SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE SAN FRANCISCO PLANNING GUIDE.
by Jill Loeffler •
Updated: May 27, 2022
Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is a popular neighborhood on the northern side of the city. This neighborhood is home to some of SF's most famous attractions such as Pier 39, the ferries to Alcatraz Island and dozens of interesting and original shops and restaurants.
In addition, you will find a number of museums such as the Maritime Museum, the Aquarium of the Bay and the Hyde Street Pier. You will also find the popular Wax Museum, Ghirardelli Square and the Cannery.
Not surprisingly, this neighborhood originally got its name from some of its first inhabitants - the fishing community. They lived and worked here for a number of years.
Today, you will still find remnants of the fishing community around the neighborhood. However, tourism is now the key to this thriving San Francisco district.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
A question I get quite a bit is if Fisherman's Wharf is just a tourist trap. It all depends on how you look at it. Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is home to so many fun activities from bay cruises to museums to family-friendly fun. The entire district is designed for you to enjoy our waterfront while you are here.
Part of it is a tourist trap and part of it isn't. You will find plenty of low quality, high priced restaurants mixed in with some amazing places to eat. You will find low end, cheap souvenir shops mixed in with shops offering higher quality items.
When my family visits, they always want to head down to this district. I also enjoy it quite a bit because I get to consistently try new activities, restaurants, and tours to find the best options for you when you visit.
Follow my advice below to find the best things to do including where to find deals before you arrive as well as the best places to eat and drink. If you are prepared before you arrive, you will not face any "tourist trap" issues.
There is SO much to see and do here. Click the links below to jump ahead to the section(s) that interest you the most.
>> Best ways to get from SFO to Fisherman's Wharf
One of the most popular things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is to head out on the water for a cruise. There are so many options to choose from every day.
The most popular is the standard 60-minute Bay Cruise. This one takes you around the SF Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and back in just one hour. It's the fastest and easiest cruise on the list.
If you are looking for something more in-depth, you will have plenty of options from those that last 90-minutes to up to 4-hours. The list below includes the most popular options plus some of my favorites.
Most of these cruises offer snacks or beverages on board. Some are included with your ticket and others have a cash bar. All offer bathrooms and plenty of seating.
As I mentioned above, this is the most popular tour overall. It runs several times each day and offered by both the Blue & Gold and Red & White Ferry companies. It's an hour tour that takes you from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge.
You then cruise under the bridge a second time, past Alcatraz, and back to Fisherman's Wharf. Click here for a recap of my most recent trip.
The 90-Minute Sailing Tour leaves from Pier 39 three times a day. The tour is on a smaller boat called the Privateer that accommodates up to 30 passengers. This tour offers a close up look at the waterfront attractions and includes two drinks with each ticket.
The Bridge to Bridge Cruise is also a 90-minute cruise on a large boat. You will see top attractions and learn all about SF's history. It's operated by the Red & White Fleet Company. Click here to read about my experience on this cruise.
The California Sunset Cruise is one of my favorites. It's operated everyday by the Red & White Fleet. This 2-hour cruise includes wonderful views, narration along the way, and a hearty appetizer buffet.
You can buy alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on board.
It's called the Sunset Cruise during the Summer months (April-October) and the Twilight Cruise (November-March).
The Champagne & Mimosa Weekend Cruise is another tour on the 30-passenger Privateer. It's a 2-hour cruise that runs every Saturday and Sunday morning. Each ticket includes two drinks of Champagne, Mimosas, white wine, beer, water, or soda. It leaves from Pier 39.
The Escape from Rock Cruise is a 90-minute cruise that follows the path of the standard bay cruise. However, this one includes additional time and information about Alcatraz.
Note, this cruise does not stop at Alcatraz, but rather provides additional narration about this top attraction as you cruise around it.
The third and final cruise offered on the Privateer is their Sunset Sail cruise. This 30-passenger boat leaves Pier 39 daily for this sailing trip. In addition to plenty of seating, your ticket also includes two beverages (Champagne, white wine, beer, soda, or water).
If you have never been whale watching, then this is one of the best things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. Our whale watching cruises leave several times a day.
You will then spend a couple of hours watching and waiting to see whales, dolphins, and other sea animals. Click here for more details on these tours.
