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Top Ten Things To Do in Fisherman's Wharf

The waterfront offers days worth of fun for young and old alike


Jumping off of the cable car at its last stop at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf is often a daunting experience for visitors to the city, especially during the summer high season. The waterfront area is often jam-packed with tourists from all over the world and the sheer number of attractions, vendors and street performers can easily overwhelm even the most hardened world traveler. These are the top ten attractions and activities that shouldn't be missed while visiting the Wharf, visitors who plan on doing more than one or two of them should consider saving money by purchasing a WharfPass.

1. Visit Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island
dennis_matheson/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
The only way to get to Alcatraz Island is by the ferry operated by Alcatraz Cruises, which leaves throughout the day from Pier 33. Visitors can spend as little or as much time on the island as they like since return tickets are good for any returning ferry. Check out our guide to visiting Alcatraz here.

2. Pier 39

Image Courtesy of Pier 39
Located at the East end of Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 has an amusement park-like atmosphere and is chock full of souvenir shops and seafood restaurants, several with views of the bay and the sea lion colony that lives on the docks next door. A huge video game arcade, an old fashioned carousel, live magic shows and the Aquarium of the Bay make Pier 39 a favorite with children.

3. Ghiradelli Square

Image Courtesy of Andy Liang through Creative Commons
A castle-like historic chocolate factory that now hosts dozens of boutique shops and several fine dining restaurants, Ghiradelli Sqaure is a little higher-end than much of the surrounding Wharf. Free live music performances happen in the central square on an almost daily basis however, and the on-site Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop sells chocolate by the pound.
900 North Point Street, Suite 100 (415)775-5500 www.ghirardellisq.com

4. Rent a Bike

Image Courtesy of SFCVB
Bicycle rental shops are located all over Fisherman's Wharf, most renting by the hour, half-day or full day. From the Wharf you can ride along the bay edge and see several major San Francisco sights before arriving at the Golden Gate Bridge. A separate bicycle and pedestrian lane allows you to cross the bridge and explore destinations in Marin County.

5. Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum

Shrunken heads, exotic animals and other strange and unusual objects from around the world fill the "Odditorium", while a 2,0000 square-foot mirror maze and a working candy factory provide fun and distraction for young and old alike.
175 Jefferson Street, (415)202-9850www.ripleys.com

6. Eat Dungeness Crab

Image Courtesy of SFCVB
Besides the ubiquitous clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, fresh Dungeness Crab is the Wharf's trademark delicacy. You can enjoy this exquisite regional specialty at one of any number of sidewalk crab pot stands that line Jefferson Street or at most of the more formal waterfront restaurants on the Wharf. While some of these restaurants are little more than tourist traps, some are iconic San Francisco institutions. Check out our special list of the Best Waterfront Restaurants in San Francisco for the run down.

7. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Image Courtesy of the SFCVB
Located on the Hyde Street Pier just off of Jefferson Street near Aquatic Park, this gem offers a half dozen historic sea vessels that are open to the public including the 300-foot Balclutha, a steel-hulled square-rigger that was built in 1896. Over on Pier 45 the USS Pampanito, a WWII era submarine, hosts a variety of science programs for children.
499 Jefferson Street, (415)447-5000 www.maritime.org

8. Take a Sightseeing Tour

Image Courtesy of the SFCVB
From whale-watching tours of the bay to double-decker bus tours of major San Francisco landmarks , Fisherman's Wharf is home to most of the city's most prominent tour companies. Book ahead to avoid lines and to save money.

9. The Wax Museum

Image Courtesy of Simon Davison through Creative Commons
Life-like reproductions of celebrities and historical figures fill the Hall of Fame, while vampires, zombies and other creatures make their home in the Hall of Horrors.
145 Jefferson Street #500, (415)202-0402 www.waxmuseum.com

10. Take the Ferry to Sausalito

Image Courtesy of the Pier 39 Public Relations Department
Jump on a Blue and Gold Ferry at Pier 41 and visit the artsy bay-side village of Sausalito in Marin County. Here you will find an excellent children's museum, tons of art galleries, a picturesque downtown and classy waterfront restaurants.

11. *Bonus* Aquatic Park

Image Courtesy of SFCVB
When the packed streets of Fisherman's Wharf become simply too much, Aquatic Park offers visitors a welcome escape, a breath of fresh air and amazing views across the bay. Located just below Ghiradelli Square at the West end of Fisherman's Wharf, Aquatic Park contains a nice expanse of lush greenery and a waterfront path that wanders up to Fort Mason and the expansive Great Lawn, where a community garden and more verdant tranquility await.
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