Tourists flock to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf for good reason; it’s family-friendly and brims with tons of idiosyncratic charm. There’s nothing quite like strolling the 1,000-foot-long Pier 39 while taking in views of the Bay, devouring your bread bowl chowder (you know you’re going to do it) and listening to the strange music of the pier’s sea lions.
Is there a less touristy side to Fisherman’s Wharf? The answer is, surprisingly, yes. It’s worth a longer stay to explore both the well-traveled and less-traveled paths—and we now have the perfect place for getting acquainted with the wharf’s many dimensions. The newest Kimpton in San Francisco is a waterfront hotel right off the Embarcadero near Pier 39, providing easy access to the most iconic San Francisco sights, as well a stylish hideout from the crowds. Once you’ve checked off a few of the obvious must-see spots, consider these other neighborhood gems.
Alternative Things to Do in Fisherman’s Wharf
1. Aquatic Park
Offering a respite from the clanging cable cars and droves of tourists, Aquatic Park is a protected cove where locals often swim laps in the frigid water of the Bay. And, if you’re not a member of the Frigid Water Fan Club, it’s still the perfect place to sit on the narrow beach or the spacious cement steps and soak in views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Alcatraz.
An alternative to the Alcatraz-bound ferry is the ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf to Angel Island. With its wildlife preserve, ample hiking trails and long-time history as a military base, Angel Island can easily fill an entire day. Bike rentals are available seasonally, and we recommend cycling the paved five-mile road circling the island for breathtaking, 360-degree views of the Bay. Just plan to head over on a clear day, unless a fog-shrouded IG feed is what you’re going for.
3. Attend a Class at The Cheese School
Did someone say cheese? Oh right, we did, because even if going to a class might not be your idea of kicking back, wait til you check out The Cheese School’s “cornucopia of education and tasting events,” which run the gamut from mozzarella-stretching workshops to beer-and-cheese pairings to lessons on the secrets of fondue success. And, if for some reason you haven’t scheduled extra cheese-stretching time into your stay, at least check out their shop and café to sample curated, award-winning local favorites.
4. Wine Tastings
If you can’t think about cheese without thinking about wine, not only are we kindred spirits, but you’re also in luck. You can taste the famed offerings of Wine Country without the two-hour drive. Head to the Winery Collective, a tasting room and wine store focused on boutique and cult-favorite Californian wineries, known for its carefully culled choices. Or check out the Wattle Creek Winery tasting room or the Wines of California Wine Bar, both with outdoor patios.
Just five dollars will buy you entry into “possibly the most psychedelic place one can legally reach within the city limits,” according to SF Weekly. You’ll slip on disposable gloves and feel your way through a trippy labyrinth lit with blacklight and neon and thumping with ‘80s music. It’s an offbeat—which is to say perfectly San Franciscan—experience.
Where to Stay:
The Kimpton Alton Hotel offers a prime Fisherman’s Wharf location with a stylishly laidback California-cool vibe. In-room views of the Pacific Ocean, Alcatraz and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge compete with a fresh palette of warm white oak bathed in sunlight, marble accents, lush greenery draped from skylights, and fun wall treatments that evoke a retro residential feel. Fairlight Café , an all-day café and bar with outdoor patio, puts you right in the heart of great attractions like Ghirardelli Square, the famed Cable Cars, North Beach and Telegraph Hill. Come join us when we open our doors in our home city, in one of the most coveted neighborhoods in the country.