Wandering at Pier 39

One of the many things that I like to do on my day off is to play tourist in my own backyard, and I had the perfect excuse to do that last weekend when I had a friend visiting from out of-town. It was a beautiful afternoon, so we decided to take the F Market streetcar down to explore Fisherman’s Wharf, along with two other friends that we had invited to join us.

Photo Credit: Satoshi Kawase

Photo Credit: Satoshi Kawase

As we arrived at Pier 39 we were welcomed by “Crusty” the crab waving hello, a blues-type band playing, what I like to refer to as “baby-making” music, and the delicious aroma of waffle cones. 

With our senses on overdrive, we decided to make our way down the pier to visit the sea lions, but not before a quick detour along the way. One of the qualities that I admire the most amongst my circle of friends is their ability and eagerness to let their inner child run free, and I had discovered a little gem on the pier which I thought would be the perfect place for some shenanigans.

I lead my friends to the Musical Stairs, which is an interactive art exhibit that plays music as you walk up and down the piano key staircase. As I had suspected, it was difficult for us not to turn into giddy adolescents as we were trying to step past each other while musical notes were playing in our wakes.

Musical Stairs

Fun facts:

1) The Musical Stairs are rarely crowded since they’re discreetly tucked half way down the pier, next to the mirror maze. Luckily, this means that you can play virtually uninterrupted until your little heart’s content!

2) The artist of the Musical Stairs, Remo Saraceni, also created the oversized floor piano in the Tom Hank’s movie, Big!

We eventually grew tired of our fancy footwork and made our way over towards the K-Dock to visit our sea lion friends. The sea lions are the local “Sea Lebrities” of Pier 39. And before you say it, I know… total grimace-worthy joke, but I didn’t coin the term!

Sea Lion at Pier 39

The playful, and sometimes cantankerous pinnipeds started showing up to the West Marina docks shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and then eventually completely took it over. In January, the Sea Lion Center opened on the second level of Pier 39, which overlooks the multitude of the barking sunbathers. The center is operated by the Aquarium of the Bay, and their naturalists lead presentations where you can learn all about these slippery fellows.

Sea lions

Photo Credit: Sea Lion Center

After some quality time with the sea lions, the troops, (meaning us of course), started getting restless, so we set off to do some more exploration. We briefly looked around in a couple of the tourist shops, until we arrived at the end of the pier, and then we saw it… the crown jewel or final “coup de gras” if you will… the San Francisco Carousel! The carousel’s beautiful adornment of hand-painted SF landmarks, 1,800 sparkling LED lights, and menagerie of mystical creatures rendered us helpless. We had to ride it!

Photo Credit: Virginia E. Vail

Photo Credit: Virginia E. Vail

We raced over to buy our tokens and to get in line. One by one we handed over our shiny, gold coins to the operator and then set out to find a conglomerate of four perfect creatures on which to take this marvelous three-minute journey. We climbed aboard our valiant steeds, (or dolphin in my case), took a few group photos, and then we were off! I don’t know if it was the calming wave-like rhythm of the ride, the wind in my hair, or our almost maniacal fits of laughter, but it was the perfect ending to our Pier 39 adventure.

San Francisco Carousel

To find out more details about the attractions that I visited and more, please visit Pier 39.

Do you have any tips or recommendations from your own visit to Pier 39? I’d love to hear your feedback!



2 thoughts on “Wandering at Pier 39

  1. This is so good. The offbeat things you write are what make it unique. The obvious things to write would be about all the restaurants and shops. Your tips are more the fun stuff. Keep writing.


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