Pier 39 San Francisco

What to See & Do at this Top SF Attraction


Pier 39 San Francisco is an old working pier that has transformed into one of the most popular destinations for travelers in the city. This busy attraction is home to dozens of restaurants, shops, activities for the kids, and more. Here you will also find the Aquarium of the Bay and the famous SF sea lions.

pier 39 san francisco

It is definitely touristy, but it's also fun. If you know what to look for, you will find quite a few enjoyable and interesting activities and attractions.

It sits on the northeastern side of the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood. When visiting, you are just steps away from several other San Francisco attractions including the ferries to Alcatraz, Ghirardelli Square, and the Hyde Street Pier.

9 Things to Do on Pier 39 San Francisco

1. Learn About the Plants & Animals in the Bay

The San Francisco Bay Aquarium, officially called the Aquarium by the Bay, is an adventure for both kids and adults. The aquarium does a great job of telling a full story about the bay and its inhabitants. It's educational and fun for everyone in the family.

Learn More: Bay Aquarium

2. Watch the Sea Lions Play

One of my favorite attractions here is the sea lions on the western side of the pier. More than a decade ago, these sea lions started showing up in the area. As more and more came, the city of San Francisco welcomed them with permanent platforms along Pier 39 San Francisco. They are usually loud, and a little smelly, but it's fun to watch them jockey for position on the platforms.

sealions pier 39

Pier 39 also recently opened a new Sea Lion Center. It is small, but tells you more about these popular creatures. You will find it on the second floor.

3. Discover The 7D Experience

Spend some time on this thrill ride and laser blasting adventure. You have no choice but to get involved. It includes a large screen TV and 3D technology that keeps you going during this ride. Compete with other participants as you battle ghosts in a haunted gold mine, go on a pirate adventure, or fight off zombies during the apocalypse. It's a fun way to entertain the entire family!

Learn More: 7D Experience

Tickets: Find a limited number of tickets at a discount on Groupon

4. Get Lost in Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze

One of the hidden gems on Pier 39 San Francisco is Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze. It's the perfect stop for kids of all ages. The maze is a fun experience and is designed to stump you a few times along the way. You will want to leave at least 30 minutes or more to work your way through the maze and find the exit.

It's on the second level and costs about $5 per person.

5. Entertain the Kids


There are tons of activities for the kids at Pier 39 San Francisco. In the center of the pier, there is a little area with a historic carousel. It only takes a few minutes and is a fun experience.

carousel pier 39

Right next to the carousel is a stage with free performances including jugglers, outrageous acrobats, and magicians. On some days, Captain Jack Spareribs from the Pirates of the Caribbean stops by for a short visit.

6. Taste Some Local California Wines

Do you want to sample some tasty local wines? My favorite place to taste wine is the Wines of California Wine Bar. You can order one of their tastings (a few sips of three or more different wines) or a glass of your favorite local variety. While tasting, you can also grab a bite to eat. Have a seat in the outdoor area, drink a bit of wine, eat some food, and enjoy a sunny SF afternoon.

7. Shop 'til You Drop

This is the main reason most people stop by Pier 39. On it, you will find dozens of boutique shops. It's a great place to pick up souvenirs, make-up, or some fun local sweet treats. You could spend hours checking out the shops here.

Insiders Tip: Make sure to stop by the California Welcome Center on Pier 39 to pick up your Free Pier 39 fun pack. It allows you to save on restaurants, shops, and parking during your visit. Click here to find your coupon and print it before you arrive. Upon arrival, take it to the welcome center on the 2nd floor to get your free fun pack.

8. Enjoy a Champagne Cruise Around the Bay

Every Saturday and Sunday morning at 10am, you can catch a Champagne Cruise. This two-hour cruise leaves from the western side of Pier 39. You'll cruise along the northern coast of SF, under the Golden Gate Bridge (with an 11am toast), and back near Alcatraz and the SF Bay Bridge. It's a fun way to spend a couple of hours on the bay and kick off any weekend day!

I recommend looking for your tickets for this cruise on Goldstar first. They often offer discounts at up to 50% off the full price. Check their site for dates and ticket availability.