Don't miss out on this amazing experience.
Head out on the boat called "Wine Therapy" for a 90-minute sightseeing and wine tasting cruise around the bay. During your ride, you can purchase wine at the bar (no wine included in ticket price).
The boat holds up to 24 guests and offers you spectacular views of the SF Bay and surrounding areas.
The cruise runs most Saturdays during the busy season.
You can also catch a ferry to places beyond San Francisco. All of the following ferries leaves from Fisherman's Wharf's Pier 41.
The Angel Island ferry will take you over to the island for a day of outdoor fun. The cruise takes only about 30 minutes. I recommend buying a round trip ticket, so you are set for departure also.
On the island, you can learn more about the history of it as an immigration station.
You can also hike, bike, and take beautiful photos of the gorgeous Bay Area.
Click here for information on visiting the island and the ferry schedule.
The most popular ferry from Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is to Sausalito. This quick ferry ride is another one of my favorites as you get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
It arrives just to the north of downtown Sausalito so you can easily walk to most activities and attractions there.
You can also find a list of the best things to do in Sausalito here.
The third ferry from Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is over to Tiburon. This small seaside town is a short ride away too.
It's smaller than Sausalito but offers some shopping and waterfront dining.
Click here for details on this ferry ride.
Leavenworth & Jefferson
The Cannery is another historical marker in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. It originally housed one of the largest canning factories on the west coast. You can still see signs of the old factory in its courtyard.
This beautiful old building is now a place where you can grab some lunch, do a little shopping or sit outside and enjoy a drink or two in the large courtyard with 100+ year old olive trees.
More about shopping at the Cannery.
Beach at Larkin
One of the best things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is to spend some time shopping at Ghirardelli Square. Here you will find about a dozen boutique shops and also several places to buy their tasty chocolates.
Click here for more information.
The shopping along Jefferson Street is where you will find T-shirts and other souvenirs. This is the area that I consider a tourist trap as you will find high prices at many of these places.
However, they are convenient and perfect for small SF gifts if you don't have the time to shop around.
On the Embarcadero at Grant Avenue
Another top place to go shopping is on Pier 39. On the pier, you will find several shops selling local goods. You will find souvenirs, gifts, and other fun items that will remind you of your time here in San Francisco.
Click here for more details about Pier 39.
In addition to all the other things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco, you will also find a variety of fun attractions. They range from the family-friendly Aquarium of the Bay to the interactive Maritime Museum.
One of the best kid friendly things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is the Aquarium of the Bay. This aquarium focuses on the plants and animals that live in the SF Bay.
This well-done museum allows you to take a close up look at jelly fish and to see the animals from all angles in its walk through aquarium. Click here for pictures and more information about visiting.
Find tickets in advance online.
781 Beach Street
One of the newest additions to Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is the Cartoon Art Museum. It recently moved from its location downtown in the SOMA District.
Here you will find original cartoon drawings from famous artists as well as some of the best Sunday morning comic strips. It's an amazing place to visit for those that love cartoon art and comics.
2905 Hyde Street
The Hyde Street Pier is home to 5 historical vessels. On a visit here, you will get the chance to see one of the first ferries to bring cars between Marin and San Francisco, which ran before the Golden Gate Bridge was built.
For a small fee, you can also step aboard three of the five boats for a closer look. You are also welcome to stroll up and down the pier at no cost.
Click here for pictures and to learn more.
145 Jefferson Street
If you've never been to a wax museum, then you must spend some time in the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. This recently opened wax museum offers a close up look at their handmade creations.
You will see statues of local favorites such as Joe Montana, Al Capone, and Tony Bennett.
You will also get to take your picture with top celebrities such as the British Royal Family, the President of the United States, and, my favorite, Betty White.
Get lost in Magowane's Infinite Mirror Maze on Pier 39. This family-friendly attraction will test your patience as you hit dead ends, infinite hallways, and endless circles. How long will it take you to complete the maze?
499 Jefferson Street
One of the best things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is to learn more about this popular district's history. The Maritime Museum takes you all the way back to the early days of this area and shows you how it became the famous district it is today.
It's interactive exhibits and videos will keep you engaged as you learn.
This museum is free and open daily.
