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Fisherman's Wharf - Just for Tourists
Though I like Fishermans Wharf, be careful of expensive restaurtants that cater to tourists. But the worst thing about Fishermna's wharf is the guys pedeling the expensive guided city tours. They will not stop until they have sold you some sort of coupon, tour or discount of some kind. You can see the city on your own very easily, safely and much more inexpensively.
Unique Suggestions: While in Fisherman's wharf do look for good deals on whole crabs, and excellent clam chowder served in a sourdough bowl. Very inexpensive and good! The Musee Macanique, (off the beaten path tip) is highly unusual and free. Walk west towards Ghiradellii Square and you'll run into the Maritime National Historical Park. (off the beaten path tip) Much more authentic and less touristy.
Fun Alternatives: The SF public library offers free walking tours at all the major attractions and neighborhoods in the city. Check out http://www.sfcityguides.org/
and then click on schedule.
Tours are about 2 hours and absolutely free. They ask for a donation at the end of the tour. Guides are knowledgeable and personable.
- Family Travel
Once is more than enough
Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Sq, Pier 39 etc.
I guess have to be experienced once, and please enjoy them if you do.
Unique Suggestions: don't waste a lot of money on the food
Fun Alternatives: Scoma's is ok for seafood on the wharf (view is good)..
Or get one of those sourdough bread "bowl-loaves" with chowder in it for lunch at Boudin Bakery
Hey, lots of people do fisherman's wharf the first time they goto sf and I hope they have a good time, but 4 me once was enough.
- Budget Travel
There are reasons to see this, but...
Most all of Fisherman's Wharf is a tourist trap. It has that Times Square feeling of a place you really just want to run away from.
Unique Suggestions: You get the ferries here for Alcatraz and a few other places. And like nearly all tourist traps, you should see it once so you know what everyone is talking about.
Commercialized San Francisco
This area tends to be the most expensive and the least interesting place in San Francisco. It is designed to take your money. You can find much more interesting things to do than spend your time here.
Unique Suggestions: Go to Pier 39 and look at the Sea Lions. It's free!! Take a walk down the street and watch everybody spend their money. There are street performers that do their acts, but again, they expect money especially if you stayed and watched their show. You must board the ferry to Alcatraz from this area.
Fun Alternatives: Just about every other location in San Francisco is better than this area! If you want to see the flavor of this city, you won't find it here. Look at my things to do tips for other alternatives.
Does it look like I am having fun, huh??????
I am sure some people have a blast going down here, but boy I sure couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.
Unique Suggestions: Option 1:
Hail a cab and get away from that place as fast as you can.
Find Jones Street and hike up it, way way up untill you end up at the top (Russian Hill). You will see some beautiful views of the Bay Bridge.
Go to pier 41 and see when is the next available day you can get to Alcatraz. You need to buy tickets in advance.
Give the finger to the Bone Man and the Bush Man cuz they are so frikkin' annoying.
Have dinner at Scoma's.
Fun Alternatives: See above mentioned Option 2 and 3.
Fishing for Suckers at Fisherman's Wharf
This seems to be on every tourist's To Do list, but it's an area of San Francisco that makes me wince. There are far too many people, few of them local, and a multitude of shops selling tasteless souvenirs and T-shirts, e.g. I Got Crabs at Fisherman's Wharf.
Unique Suggestions: If you absolutely must go to the Wharf, buy a shrimp cocktail to eat as you walk. It will make the tackiness bearable.
Fun Alternatives: Just beyond the Wharf, near Aquatic Park (marked by long lines of tourists waiting for cable cars), there are two shopping complexes that are still touristy but of passable merit.
The Cannery - This red brick complex really was a cannery and has now been converted to shops and restaurants. There's often live entertainment in the courtyard.
Ghirardelli Square - Former chocolate factory. It used to be all shops and restaurants, but the new Fairmont Hotel now takes up much of the Square. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop is still there -- treat yourself to an ice cream concoction and buy bars of San Francisco chocolate to take home. Unless, of course, you're from Belgium. :)
- Women's Travel
- Family Travel
Look But Don't Buy
If you visit SF and you don't go to Fisherman's Wharf people will look at you funny. It's a tourist trap and for the most part a rip off but I'm not going to blame you for going. It's worth at the very least a quick trip to see it for your self.
For the most part Fisherman's Wharf is a mix of expensive restaurants and some tourist shops selling things that you don't need with the Golden Gate Bridge on it. During the holidays it's jam packed full of people all doing the tourist thing so you won't be alone.
