Hidden Gems in the Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is known for its most iconic landmarks – The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Ghirardelli Square, and PIER 39. But the more you get to know this waterfront neighborhood, the more there is to uncover — sometimes you just have to squint a little harder to see it through the fog! If you’re looking to try something new, we’ve got a list of our favorite hidden gems in the Wharf. From historic courtyards to boutique hotels to secret locations, these are the places you won’t want to miss.
#1 Del Monte Plant
The Cannery is a beautifully remodeled brick building from 1907, where it housed Del Monte’s #1 Plant, one of the largest fruit canning operations in the United States during its time. Built on the rubble of the 1906 Earthquake, virtually all of the outside walls except those in the central corridor are from the original cannery and packing plant.
Once Del Monte closed its doors in the 1930s, it was used as a warehouse, and in the 1960s, a local investor purchased it and transformed it into a fun, vintage retail and restaurant space, reminiscent of the romantic marketplaces of Europe. The 75-foot-wide courtyard is dotted with olive trees, some more than 130 years old!
One of our favorite things to do is walk through The Cannery and grab lunch in the courtyard, at the stylish, street-side Blue Mermaid restaurant, a popular seafood eatery known for its chowders that boasts a relaxing seaside atmosphere and a large helping of old Gold Rush-era San Francisco ambiance.
Haslett Warehouse – San Francisco Landmark #59
Located in the historic Haslett Warehouse adjacent to The Cannery, the Argonaut Hotel sits within the very shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of its location being so close to the waterfront, many of its details show off a playful, nautical-inspired theme with sea symbols from floor to ceiling.
The Haslett Warehouse was designed by architect, William Mooser, who also designed the Pioneer Woolen Mills in Ghirardelli Square, one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco.
At the entrance of the Argonaut Hotel, on the right, you’ll find the Fisherman’s Wharf Visitor Center, which closed its doors during the pandemic and has since reopened with limited visiting hours on the weekend. Be sure to check it out to uncover the hidden historical treasures within!
Chic & Unique Shopping Experience
One of the key draws to The Cannery are some unique shops. VenturaVie’s V Boutique is one of our favorites! Women-owned and operated by Victoria Zitrin, the boutique exudes fashion with stylish pieces and hidden gems at great prices. It’s become a destination for local and traveling visitors. All sale profits directly support programs for women and youth, creating a safe gathering place. V Boutique also offers ongoing internships, community service programs for youth, and free live and virtual events.
One-Of-A-Kind Vintage Posters
Did you know that Andrew England, owner of Real Old Paper, is Pawn Stars’ vintage poster authenticator? While Rick and Corey Harrison and Austin “Chumlee” Russell have been staples of the hit TV show for 20 seasons, there’s been a slew of experts who advise the Pawn Stars themselves before making a purchase. One of these experts is Andrew, who is well-versed in old vintage posters and has been both the savior and the bearer of bad news for the show’s main cast.
Andrew’s one-of-a-kind collection is always changing with new vintage posters adorning the walls of the gallery. One of the most striking posters is the famous jester designed in 1921 by Leonetto Cappiello for Bitter Campari. Andrew has one of the originals which stands 10 feet tall and does not go unnoticed from the street! Make sure to stop by and see this incredible collection, including several excellent movie posters in the gallery right now: The Shining, Star Wars (the very first one), The Goonies, Blazing Saddles, The Docks of San Francisco (a silent film from 1932), and Dirty Harry as the Enforcer in French, and many more!
Last Operating Cable Car System In The World
Be fully immersed in San Francisco culture and catch a cable car ride at our favorite turnaround station on Beach and Hyde street or be adventurous and catch one in action along the route. It is the world's last manually operated cable car system and the cable cars have been kept in the same condition that they were 150 years ago. To maximize your cable car experience, opt for a standing position and hang on to the special poles on the outside of the car just like the locals do.
A hidden gem along the route is the historic Cable Car Museum, which is free to the public and houses a collection of iconic cable cars, photographs, mechanical displays, and a gift shop. The cable car passes right outside the museum so it's easy to hop on and off and definitely worth a visit.
The cable cars transport visitors and locals from 7 am to 11 pm daily. Single rides cost $8, but if you're interested in taking more than one ride or doing a self-planned hop-on/hop-off trip, you may want to consider purchasing a Visitor Passport Ticket for unlimited rides on cable cars, Muni buses, light rail Metro trains, and historic streetcars.
A Complete Analog Arcade
Don't let the French name fool you…Musée Mécanique is all American! Part museum, part arcade, and all fun, Musée Mécanique will take you on a journey from turn-of-the-century music boxes to modern video arcade games. The collection includes more than 300 items, ranging from orchestrions, coin-operated pianos, antique slot machines, animation, and small bird boxes, built up lovingly by the late Edward Galland Zelinsky, who started his collection when he was 11 years old. Zelinski's son Dan, who can be found almost always on roller skates, continues the legacy!
For those who grew up in the Bay Area, it is a chance to remember Playland at the Beach, a popular amusement park in the Sunset District from 1940 to 1972.
The original, gap-toothed, red-headed "Laffing Sally”, a beloved Playland resident, is now situated near the entry door of the museum to greet visitors from her glass encasing. The hands-on exhibit is occasionally swapped out, but a good mix of pinball machines, mechanical musical instruments, love and strength testers, photo booths, twitchy dioramas, and nickelodeons can be found here year-round.
