Fresh, steamed Crabs, standing under a tarp to get out of the rain, warming up over the steam - okay it doesn't sound that cool but believe me it was. I've heard Fisherman's Wharf can be crowded and touristy but considering I was a tourist I thought I'd give it a go and considering it was pouring rain I figured it wouldn't be that busy and I was right. The walk from Chinatown was perfect.
Fisherman's Wharf is sought after by the tourists that flock to San Francisco like seagulls to the fishing boat. Some say this is a large tourist trap, but I kinda like the off beat atmosphere of the area. Starting off as an Italian Dungeness Crab Fishing Fleet port, the boiling pots of crabs attracted more and more people until most restaurants at the Wharf now have boiling pots outside selling crabs whole as well as that first taste the tourist wants, a crab cocktail. You can arrive via the famous cable cars that climb halfway to the stars walk around and then sail out to visit Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Starting at Ghirardelli's Square where you can cool off with a hot fudge sundae to watching the seals down at Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, sitting between the two, might have a little reminder of San Francisco for you. The sourdough bread at Boudin's Bakery to the crab cocktail in front of the wharf's restaurants are all wonderful memories of Fisherman's Wharf. Why? I think because food satisfies the soul. If you like a cocktail, stop in the Fisherman's Grotto bar and relax looking at a beautiful mural painting of Venice, Italy. Say hello to the barman, Johnny, from travelgourmet. Johnny has been a fixture almost as much as the boiling pots. Tourist Trap, yes. Tourist Destination, yes.
Fisherman's Wharf is absolutely a tourist trap, however if you must go here is the insiders/local version:
Start at Pier 39 - walk out to visit the sea lions. they are pretty phenomenal! do not buy chotchkes, churros, cheesy t-shirts.
Continue along the waterfront to Pier 45 turn right and head out along the docks to the Fisherman's and Seaman's Memorial Chapel. This is a tiny little chapel that actually has full Latin mass on sunday.
Continue along the waterfront to Taylor Street, turn right and go straight back to the Musee Mecanique. Awesome museum housing loads of classic penny arcade games and relics from Playland at the Beach. http://www.museemechanique.org/ Play a couple games...time to eat!
Head back out Taylor Street to the crab pots - have them steam a fresh one for you while you watch..locals really do buy their crab here.
If you want to continue...head further west on the waterfront towards Aquatic Park.
What do you expect to see at fisherman’s Wharf? Hope you are ready to see souvenirs shops, restaurants and other shops to make you expend your money LOL
Here you can get the typical 3 t shirts for 10 dollars or the fleece with San Francisco logo (yes we do not expect SF to be so cold!!!!!!! Even Stacy decided to buy one LOL), and thousands of other souvenirs to take back home (well I will admit that at least there were not as tacky as at the rest of the places I had been!)
It covers from Pier 39 with the Sea lions and shops till the Pier 45 with Pampanito submarine and Alcatraz views.
Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf can be a very busy place. On summer weekend afternoon expect it to be filled with a mixture of tourists browsing through the numerous shops selling "I Love SF" t-shirts and hoodies, families keeping the kids quiet with ice creams and people like us who are there to sneak through the crowds to see the Sea Lions.
If you time it right and get there on a Sunday morning, then the throng on the pier is not so bad. Even better if you then take the boardwalk on the left upper level and then go down to the lower level to get a close up view of these lovely creatures.
They seem a very sociable lot and are quite content to sleep next to or even on top of each other. There are usually a couple of large males keeping an eye on each other.
In the Autumn of 2009 it seems as if the Sea Lions got itchy feet and after rising in numbers to about 1,700, with the animals layered two and three deep on the docks, the sea lions departed as if following orders, leaving behind only a few stragglers.
Marine experts were a bit baffled as to reason for the departure, although food source seems to be the favourite idea. They believed the animals might have travelled 500 miles north, looking for fish and colder waters along the Oregon coast.
Fortunately for us they returned in March 2010 for equally mysterious reasons.
An interesting sight to see in this large city and I've certainly not seen anything of its type before.
Of course if you go to San Fransico you have to go to Fisherman's Wharf. It is sort of touristy, but it is also the home of a lot of great restaurants and bars and the view of the bay from there is spectacular. You can pick yourself up a seafood snack at a street cart or sit and sip a beer while gazing out at the Golden Gate and Alcatraz.
Just across from Fisherman's Wharf on the Bay is the resting place of several families of California sea lions. They sleep lazily on docks which are strictly protected and restricted for their use. They are great fun to watch as the younger ones flop on top of the older ones, hoping to secure some prime dock space for napping.