Click here for details on visiting.
175 Jefferson Street
You have always heard about Ripley's travels and discoveries and now is the time to see some of them for yourself. This Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum offers you the chance to see what this early adventurer found during his travels.
You will see pictures, statues, and other exhibits that will get you wondering if they are real or not.
The museum is open every day except certain holidays.
One of the most-lively Fisherman's Wharf attractions is the sea lions on Pier 39. Watch from the pier as these playful creatures jockey for position on the docks and swim around the area.
They are loud and funny but offer a unique experience during your visit.
The SS Jeremiah O'Brien is a Liberty Ship that was built for WWII. It is one of only two that still remain. The ship is open to visitors and it gives you the chance to walk through most of this historic vessel. Click here for pictures and more visiting details.
Another historic vessel on Pier 45 is the USS Pampanito. It's a WWII Balao Class Fleet Submarine.
During your visit, you will get the chance to step inside the majority of the vessel's rooms to see how it was operated and what the living conditions were like on board.
Click here for pictures and to learn more about what it's like to visit.
You will also enjoy the variety of tours in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. These are some of the most popular options.
If this is your first visit to San Francisco or you haven't had a chance to head to Alcatraz, then this is a must do! This former federal prison was home to famous criminals such as Al Capone and Robert "The Birdman" Stroud.
During the tour, you will learn all about these prisoners and other top events that occurred on the island. Click here for more details.
Here are some great combo tours.
Another one of the popular things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is to rent a bike and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.
After you leave the district, you ride along the SF waterfront, up and over the bridge, and then you will make your way to Sausalito.
From there, you can either ride back or return to SF on the ferry. Click here for more details on this tour. Learn more about other cycling tours offered in SF here.
If you aren't quite ready for a full ride over the bridge and onto Sausalito, then check out the electric bikes. These give you an extra push, so you don't have to peddle the entire way.
You do need to be 16 to use the bikes (some allow those a little younger, so ask around if someone in your group is under 16) and you are not allowed to use the electric motor on the Golden Gate Bridge.
However, it's a great way to go on this tour without overdoing it along the way.
Starts at The Cannery
The Fire Engine Tour is a fun, family-friendly option. This 90-minute tour leaves from the Cannery and takes you through the Presidio. You will then ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and back.
You then return to your starting location. The open-air vehicle is a Big Shiny Red Mac Fire Engine.
Find tickets in advance on Viator.
Starts in Ghirardelli Square
One of the best ways to really get to know the district is to head out on this weekly free walking tour. It starts in Ghirardelli Square where you learn all about this famous chocolate factory and the man that started it.
You will then walk along the waterfront stopping at certain locations as you learn the significance of each stop.
Click here for details on this and other free walking tours in SF.
The Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours are another one of the popular things to do in Fisherman's Wharf. These bus tours allow you to hop on or off at any stop along the route.
It's an easy way to get to the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and our famous Painted Ladies of Alamo Square.
Find options on GetYourGuide and book your tickets today.
Leaves from Beach Street
Have you ever wanted to cruise the streets on a Segway? Well, now is your chance! This tour starts with a 45-minute training session, so you are very comfortable with your Segway before you leave.
You will then cruise through North Beach and Chinatown in the evening when they are really hopping.
You end your tour in the same place that you started. It lasts around 2.5 to 3 hours.
Click here for additional Segway tours in San Francisco.
Leaves from Beach Street
Another Segway Tour in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is the daytime Waterfront tour. This one also starts with a training session. You will then set off on your adventure through Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, and back along the waterfront.
It's also around 2.5 to 3 hours.
Click here to book your tour today!
You will also find plenty of activities in Fisherman's Wharf. They range from family-friendly options to spending time sampling the local wines.
Located on Pier 39
The 7D Experience offers two activities in one location. The first is the dark ride which is part video game, part movie where all of the audience works together to destroy the bad guys.
The second is the LaZer Challenge where you race around a dark room trying to avoid the lasers.
Hyde & Beach and Taylor & Bay
During your stay with us, you MUST take a cable car ride. You can do this once you wrap up your time in this district or you can take it over from Union Square. There are two lines that come in and out of this district.
