By Carolyne Zinko
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is a glittering jewel in the city’s attractions, with 1,017 acres of hiking trails, gardens, groves and museums. To celebrate the park’s 150th anniversary this year, here’s a sparkling addition: the SkyStar Observation Wheel, a 150-foot tall ride akin to a Ferris wheel but with enclosed gondolas that afford views of the park, city and the Pacific Ocean. It opens to the public Oct. 21 and will operate for the next 12 months, a spokesman said.
The wheel, standing the equivalent of 15 stories, is studded with LED lights and contains 36 gondolas, all temperature-controlled. Each ride lasts 12 minutes, with up to four rotations of the wheel. Postponed since April due to shelter-in-place rules, the opening now includes new safety precautions under Covid-19. Those precautions will limit the number of riders in each gondola to six, require riders to wear masks and limit riders within each gondola to one household. In addition, riders must undergo temperature checks before boarding. Hand sanitizers will be available, social distancing will be required while waiting in line to board, and gondolas will be cleaned after each ride.
“Parks have never been more essential to our health and wellbeing, and Golden Gate Park, in particular, has never been more beautiful or beloved,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, in a statement. “For visitors, the Observation Wheel has become a symbol of that appreciation and our hope for returning to brighter times.”
Based in St. Louis, Mo., SkyView Partners LLC is credited with pioneering the stand-alone SkyStar observation wheel in the U.S. Taller wheels across the globe include Las Vegas’ High Roller (550 feet); the Singapore Flyer (541 feet); and the London Eye (443 feet).
The Observation Wheel is located in the Music Concourse, an outdoor plaza near the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Japanese Tea Garden. Public parking is available in the adjacent Music Concourse Garage.
Advance reservations are required. Tickets $10 per person through Oct. 25, thereafter, tickets $18 for adults, $12 for children (12 and under) and seniors (65 and older), VIP experience, $50 per person; Mon.-Fri. 12 pm-10 pm, Sat. and Sun. 10 am-10pm; Bowl Drive at Music Concourse Drive; skystarwheel.com.
Photos courtesy of SkyView Partners LLC