When I visited San Francisco back in 1998 one of the things I vividly remember was the Sea Lions at Pier 39. Naturally this was the first place I wanted to revisit when I found myself in March exploring San Francisco alone. After googling directions I planned my route, via Union Square, Chinatown, Washington Square and finally Pier 39 and the Embarcadero. It was a 1.8 mile walk and should take around 40 minutes.
Maybe my memory is failing, it’s possible I’m 46, but I remember Union Square being green. Grassy, with trees. Now it’s a huge concrete expanse with coffee shops, underground parking and tourist buses. It’s a must see purely to check off the bucket list but really there is nothing here. Other than some prime people watching. Stores around here are typically high end designer stores and include: Rolex, Alexander McQueen, Tiffany, Cartier, Vera Wang, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and YSL. Nothing of interest to me, though some of the window displays were fun to look at.
The hotel we were originally going to before switching to the Adagio was at the China Town entrance. I LOVE Asian Art so I was eager to check out the area. Covering 24 square blocks, Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest in the whole of the USA. It’s also the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia. The Dragon Gate entrance on Grant/Bush is probably the most iconic so naturally I started my exploration there. Lots of great Asian art stores here, with a few tourist shops thrown in too.
My walk to Pier 39 took me past Washington Square. Flanked on one side by the beautiful St Peter and Paul’s Church, this park was a welcome surprise of green from an otherwise concrete jungle. The park has a statue of Benjamin Franklin but I was immediately drawn to the sheer amount of people in a small park at 10am in the morning.So many Asian people staying mobile walking around the park, and doing Tai Chi. If I had time I would have loved to join in, it looked so peaceful.
One of the quintessential things about visiting San Francisco is Pier 39. Home of tourist attractions like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, stores, restaurants, the aquarium and the main attraction: The Sea Lions. The end of the Pier is also a great place for photos of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, both are visible from here. Along with the shops, restaurants, and other attractions it’s no wonder this place is ALWAYS busy! My favorite store was a little place called Enlightenment, that sold spiritual items. Bob better thank his lucky stars we had carry on luggage only otherwise I’d have been taking more stuff home with me!
California Sea lions
Seriously the best part of Pier 39 is the Sea Lions. Head to the end of the Pier and turn left and you can’t miss them. There are 100’s of them sunning themselves on the docks, and playing in the water. Honestly I spent more time watching the Sea Lions that pursuing the stores. I even live streamed them on my Instagram. Watching them interact, play and seeing their different characters is just so fun. I went back to watch them more than once during the trip.
San Francisco Bay Aquarium
One of the main attractions at Pier 39 beside the Sea Lions is the Aquarium of the Bay. I wanted to give the Aquarium it’s own post so I can fully share photos from the trip but really the Aquarium needs putting in with the Pier and I have more than enough photos to cover a couple of posts. Suffice to say you can make your way around the Aquarium in about 45 minutes. It really doesn’t take long as it isn’t that big, the enclosures are small and so there isn’t that much to see. Worth a visit if you have the CityPass otherwise skip it and head to the Academy of Sciences instead. Definitely a good way to spend some time if it’s raining or windy but expect it to be busy.
The east side of the bay from ATT park to Pier 39 is known for the Embarcadero. This three mile stretch has the San Francisco Bay Ferry Building, a park and lots of scenic pierside sculptures, art and landmarks. The Exploratorium is along this stretch, along with the San Francisco Belle, and Pier 33 where you can visit Alcatraz! Opposite Pier 23 you can see Colt Tower looming on the horizon, accessible by the Greenwich Steps. Not for the faint hearted as this is a STEEP climb!
More on San Francisco to come including more about the Aquarium of the Bay, the Academy of sciences, Museums and art galleries. See my previous posts for info on the delicious vegan food we ate or exploring San Francisco alone.
Which of the above places would you most like to visit?
Where is your favorite place to go in San Francisco?
If you could visit any City in the world where would you go?