I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA not far from San Francisco. I really do love going back to the
Bay Area to visit Pier 39 in the city. This time I was able to take my daughter with me so she could experience all the touristy things I did when I was growing up. Last October we visited the Pier and I forget how cold it can be. Maybe it’s living in Hawaii the past ten years that makes adjusting to the chill of San Francisco that more difficult. We were all bundled up and still freezing on the ferry- burrrrr!!!! Many tourists visit San Francisco every day just to see the sea lions. There is actually a story about how the sea lions began on Pier 39 Marina.
After the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco in October 1989, a few California sea lions began hanging around the PIER 39 K-Dock . Then in 1990 they began arriving in groups to the K-Dock, which frustrated the Marina tenants. The Staff at the Marina consulted The Marine Mammal Center to come up with an alternate solution for the sea lions home. After going back and forth on the issue, it was decided that the sea lions stay in their new home- the K-Dock. PIER 39 Marina is an ideal living situation for the sea lions due to the supply of food from the Bay and an environment which protects them from predators. As of November 2009, there are 1702 sea lions at Pier 39’s K Dock. The number will continue to rise and fall with the seasons but they will always have a home there.
Lefty’s- The Left Hand Store
My daughter is left handed and was absolutely thrilled to see that there is a store at Pier 39 for leftys!! She literally went through every item saying, “Oh my gosh I need this”. You can find all kinds of gear at Lefty’s San Francisco – The Left Hand Store.
They have pencils, pens, scissors, notebooks, binders, coffee mugs, can openers and just about everything you could want designed just for the lefty’s in our world. The store even sells left-handed guitars and has the names of all of the famous lefty’s on the wall- mainly artists, inventors and musicians. It is a great store for gifts- since we all know someone who is left handed.
Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for all of their seafood restaurants which have views of Alcatraz, Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped off at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant which is on Pier 43, just a short walk down from Pier 39.
They offer seafood favorites such as Dungeness Crab, Crispy Crab cakes, Seafood Antipasto, fresh oysters, and steamed mussels. The Franciscan Crab Restaurant has freshly made burrata (Italian cheese) and salumi (Italian cured meats). My daughter, who is not a big fan of seafood, ordered alfredo pasta and loved it, while I ordered a crab sandwich which was on fresh baked, crunchy bread. The Franciscan was originally built in the 50’s but has recently been remodeled. There are pictures of all of the famous people who have eaten there as you walk in. No matter where you sit, you can see the San Francisco skyline.
When walking around the Pier don’t forget to grab an ice cream at Dryers!! Even though it was freezing that day, we still had to grab our ice cream in a waffle cone. We pretty much ate our way through the Pier. You will have to choose as there is also The Candy Baron, Chocolate Heaven, The Cup and Cake Café and The Fudge House!!! That is just to name a few of the sweet treats.
And of course, she had to pose in front of the Wipeout To Go window!! We actually did not eat there but it was a very cute place with long lines for pick up. It smelled great! Wipeout Bar & Grill is a California Surf-themed restaurant which includes indoor and outdoor dining and a variety of food from seafood to burgers.
Just catching a ride on the San Francisco Carousel at the Pier. This carousel was handcrafted in Italy and hand-painted with famous San Francisco landmarks which include the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Lombard Street, Alcatraz and the California sea lions. The carousel has 1,800 twinkling LED lights, 32 animals to ride and spinning tubs!!! While riding around the carousel, you can see the famous Pier 39 promenade.
I love Boudin Bakery Cafe!!!! The smell alone will literally draw you in- just follow your nose and it will lead you to the hot, sourdough bread baked daily. Stop in for clam chowder, chili or the soup of the day in a sourdough bread bowl or fresh sandwiches and salads. It’s just not the same to buy a loaf of sourdough at the airport on your way home. They had a lot of great gifts in their gift store such as: pancake and waffle mixes, spices, sauces, syrups, and more. Check it out.
Off to Alcatraz on the Red and White Fleet!!!! My daughter had read about Alcatraz but had not seen it up close. Due to time constraints we were unable to take the Alcatraz walking tour but we did take the Red and White Fleet around the island.
The historic Red and White Fleet is the first fleet adventure in San Francisco. The Red and White Fleet is the only tour boat to offer a head set in multiple languages. The family owned business started out offering bay cruises from Pier 43½.
We took a Bridge to Bridge tour which included views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, Transamerica Pyramid, Palace of Fine Arts and around notorious Alcatraz Island. It is so relaxing to sit there and listen to the tour while being able to take pictures. It is very windy and can be cold if you choose to sit on the outer deck. The boat tours are easy to just hop on as they depart up to 17 times daily from Fisherman’s Wharf. The Red and White Fleet offers a lunch tour at 12:30 where you can bring your own boxed lunch on board or a 5:45 p.m. sailing which offers a bar.
To find out more about pricing visit http://www.redandwhite.com/
Going to the City for a special event? Try stopping off at the San Francisco Flower Mart!! Martha Stewart named it “the best flower market in the country”. The flower market is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 10am-3pm.
The flower mart contains over 50 vendors who sell cut flowers, greens, foliage plants, blooming plants, silk product and all floral supplies. Walking through the flower mart is an experience in itself. We were overwhelmed with the aromas and colors of the flowers. It’s a great experience, even if you aren’t planning an event. I highly recommend visiting the San Francisco Flower Mart!!!
$$ saving tips: Parking in San Francisco is very expensive. Many of the parking garages charge by the hour. When exploring the Pier the last thing you want to do is monitor your time. Look at taking public transportation into the City or car pool with others to split the cost of parking. If you are not familiar with driving in SF, there are a lot of one way streets and most of the parallel parking fills up very early in the morning. If you choose to drive to the City yourself (Good Luck), there is a website that tells you about the best parking in the area at http://sanfrancisco.bestparking.com/. The Pier really doesn’t have a season, there are constantly tourists there and events happening. Most of the restaurants on the wharf are very expensive – so try eating there for lunch rather than dinner. The lunch menus are often more affordable. The Franciscan does bring complementary sourdough bread to the table. There are a lot of things at the Pier to do for free!! Walk around and window shop, take pictures, visit the sea lions and see the landmarks. We were lucky as the Blue Angels were performing the day we were there. The Red and White Fleet offers a complimentary Ghirardelli Specialty Ice Cream Sundae with every full price adult or youth ticket for the California Sunset Cruise. “The World Famous Specialty Sundae” features two scoops of vanilla ice cream overflowing with freshly homemade hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped almonds, and a cherry. The sundae is a $9.50 savings!
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