SF Tourist Central

We hadn’t planned on a particularly touristy honeymoon. Living in DC and having access to world class museums and a zoo for free spoiled most tourist attractions for us – either because we have a hard time justifying the cost, or because we dread the crush of humanity. We’re much more interested in getting to know the places we’re visiting, eating in neighborhood spots, shopping off the beaten path, and basically avoiding anything that we have access to at home.

Today was the exception to that no touristy spots rule. We were already up on Telegraph Hill, it was a beautiful day, and we were still stuffed from breakfast. What could possibly be a better time to soak up the tourist spectacle that is The Embarcadero?

First stop, Pier 39, packed with tourist-friendly shops, tourists, and SEA LIONS.

Sea Lions!

Say what you will about those sorts of institutions, but I have many fond memories of going to Sea World with my family as a kid. My brother collected stuffed seals and sea lions, affectionately referred to as “whirrs” in our house. And there are few mammals more foreign to a Midwest kid than those that live in the sea. As a result, I might have been JUST A LITTLE excited to see all the sea lions hanging out on the docks at Pier 39.


Since 1989, hundreds of sea lions have congregated at Pier 39 every year. 21 years is definitely long enough to make a random occurrence into a tourist attraction, and long enough that even the most hard-hearted locals were concerned when the sea lions stopped showing up in late 2009. Fortunately for the good people of Pier 39, the sea lions are back, and we spent a fair amount of time watching them do their sea lion thing, making noise, basking in the sun, and pushing each other off of the dock. Just what I would do if I were a sea lion.

From there, we rolled on down to Fisherman’s Wharf, dodging the many food vendors who tried to convince all passers-by of the superiority of their crabs. We had no specific destination in mind – until I spotted the sign for the Musée Mécanique. I was hoping for the same sort of splendor as at the Musée des Automates, and I was not disappointed!

The Inquest

The Musée Mécanique is full of old penny arcade machines ranging from fortune tellers to bands of monkeys to old pinball and Pong games. In addition to lots of fun ways to spend a quarter or two, the musée had informative displays about the golden age of leisure in the Bay Area – boardwalks, the Sutro Baths, dancing, arcades, and other inexpensive but glamorous activities newly available to the middle class.

The Barbershop "Quart"

We were getting hungry and sun tired after all the walking and monkey bands, so we headed out of Fisherman’s Wharf and back in the direction of our hostel, stopping at the Rogue Public House for a quick lunch. Rogue’s Morimoto Soba is one of my favorite beers, and a crisp pint with a small lunch sounded perfect. Unfortunately they were out of the beer Shane wanted, my beer was flat-ish, and Shane’s lunch arrived barely cooked. The bartender was very apologetic and comped our drinks – but still, a disappointment. One thing I will say for Rogue, though – they offer a “hoppy meal” special between noon and 2pm – if you have lunch, your beer is a buck, or $2 if you “super size” to a pint. Not bad!

If you go:
Pier 39
The Embarcadero and Beach St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 705-5500

The area is super touristy, but there are SEA LIONS U GUYS!

Musée Mécanique
Pier 45 Shed A
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 346-2000

The shining gem of Fisherman’s Wharf – free to explore, but bring cash so that you can play a few games.

Rogue Ales Public House
673 Union St (Union and Powell)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 362-7880

Adequate food, but worth checking out if you’re in North Beach and love Rogue.