San Francisco Icons & Legends
Plan your A-list experience at Madame Tussauds, the world’s greatest wax museum with no ropes or barriers holding you back from meeting your favorite stars! This unique attraction highlights San Francisco icons and legends who have made a significant impact in today’s world with mind-blowing accurate detail in a life-like persona. It’s fun for the whole family. Photograph and mingle with local legends Robin Williams and Harvey Milk, challenge Warriors MVP Stephen Curry with your hoop game, sit in a jail cell next to Al Capone and hop on stage with your favorite pop stars for a range of fun, interactive experiences with the world's best-known personalities.
Stories Of The Bay That Locals Themselves Don’t Know
The next time you're in Fisherman's Wharf, we encourage you to try something too few locals and visitors do...our FREE historical and architectural walking tours from SF Cityguides. Even if you’re just passing through or in town for the day, the tours are around 90 to 120 minutes, and it's the best way to uncover the neighborhood, featuring stories of the Bay that locals themselves don’t know.
It may not look like it now, but underneath the sleek, commercial facade of today’s redeveloped Fisherman’s Wharf, hundreds of Italian immigrants built an entire industry on the backs of Dungeness crab. Dive into the tremendous history of a world-famous shorefront. Hear stories of the lateen-rigged feluccas sailed by the city’s fishermen. Your friendly personal guide will talk about the Bay and the courageous souls who’ve gone for a swim in it and if you’re lucky you may spot a harbor seal or sea lion swimming in the inner lagoon.
Not everything on this tour happens on the water. You’ll also look at Ghirardelli Square, once the factory of San Francisco’s most beloved chocolatier, and later as you pass the Hyde Street Cable Car Turnaround, you’ll spend some time learning more about the distinguished history of San Francisco’s cable cars, the last manually operated cable car system in the world.
From Coffee Shop To Oldest Landmark Restaurant
Scoma's in Fisherman's Wharf is well hidden, we mean WELL hidden, however, once you locate the entrance aptly named Al Scoma Way, you've found another one of our hidden gems.
In 1965 when brothers Al and Joe Scoma heard about a small coffee shop on the Wharf that was for sale, little did they know they were on the road to creating a landmark restaurant. The brothers bought the tiny, six-stool coffee shop on Pier 47 that served local fishermen breakfast and burgers and began the long and ultimately successful process of turning the hidden local hang-out into one of the nation’s highest-grossing independent restaurants. With a pier steeped in history and a continuing commitment to support local fishermen, Scoma’s has achieved legendary status. To commemorate their 50th anniversary on Pier 47 in Fisherman’s Wharf, Scoma’s set out to illustrate their story in an ever-evolving pier-to-plate menu. It is within this menu that Scoma’s history unfolds, from a small 1960s coffee shop for fishermen to a widely successful restaurant that supports them.
Hidden in plain sight just a few steps off the main thoroughfare is a little-known Fisherman’s Wharf landmark—The Fishermen’s and Seamen’s Memorial Chapel—a touching tribute to the generations of fishermen and seamen who have dedicated their lives to the sea. Located behind the old fish processing plants, it was built between 1978 and 1981 on the former site of an old Coast Guard building. The Fishermen’s and Seamen’s Memorial Chapel can be hard to find. Sitting inside an 11-acre inner lagoon that has remained virtually unchanged for the past century, the chapel’s most prominent feature is a campanile that houses a bell that was crafted in 1860, and which is still rung on very special occasions.
Offering a welcome respite to the Wharf’s working fishermen, seamen and visiting tourists alike, the chapel is the home base for the Madonna del Lume Celebration and the Blessing of the Fleet, an age-old fishermen’s tradition that takes place on the first Saturday of October.
Beer, Food, Friends. Better Together.
The San Francisco Brewing Company was one of the oldest micro-breweries and bars in San Francisco, in addition to being one of the first four brew pubs in the United States.
Located in iconic Ghirardelli Square, SF Brewing Co. is a lively, hidden gem where guests can enjoy small-batch craft beers and the very best of San Francisco-inspired pub food. Don’t worry, this is not a hang-out just for tourists (why should they have all the fun?). Locals enjoy the easygoing vibe, large outdoor patio with fire pits, live music, numerous TVs to watch sports, interactive games for guests to explore, and of course—the beer!
For a well-balanced, full-flavored, rich, and malty character brew, go for the Alcatraz Amber.
San Francisco-themed Indoor Mini Golf Course
Experience a waterfront view like no other while playing a game of miniature golf at the Subpar Miniature Golf, a San Francisco-themed indoor mini-golf course located on the lower level of Ghirardelli Square. With an inventive 18-hole golf course lined with obstacles from different San Francisco landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies, Lombard Street, dubbed the “crookedest street in the world,” and the Palace of Fine Arts, this mini golf course stands out from the rest. So, the next time you are on vacation with the family or looking for a new activity to spice up your date night, be sure to visit Subpar Miniature Golf in Ghirardelli Square and take a tour around San Francisco and play through all your favorite landmarks! Plus, you can enjoy wine or beer (they have a hearty selection) on the course while aiming for a hole-in-one. When you're done, head on over to the arcade next door for a medley of fun with pinball machines, skeeball, basketball, air hockey tables, and a wide selection of video games.