Eric Risberg, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden Gate Bridge is turning 75 this year. And what a historic span it's been. Big, bold and orange, the bridge is a beloved symbol of San Francisco and one of the most instantly recognizable landmarks in the world.
But for all its photogenic qualities, the bridge is a uniquely accessible icon. You can drive across, walk across, bike across, sail beneath it, or even scream over it in a daring display of aerial acrobatics. (OK, to do that last thing, you'd have to be in the Navy's Blue Angels elite flying squad during Fleet Week.)
The public can also celebrate the bridge's three-quarters of a century by taking part in many events scheduled from now through the fall, including art exhibits, film screenings, tours and talks. The biggest celebration takes place on the anniversary of its opening date, May 27.
In addition, organizers are inviting the public to share personal stories and photos of the bridge online at http://goldengatebridge75.org/celebrate/share-stories-photos.html.
"Everybody has a unique experience of the bridge," says Mary Currie, public affairs director for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Hers came as a 14-year-old on a family vacation from the East Coast. "I remember being completely mesmerized and just incredibly blown away and amazed at the size and magnitude of the bridge. I don't what that grace and beauty is that draws you in, but it draws you in."
Here are some details on activities, events and history related to the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th birthday.
EXPERIENCE IT: Sure, it's pretty, with elegant, brilliantly orange arms above the aqua shimmer of the San Francisco Bay. But this is no remote Mona Lisa of a landmark. Part of the appeal of the Golden Gate Bridge lies in how fully it can be experienced.
MASS TRANSIT: If you want to walk across, you may want to take mass transit, as there's not much parking nearby. To get to the bridge from downtown, you can take either Golden Gate Transit or Muni buses. From the downtown/financial district take GGT Routes 10, 70, 80 or 101, travelling north. If you're in Union Square, walk to the intersection of Fifth and Mission, find the bus stop in front of the Old Mint Building and take any GGT bus. For Muni, take Routes 20, 45, 22 or 28 from the downtown/financial district. More information on transit options can be found at http://goldengatebridge.org/visitors/directions.php.
ON FOOT: Once at the bridge, pedestrians can access the East Sidewalk (the one facing San Francisco) from approximately sunrise to sunset. This sidewalk is for bikes and pedestrians, which means a certain amount of cooperation is required. No pets except service animals, no roller skates or skateboards. The West Sidewalk, which is for bikes only, has been closed due to construction but reopens May 18.
BY BIKE: A number of companies in San Francisco, including Blazing Saddles, http://www.blazingsaddles.com/san-francisco.aspx, offer bike rentals and/or organized tours. Visitors can ride across the bridge to the pleasant seaside town of Sausalito and then return by ferry.
FUN FACTS: The bridge is not named for its color, but for the Golden Gate Strait, which is the entrance by water to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The bridge was painted orange partly for aesthetic reasons and party to increase visibility in the fog.
When it opened, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, a status it retained until the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in New York City in 1964. Two billion-plus vehicles have made the trip between San Francisco and Marin County since 1937. The bridge has only been closed three times due to weather, but it is often partly shrouded in fog, and its fog horns can sound for hours a day during the area's foggy summer season.
The bridge was unscathed by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which was centered 60 miles away, but it is being retrofitted to protect it from future quakes.
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