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  • Writer's pictureMona Shah

Candlelight Tour of Fort Point

Ranger-led lantern tours of SF’s Civil War Era Fort under the Golden Gate Bridge



Our family spent a rainy Saturday in February exploring the historic Fort Point by candlelight, with dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the mighty Pacific and twinkling stars on this evening tour with a park ranger as our guide.


Fort Point National Historic Site was instrumental in protecting California’s coast during the Civil War. The famous fort offers candlelight tours every weekend from November through February at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday evenings, giving remarkable access to areas otherwise inaccessible to the public.


There is parking on-site and upon arrival a park ranger will check-in guests and provide everyone with a lantern. Arriving 15 mins before the tour starts is stressed as they will not admit any latecomers, so as not to eat into the 90-minute excursion time.


This one-of-a-kind tour takes visitors through all four levels of the historic fort, including the roof, which provides magnificent and sweeping views of the ocean, San Fransisco and Oakland. You will have to climb approximately 76 steps (not all at once), they can be narrow, steep at times and very slippery when it rains.


You enter through an archway that leads to the main courtyard. In the courtyard, you will find some old cannons that were installed when the fort was originally built. It is so cool as you maze through the shadows of the historic structure by candlelight and see the glimmering lights of the Golden Gate Bridge towering up above.


Fort Point National Historic Site was built for the Civil War between 1853 and 1861. It was created as one of California’s most formidable defenses against foreign attack, and although it never saw combat, the fort was instrumental in deterring Confederate aggression during the Civil War. Built in the Third System fortification style, a now-obsolete defense design with three tiers of cannon casements and a sod covering to absorb enemy fire. At one point the fort housed 102 cannons, plus hotshot furnaces used to heat the cannon balls, with the idea of setting enemy ships on fire upon impact.




The fort was almost demolished in order to build the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933, but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss was so impressed with what he called one of the most perfect models of masonry in America, that he ultimately lobbied to preserved it. In 1970, the structure became a National Historic Site, and it’s now open to the public. asured Golden Gate. You can walk in and out of the rooms on all of the floors, many have historical items that were used at the fort by the military.


This building was used as a fort only until 1900. As weapons became more powerful, the army thought its structure was too weak. They feared it would be destroyed under any sort of major attack. After this, the army mainly used this building as a barracks. Some people called this place home for many years.


The fort was almost demolished in order to build the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933, but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss was so impressed with what he called one of the most perfect models of masonry in America, that he ultimately lobbied to preserved it. In 1970, the structure became a National Historic Site, and it’s now open to the public. I am so glad it still stands under the majestic GGB.


Fort Point Candlelight Tours Saturday Evenings, November to February 201 Marine Drive, San Francisco $20 Adults; $12 Youth (10-17)







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