Learn More: Discover More Details for this and Four Other Top SF Bay Cruises

9. Make Your Own Music on the Musical Stairs

Have fun on the musical piano stairs on Pier 39. They are from the same designer that built the musical stairs for the movie Big. Run up fast, or walk down slowly for a different musical experience. You will find them in Building O from Level 1 to Level 2.

Hotels Near Pier 39

Pier 39 San Francisco is in the heart of the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood. Here you will find dozens of hotels. They range from well known brands such as Holiday Inn and Marriott to smaller local hotels such as the affordable two star San Remo Hotel.

Find Hotels: Fisherman's Wharf Hotels

Before you book your hotel room, also make sure you check out the great deals on Booking.com. They offer a huge selection of hotels (and you can cancel most without a fee) near Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf and throughout the city. Click here to visit their site and learn more.

Annual Events on Pier 39

Each year, Pier 39 hosts a number of great events. They include activities such as Fleet Week Celebrations, Tulipmania, and the Tree Lighting Ceremonies.

1. Sea Lion Encounter in January: Each January, Pier 39 celebrates the arrival of the sea lions. This celebration is usually the second or third weekend of the month. Click here to find details for the next event.

2. Tulipmania in February: The pier is bright and colorful every February for Tulipmania. During this event, you will see tulips throughout the Pier and outside it. They also offer a free walking tour each day at 10am (just during the event) so you can learn even more about them. Check the latest February calendar for details.

3. Fourth of July Celebrations in July: This is one of the best places to be in order to celebrate Fourth of July. All day long, you will find live music and other entertainment. As day turns into night, you will find several great spots to see the fireworks display. Click here to learn more about celebrating Fourth of July in SF.

fireworks over pier 39

4. Fleet Week Celebrations in October: Every October, the Blue Angels make an appearance in SF during Fleet Week. Not only do the Blue Angels perform, but you will also get the chance to see other areal acts, tour large ships, and more. During this weekend long event, Pier 39 adds even more fun. They feature live performers, music and other fun on both Saturday and Sunday. Click here for more details on Fleet Week.

5. Tree Lighting Celebration: If you plan to visit in November, make sure to stop by for the Tree Lighting Celebrations. The pier sets up a 60-foot tree for the holidays and this is the time to see its lights sparkle in the night. Before the tree lighting ceremony, stop by for some free live music and other activities for the entire family. Find more on this celebration here. Click here to learn more about other tree lighting ceremonies in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Other Fisherman's Wharf Attractions

Where to Eat

In addition to shopping and the other activities mentioned above, you will also find quite a few restaurants. Many are well known brands such as the Hard Rock Cafe. However, you will also find a few smaller, local restaurants on the pier. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Bubba Gump: Everything from fish and chips to slow roasted baby back ribs

  • Hard Rock Cafe: Traditional American food such as burgers, fries and salads

  • Hana Zen Japanese Grill & Sushi Bar: Fresh sushi and Japanese cruise

  • Crab House at Pier 39: Mainly crab and other fresh seafood

  • Neptune Waterfront Grill & Bar: Higher end restaurant with seafood & other grilled dishes, you'll get some of the best views of the bay from the pier here

  • Wipeout Bar & Grill: Casual American food with great outdoor seating

How to Get Here

fishermans wharf transit stops

The map above shows the major public transportation stops for Pier 39. It is marked with the star, so you can easily see how far it is to get to it from each transit stop.

Street Car: The F Street car from Union Square is a fun way to travel to Pier 39 San Francisco. It runs along Market Street with stops every couple of blocks. It is only $2 per person and takes about 20 to 25 minutes.

  • #1 on the map above shows the stop at the Embarcadero and Stockton Streets - this is the closest one

Cable Car: Another fun way to get from Union Square to Pier 39 is by cable car. Two lines that run from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf. Both drop you off just a few blocks from Pier 39 San Francisco. The cable cars cost about $5 per person. The ride over is about 30 minutes with another 10 or so minutes of walking.

  • #2 on the map is the stop for the Powell/Hyde cable car at Hyde and Beach
  • #3 on the map is the stop for the Powell/Mason cable car at Bay and Taylor

Taxi: The fastest way to get here is by cab. You can grab a cab in any part of San Francisco. If you are coming from Union Square, it will take about 20 minutes and cost around $15 to $20.

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