One of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions, Pier 39, is located on the Embarcadero and offers breathtaking views of the entire bay including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Islands, and the Bay Bridge. On October 4, the pier celebrated its 35th birthday with spectacular fireworks; throughout the rest of the year, locals and tourists can enjoy a variety of amusements that commemorate the landmark. Here are Correspondent Katie Sweeney’s top five things to know about the City by the Bay’s beloved Pier 39.
1. History. Pier 39’s story began five years before its 1978 opening, in 1973, when a native San Franciscan entrepreneur, Warren Simmons, developed the idea for a dining, shopping, and entertainment destination on the pier. Obtaining a permit for the 45 acres of land was difficult, and Simmons showed neighbors a thrice-daily slideshow depicting what the pier would look like. His hard work paid off; and in 1978, the pier opened with 110 businesses, 23 restaurants, a diving pool and horse-drawn carriages. The grand opening of the shopping complex was presided over by the board of supervisors president Dianne Feinstein, who wore a bathing suit to commemorate the occasion. In 1979, the Blue & Gold Fleet, allegedly named for Simmons’ alma mater, University of California at Berkeley, began operating boat tours from Pier 39.
2. Fresh Dungeness crab. The pier is home to 14 restaurants (which generated $69 million in sales last year) and visitors should never leave without stopping by the Crab House. Located upstairs on the left-hand side of the pier, the Crab House is known for its scrumptious preparation of Dungeness crab. Imagine a whole roasted Dungeness crab served in a sizzling, finger-licking-good garlic sauce. There’s also a creamy chowder packed with fresh fish and slabs of garlic bread doused in melted mozzarella that’s worth a try. Other menu options at the diner-like space include seafood dishes such as skillet roasted mussels and classic tomato-based cioppino.
3. Sea lions. The world famous California sea lions sunbathe, sleep and swim around the K-Docks to the left of the pier. These loud barking animals first arrived at the pier shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Although the pier’s merchants originally wanted to get rid of the sea lions, The Marine Mammal Center, an organization that specializes in the research, rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals, believed the local environment and sea lion population would benefit from a residence at the pier. Thus, they were allowed to stay; at any given point during the winter, anywhere between 300 and 1,700 sea lions can be spotted hanging out.
4. Daily shows and live music. It doesn’t matter what day you visit the pier, if you arrive in the afternoon or early evening, you’re going to enjoy a live performance. From Latin fusion to modern Spanish guitar to Bolivian jazz, each day offers a different musical act. There’s also an assortment of fun live performers — tightrope walkers, jugglers, magicians, acrobats — that are sure to entertain the kiddos.
5. Christmas tree. During the holiday season, you can’t miss the splendor of the Pier 39 Christmas tree. The 60-foot tree is located at the entrance to the pier and is covered in twinkling lights, bows and ornaments accompanied by massive metallic presents at the foot of the tree. It’s the perfect site of many a family photo.
Photos Courtesy of Pier 39