If you’ve lived in San Francisco for a few years, you may view Fisherman’s Wharf as a tourist trap, a traffic snarl, a downright headache. But, when well planned, a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf makes you realize why those thousands of tourists are drawn here every day…. It’s pretty awesome!
Here are my top tips for visiting Fisherman’s Wharf with kids:
1. Go early.
Tourists like to sleep in, and there has never been more truth to the phrase “the early bird gets the worm” (or parking spot, as it may be). If you can get there before 10:00 AM, you’ll find a much more calm, welcoming neighborhood than you will at mid-day.
2. Wear your walking shoes.
Bring a stroller, even when you think your kids have outgrown it, bring layers and wear comfy shoes. You’ll inevitably end up staying longer than you’d planned, and comfortable gear for you and your kids will serve everyone well.
3. Get off the land and on to the water.
A number of boats depart from Fisherman’s Wharf (Pier 41) as well as the Ferry Building a bit farther down the Embarcadero. You can choose to visit Alcatraz (make reservations in advance!), Angel Island, Tiburon, Sausalito and more. Seeing San Francisco and neighboring areas via boat is something truly special, and there is no shortage of options for getting you there. If you’re a bit nervous, take one of the big ferry boats (like the Blue and Gold Fleet). If you’d like something a bit more private, charter a catamaran for a few hours. If you’re the adventurous type, a fishing trip might be up your alley.
4. Take in the local attractions like a pro.
You should absolutely get that loaf of sourdough bread from Boudin Bakery; just know it will take you a half-hour to do so (and it will be well worth it!). Enjoy the fresh seafood served in the local crab shacks, but pack extra napkins, wipes, and maybe even some disposable plates to make the experience more enjoyable. Make it a point to seek out historical sites like the USS Pampanito, a WWII Submarine Museum; you’ll need a map to find this local gem, so figure out where you’re going the day before. Make a visit to the sea lions off Pier 39. It’s inevitably crowded, but also a nice spot to eat a picnic or to-go lunch. If you hang out for a while, you’ll likely find an opening in the crowd, maybe even a seat on the viewing platform.
5. Soak up the local craziness as if you’re … well… not a local.
Chant and cheer for the amazing breakdancers performing at Powell and The Embarcadero. Pause to be entranced by the golden and silver “statue” men poised stoically on the corner. Hop aboard a pedicab running down the Embarcadero for no reason other than to say you’ve ridden in a pedicab. And for gosh sakes … bring some extra dollars. These hardworking folks are entertaining and transporting you around the Wharf; they love making your visit more memorable but it’s also how they make a living. Show some local love.
We’d love to hear your favorite ways to enjoy this gem of a tourist spot in San Francisco. Share in the comments below!