The first is near the waterfront at Hyde & Beach. The second is back a few blocks from the water on Taylor and Bay. Both will take you to and from Union Square.
Click here for pictures and more details.
You will find a variety of places to sample fresh seafood in the district. Some of my favorites include Scoma's (1965 Al Scoma Way) and the Fog Harbor Fish House (on Pier 39). You will also find some great options along the outdoor market on Fish Alley.
Located on Pier 39
Frequent Flyers is a bungee trampoline that will safely take you up to 20 feet in the air. All jumpers must be between 30 and 230 pounds. You will find this fun activity in on Pier 39.
Musée Mécanique offers you the chance to play old-fashioned games. This arcade features coin operated games from the late 1800s, as well as popular video games from the 1980s and 90s. It's free to enter, but you must pay to play the games.
>> Find out more about this fun attraction
Act like a kid again on the musical stairs on Pier 39. These stairs feature both music and lights, so you can create new music each time you step on them. This free activity is open during regular Pier 39 hours.
If you love sports and modern video games, then you must spend some time at Players Sports Grill & Arcade. They have over 30 screens with live sports, 80+ games in their arcade, and plenty of food and drink to keep you busy all day long.
It's near the waterfront (with views!) on Pier 39.
One of the highlights on Pier 39 is their historic carousel. It's a working carousel so both your kids and you can hop aboard for a ride. It's also fun to watch it colorfully spinning away during the day or at night. You will find it on the main plaza on Pier 39.
One of the most popular dishes in this district is Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl. My favorite place for this is Boudin Bakery (you can't miss it on Jefferson Street).
I also love checking out the selection along Fish Alley. Most of it is white, creamy New England chowder.
Click here for more of my favorite places to enjoy clam chowder in SF.
If you are near Ghirardelli, make sure to stop by one of their shops to sample their amazing chocolates. Usually during the day, someone will greet you with a sample square. You can then either buy more or continue to stroll around the square.
The Buena Vista Cafe is the first location in the US to serve up Irish Coffee. In the decades since they started serving it, they have now become famous for this tasty treat.
If you plan to only have one of their famous Irish Coffees, then step up to the bar to order.
You can also grab a seat at one of the family style tables (share with others) to order a meal.
Click here for more details on the Buena Vista Cafe.
Another one of the fun things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views. From this district, you get some great views of Alcatraz Island and Angel Island.
You can also see the Golden Gate Bridge and many other waterfront attractions.
I recommend making the journey down the Aquatic Park Pier, where you can get even better views of these attractions as well as a look back at the district itself.
This store and activity area feature wooden games that will challenge your mind. It's a fun place to spend some time with your kids or those that love mind bending games. You will find it on the upper level of building P on Pier 39.
Throughout Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco
Another fun thing about Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 San Francisco are the street performers. Every day there is a new mix of people from those creating artwork to those dressed up ready for pictures. You will find them all along Jefferson Street.
You'll find a great place to go wine tasting in Fisherman's Wharf called Winery Collective. It's on the western side of the district near the Argonaut Hotel at 485 Jefferson Street and the cable car turnaround.
It's a great place to sample some local wines!
Click here for more wine tasting recommendations throughout SF.
You will also find a variety of events in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. Some of them are daily performances and others are large, annual events that draw in hundreds of thousands of people.
All of Fisherman's Wharf
The biggest celebration each year in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is the Waterfront Fourth of July Celebration. Each year around 200,000 people descend on the waterfront for a day full of fun activities, live music, and food.
The days ends with a large fireworks display that starts at 9:30pm.
Head over to Pier 39 for the daily shows on their Carousel Stage. Every day, they offer free performances from jugglers to comedians. The shows are free and there are several each day.
All Around Fisherman's Wharf
One of the largest events each year is the Fleet Week celebration in October. Over the course of the weekend, there are two air shows that typically feature the Blue Angels.
You are also able to step aboard and check out several Naval Ships.
Click here for details on this year's event.
Pier 39 Entrance
Every day, you will also find live music at the entrance of Pier 39. Throughout the day, you can stop by to enjoy local musicians for free. There is no need to register in advance. The performance schedule changes daily.
Pier 39 Entrance
Another one of the fun things to do in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco is the annual tree lighting at Pier 39. This fun celebration is always the weekend right after Thanksgiving.
