10 Things To Do at Pier 39

San Francisco's Pier 39

Whether you’re traveling with the kids, looking for a fun and romantic date setting, or just seeking a getaway with friends, the possibilities are endless at one of San Francisco’s most beloved destinations, PIER 39.

While The Pier has dozens of sights, sounds and tastes to explore, here are some you definitely won’t want to miss:

10 Things To Do at San Francisco Pier 39

Visit the Sea Lions

San Francisco is home to many wild animals — the parrots of Telegraph Hill, the mysterious buffalo in Golden Gate Park, and a crowd of boisterous sea lions who camp out on PIER 39’s K-Dock.  These wild marine mammals have resided at PIER 39 since 1990, arriving in droves shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (scientists still aren’t exactly sure why). Visitors tend to leave with a case of sea lion withdrawls after gazing out at the hypnotic antics of these playful pinnipeds.  Thankfully, PIER 39’s Sea Lion Webcam allows you to virtually visit them at your leisure.

Journey Under the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a sight unlike any other, and a must-see for any visitor to San Francisco. Although the most breathtaking angle is one you can only experience by stepping off land and cruising the Bay’s sparkling waters.  Blue & Gold Fleet’s Bay Cruise takes you directly underneath the bridge on a smooth, one-hour journey that provides some of San Francisco’s most stunning photo-ops of Alcatraz, the city skyline, the Bay Lights and more.  And there’s a bar on board, so you can sip while you sail.

Channel Your Inner Photographer

From the lush landscapes of the Presidio to the playful architecture of the Haight, San Francisco is easily a photographer’s dream (and an Instagrammer’s paradise).  So during your visit to PIER 39, make sure to take advantage of it’s unique location on San Francisco’s waterfront to capture stunning shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, Bay Lights, and the city skyline.  Here’s a tip: Travel to the top of PIER 39’s Parking Garage for a full 360 degree view of all the above.

Taste the Bay at Fog Harbor Fish House

Just as North Beach is known for its pasta, Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its seafood. Fog Harbor Fish House doesn’t just serve up classic waterfront favorites such as oysters and cioppino, but everything on the menu is sustainable — so not only is it local, but its guaranteed fresh and sustainably farmed. Not to mention, every meal comes with a complimentary view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Soak up San Francisco

There’s nothing quite like taking in San Francisco’s crisp, fresh air.  Especially when it’s coming at you on the fastest and most nimble watercraft on the Bay.  RocketBoat zips under the Bay Bridge, down to AT&T Park (sometimes close enough to check the Giants score if conditions are right) and back to PIER 39 all within a safe, 30-minute roundtrip.  If you sit towards the back, you may get wet.  Wherever you sit, you WILL have fun.

Fall In Love with Clam Chowder + Sourdough Bread Bowl

Some believe the breezy Bay air inspired the marriage of hot clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls, which have been a signature San Francisco dish since the mid-1800s.  Nevertheless, almost every eaterie and restaurant on PIER 39 has a variety sure to please the clam chowder connoisseur, most which are paired with sourdough bread baked fresh and in-house (the aroma is most vibrant in the early-morning hours).

Browse the Local Shops

PIER 39 has more than 110 specialty shops with everything from saltwater taffy to left-handed merchandise, custom-blended spices to hand-crafted jewelry. So obviously it’s difficult to leave without that perfect gift for the folks back home.  Many of the store owners work directly behind the counter, and if you end up getting carried away, stop by the California Welcome Center and they’ll help you ship your San Francisco memories back home.

Make Some Music

Taking the stairs is not only good for your health — at PIER 39 it’s also interactive art.  Straight from Tom Hanks’ movie “Big,” a set of symphonic stairs located mid-PIER allow you to make your own music as you walk up (or down) them.  If you’re lucky, you may even be able to recruit a sea lion chorus for a barking backup.

Lose Yourself in Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

Mirror, mirror….on every wall?  Once you step inside Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, you’ll find (or lose) yourself amongst hundreds of mirrors leading you in every direction.  A trip through the maze costs $5 per person, or you can spring for the $10 ticket which challenges you to find all possible paths (trust us, it’s harder than it looks).

Take in a Show

Don’t miss one of many talented street performers who entertain several times throughout the day, including jugglers, magicians, comedians and everything in between.  Best of all, the shows are free and tickets are not required — just bring your imagination, your sense of humor, and definitely your camera in the event you become the main act.

By Cindy Hu

Courtesy of San Francisco Travel, the official tourism marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel.

Photo Credit: Jeff Whyte/shutterstock.com