What’s the deal with the JFK Promenade? Well, you could be out in Golden Gate Park, finding out for yourself! But since you’re here, allow us to give you the scoop. 😎 Below, you’ll find:
- details on the history of JFK Drive and Promenade
- how long it takes to walk/jog/explore
- and even a handy map from the SF Parks department.
Boom Loop: The JFK Promenade in Golden Gate Park
Inspired by The SF Standard, our Boom Loop series highlights the hopeful, vibrant side of San Francisco—one where communities come together, individuals make an impact, and creativity breeds confidence in a stronger city.
Today, we’re taking you along the scenic JFK Promenade in Golden Gate Park. Danielle recently laced up her running shoes, popped in her earbuds (with her fave Peloton instructor, Robyn Arzon, guiding the pace), and set off on a jog down this iconic route. Check out her photos throughout this post.
A Dash Through JFK Promenade History
Let’s take a quick jog down memory lane. It was actually way back in 1967 that the car-free section of JFK Drive was created in Golden Gate Park. Even back then, it served as a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle. Picture a wide thoroughfare cutting through Golden Gate Park, free from cars, where people could stroll, skate and play every weekend.
Now, fast forward to 2020. When the world turned upside down with the COVID pandemic, JFK Drive reprised its role as a full-time, car-free outdoor sanctuary, offering SF denizens a much-needed escape during the ‘shelter in place’ era.
A big win for the community came in April 2022. Thanks to Mayor London Breed and some forward-thinking Supervisors (Haney, Mandelman, Preston), JFK Drive got the green light to stay car-free permanently, also adding 55 accessibility improvements for seniors and the disability community. No surprise, San Francisco voters were all in on this idea by November 2022, reaffirming the legislation to make the stretch of JFK Drive permanently car-free.
Exploring JFK Promenade & Golden Gate Park
Thinking of exploring the JFK Promenade? Great idea! The full path through Golden Gate Park stretches for 3.4 miles, from Stanyan Street and the Panhandle on the eastern end to Great Highway on the west—but don’t let that scare you. A brisk walk end-to-end takes just about an hour. But hey, why rush?
Take a leaf out of Danielle’s book: slow down, enjoy the sights, and maybe even snap a few pics. (We assure you, a jog did also occur.) Wander through the serene Tree Fern Dell, say hi to the turtles in Spreckels Lake, and don’t forget a selfie with the bison at the Bison Paddock (at a distance, of course 🦬). To get the full experience, you’ll want to set aside two or three hours. Trust us, there’s plenty to see.
And don’t worry about getting lost. The folks at SF Recreation & Parks have got you covered with a super handy map of the entire area. It’s your free guide to all the park’s secrets. Grab your Golden Gate Park Map here [Warning: it’s a big PDF] and start planning your adventure!
Boom Loop: Shaping JFK Promenade Through Community Effort
Today when we enjoy the JFK Promenade, it’s not just the scenic path or views that make it special but the story of community and collaboration that brought it to life. Its transformation began as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic when the city established open spaces throughout Golden Gate Park for safer social distancing. What started as a necessity quickly turned into a popular city feature, with the JFK section alone now seeing 36% more visitors according to SPUR. (Count us among them! 🙋♀️)
The journey from a temporary measure to a permanent fixture was marked by active community participation. About 70% of 10,000 respondents in a city survey expressed their desire to keep the promenade as a permanent open space. This overwhelming support was a clear message from the people of San Francisco. The city responded, reimagining urban space to prioritize community well-being and accessibility.
The transformation of JFK Promenade shows how community voice and city collaboration can lead to meaningful, systemic changes. It’s what the Boom Loop is all about: coming together to create a space that’s safer, more accessible, and more enjoyable for everyone. This is the kind of spirit that makes us believe in San Francisco.
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