A Day at Fisherman’s Wharf

I wanted to take advantage of President’s Day and take the kids on a mini, near-by adventure. So I settled on a day in the city, exploring the historic Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco.

Full of excitement and wonder on the train into the city

We started our day taking a Lyft to Ghirardelli Square (we had wanted to ride the cable car, but we got to the city too late and the line was just too long). The large plaza used to be the manufacturing center for the famous Ghirardelli chocolate. However, when the plant was moved out to the East Bay, it was turned into a shopping plaza with several restaurants and unique boutiques. However, there are still a few Ghirardelli Chocolate Shops. We went into the main shop, which turned out to have a brief overview of how the chocolate is made and produced. The kids went through the exhibit with interest, and then were excited to get a small snack before we headed to our next stop.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop in the square also shows a history of how the chocolate was originally created

Afterward we went to the mermaid fountain. That was the meeting place for the San Francisco City Guides free Walking Tour of Fisherman’s Wharf. As we waited, we discovered corn hole was set up on the plaza, so the kids engaged in a few games with the kids of a visiting family as we waited for the tour to start.

Enjoying the free entertainment in the square

Soon we noticed a crowd gathering by the fountain and we joined. Run by a non-profit organization and sponsored by the San Francisco library, San Francisco City Guides leads a series of free walking tours throughout San Francisco focusing on different neighborhoods or events. Entirely staffed by volunteers, each volunteer does the tour emphasizing different sites, so you can do the same tour and get different perspectives each time. Our guide had opted to take the “Fisherman’s Wharf: A Hidden History” tour, which started at the mermaid fountain. The tour guide gave us a brief history of Ghirardelli Square and the plaza itself. Then we went on to the beachfront.

Our amazing and knowledgeable tour guide

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is part of the National Park Service, and is a green oasis in San Francisco just down the hill from Ghirardelli Square. At the beachfront were bleachers, from when the area was designed to be an aquatic park complete with water shows. There we were given a brief history lesson on the creation of the park in the 40s, and the Marina. The kids sat on the bleachers and listened to the speech for a while. But it soon got long for them, so they had fun, running around and playing on the bleachers.

Absorbing the surroundings, the water, and the history

Next we went over to Hyde Street Pier, where we learned that it used to be part of the 101 highway. People would get on a car ferry, and people and cars were ferried across to Marin County. The ferry is no more, but there is still a number of historic ships and sites around the pier one can explore.

Hyde Street Pier is an amazing place to see old ships

Next we made it over to Alioto-Lazio Fishery. A female run family fishery, it has been in business for over 70 years, and is currently being run by the third generation. Here, one of the owners gave us a quick lesson on crabs, the rules around catching them, and how to tell if it’s male or female. The kids loved getting up close and seeing the crabs, but were too afraid to touch them.

A fierce business run by some even fiercer women


The last stop was the pier just outside Musee Mecanique. We briefly stopped in, and then went outside to learn more about the history of the near-by pier. However, the kids were very hungry at this point, so we said goodbye to the rest of the group, and walked to the close Boudin Bakery for lunch. Famous for it’s sourdough bread, and loaves made in the shapes of animals, right in the window, we settled down to some grilled cheeses (for the kids) and Clam Chowder in a bread bowl (for me).

A classic lunch to fill us up before the next stop

After lunch, with everyone in a better mood, we went back to the Musee Mecanique. The Musee Mecanique is a fun museum on the pier filled with old mechanical amusement games, old video arcade games, pinball machines, and so much more. The kids had been disappointed to walk right past it, so they were happy we went back. For about $10 we spend well over an hour playing video games, pinball games, and an epic air hockey to our hearts content.

Who doesn’t love air hockey, pinball and Whac-a-Mole

After the museum we took a quick walk back to Ghirardelli Square, where we had hoped to ride the cable car. However, after 20 minutes in line where not a single car showed up, we just grabbed a Lyft back to the BART. (We had tickets to see a movie that evening and didn’t want to miss it.) We climbed in the Lyft and were sad to head back to BART and home, having enjoyed our adventure in San Francisco.

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