Tag Archives: Fisherman’s Wharf

The 25th Anniversary of the “Sea Lebrities” of Pier 39

IMG_8973One of my favorite things to do while I am in San Francisco is to see the sea lions at Pier 39. Since Katie and I were at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch we took the short walk to check them out. We walked over to the end of the pier or K dock where the sea lions can be seen.

The sea lions, now often called the “Sea Lebrities” of Pier 39, started arriving in January of 1990 after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At first there were only 10-50, but quickly their numbers grew to over 300 within a few months. Today, the numbers reach over 900 in the winters, many of which are male.

Early on San Francisco became aware that their “Sea Lebrities” could be a problem for Pier 39. The sea lions were overtaking the dock space and making it too dangerous for the boaters to dock their boats safely. San Francisco decided to make and dedicated docks specifically for the sea lions. Once they did the sea lions quickly realized this space was for them and there hasn’t been an issue since.

The marina’s protected environment with its plentiful dock space and it’s bountiful supply of herring is the main draw to the sea lions. When Katie and I arrived we could immediately see that it was their 25th Anniversary. As we got closer we read signs posted by the Sea Lion Center that the males migrate south during the summer months. There were 4 on the day we were there. These four had decided not to take the trek south to mate for one reason or another. Two of them were slightly skinny, but very active males and the other two were even younger, still fuzzy, less alert males. One of younger ones looked as though he had been bitten by a shark.

We headed up to the Sea Lion Center to ask about the poor little guy that had been bitten. Of course they knew about him and were watching him and monitoring his recovery. The rescue team had been contacted, but only intervene when it is a man-made issue. Everyone was hoping and praying he would make it and while it sucked and he was definitely having a bad day I was told that his wound looked like it was healing nicely and they all thought he would make it. The Sea Lion Center’s employees were a little happy though to see his wound. To them it meant the Bay was healthy and there were sharks in the area.

We took a few more minutes exploring the center. Feeling the different seal and sea lions’ fur, looking a pictures, learning where different seals and sea lions live, and a little about sharks their main predator. They even have a life-sized skeleton right when you walk in the door and sea lions and a shark hanging from the ceiling. And the best part is that it is all free. Free to see the sea lions at the end of the pier and free to take a few minutes to walk through the Sea Lion Center. But don’t forget to donate a few dollars to them so they can continue to do amazing work helping to save our marine life.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

Memories Ignited on San Francisco Carousel

IMG_8971While in San Francisco Katie and I stopped by Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. After our lunch and visit to the Musee Mechanique at the Fisherman’s Wharf we walked down a few piers to Pier 39. As we got closer we could hear classic music coming from the center of all the shops. We turned a corner and there it was, the San Francisco Carousel. It’s not everyday you see a two tier carousel, so we decided to give it a try.

The San Francisco Carousel is absolutely beautiful consisting of 1,800 twinkling LED lights that are on both during the day and in the evenings. It was hand-crafted in Italy and arrived at the pier only several years ago in December of 2008. With it’s delightful hand painted pictures of all different attractions around the city including Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, and sea lions at Pier 39 and it’s 32 different animals to ride, it draws a big crowd. Children are constantly standing in line at the front entrance eager to ride an array of horses, dragons, sea lions, dolphins, and even mythological hybrid horses with mermaid tails and those more adventurous will enjoy the spinning tubs.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

Katie and I made our way to the ticket booth to purchase a $5 ticket for each of us. Suddenly, a kid walked up and asked us if we were going to ride the carousel. Of course, I exclaimed. He handed me two tickets and ran away before I could even get out a thank you. It was super nice of him and I couldn’t have been happier. What a nice surprise.

We quickly made our way through the line and were let in as the last two to ride. We made our way around and around, but we couldn’t find any open animals. We came back to the front and the ride operator had us wait for the next one. She stated that maybe she miscounted. A couple of the animals were broken so she was probably right.

The ride stopped and everyone exited, then she opened the door and we were the first to get on. We ran up the curved stairs and picked our animals. I rode a dolphin and Katie rode a sea lion. We enthusiastically and impatiently waited for the carousel to start. On the top level we got a closer look at the paintings and a higher vantage point to view the rest of the pier from.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

The ride started and we went around and around and up and down faster and faster until the carousel reached its full velocity. It was so much fun, just like being a kid again, smiling and laughing the whole way. It reminded me of when I used operate a Merry-Go-Round at an amusement park and how children would try to jump from horse to horse without the me seeing. None of that was happening on this Carousel, mainly because it was too packed.

We tried to take a few moving pictures as the carousel eventually came to a slow stop. We got off our animals, walked back down the stairs, and exited the ride area. We decided that once was enough for us, but I could see that some of the children wanted a second or third go at it. This carousel is definitely fun for all ages. Whether it’s your first time or hundredth time on a carousel, riding with a friend will be sure to give you new memories and bring back childhood memories for you to share.

