they tried this, an unnerving 300,000 people crowded onto the bridge at one time causing it to loose its natural curve). This year, the free celebration will be held on the waterfront and will feature music and other entertainment, exhibits with memorabilia and historic artifacts, guided walks, and a “spectacular surprise finale,” according to the San Francisco tourism department.
The area around iconic span will also undergo some dramatic changes intended to create an atmosphere that is more like a national park. As it stands, visitors to the bridge are greeted by little more than a gift shop and snack bar. That gift shop, known as the Round House, will be converted into a welcome center where visitors will be able to organize a guided tour or get their picture taken in front of a green screen of the bridge (which will probably be popular on foggy days). The snack bar will be renovated into a cafe featuring a menu of locally-grown foods. Outside, the bridge plaza will get new wayfaring signs and two scenic overlooks will be built. Construction on a new 3,500-square-foot pavilion that will is also underway. Perhaps most amazingly, no bridge tolls or tax dollars are being used for the renovations–all of the improvements are coming from private donations.
(Image above: Cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day in 1937)