What to Do at Fisherman's Wharf: The Ultimate Guide

February 16, 2017

Planning a vacation to San Francisco? If so, you have to visit Fisherman’s Wharf.

The iconic San Francisco landmark provides visitors with a wealth of attractions, excitement, shopping, restaurants, and more. Before you go, learn what to do at Fisherman’s Wharf for the ultimate San Francisco experience.

close up of Fisherman's Wharf sign with crowds of people walking through the streets in San Francisco, California, USA

Attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf

While it doesn’t take long to walk through the entire wharf, you can spend a full day at Fisherman’s Wharf with all of the attractions they offer. Be sure to make time for these particular attractions and activities:

Trips to Alcatraz Island

When deciding what to do at Fisherman’s Wharf, a trip to Alcatraz Island better be at the top of your list. In fact, it should be so high on your list that you reserve your tickets 2 to 3 weeks ahead of time. These trips fill up fast, so it is in your best interest to book your experience well in advance.

Departing from Pier 33, you’ll hop on a boat and head out to the island where the infamous prison awaits you. Get ready to hear the incredible tales of legendary prisoners, walk through the eerie halls, and explore the island. I still have vivid memories of walking through the prison during my trip to San Francisco. It’s a creepy experience, but well worth the visit!

Don’t want to tour the reportedly haunted prison? No problem. Blue & Gold Fleet offers the “Escape the Rock Cruise”. Passengers will cruise to the island, circle around, and then head back to the wharf, all while learning about the prisoners and island history.

Aerial view of the entire Alcatraz Island as a black and white photo in San Francisco, California, USAVisit Pier 39

Quite possibly the most popular area of Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39. Here you’ll find a whole host of things to do, including:

  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • The Sea Lion Center
  • The 7D Experience
  • Musical Stairs
  • The San Francisco Carousel
  • Players Sports Grill & Arcade
  • Street Performers and Musicians
  • And So Much More

You can’t visit Fisherman’s Wharf without checking out Pier 39!

Hyde Street Pier

On the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll find the Hyde Street Pier. At this pier, visitors can marvel at and explore a fleet of historic landmark vessels as part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. While it is free to walk around and learn about the fleet, visitors must pay a small fee to board the vessels.

The pier itself offers phenomenal views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. Make sure you find time for Hyde Street Pier when deciding what to do at Fisherman’s Wharf.

While at Hyde Street Pier, don’t forget to visit the San Francisco Park Maritime National Historic Park Visitor Center. This free attraction features a museum-quality walk-through exhibit of the wharf’s history. It’s quite interesting!

Marilyn monroe in a red dress holding a clapperboard surrounded by two girls at madame tussauds san francisco

Photo Credit: Madame Tussauds San Francisco via Facebook

Madame Tussauds

Did you know that your favorite celebrities, sports stars, and personalities are all at Fisherman’s Wharf, too? Okay, they aren’t really there (if only, right?); but their wax figures are! At Madame Tussauds San Francisco, you can take pictures with all types of celebrity wax figures, from Michael Jordan to Lady Gaga. Who knew you could get so close to the stars at Fisherman’s Wharf?

San Francisco Dungeon

Do you have what it takes to make it through the San Francisco Dungeon? This one-of-a-kind, immersive attraction is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. The San Francisco is part show, part ride, and part walk-through journey. In the San Francisco Dungeon, you won’t just learn about the city’s history, you’ll be a part of it.

Bay Cruises

For the best photo opportunities, reserve a spot on one of the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruises. You’ll cruise out into the harbor and experience the most breathtaking views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and more.

Shopping at Fisherman’s Wharf

For many, figuring out what to do at Fisherman’s Wharf is a breeze. Go shopping! Fisherman’s Wharf is home to numerous stores for you to browse through. From apparel to art galleries, jewelry stores to souvenirs, you’ll find everything at Fisherman’s Wharf. Those who like to shop will have a field day with all of the stores along the wharf. Whether you’re looking for a gift or are buying a souvenir for yourself, you’ll find what you need at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Get a Bite to Eat

Those visiting San Francisco with a chocoholic will have no trouble deciding what to do at Fisherman’s Wharf. The answer is easy: visit the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Cafe. Yes, you read that right. All chocolate fanatics need to visit Ghirardelli Square in Fisherman’s Wharf. But fair warning, you may not be able to contain yourself or your wallet. I may or may not have bought far too much chocolate the last time I visited. Hint: I totally did.

Of course, if you’re not a fan of sweets, there’s plenty of other restaurants, coffee shops, and quick dining options for you at Fisherman’s Wharf, including:

  • Alioto’s Waterside Cafe
  • Beach Street Grill
  • Fiddler’s Green
  • Jack’s Cannery Bar and Oyster Pier
  • And More

For a full list of Fisherman’s Wharf dining options, click here.

A trip to Pier 39 is a must when visiting Fisherman’s Wharf.

Advice for Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf

Although it’s easy enough to walk around, shop, and experience the attractions, a bit of helpful advice can transform your vacation from good to great. When determining what to do in Fisherman’s Wharf, make sure you’ve reviewed our advice first:

Visit 365 Days a Year
The wharf is open daily and there is no fee for admission. You and your family can visit Fisherman’s Wharf anytime of year. But remember, the winter season is the best time to see the sea lions!

Parking Can Be Expensive
Expect to pay a starting price of $15+ for parking. To avoid this fee, you can use public transportation such as a taxi, walk from a nearby hotel, or take advantage of ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft.

Expect Crowds
Between Alcatraz Island and the history of Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular San Francisco destination. Expect to encounter crowds, especially during the busier times of the week and year.


No More Guessing What to Do at Fisherman’s Wharf

Now that you know exactly what to do at Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s time to start planning your San Francisco vacation. Tripster is your best resource for reserving a hotel room, booking attraction tickets, and more.

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