Pier 39, San Francisco

4 out of 5 stars 118 Reviews

The Embarcadero at Beach Street (415) 705-5500

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    Pier 39

    by richiecdisc Updated Sep 16, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    the big bulls
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    Heralded as the city’s number one attraction, Pier 39 is an amalgam of tourist attractions ranging from a top flight Aquarium, assorted shops and restaurants, and the ferry terminal to outlying areas like Marin County and Alcatraz. But mostly what it’s famous for is its loud pod of sea lions that call the floating docks off the pier home. Tourists clamor for the best shots and though touristy, it’s hard not to get sucked right in.

    Though it is a tourist trap, we could not resist to have a peek on our 2008 return trip. I had a better zoom so figured on getting better shots of the sea lions besides, the walk to the Wharf area from downtown is a beautiful one.

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  • K.Knight's Profile Photo

    Pier 39 sea lions

    by K.Knight Updated Jul 21, 2004

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    Great to watch.

    Our favorite thing about Fisherman's Wharf were the sea lions that inhabit Pier 39. Hidden on the left side of Pier 39's shopping mall are hundreds of sea lions sun. An Alcatraz tour worker told us that these sea lions apeared here after the 1906 earthquake, relocating from the other side of the bay. I don't know if this is true or not???
    These locals have taken over a marina that held boats and are an incredible natural attraction. Many people crowd around to see the sea lions, but many others never even realize they are there because they are well hidden on the left hand side of the pier.
    When you visit the wharf, don't miss the sea lions!

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  • SabrinaSummerville's Profile Photo

    Amazing Sight

    by SabrinaSummerville Written Dec 20, 2009

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    I had expected Pier 39 to be a pretty special place, but nothing could have prepared me for this total mish-mash of shops, restaurants, amusements, and wildlife.

    The huge Christmas Tree and topiary reindeer at the entrance was just a suggestion of things to come. As I walked along the pier the attractively painted shops became more unusual, the restaurants (just starting to open for the day) beckoned with the wafting scents of garlic and seafood, and people jostled in the icy cold December morning to feast their eyes on this delightful spectacle.

    I found myself facing the famous two tiered carousel. It wasn't as impressive as I'd expected, smaller perhaps, but there it was.

    It's hard to miss Pier 39 as gigantic flags announce that you've arrived. Next door you will find the pier where you buy tickets for day trips to Alcatraz and boat trips around the bay and under the Golden Gate bridge.

    We had only a very short time here. We intended to come back but never made it this trip. It is something I will continue to regret until I get here again.

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  • spgood301's Profile Photo

    Pier 39 for Shopping and Eating

    by spgood301 Updated Aug 30, 2005

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    Sea Lions at Pier 39

    If you're looking to buy knick-knacks from SF, look no further than Pier 39. It's right near Fishermans Wharf on the Embarcadero, and has shops for almost every taste: souveniers, sports clothing (an NFL shop), even a small Irish store. There's seafood restaurants aplenty (beware-they can be a bit expensive), access to the Aquarium...and don't forget the sea lions-they're barking for attention!

    Ferries to Alacatraz and other places are just up the block at Pier 41.

    Like Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 is quite touristy and can be crowded on the weekend. If that's your kind of thing, you'll love it. If not, you'll probably not want to spend much time there.

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  • Carmela71's Profile Photo

    Pier 39

    by Carmela71 Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    The Pier

    Is it a tourist attraction, must see activity or Tourist trap? Not sure.

    I guess you have to go and decide by yourself.

    The main thing to do while there is to see the Sea Lions and them walk along the shopping area.

    For many can be boring as it is all restaurants and shops, but the restoration that was done there is great. I did some sepia photos of here and it looks like half century ago.

    Well done! (in marketing terms) to the brain behind this project!

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  • Gypsystravels's Profile Photo

    The sea lions at Pier 39

    by Gypsystravels Updated Sep 18, 2007

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    Awwww....aren't they cute
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    Since 1990 the sea lions have been spotted out in PIER 39's West Marina. Every winter the population of these sea lions can increase by over 900 most of them males. They migrate south during the summer months for breeding season but you can still see a small group at the pier during this time.

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    The sea lions of Pier 39

    by Jefie Written Oct 3, 2009

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    Sea lions at Pier 39
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    The several shops, restaurants and family attractions found at Pier 39 make it a very popular spot for visitors. However, what I enjoyed the most about Pier 39 was to watch the colony of sea lions that has taken over a huge part of the docks! The first sea lions appeared at the pier in 1989 - back then, only a dozen or so sea lions hung around Pier 39. Two years later, the population had swelled to over 500 individuals, and the last official count indicates that over 1000 sea lions now live at Pier 39! Of course, the smell is... interesting, but it's worth breathing through your mouth for a few minutes to watch the sea lions interact with each other :o)

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  • smschley's Profile Photo

    Pier 39

    by smschley Written Mar 10, 2005

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    Taking Friends to Pier 39

    What is amazing to me is the popularity of Pier 39. It's the third most visited attraction in the US and the number-one tourist spot in San Francisco, welcoming 11 million visitors per year.

