This place is supertouristy. If you have kids I can understand why you would want to go and see the Sea Lions.
How adults can stay there and look at those animals and even have fun doing so is beyond me...
Unique Suggestions: Buy some finger food(s) (french fries, mmm) enjoy the sun and the ocean view...
Pier 39, billed as San Francisco's Number One attraction, was just a collection of souvenir and tourist shops and some kid-friendly attractions. We didn't spend much time there.
Unique Suggestions: Have some chowder in a sourdough breadbowl at Boudin Bakery (Boudin created the original San Francisco sourdough bread), located near the entrance of the pier. Walk down along the waterfront on the left side of the Pier, behind the stores, to K Dock to see the sea lions. The sea lions are free to come and go as they please, but choose to be gawked at by us tourists. Very thoughtful.
Don’t waste your time, there is nothing to see there ! This place made me think to one of these fake western-like villages you can find in a Six Flags park…
It is full of tourist shops and crowded with beggars, real or fake ones.
Unique Suggestions: One thing that could however be worth the move is the sea lions. They are pretty funny....
Fun Alternatives: If you plan to go to any other towns along the coast (Santa Cruz, Monterey,…), you can also see the sea lions over there.
This may draw the fine line between exploitation and outrage but... the sign this person is holding reads, "Why lies... It's for beer!"
It may seem amusing but when I photogaphed this, someone told me a few blocks back they saw someone holding a sing that read, "It's for pot."
Other VTers have listed Pier 39 as a Tourist Trap, and they are absolutely right! Pier 39 is crowded and touristy, has tacky shops and mediocre restaurants.
In a city that has a very interesting history and wonderful ethnic and diverse neighborhoods, I can never understand why people want to visit a pier that wasn't even developed until 1978. This is not real San Francisco!
Before 1978, this pier was a dumping ground for old TVs and refrigerators. I would much rather see old rusted and wrecked appliances, than the gawdy trinkets on display at the stores now.
Here is a picture of said seals, which languish all day by Pier 39. What a life it must be. But then I don't think I'd be very keen to swim in the chilly waters that surround the bay area. Been there done that at Stinson Beach. Brrrrrr
Things are not cheap in San Francisco, especially at the Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, the most popular attractions. You may think the excellent and fresh seafood should be cheap since they are so abundant, but these things are rather expensive if you want to enjoy a nice lunch. And other things, like gifts and other items, are reasonably expensive.
Unique Suggestions: Have some light seafood "snack" at these areas. For a big, full meal, go to Chinatown, where you can also eat great seafood (but not with the atmosphere as at Fisherman's Wharf). Things are much cheaper in Chinatown compared elsewhere.
Pier 39 could have been an interesting tourist shopping area but it turned out to be a tacky ugly place, overcrowded and except for the view at the end of the pier, there is very little of interest at Pier 39.
Unique Suggestions: Take photos at the end of the Pier. You have a beautiful view of Alcatraz in the background. If you are interested in sea lions, you can watch them off the pier.
Fun Alternatives: Walk along the embarcadero, visit the Ferry Building with the new shops and restaurants, roller blade on the embarcadero as far as the he Bay Bridge.
You'll spend lots of money and wind up with touristy items that don't show you the true San Francisco.
Avoid the aquarium, it's too pricey and not so impressive.
If it's a MUST, see it the first day then get settled in to the REAL San Francisco!
Unique Suggestions: Take the time to watch the street vendors...musicians, life as art, magicians etc. populate the area.
Pier 39 - Fisherman's Warf
Okay, here you go. Now you’ve seen the sea lions. Now you don’t have to go to Fisherman’s Warf!!!
Unique Suggestions: However this is also where you get on a boat for Alcatraz. Damn, they suckered you in! Well, at least DON'T eat in the restaurant here, especially the one on the end. But you can pick up your refrigerator magnets and SF Snowball thing a bobbers while you are here.
The only reason to visit here to say you've done it. But once there you will find it is full of overpriced or nasty restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. If you want a tee shirt buy it from one of the stalls on the other side of the road up towards the cable car station on Mason. Quality is no better but its cheaper.
SF is full of tourist traps. I guess this is true of any big city. Pier 39 is one of the biggest and best the city has to offer. Now although it's a tourist trap you'll probably spend some time there anyway if you're from out of town. Heck, I've even ended up there a few times and I should know better. In all, it's not that bad. The only thing to be aware of are the shops and the inflated prices. You're especially going to get it if you try to ear at pier 39 or anywhere around it (like Fisherman's Warf). You're likely to have a better meal at a better price somewhere else in the city.
Unique Suggestions: Take a walk to the end of the pier which is more of an outdoor shopping mall than anything else. Along the way you may want to duck into a shop or two just for the heck of it. It's also a great place to people watch and you'll probably be able to catch a live show or two. There's always something entertaining going on. At the end of the pier you'll have a great view of the bay and Alcatraz.
Unique Suggestions: ... you can't help but look. Pier 39 has all kinds of shops and restaruants built for tourists, but the one thing I couldn't look away from was not man-made. It was the loud, smelly sea lions on the docks next to the pier. You've probably heard about them, and you may have seen them on TV. But watching their antics live and in-person is not to be missed.
Pier 39 - otherwise known as Fisherman's Wharf is just a collection of over-priced shops full of 'tut'.
The sea lions around the back are interesting to watch and far more entertaining than anything on the pier.
Unique Suggestions: Walk fast!
Fun Alternatives: Take a stroll further along Embarcadero towards the bridge and you come to some green spaces with some great views.
You know what this looks like already anyways. It's full of tourists, cheesy seafood restaurants and souveniers. T
Unique Suggestions: Get a public transportation map (www.sfmuni.com) and take the busses, cable cars and F trains around instead. Visit the neighborhoods and see what the city is really like.
Fun Alternatives: Chinatown is always a good alternative to Pier 39 and other touristy places. Although touristy itself, the place is bustling with real, honest to goodness, san franciscans going about their lives. Plus, there's tons of good food and stuff to shop around.