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Fishing boats, souvenir shops and seals – they make Fisherman’s Wharf one of San Francisco’s most popular attractions. Locals are quite adamant about avoiding this touristy area, but visitors just can’t get enough of it. It may not be the most authentic place in town, but it’s definitely fun and entertaining.
The original name of the wharf was Meiggs Wharf, but this changed over time into Fisherman’s Wharf, due to the large number of fishing boats that moored here. Although it’s still the base for a small fleet of around 25 boats, Fisherman’s Wharf is primarily a ‘strip’ lined with shops and entertainment these days. In addition, it’s also the departure point for the ferry to the famous prison island of Alcatraz.
Fisherman’s Wharf runs from Pier 39 to Ghirardelli Square, named after the famous local chocolate factory. Pier 39 is without a doubt the most popular part of the wharf and is mostly known for the large colony of California sea lions that live here. These noisy animals love to bask in the sun and pay little attention to the swarms of people who come to look at them every day. Pier 39 is also great for souvenirs: here you can find massive quantities of sweatshirts, T-shirts, caps and key rings.
Thanks to the dozens of attractions, Fisherman’s Wharf is a little like an amusement park. The Musée Mécanique on Pier 45 has a bizarre collection of old arcade games, pinball machines and other coin-operated machines. So make sure you have plenty of ‘quarters’ on you. At the Aquarium of the Bay, visitors can learn about life in the waters around San Francisco. There are even touch pools where you can touch starfish and other sea creatures. Also visit the Ripley’s Believe or Not! Museum, with its collection of bizarre objects, rarities and optical illusions.
It is not surprising that there are lots of fish restaurants at a wharf full of fishing boats. One delicacy you should not miss out on is Dungeness crab. Boatloads of this type of crab are brought into the city from November to June. Crab season is ushered in officially each year in December with the Fisherman’s Wharf Crab Fest. A ticket to this event guarantees your very own fill of crab dishes prepared by top chefs from various restaurants – even better when paired up with wine from the region.