After the ceremony, the tree will stay lit until after the New Year. Click here for details on this tree lighting ceremony and others in SF.
Every January, Pier 39 invites you to join them to celebrate the arrival of the sea lions. These playful creatures started arriving shortly after the 1989 earthquake and continue to come back each year.
The event is free.
Pier 39 is also the location for Tulipmania. For two weeks in February, the area around the pier is beautifully colored with thousands of tulips.
They also offer daily free walks that leave the entrance at 10am. All activities are free.
For the Kids: Are you looking for the best activities for kids? Check out my list of fun things to do from the SF Bay Cruises to the 7D Experience.
If you are spending most of your time at Pier 39 or in the Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco neighborhood, then your best bet is to book a hotel nearby. There are hundreds to choose from including big name hotels such as the Marriott or the Courtyard. There are also other great hotels such as the Argonaut or the Wharf Inn.
Learn More: Fisherman's Wharf Hotels
Tip to Save: Before you book your hotel, make sure to search for the best deals here. They offer dozens of deals for places all throughout San Francisco. Browse great deals today!
There are dozens of restaurants in the Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco neighborhood. You will find everything from grab and go places to nicer sit-down restaurants. Here are just some of the great places to check out during your visit.
>> Additional places to eat around Fisherman's Wharf
There are a number of transportation options to get to Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. Here is a map to show you some of the main stops for most of the options below. The star on the map is Pier 39. The heart is where the ferry picks you up for Alcatraz Island.
The F Streetcar is a popular option to get from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. #1 and #4 on the map above show you two of the most used stops along this line.
This streetcar picks up all the way along Market Street and runs about every 15 minutes. It will take you about 20 to 25 minutes to get here.
>> Additional tips to get to and from Fisherman's Wharf and other districts
Both the Hyde-Powell and the Mason-Powell cable car lines end in Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. #2 is the end of the line for the Hyde-Powell line (my favorite since you get some of the best views from the steep SF hills along the way!). #3 is the end of the Mason-Powell line.
Find out more about the both of these lines and the history of these historic cable cars. You'll also find some tips on where to hop on, how much they cost and simple route information for each one.
You can also take a cab to Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco. You can pick up a cab anywhere in the city or use an app to get an Uber/Lyft. From Union Square, it will cost you about $15 to $20. Learn more about taking one of the taxis.
Many of you will come directly to this neighborhood from the airport to check into your hotel. Here are your best options to get here from SFO.
Airport Shuttle: An airport shuttle is a shared ride with up to 8 other passengers. It's one of the best (and cheapest) ways to get from the airport to this neighborhood. The cost is around $17 per person (+ tip) which includes door-to-door service.
Taxi: Another option is to take a taxi. This is the best option if you have a lot of luggage, are in a hurry or aren't on a budget. Taking a taxi costs around $55 - $70 (+ tip). This will vary based on the time of day you arrive but is a good average estimate.
>> Use this page for a full list of all of your options to get from SFO to Fisherman's Wharf
If you plan to drive to Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco, you will find plenty of place to park. I do recommend planning ahead as it can get confusing with so much car and foot traffic. Here are the best places to park throughout the district.
Pier 39: There is a garage right across the street from Pier 39. It's located on the eastern end of the district and is the perfect place to park for those visiting Pier 39, Boudin Bakery, or cruises around the Bay. You will also get one hour of validation if you eat or buy at certain stores on Pier 39. The best entrances for the garage are on Beach Street (100-172 Beach St).
Wharf Garage: This large parking lot has room for more than 250 cars. It's located at 350 Beach Street and is perfect for those heading to Pier 39, the Wax Museum, Rileys or anything along Jefferson Street.
Hyde Beach Garage: This parking garage is on the western side of Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco at 655 Beach St. They also offer valet service as well as EV Charging Stations.
Ghirardelli Square: This is another large lot with space for almost 350 cars. It's under Ghirardelli Square and offers self-parking 24-hours a day. It's best for those visiting Ghirardelli Square, Hyde Street Pier, the Cartoon Museum, and other places on the western end of the district.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
I would love for you join me in my private Facebook group!
It’s a great place to interact with me and others that know the area well.
You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It’s a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!