If you go to San Francisco, a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf is a must. Of course it’s touristy and can get crowded, but if you go a bit off the main path and venture beyond the official boundaries of Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s lots of fun.
The piers of the wharf were built on the rubble of the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco. The fishing industry thrived both before and after the earthquake. Many of the boats sitting in the harbor are generations old. Seafood take-aways and restaurants line the street, and Boudin’s bakery and restaurant continue to produce their famous sourdough bread here. Want to get the most out of your time? Besides eating, which is a given, here are a few ways to enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf and the area nearby.
Visit the Ferry Building
This building opened in 1898 and it’s just what it sounds like – the place where ferries run from the city to points across the bay. It fell into disrepair but was revitalized after the earthquake of 1989 resulted in the modernization of the waterfront. Today the building houses offices and shops. You can pick up coffee and a pastry and wander along. The Ferry Building is at Pier 1. From here you can make your way down to Fisherman’s Wharf, which starts at Pier 35.
Hop on a Street Car
You can take a cable car to the wharf, and many folks do. I love taking the Powell-Hyde line from Union Square down to the wharf. The hills give you quite a view as you descend to the bay. Once at the wharf, you can also ride vintage street cars. They’ve been collected from a variety of cities and countries. Look for the signs on the car that tell where they originally ran. You can ride from the Ferry Building to any point along the wharf. Enjoy the ride!
Play Games at the Musee Mecanique
This is a newly-opened interactive museum of 20th-century penny arcade games, recently moved to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Located at Pier 45, the museum is free. You can play most of the arcade games for a quarter. Many places to exchange bills for quarters are found throughout the building. More than 300 items are in working condition, collected by one man over decades. Kids who play with electronic devices will find these old machines fascinating. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, but the website notes: We will stay open later if the crowds demand it, Fun Doesn’t Sleep!
See Chocolate Being Made at Ghirardelli Square
This place is an official San Francisco city landmark! It’s famous sign lights the night and welcomes ships as they arrive at the wharf. The history goes back to when Domingo Ghirardelli moved to San Francisco in 1852 and opened his candy-making factory at what is today known as Ghirardelli Square. The plant was spared damage in the 1906 earthquake, so business has been booming here for more than 160 years. The main factory moved awhile back, but you can still see the basics of the process of turning cacao beans into candy bars.
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