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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Photo by Hzeller via CC

San Francisco: You'll Never Be Bored Visiting Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf and the surrounding neighborhood were named from the early days of the Gold Rush when Italian immigrant fishermen settled in the area fishing for Dungeness crabs.  From that time through present time, it has remained the home of the San Francisco's fishing fleet.

Some of its main attractions include the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, the Maritime National Historical Park and Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Constructed began on January 5, 1933, and completed in April, 1937.  The projected cost was well over $35 million and came in $1.3 million under budget.  This bridge is a suspension bridge, spanning the Golden Gate which is the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean.  It is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World.

The most popular way to see the bridge is renting a bike.  Not only is this a great workout, you will experience an amazing view of San Francisco from on high.  The bridge is accessible all day, every day by car, bike or bus.  Parking is convenient and only costs approximately $6.  There are souvenir shops and public restrooms on either side of the bridge.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz IslandThis is a site that should definitely be included in your schedule. Not only is Alcatraz one of the most popular attractions, but will be enjoyed by both young and old alike.

Located in the San Francisco Bay, it is often referred to as The Rock.  Juan Manuel de Avala charted San Francisco Bay in 1775 and named one of the three islands "La Isla de los Alcagtraces, which translates to The Island of the Pelicans.

The earliest recorded owner of the island was Julian Workman, given to him by the Mexican governor Pio Pico in June, 1846.  This offering was with the understanding that Workman would build a lighthouse on it.  This lighthouse is considered the oldest working lighthouse on the west coast.

Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933 and then became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August 1934.  On August 11, 1934, the first 134 prisoners arrived at Alcatraz from Leavenworth, Kansas Penitentiary.  Over the next 29 years, Alcatraz held some of the most famous American criminals of all time.  Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud aka the Birdman of Alcatraz and Machine Gun Kelly to name a few.

Landmarks on the island include the Main Cell House, Dining Hall, Library, the Lighthouse, the ruins of the Warden's House, Officers Club, Parade Grounds and the Water Tower. 

The RockEntrance to Alcatraz is free, but you will have to purchase a ferry ticket to get there.  Although the tickets are not cheap ($26), most visitors believe it is worth the price.  You receive a scenic boat trip, a guided tour from a park ranger and an audio guide.  The most popular choice of visitors is the Audio tour.  "It is just a great experience, narrated by ex-guards and prisoners, it's a great balanced account of life on The Rock."

Museums:

Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf
This museum housed over 270 wax figures and was opened in 1963 by its originator Thomas Fong.  It has attracted over 400,000 visitors yearly.  The museum displays figures of current interests in the lobby.  The statues are made of wood, fiberglass, papier-mache and beeswax.  The process of creating these figures takes two or three months.  Many of the sculptures were created by Gem's Wax Figures in London.  Some were crafted by Ron Fong and Los Angeles wax sculptor Henry Alvarez.  The Museum's resident sculptor, Kahn Gasimov, was hired away from London's famous Madam Tussauds.

The underground exhibits contain scenes ranging from The Last Supper, the Wizard of Oz and King Tut to name just a few.  This museum will delight adults and children alike.

Musee Mecaniaque
Musee MecaniqueThis is another treasure in the Fisherman's Wharf area.  One of the world's largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines from the turn of the century.  Children will love to see toys and forms of entertainment that delighted their grandparents and great grandparents.  This is a museum you can play with!  From Love Tests, Strength Tests, Shooting Tests and Fortune Telling!  A grand time will be had by all!
 
World War II Submarine USS Pampanito
The USS Pampanito is a Balao-class submarine and completed six war patrols from 1944 to 1945.  She was ordered to return to San Francisco from Pearl Harbor and decommissioned at Mare Island on December 15, 1945.  She remained in re-service until April, 1960 when she was assigned as a National Naval Re-service Training ship until Dec 1971.

She was turned into a memorial and museum at San Francisco on 21 November 1975, transferred to the Maritime Park Association on May 20, 1976, and opened to the public on March 15, 1982.

USS PampanitoIn 1995, she played the fictional USS Stingray in the movie "Down Periscope", starring Kelsey Grammer.

The USS PAMPANITO Amateur Radio Club brings the radio room to life on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month using the call sign NJ6VT – NJVT was the boat's call sign during WWII. Ham radio operators may contact the boat on 7.260 and 14.260 MHz using voice, and on other frequencies using Morse Code.

The Pampanito still has several working parts including one torpedo tube, the periscope, engines, galley and ice cream maker.  The museum runs educational programs including one that allows organized groups of children and adults to sleep overnight in the submarine's 48 bunk beds!

Aquatic Park Historic District

You will be fascinated wandering through the Steamship Room.  With illustrations showing the evolution of maritime technology from wind to steam.  Lithographic stones, scrimshaw and whaling guns.

Aquatic Park Historic DistrictIn front of the Museum is a man-made lagoon on the site of the former Black Point Cove.  To the west is the Municipal Pier, which is horseshoe shaped.  The lagoon offers a sandy beach and a stepped concrete seawall.  Traveling southward is the Victorian Park which offers the Hyde Street cable car turnaround.

San Francisco Restaurants

After a long day of touring Fisherman's Wharf, it's time to put up your feet and enjoy fine dining from seafood to continental.  Fisherman's Wharf is the absolute most popular destination for those in search of excellent seafood.

Family owned Alioto's #8 is the oldest restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf, serving up seafood and Sicilian specialties and topped off with a spectacular view.  Other great restaurants with views include Fishermen's Grotto, owned and operated since 1935, Franciscan Crab Restaurant, McCormic & Kuleto's and Neptune's Seafood.  Kids will enjoy seafood at family friendly places such as Blue Mermaid and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Located in the Financial District, Tadich Grill was founded in 1849 and is the oldest continuous operating restaurant in California.

For Kids:

Adventure Playground
Adventure PlaygroundThis is one of the most engaging places to take kids in the Bay area.  It is loaded with full hideouts, dead pianos and boats!

This playground allows kids to build, trade kid saws and hammers in exchange for trash, and get paint and brushes and paint just about everything there!

Adventure Playground, 162 University Ave, Berkeley Marina.  510-981-6720
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm

Exploratorium
This is a sensational place for creativity and experimentation for kids.  It's a giant two level warehouse, loaded with educational inventions that are created totally for your kids.  Kids can explore the science behind electricity, energy, light, sound and motion.  From sand on a conveyor belt to floating beach balls held in mid air.

San Francisco is a wonderful destination for your next great adventure.  Fisherman's Wharf has so very much to offer.  There is something for everyone, so pack up the kids and visit San Francisco.