It’s true, fairies are alive and well in Golden Gate park. Hidden in the base of a tree amongst the fountains and the groves, circled by the DeYoung, California Academy, and Spreckels Temple of Music, is a tiny wooden door. A door of fairies and elves? A path to another realm? Or maybe it’s just a winter acorn storage room for the squirrels.
As the story goes, the door simply appeared sometime around Valentine’s Day 2013. Word spread quickly and soon letters and gifts filled the small hole on the other side of the handcrafted door. San Franciscans love a good fairy tale.
However, as mysteriously as it had appeared, it disappeared; much to the dismay of local residents.
Upon further investigation, it turned out the Parks and Recreation department looked unfavorably upon attaching a hinged door to a living tree. So, they simply took it down.
Unfortunately for the Parks and Rec folks, San Franciscans frown upon such things. Public outcry ensued, so the Parks Department installed a different door onto the tree. It didn’t have the detail or beauty of the original door, but it calmed the city masses. However, the door was still only temporary. The city harbored concerns around the attached hinge impact on the long-term health of the tree.
As with most fairy tales, there may still be a happy ending. The original door was handcrafted by a father and son team, who are trying to design a new door without hinges to replace the simple door the city installed. Meanwhile, the same duo found a large stump in another part of Golden Gate park, got permission from the Parks and Rec Department, and installed a clever hobbit inspired door.
Which brings us to our story. It was Sunday and we just visited California Academy of Sciences. A perennial favorite. We especially enjoy the Sunday morning members’ hour when we get the museum mostly to ourselves.
After today’s trip, I told the girls we were going to search for a mysterious fairy door.
It doesn’t take much to inspire my girls to go an adventure and today was no different.
I surfed for the directions and we were on our way….
It only took a few minutes before we discovered the miniature door. A door, most folks probably walk right past; unaware there was a fairy portal nearby.
When you finally see it, it jumps out at you. The girls ran towards the tree. Excited to open the door, eager to see what was inside.
Upon opening the door we discovered a treasure of gifts; a bottle of bubbles, a few handwritten notes, a threaded bracelet, some white buttons, and a copper penny. I hadn’t thought to bring gifts, but gave each girl a coin to place as an offering to the fairies. A token of good luck, if you will.
Above the fairy door, the tree was decorated with festive ornaments. A clay bird, wind chimes, and a small green bell were swinging in the breeze. Beautiful accessories for a very special tree.
The girls loved visiting the fairy tree, but they had questions. How do the fairies open and use the large bottle of bubbles? What do they do with the buttons? The bracelet looks too big for a fairy, how will she wear it? Can fairies read? Do they open the notes?
I reminded them of Tinker Bell and her ability to find and use lost things. I was sure these fairies would find a purpose for all the gifts left behind the tiny door attached to the tree in the middle of the concourse.
I wondered who cleared the tree of the gifts each day. The employees of the Parks and Rec department? Fairy custodians sprinkling magic dust?
And as we wandered away to enjoy the local art show and play in the fountains of Golden Gate Park, I reflected on the citizens of San Francisco. Only here would the rights of a magic door would be fought for and won.
So thank you San Francisco, for all the small and big ways you keep magic alive for my children.
So, how do you find the fairy door?
- Walk out the front doors of the Academy, cross the street, and walk down the stairs towards the fountains.
- Walk towards the largest fountain in the middle of the concourse.
- At the fountain, take a left on the pathway and the tree will be in the grove to your right.