It is often said your visit to the fog city aka San Francisco starts at The Pier. A vivacious city that is often touted as the cultural and commercial capital of California, San Francisco has a unique character and vibe that is hard to miss. With several iconic attractions including the Golden Gate bridge, Twin peaks, cable cars and the Alcatraz Island, it is no surprise that the city clocks as many as over 20 million visitors a year.
No mention of the city, however, is complete, without its historic water front that is almost the soul of the city. Popularly known as Fisherman’s wharf, it is one of the busiest areas and a picture of frenzied activity. Pier 39, built on the waterfront is arguably the most popular tourist hot spots in Fisherman’s wharf and is best known for being a lively shopping and entertainment centre. Constructed on two levels, Pier 39 built in October 1978, offers some stunning views of the city’s skyline including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges along with a host of activities.
As you enter Pier 39, the first thing that strikes you as you walk along the railing of the dock are herds of sea lions lying casually on the Pier’s K-Dock. With their glossy bodies glistening under the sun, there are scores of them, some playing, others fighting while others just lazing in what seemed to be their natural habitat. The origin of these mammals here forms for an interesting piece of trivia. The sea lions began to arrive soon after the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco in October 1989. By January 1990, their numbers multiplied manifold and after much research by the Marine Mammal centre, the experts recommended that the mammals stay at the dock.
The sea lions are a protected lot and with plenty of food resources from the bay, Pier 39 is their natural home. While their numbers vary from season to season, their numbers peaked to a whopping 1701 in November 2009. You can learn more about these intelligent mammals at the Sea Lion centre that is located in the upper deck. Operated by the Aquarium of the Bay, it is a treasure house of information, facts and trivia about sea lions. There are several informative boards and educative presentations, sea lion skeletons, models etc. that provide you insights about these mammals that you never knew!
Shop till you drop
A walk around Pier 39 is sure to give you a chance to soak in the native spirit of San Francisco. There are scores of indigenous shops selling unique memorabilia that makes for perfect gifts or unique souvenir you would take back home. There are shops dedicated exclusively for T shirts, others selling only magnets while others only caps and another only socks! There are art and design studios selling customized pieces of local art.
A couple of shops that are truly exclusive here are the Left-handed store and a store dedicated to pet shopping. The former called ‘Lefty’s’ has some elusive items meant only for south paws which include scissors, small time machines, T-shirts, posters, mugs and the like.
‘Bow Wow’ is a store dedicated to pets including toys, socks, collars and everything else dogs would require.
Do not miss the Cable car store and several other stores selling quirky posters, vintage collectibles, rare jewellery and some one-of- its kind souvenirs.
Dine and wine: options galore
Pier 39 is a wonderful place to sample some authentic, local treats like the signature clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls that is so closely associated with San Francisco. There are about 13 full service restaurants serving some of the freshest and most delectable sea food that includes oysters, shrimps and fish. Apart from this, there are several eateries, snack counters and little make shift shops selling lip smacking donuts, lemonade, waffles, chocolates, candies etc.
If you are in a mood to treat yourself to some mouth-watering luscious strawberries with delectable chocolate sauce head to Vlahos’ Fruit Orchard that is literally a riot of colors. Apart from strawberries, there are tons of fresh apples, oranges and cherries. Open from May through September, you can also shop for dried apricots, peaches and dates.
While at the Pier, you can enjoy a whole lot of rides and games like mini roller coasters, shooting etc. There are live musicians, street plays, special shows and a host of entertainment options that keep the fun quotient alive. A place that never witnesses a dull moment and showcases local talent, Pier 39 is a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy the lively ambience while soaking in the native San Francisco culture.
Show details and timings are published in advance and can also be booked online. Pier 39 is a safe locality for locals and tourists alike as it is patrolled 24 hours to ensure safety of the visitors.
This article was originally published in Luxury Lifestyle magazine here.