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Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park -- the ultimate haven away from urban chaos -- was deeded to the people in 1870 out of the prescient notion that San Franciscans would one day feel overcrowded. This foresight proved invaluable, as 75,000 people now visit the park on an average weekend.

Finding the land was the easy part. Someone still had to make grass and trees grow out of sand dunes blasted by harsh oceanside winds.

The person to do it was John McLaren, a brazen Scotsman and ardent nature lover. He arrived in San Francisco in the 1870s, and by 1890 he had established grass, trees and numerous plants in an environment most thought too barren for lush foliage.

The first buildings came with the Midwinter Fair, a sprawling expo and carnival meant to boost the economy and increase tourism. S.F. wanted to prove that it had culture -- so a fine-arts museum was built. To prove that outdoor activities could be pursued, horse stables and vast, unlandscaped greens were preserved. And to showcase the exotic and quirky atmosphere of the city, several theme areas were developed, including Cairo Street, Japanese Village and an Eskimo habitat.