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PIER 39: The Heartbeat of San Francisco’s Waterfront

In the vibrant city of San Francisco, PIER 39 stands out as a beacon of entertainment, dining, and panoramic beauty. This iconic destination is not just a pier; it’s a cultural and recreational complex that embodies the spirit of the city. Here’s why a visit to San Francisco isn’t complete without spending time at PIER 39.

A Rich Tapestry of History and Innovation

PIER 39’s journey from a waterfront complex to San Francisco’s most visited destination is a testament to the city’s innovative spirit. Opened in 1978, it transformed a neglected part of the waterfront into a bustling hub of activity, offering a unique blend of attractions against the backdrop of the city skyline and the Bay.

Did you know?

      1. Aquatic Visitors: The famous sea lions began arriving at PIER 39’s West Marina shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, growing from a handful to hundreds, creating a spectacle beloved by visitors worldwide.
      2. Educational Hub: In partnership with The Marine Mammal Center, PIER 39 has developed educational programs about the sea lions, emphasizing conservation and marine health.
      3. Record Numbers: In November 2009, a record 1,701 sea lions were counted on K-Dock, showcasing the area’s importance as a haven for these marine animals.

Today’s Vibrant Atmosphere

PIER 39 today is more than just a tourist attraction; it’s a vibrant community of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues set against the majestic views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. Its two levels are packed with experiences that cater to every taste and interest, from gourmet dining to unique shopping opportunities.

Not to Be Missed

Splashy Sea Lions

The sea lions are an integral part of the PIER 39 experience. Their playful antics and barking calls are a delight to visitors of all ages. The Sea Lion Center offers insights into their behavior and biology, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts.

Specialty Shopping

With over 50 specialty shops, PIER 39 offers a shopping experience like no other. Whether you’re looking for San Francisco memorabilia, unique gifts, or artisanal products, you’ll find something to cherish.

Delectable Dining

San Francisco is known for its culinary excellence, and PIER 39’s restaurants serve up some of the freshest and most delicious dishes in the city. From classic seafood to international cuisine, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

Endless Entertainment

Attractions like the Aquarium of the Bay, 7D Experience, and Adventure Cat Sailing Charters provide fun for the entire family. The PIER also hosts live music, street performances, and seasonal events that add to its lively atmosphere.

Location and Information

Location: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Website: PIER 39 for more information on attractions, dining options, and event schedules.

PIER 39 is not just a destination; it’s an experience that captures the essence of San Francisco’s charm and vibrancy. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, PIER 39 offers an unforgettable adventure with its stunning views, eclectic mix of attractions, and warm hospitality. So, make sure to add PIER 39 to your San Francisco itinerary and discover why it’s the starting point for exploring the City by the Bay.


More about the Splashy Sea Lions

The sea lions that camp out in PIER 39’s West Marina have been an international sensation for more than 25 years. A few California sea lions began “hauling out” in PIER 39’s West Marina shortly after the 1989 San Francisco Loma Prieta earthquake. The boisterous barking pinnipeds started arriving in droves and took over K-Dock in January 1990. At first, they numbered from 10-50, but due to a plentiful herring supply, the available dock space, and the protective environment, the population soon grew to more than 300 within a couple of months.

Did you know?

      1. The sea lions of PIER 39 began arriving in droves shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, finding a new home that now defines the pier’s identity.
      2. At its peak in November 2009, a record 1,701 sea lions were counted at PIER 39, showcasing the area’s significant role as a sanctuary for these marine mammals.
      3. PIER 39’s commitment to marine life extends beyond the sea lions, with partnerships like The Marine Mammal Center ensuring the well-being of these playful inhabitants and educating the public about marine conservation.

The Marine Mammal Center, an organization devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals and the study of these animals’ health, advised PIER 39 that the sea lions should be allowed to stay. As a result, The Marine Mammal Center and PIER 39 have worked together for the last two decades to ensure the health and well-being of PIER 39’s sea lion population. An educational program was also developed to educate visitors and school groups about these marine mammals.

In November 2009, a record number of sea lions were counted on K-Dock (1,701 to be exact!), but later that same month, their numbers quickly dwindled. By December 2009, only a handful of sea lions were hauled out on K-Dock. Researchers at The Marine Mammal Center attributed their departure to a shift in their food source that caused the population to travel to other regions in their normal range including the Oregon Coast to feed. However, the California sea lions slowly began migrating back to PIER 39, much to the delight of locals and tourists who gather from all over the world to watch the playful mammals.

You can watch the sea lions from wherever you are around the world! Visit the Sea Lion section on to check out the Sea Lion Webcam.


Information and images provided by Pier 39.

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