    PIER 39 is a multilevel waterfront complex a few blocks east of Fisherman's Wharf. Constructed on an abandoned cargo pier, it’s a neo-recreation of a turn-of-the-20th-century street scene, but don't expect a slice of old-time maritime life. It has more than 100 stores, 11 bay-view restaurants, a two-tiered Venetian carousel, a Hard Rock Cafe, and arcade and aquarium entertainment for the kids.

    It also has several attractions that are unique to its Fisherman's Wharf location. The famous sea lion colony that has taken up residence on the abandoned docks next door are themselves worth a special trip. Hear them honk, snort and slap their enormous bodies around; watch them cavort with their buddies.

    You can see the sea lions for free (pier entrance doesn't cost a penny), but it's advisable to bring along plenty of cash for the other attractions as everything's slated toward helping you part with your travel dollars. To residents, that pretty much wraps up PIER 39 -- an expensive spot where out-of-towners go to waste money on worthless souvenirs and greasy fast food. It's the place that locals love to hate. If you want to get to know the real San Francisco, skip the cheesy T-shirt shops and limit your time here to one afternoon.

    That said, I always bring new visitors here as it does have a few perks: absolutely beautiful natural surroundings of bay views, fresh sea air, and hundreds of sunbathing sea lions lounging along its neighboring dock. My wife never seems to tire of the place and first timers always seem enjoy it.

    And everything's slated toward helping you part with your travel dollars. It's the place that locals love to hate. That said, it does have a few perks: absolutely beautiful natural surroundings of bay views, fresh sea air, and hundreds of sunbathing sea lions lounging along its neighboring dock.

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    Pier 39

    by JanPeter74 Updated Apr 22, 2004

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    Sea lions at Pier 39

    Pier 39 is close to Fishermans Wharf and the place where most ferries and boattrips start (Pier 41).

    Pier 39 is the spot where you can find hundreds of sea lions who made this place their "home". It's great wildlife watching, but quite noisy and smelly.

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  • SmileyLeSa's Profile Photo

    Pier 39

    by SmileyLeSa Updated Mar 9, 2005

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    Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

    Pier 39 offers plenty of speciality shops and restaurants for the tourist. It is located 2 blocks away from Fisherman's Wharf.

    Sail boats, cruise ships and cargo ships pass by on San Francisco Bay here. On a nice day you can get some great pictures of the passing ships. Pictures of Alcatraz can also be taken from Pier 39.

    While on Pier 39, make sure you stroll by the Sea Lions. They are entertaining at best.

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  • gregoryr1m's Profile Photo

    Pier 39 to be exact.

    by gregoryr1m Written Dec 25, 2003

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    It's great - almost a carnival atmostphere. There's many shops and restaurants. I ate at The Sea Lion Café where you can enjoy a wonderful meal and if you choose to sit at the windows in the South side of the restaurant, you can watch these sea Lions hang out in the pier BUT if you sit in back of the restaurant, you get a great view of Alcatraz. I guess that serves as a gentle reminder of what can happen if you try to dine-and-ditch.

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  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo

    The Sea Lions

    by XenoHumph Updated Dec 20, 2006

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    Sea lions at Pier 39, San Francisco, California

    Do I repeat myself here?? Go see the sea lions! They are an absolut blast, extremely funny, and you can see them up close. They are a little noisy and smelly, but that's part of the whole experience. The city of San Francisco left a dozen of floating wood platforms for California sea lions to rest on. Everybody is happy, the sea lions because they have a place to stay, the boaters of the surrounding Marina as the sea lions do not invade their docks!
    Do not miss my sea lion travelogue!
    If you want to know more about pinnipeds, such as the difference between a sea lion and a seal, go to http://www.pinnipeds.org/species/species.htm.
    And if you cannot make it to San Francisco anytime soon, but cannot wait to see them, go to a webcam of the sea lions (I discovered that on VT Member Sims1 San Francisco page)!

    Besides the sea lions, Pier 39 is a mega tourist trap, full of souvenir shops and too expensive restaurants (you pay for the view)!

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  • Goner's Profile Photo

    Pier 39 Welcomes You

    by Goner Updated Aug 17, 2004

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    Pier 39

    Pier 39 is just 2 blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, it has two levels of restaurants, specialty shops and a 350-berth marina. From this pier you can watch the sail boats, cruise ships & cargo ships pass by on the bay.

    Pier 39 is as close as you can get to Alcatraz without getting on a boat.

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  • Andraf's Profile Photo

    Sea lions at Pier 39

    by Andraf Updated Nov 1, 2003

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    Sea lions at Pier 39, San Francisco
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    Frankly I consider Pier 39 with its carnival-like atmosphere a tourist trap, but I like the sea lions. They started arriving here in 1990; they used to be seasonal and come every January but now they're here all year round. They're smelly and noisy but so fun to watch.

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  • tere1's Profile Photo

    Pier 39

    by tere1 Written Aug 2, 2006

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    The sea lions
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    An atraction in San francisco is Pier 39. It's situated next to Fisherman's Wharf and the reason it is so well known is for its sea lions that abound there and its wonderful views of the Bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
    Here you will also find many seafood restaurants.

    In winter the sea lions can reach the number of 900, most of them being males. They are very funny, making their own noises and sounds and sunbathing calmly while people watch them.

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    • Aquarium

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