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Birthday Bash: Celebrating 75 years of the Golden Gate Bridge

In May of 1937, San Francisco's most iconic landmark first opened to traffic. A physical gateway to Marin County and a hallmark of technology and ingenuity -- a legacy which remains in force throughout the Bay Area -- the Golden Gate Bridge represents many things to both locals and tourists.

It's a major thoroughfare traversed by two highways, and a recreational route for bikers and walkers. It's the most photographed bridge in the world and attracts millions of visitors every year. It's widely considered one of the most internationally recognizable symbols of San Francisco, California, and of the United States, and it was declared one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The 75th anniversary celebration is a year-long tribute to the bridge which kicked off last summer at the Marin County Fair and ends with a two-day celebration on San Francisco's waterfront. The enormous range of events and activities include a music and dance festival that highlights the 1930s, a display of automobiles from 1937 (the year the bridge opened), photographic installations on display around the city, film screenings, art exhibits, musical performances, and more.

The year of celebrations culminates on May 26 and 27 with the Golden Gate Festival. For two days, San Francisco's waterfront -- stretching from Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf to Fort Point at the southern end of the bridge -- will be awash with people enjoying colorful tributes, art, and music all consistent with the chosen theme, "bridging us all."

The 75th birthday bash features a watercraft parade, interpretive and self-guided walks and bike rides, artistic tributes, and a display of historical bridge artifacts, among many other activities. On the evening of May 27, the festivities conclude with a spectacular fireworks display, the grand finale of the party and the culmination of a year of homage to a monument that has shaped the destination of a city, delighted tourists, inspired artists, and connected us all for 75 years.   

For a complete list of all events and activities being planned throughout the year, and for the two-day Golden Gate Festival, see the official 75th anniversary website.

New Features 

This being a very special year for the bridge and the community that supports it, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, together with the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust, have secured funding for a variety of new bridge features that will improve the visitor experience, even beyond the 75th anniversary celebrations.

These new, permanent features include a series of public programs entitled 75 Tributes to the Bridge, the construction of a new 3,500-square-foot Bridge Pavilion to serve as a welcome and interpretive center for visitors, and the renovation of the historic Round House.

An Abridged History

The Golden Gate Bridge is a cable-suspension bridge that spans the opening of San Francisco Bay and connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County to the north. Construction began in 1933 and lasted for four years, at an estimated cost of $35 million.

It is believed that the bridge was given its name by chief topographical engineer, John C. Fremont, because it reminded him of a harbor in Istanbul named Chrysoceras. The name "Chrysopylae," or Golden Gate, was given to the project during its early design stages, and became the official name in 1923. Since that time, the term "Golden Gate" has come to evoke much more than a bridge, inspiring music, films, books, and other works of art, and becoming synonymous with the San Francisco Bay region.

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If You Go

Stay at the San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel, located on the waterfront close to all the 75th anniversary action. Or cross the bridge and stay at the historic Marin Headlands Hostel and watch the fireworks from across the bay.

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