Whether you’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay area all of your life, or you’re busy making plans for that once in a lifetime family vacation to the City By The Bay, there is no better time than right now than to visit the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco.
Some of my earliest memories were trips to the City to visit my grandparents and no trip was complete without dinner at Alioto’s. As the years passed and I had a family of my own, weekends were all about staycations where even a local could feel like the luckiest tourist around.
Over the decades, much has changed about one of the travel destination that tops everyone’s list but what hasn’t changed is the charm and atmosphere of Fisherman’s Wharf and there’s no better time than now than to gather the family and head to San Francisco’s historic waterfront district, which now boasts the perfect blend of old and new seamlessly blended into one.
Since 2010, Fisherman’s Wharf has seen nearly $300 million in private and public capital improvements. While maintaining its rich historical ties, the neighborhood is experiencing a renaissance. A mix of fun visitor-centric businesses and unexpected local treasures have come to the area. Here are just a few of what awaits you:
One of the few spots in the area not aimed at tourists, Surisan is named for a mountain in Korea near where we grew up which serves up an inspired blend of traditional and modern Korean cuisine.
This savory Asian-inspired American comfort breakfast and brunch, along with innovative Korean dinners combines young creative chefs, top-quality, locally-sourced organic ingredients and relaxed indoor and outdoor dining spaces to create a haven for people who love great food, drink and service.
Led in the kitchen by Executive Chef Nick Yoon and in the front of the house by James Choi, together, we aim to provide uncompromised experiences for the diner.
Conveniently located in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf put Surisan on your list of must-experience eateries.
San Francisco Brewing Company
Everyone knows that if it’s chocolate you are seeking, then Ghiradelli Square is the place to be but did you also know that there’s a brand new resident to Ghiradelli Square in the form of the San Francisco Brewing Company.
Guided by the desire to craft beers in small batches to offer its customers flavorful, easy to drink brews, the San Francisco Brewing Company is Fisherman’s Wharf’s first brewery. Established in 2012 by Joshua Leavy, San Francisco Brewing Co. is dedicated to creating a delicious and easy-to-drink beer that fosters community, celebration, and local artistry.
Here at the San Francisco Brewing Company, you will find artisans that embrace San Francisco’s innovative and popular culture and strive to create appealing beers that embody the City’s way of life.
At the center of their ever-popular list of beers is their year-round beer, the Broadway IPA. This India Pale Ale is notable for its light bodied feel featuring cascade and willamette hops that are bursting with a bouquet of floral, citrusy and hops flavors and aromas.
Just like the home of San Francisco’s famous red-light district, this is the beer for you if you’re looking for a craft brew that is both bold and stimulating.
The Cartoon Art Museum
The Cartoon Art Museum’s mission is to ignite imaginations and foster the next generation of visual storytellers by celebrating the history of cartoon art, its role in society, and its universal appeal.
Founded in 1984, the Cartoon Art Museum has something for everyone—from comic strips, comic books, and anime to political cartoons, graphic novels, and underground comix. People of all ages can view original cartoon art at exhibitions and screenings, produce their own comics and animation at classes and workshops, research deeply into our collection and library, and mix and mingle with professional and aspiring cartoonists.
Through exhibitions, artist appearances, and community outreach programs, the museum demonstrates how cartoon art entertains, communicates diversity, and champions self-expression. In 1984, a group of cartoon art enthusiasts began organizing exhibitions by using artwork from their own collections. For several years, the Cartoon Art Museum was a “museum without walls,” setting up shows in local museums and corporate spaces and recently moved from it’s home in Yerba Buena Gardens to its vibrant new space on Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a must-see for young and old alike with a little something for everyone.
San Francisco Dungeon
Now you can experience San Francisco’s horrible, hysterical past by planning a visit to The San Francisco Dungeon. This interactive experience brings together an amazing cast of theatrical actors, special effects, stages, and scenes in a truly unique and exciting walkthrough experience that you see, hear, touch, smell and feel. It’s hilarious, fun and it’s sometimes a bit scary.
The 60-minute journey through San Francisco’s past from the Gold Rush to Alcatraz. The shows are based on real San Francisco history and legends (minus the boring parts). You’ll get up close and personal with sinister characters including Sam Roberts, the leader of the Gangs of San Francisco, and the infamous bar owner and crimper Miss Piggott and her partner-in-crime (literally), Shanghai Kelly. It’s a fully themed experience.
That means 360° sets, special effects, and theatrical storytelling. On your journey you’ll pass through the narrow streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown, Sutter’s Mill, scene of the start of the 1849 Gold Rush, the fearsome torture chamber… and see (and feel!) what your life would have been like if you had been sent to Alcatraz. It’s better than any sightseeing tour around.
Growing up, my favorite place for my grandparents to take me was out to Playland at the Beach. I would spend hours there in this amusement wonderland, long before videos games were even a spark in anyone’s imagination. This was good old-fashion gaming done right. Playland is but a distant memory of a day gone by but luckily you can still relive the best parts of it with a visit to The Musée Mécanique, an interactive museum consisting of 20th-century penny arcade games and artifacts located at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California.
The museum owns over 300 mechanical machines and is one of the largest privately owned collection of such games in the world. The Musée Mécanique has a collection of more than 300 mechanical games including music boxes, coin-operated fortune tellers, Mutoscopes, video games, love testers, player pianos, peep shows, photo booths, dioramas, pinball machines and more.
The museum displays about 200 of the machines at their current location overlooking the San Francisco Bay in its current Fisherman’s Wharf location. Grab your quarters-it’s time to play at The Musée Mécanique.
If you needed just one reason to visit Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s to marvel at the transformation of the historic Wharf landmark, Fishermen’s Grotto No. 9 to The Grotto.
The Grotto as it is now known, has reinvented itself and is back while retaining all the things that is was once known for from the food that you’ll keep coming back for more from the fun and quirky elements of the building, including the iconic sign and the Venetian awning that was so much a part of my memories and mouthwatering seafood that is synonymous with the Fisherman’s Wharf area.
The interior is now reborn with second level upscale dining, The Grotto, the rooftop will be home to a vegetable garden, and the ground floor will feature a mid-range restaurant, No. 9 Fish Kitchen & Bar, and marketplace. The main dining room boasts views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and a variety of local fishing boats. Not wanting to partake in a full meal? Make sure to check out the Crab Shack and try out their crab or lobster salad in a bread cone! Or a bread bowl full of our home-made chowder or walk away with their fresh steamed crabs with lemon and butter!
With so much to see and do, what are you waiting for? There’s no better time than now to journey to the City By The Bay and step back in time with a visit to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
With its mix of fun visitor-centric businesses and unexpected local treasures that have come to the area, there are memories waiting to be made around every corner at the newly revitalized Fisherman’s Wharf.
Looking for a great place to stay on your visit to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf? Check out why we loved staying at the Holiday Inn Express, located right in the heart of the Fisherman’s Wharf area.
Disclosure: I received a hosted stay at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, however, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are 100% my own.