During my last trip to SF I was in the area and in a "tourist" mood so I thought I'd go check it out. It had been some time since I had headed to that part of town for a bread bowl of clam chowder. My advice to you would be to save your money. I was embarrassed at the quality of the chowder that I was served. You're much better off eating away from that area and you'll save yourself some money too.
Unique Suggestions: If you do want to eat while you're there the fried shrimp and the crab sandwiches are a fairly good deal. You can find them at the various outdoor stands just outside of the restaurants.
For a good deal on lunch you can head over to Boudin Bakery. You'll see it right in the middle of the wharf area as well as Pier 39. Here you'll find good quality SF sourdough sandwiches at a reasonable price. They have clam chowder bread bowls too.
If money is no object treat yourself to a seafood meal at one of the many restaurants lining the wharf. Keep in mind that you're paying a premium for location. For a better meal check out Crustacean on California Street.
Fun Alternatives: There's not much of an alternative here. but my suggestion is to do it early or in the off season. If not, expect lots of crowds.
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Most local San Franciscans claim that they would never be caught dead at Fisherman's Wharf, an area by the waterfront that is filled with tourist oriented restaurants and shops. Yet it is the #1 tourist attraction in San Francisco. I can relate to this sentiment of the locals, I feel the same way about Navy Pier in Chicago. And yet just like with our local tourist trap, I completely understand why people visit Fisherman's Wharf, this is where the boat cruises leave from, this is where you can rent bicycles from, find souvenirs for the folks back home and find family friendly chain restaurants including Hard Rock Cafe and In-N-Out Burger. We ended up here several times during our trip, eating a bowl of chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from Boudin's twice, or to find a connection to a bus or tram. I even thought that this location would have made a better base for our visit seeing as we always seemed to end up down here, I read that there's no nightlife and it's deserted after dark but we saw plenty of people in the evening.
Unique Suggestions: You're a tourist, accept that you are a tourist and take a walk through the area
Pier 39 is exspensive. The small aquarium is short and not worth the price. Often there is a street performer or show in the square or along the streets which is fun to see. There is an arcade their to. Just down the way off pier 39 is a Rainforest Cafe, Ripley's Believe it or Not museum and The Wax Museum. Along side streets away from the main street around there are very cheap places to buy a bundle of t-shirts and loads of cheap keychains and souveniers to get for friends back home. (A lot of Alcatraz T-shirts) I often buy San Francisco gifts for people there who want something with the word San Francisco on it. It's a good stop to get gifts. Some of the locals (my friends) are typically snobby and don't like tourist places but I still enjoy the area and love getting clam chowder in a breadbowl. Its my favorite thing!
Unique Suggestions: I would avoid buying anything off pier 39 unless you really really want it. The other shops down the way have the same stuff cheaper. I would forget about parking their to it's exspensive. Go somewhere else and take the bus or cable car. I saw they recently raised thier prices to 5 bucks for the short ride. It used to be nice to go on them and pay a little more than the bus, but its to much for that now if you're local.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Don't waste your time at Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's wharf used to be a vital hub for sf fisherman, but is now a tourist trap of grand proportions, nothing but cheap tchotchkes, sweatshirts, street performers and hustlers and hordes of tourists. The cable cars end up here, so you'll likely end up here if you ride them, but you don't have to stay. There are so many better things to do with your time and money. Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances go to Bubba Gump's. Get dungeoness crab from a sidewalk vendor instead.
Unique Suggestions: If you must see it, there are some good things. This is what I do when I can't get out of taking visitors.
The sea lions-yes there will be a huge crowd, but it's a wild herd(?) of sea lions that squatted on the floating docks and decided to stay. They're wonderful.
The hyde street pier-there are a couple cool old ships you can go on and pretend you've been shanghai'd
In-n-Out- the ultimate california fast food burger. Double Double animal style.
There also used to be a medieval torture chamber wax museum that was kitschy and fun. Not sure if it's still around.
Fun Alternatives: Get off the cable car at lombard street and walk down it. Continue into North beach and have a coffee and snack. Then explore some chinatown alleys.
