Sea lions lead tourist attractions at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Brown Pelican at San Francisco
With winter well entrenched around the United States, we like to think of nice, warm places to help us make it through the doldrums of the season.

We enjoyed a fantastic trip a few years ago to San Francisco. As part of our trip, we did one of the most touristy things a person can do there – checking out Pier 39 and its many attractions. Pier 39 has a lot to offer visitors – shopping, dining, and drinking, as well as tons of tourist attractions.


Nothing is bigger at Pier 39 than the sea lions, who call the area home. People spend hours watching these guys basically sleep. They do that a lot. But, you’ll also see them play, swim and eat.

Sea Lions on the Pier in San Francisco

Apparently, the sea lions started calling Pier 39 home in the early 1990s. Initially, they numbered about 300, but can increase to about 1,000 during winter months. During the summer migration, the numbers drop, but a steady group remains, much to the delight of visitors.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

A great spot to spend some time is the Aquarium at the Bay. It’s a small aquarium, but well worth the visit. It’s a bit pricey for its size, but it offers some great views of sea life, such as jelly fish, star fish, urchins and others. A short walk under a sea tunnel is cool. Sharks swim above you. It was a nice experience.

Aquarium at the Bay in San Francisco

The aquarium is centrally located along the pier, so it’s worth checking out.

Jellyfish at Aquarium at the Bay in San Francisco

Near the Pier is a marina. It’s always interesting to us to check out marinas and the boats berthed there. The Pier 39 marina reminded me of the intro to “Gilligan’s Island.” For those who may not recall, it was a comedy in the 1960s that has been in syndication since.

Marina near the pier in San Francisco

I loved watching the gulls and pelicans that would perch on the dock posts in front of the boats. Nothing says tourist picture like a bird in front of a boat.

Sea Gulls at the docks in San Francisco

With the attractions in abundance, of course we had to have plenty of restaurants and bars to replenish ourselves at, right? While we dined at Bubba Gump’s, we did check out the Hard Rock Café at the Pier. It had a unique entrance design compared with the other Hard Rocks we’ve visited.

Hard Rock Cafe at Pier 39 in San Francisco

We had to check out a surfing-themed place called Wipeout. It had a very beach feel to it. It had surf boards and palm trees as part of the design. “Hang 10, bro!”

Wipeout at Pier 39 in San Francisco

Ready to sit back and take in a free show or two? Street performers put on shows throughout the day at the Pier’s main stage. We watched a juggler dressed as a pirate. He juggled batons on fire, among other items.

Street Performers at Pier 39 in San Francisco

We were truly impressed when he juggled sharp swords while juggling and eating an apple. He truly earned some decent tips he received following his show.

Sword jugglers at Pier 39 in San Francisco

While the Pier and the Bay area may be touristy, it serves its purpose. People flock there because it’s a beautiful area and they enjoy themselves. We loved our visit to Pier 39, and the rest of San Francisco.

Carnival type entertainment/rides at Pier 39 in San Francisco

For more information on Pier 39 and other San Francisco attractions, please check out these websites: