Fisherman's Wharf

NEIGHBORHOODS:

While the fun but crowded cable cars on the Powell Street and Mason Street lines can take you to Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s an easier way of getting to the always parked-up waterfront: Market Street’s F line, a year-round rolling festival of roomy historical streetcars from all over America, England and even Australia. The fare is the same as the city’s excellent bus system: $2 adults, 75 cents seniors and children. The ride along the waterfront takes you past the pier sheds where San Francisco once received the world’s goods.

On the east approach to Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39, a mammoth amusement complex of restaurants, shops and arcades. The area includes the worthwhile Aquarium of the Bay and the fleet of Blue and Gold Ferries for pleasure boating on the city’s waterways.

The frequently running Bay Cruise adventure takes viewers to see the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge. The new RocketBoat ride hurls visitors around the islands of the bay, including the Alcatraz—the infamous and world-famous former federal prison where the worst of the worst were confined.

Among the T-shirt outlets, fast-food shops and upstairs restaurants that offer views of Fisherman’s Wharf, there are some remnants of the area’s past as a dock for North Beach fishermen. Today, the wharf itself is a haven for loud, lolling sea lions, a startling sight in the middle of a city.

The walk-away Dungeness crab cocktails and chowders are worth it; they will sustain you during the stroll west along the waterfront to more upscale shopping at the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square.

The Musee Mecanique (Pier 45), with its display of vintage penny arcade equipment, is a charming addition to the area’s carnival appeal. More somber is the World War II sub the USS Pampanito, permanently docked at the Wharf and open for viewing. Always on view are the dramatic Marin Headlands, wrapped in fog or startlingly close from across the water on a clear day.

When the weather is fine, the area can be enjoyed just as it once was, for free. Go to Trader Joe’s delicatessen (401 Bay St.) or Boudin’s Bakery (at Pier 43 1/2) for a pick-up lunch; settle in for picnic at the boardwalk with small and calm park just to the east of Pier 39. Look out for the bold seagulls.

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