Bustling with city visitors, street performers, food vendors and a variety of museums and stores, the waterfront’s Fisherman’s Wharf can easily furnish a fun afternoon for anyone, even the most naysaying native San Franciscan.
At the epicenter of the district lies Pier 39, a wooden boardwalk boasting a wide variety of tchotchke shops, from The San Francisco Key Chain Store, where one can pick up any manner of “I love SF”-branded bags, sweatshirts and mementos, to novelty joints such as Lefty’s San Francisco, full of items made specially for the left-handed.
When your pockets are full of all the San Francisco swag, saltwater taffy and left-handed scissors they can hold, head to the Aquarium of the Bay or check out the sea lions who call the west dock of the pier home — the barks and smell ensure you will find it quickly.
To check one popular site off the San Francisco bucket list, hop on a ferry to the middle of the bay to Alcatraz Island State Park and take the audio-guide tour to learn a bit about the prison’s history. On a sunny day, catch some stellar views of the City and the Golden Gate, but be sure to book tickets in advance. The island’s popularity makes getting same-day tickets about as likely as visiting it on a clear day.
Once windswept and shopped out, visit the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a decadent pick-me-up like the Butterscotch Hot Fudge Sundae ($8.95), the Rocky Road Sundae ($9.95) or the Lombard Street Hot Cocoa ($4.25). To recover from the subsequent chocolate coma, spend a few moments watching one of the original chocolate machines in action.
For a traditional and fresh seafood meal, dine at Alioto’s, a family-run restaurant popular for both its food and views. Located at 8 Fisherman’s Wharf, the historic bistro serves hardy dishes such as Cracked Dungeness Crab (market price), Mushroom Risotto ($24) and Lobster & Bay Shrimp Ravioli ($26).
A less expensive but still classic seafood fix, Boudin at The Wharf — the original location of the historic sourdough bread bakery — is known for its steaming clam chowder bowls ($7.59) and crab cake sandwiches ($10.99). While trying to resist eating a sourdough round, diners can watch chefs make the fresh bread and take a tour of the factory.
The opposite of a boring museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium offers guests over 400 wacky and unusual exhibits from shrunken human heads to an elephant with two trunks. Daring visitors can also attempt the Marvelous Mirror Maze or the Impossible Laser Race.
A 30 minute walk from Convent down Fillmore Street and along Marina Boulevard, Fisherman’s Wharf is also accessible by the 47 and 49 Muni bus lines.