I still can't believe how loud those darn sea lions can bark. Its sounds like I have 100 german shepeards out in the water barking at people walking by. Anyways, they are entertaining and apparently they did not arrive to SanFrancisco Bay area until after the 6.6 earthquake back in 1989 that rocked the bay. Something shifted and other weird stuff happend in the ocean that brought the loud barking little guys to the bay :)
Treat yourself to fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants on the waterfront or at one of the "walkaway stands" that line the sidewalks, and enjoy the shows put on by the street performers and the seals.
Although much of Fisherman's Wharf is a tourist trap, there's one place that we really did enjoy and that was the Musee Mecanique at Pier 45, one of the world's largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated arcade machines. The museum is free to visit but if you want to see the machines in action, you need to plunk down a quarter or two or find the machines already in action. We were greeted by the creepy Laffing Sal at the entrance, already cackling loudly, and worked our way through, stopping to arm wrestle and watch such macabre arcade games as the French execution and Spanish Inquisition, the unpolitically correct Opium Den and the elaborate circus. There's even one of those fortune telling machines like there is in the movie "Big", but that scares me, who wants to be a 13 year old in a 30 year old body??? Now maybe if it was the other way around.....
Fisherman's Wharf is the most popular area in San Francisco for visitors. Covering a roughly three by ten block area, this neighborhood has historic waterfront, fresh seafood, Pier 39, a public fishing pier, two cable car lines, and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This area also has a lot of touristy crap like a wax museum, trinket shops, and the ever-popular Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum (no, I don't believe it!).
This is a great area to try the city's famous hugeness, strangeness, ungenerous Dungeness crab. We stopped in during the early afternoon and bought a few crab sandwiches ($6.50 each) and two cokes (around $1.25 each). The sandwich was very good with plenty of crab meat and very tasty bread. We enjoyed our sandwiches at the small counter along the side of the stand where we watched the workers steam live crabs in the midst of the flowing masses of tourists.
Just a few blocks up Hyde Street you can get some awesome views of the Bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge while on your way to Lombard Street.
This is a very busy part of San Francisco, where people come here for its famous SEAFOOD. Its crab is definitely good, and its nightlife & excitement adds on to it.
However, there seems to be professional beggars in the area, unfairly taking advantage of San Francisco's Liberal attitude. At one IN & OUT, there was a beggar that came in that kept arguing with customers for money. He even made one litttle girl cry. Then after, an employee told him to leave, he screamed at all of us, and said he'll come back for revenge.
I'm not a big fan of Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39. Even as a first time visitor I was bored after about an hour. I thought it was crowded and dirty.
But I don't want to be one of those people that just say "it's a tourist trap, don't go" and leave it at that so I'll tell you what I do like about Fisherman's Wharf and the Piers.
There is an area just outside of Pier 39 where you can go to watch the seals laying out. Let's face it, seals are cute and fun to watch. The roll around, sunbathe and make a lot of noise.
There is also a stall just outside of Guardino's where you can pick out a live crab, have it steamed and cleaned and you can eat it right there at the counter. So good! It doesn't sound very fun but it is. I try to make it my once a year birthday treat.
Then there is the "bush man". He's a local legend. Basically he crouches down with a couple of branches covering him and when an unsuspecting tourist walks by he jumps up and yells "gotcha!" The funny thing is he's not that well covered but everyone is so busy taking in the sights that they are caught off guard. Even better, there is usually a large crowd of people watching him do this and still the unsuspecting tourist is taken by surprise. Anyway, it's fun to watch. He's been around forever and he's a nice guy.
Once you've tried it, you will never forget Boudin Bakery. They are now at the Wharf in a brand new building. Tours available, see their web site.
. located in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf
. taste real sourdough bread
. their sandwiches, made with their sourdough rolls, are amazing (my favorite: tuna, with everything on it)
. beat the high cost of eating when you're in the Pier 39 & Fisherman's Wharf Area
. they have a number of breads / gourmet food ideas - makes great gifts for those back home (my favorite: crab shaped sourdough). Sure beats the bread they sell at SFO (airport).
So I got to Fisherman's Wharf expecting to see a whole bunch of Klingons, like on Star Trek. But there was nothing! No Enterprise, no Ferengi, no Vulcans, no Romulans, no Tribbles, and definitely no Klingons. I thought the place was Fisherman's WORF! It was really spelled WHARF, as in landing place or pier.
Disappointed, I walked around and found lots of stores, lots of great restaurants for seafood (clam chowder), and sea lions! Oh, it's also a great place to pick up a boat tour of the bay and Alcatraz.
Don't get your hopes up, you probably won't run into Lieutenant Commander Worf.