Dodgy camera shops and areas to avoid
Be very aware if you decide to shop for cameras along the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. One particular shop I went to was a good example. It was about 160 Jefferson St opposite Boudin Cafe (the latter has great Chowder and Sourbread by the way). I wanted a specific camera lens and was told they don't have stock and to come back tomorrow (CLUE #1: as described by altizachen in 2004). They gave a fake low price to bait you (CLUE#2). After I wasted my time and effort getting back there the next day at their specified time, I found they never had the stock. They said they had it at the warehouse (CLUE#3), even though they said they would have it at the store that day. Anyway, as I was also looking for a polarizing lens filter and was leaving San Fran that day, I decided to check out the filter and just get that - yes, stupid in hindsight. When I was about to purchase it, suddenly the price was more than double (they said the lower price they quoted the night before was for another filter) - bait and switch (CLUE#4). Then at the checkout they still tried to squeeze a bit more from you, specifically, increasing the price by another dollar and then not give you the change you should get. When I queried about it, they get all fired up and abusive (totally unprofessional) and accuse you of being scummy. It's not the amount, but the principle, and they certainly had been cheating through the whole process. Lastly, the last warning sign (CLUE #5) I should have paid more attention to was them arguing and then bad mouthing another customer.
As for districts to avoid : Tenderloin region, and Market St between 8th and 5th street at night. It was rather scary walking through there with all the dodgy characters milling around (and I'm not talking about the harmless beggers). It's may be fine during the day but a different picture at night. Surprising how scenary can change suddenly from one section of Market St to the nicer, more touristy area of 4th St and Market St for example (all within a 5-10 min walk).
Unique Suggestions: Don't buy your camera equipment from the dodgy shops near Fisherman's Wharf (particularly the one opposite Boudin Cafe). If you do, be very wary of their techniques and their poor quality gears they try to sell you. Always ask for a receipt because they will not give one you otherwise. Even that is probably worthless. I will always buy my equipment from a big reputable camera shop in the future, even if I have to pay more.
Avoid certain districts at night, ask your concierge if you are staying at a hotel; they should be able to map out the district for you.
Do Not Spend One Dime Here!
Fisherman's Wharf has always been touristy but it wasn't always the tourist trap it's become now. First of all, everything in that area is twice what it would be anywhere else. Aside from a few reasonable street vendors, the prices there are pure gouging. Also, the homeless in the area are allowed to run wild. They harass tourist, are very aggressive and have the run of the place, courtesy of the City.
The fact is, Fisherman's Wharf is not San Francisco. it's purely a tourist trap.
Unique Suggestions: There is a wonderful boat tour of the GG Bridge and Alcatraz area that leaves from the Wharf. For only $15 you get a one hour tour of the bay and go under the GG bridge and around Alcatraz Island. It was the best think I did.
Fun Alternatives: Anywhere but Fisherman's Wharf.
Yeah its a tourist trap but whats a city without the tourist trap. We all have them back home. Fisherman's Wharf is very nice to see. The stores selling the crab dinners on the side was very cool. Walking in the rain was kind of difficult but made for a fun experience.
Unique Suggestions: Try one of the local vendors selling the crab. Eat it with a corona, thats what I do!
- Family Travel
Why waste your time?
This has to be one of the gaudiest tourist traps around. They rarely get more obnoxious than this. Fisherman's Wharf is a horrible example of what San Francisco is and what it has to offer. It's no wonder that people who live here HATE it there. There are just so many reasons to despise this place. If you want places to eat...there are SO many that are SO much better. If you want shopping, there are loads of boutiques that are better to spend your money on. Why waste your time and money.
Unique Suggestions: Visit the only three redeeming qualities of the area.
1 - The Maritime Museum
2 - Hyde Street Pier
3 - the cable cars (take a ride and see Lombard Street)
Fun Alternatives: For restaurants, there are numerous places that are worth checking out. Too many to mention. For shopping, Haight street still has a very wide variety of boutiques and shops, even though it still has a thick tourist edge.
What a Headache
To get to the boat for Alcatraz, we had to walk through Fishermans Wharf. It was over ridden with loud, herd-like tourists (the kind who stop and abruptly turn around and walk right into you as though they are oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the planet besides them!), nasty over priced food stands, and fishmongers who yell in your face to try and get you to buy their fish when you are just trying to pass by.
Unique Suggestions: The “Musee Mecanique” is free and it's very interesting too! It is full of old “peep show” and other mechanical games from the early 20th century. Most of them still work, so get a couple dollars in quarters and check them out. What a weird thing to collect!
Fun Alternatives: The alternative would be...do not go to Fishermans Wharf :)
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