Step into the Past at Musée Mécanique

IMG_8973I’m don’t really go to arcades all that much anymore, but when I do think they are a blast. Recently I have been finding myself at Dave & Buster’s with a group of friends ready to play more and more. I stick to games such as Jurassic Park or Transformers. Basically any two player game with a seat, two guns, and 3D glasses for the huge screen. I love the stories, always wonder what’s next on the adventure or what’s creeping around the next corner. So when I saw Musée Mécanique while in San Francisco from across the street I couldn’t pass up a chance to see where arcades and video games all started.

Musée Mécanique is located at Pier 45 at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, right by the water’s edge. Outside it looks like a big warehouse, but inside it’s nothing but fun and a good time. There are hundreds of old arcade and mechanical games that you won’t find anywhere else. Most of them are still playable and when Katie and I went admissions was free!

The collection is owned by Edward Galland Zelinsky. He started his collections when he was only 11 years old and now the Musée Mécanique contains more than 300 items. These items include coin operated pianos, antique slot machines and animations, ping pong machines, and even fair games.

We walked inside and were immediately greeted by “Laffing Sal“, also known as “Fat Lady”, an old favorite in San Francisco. She was previously located at Playland at the Beach, an old seaside amusement park located next to Ocean Beach in the Richmond District, from 1940 until it closed in 1972. Now she can be see making people laugh or possibly terrifying children at the Musée Mécanique. As we stopped to admire her, a girl walked over and slipped two quarters into her slot. She suddenly came to life cheerfully laughing and laughing away, her whole body swaying as she chuckled.

IMG_8971       IMG_8971

“Laffing Sal” finally stopped laughing after what seemed like a lifetime and we moved onto check out the rest of the museum. We walked past an old steam motorcycle, possibly the only one in the world. It was built by Mr. Gillingwater in 1912 and Edward Galland Zelinsky  won it in a drunk late night bet with George Whitney for a 1904 Franklin. A few weeks later George asked Edward who he got the better deal. Edward said he did and knew it was true when George asked if he wanted to trade back. Recently someone offered Edward $250,000 for it.  I think we all agree that Edward definitely got the best deal that night.

We continued and found some information on the 1850 Flying Horses Carousel in Watch Hill, RI which I remembered riding when I was a kid. Around and around we went the one to get the golden ring wins another ride. We also found an original version of Rock ’em Sock ’em game called 1928 National Novelty  Knock Out Fighters. We gave it a try. The game is completely mechanical, but due to the constant wear there needs to be constant tinkering to make sure the fight is fair otherwise the game is a little one sided.

The last thing we saw was a coin operated Toothpick Fantasy carnival town by Woody Burke. He made it using over 150,000 toothpicks and liquid cement. Eighteen electric motors provide the energy for all of the moving parts, including the rides and train. The entire Fantasy is portable and can be taken apart and put back together in 30 minutes, a very unique feature that is not seen in many other coin operated displays.

The Musée Mécanique was a lot of fun. I would have never expected to find something like that at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s fun for all ages, weather you’re an adult and want to remember your childhood or a child and want to have fun playing some games. If you’re in the area you should stop by and check it out.

Fisherman’s Wharf Clam Chowder & Lobster Rolls

IMG_8973On a trip to San Francisco my friend Katie and I arrived in the city around 10am. We planned to stay at Katie’s friend, Kathy’s, house so we stopped by to talk, relax for a bit, and drop off our stuff. As lunch approached we decided to head over to Fisherman’s Wharf for some seafood. Kathy convinced us to take the bus giving us the bus numbers we needed to take and streets we should get off at. About an hour later we reached our destination.

We exited the F Market line bus at Pier 39 and walked the remaining bit toward Fisherman’s Wharf. We arrived at a long strip of seafood restaurants. As we walked toward the water we could see numerous people ordering food at all different vendors.  Shrimp, crab, lobsters, and clams were swirling around us everywhere. We snuck down the back alley where we could see into the open market vendor’s glass case windows. They all seemed to sell the same things with just slight differences in the ingredients. Eventually we decided on Guardino’s due to their huge chunks of lobster we could see on top of their lobster rolls.

Guardino’s is at the end of the strip closes to the Fisherman’s Wharf sign. It has been around since 1908 and their seafood is caught fresh each morning including the crabs for their crab legs and clams for their creamy and chunky clam chowder. There really isn’t any seating at any of the open markets on the strip, so we ordered our food, a lobster roll and clam chowder bread bowl, and searched for a place to sit.

We found a spot to eat by the docks overlooking some boats and birds. We could barely see the birds, but occasionally one would fly past to catch the scraps of fish an elderly lady was filleting and tossing over the edge next to us. One seagull stood near her for any scraps she might offer or any food anyone else might drop. She finally tossed him a piece and he swallowed it whole. She tossed one more piece and he took off flying away with it only to be chased by three other seagulls.

IMG_8971      IMG_8971

We finished our lunch. The clam chowder bread bowl was delicious! The clams were cooked perfectly, not chewy at all, and the pieces were pretty big compared to most clam chowders I’ve had. We really should have gone back for more. The lobster roll was ok. I’ll give it one thumb up. I loved the huge chunks of lobster on top, but was a little overwhelmed by the mayonnaise, which I am not a big fan of. The bread on both meals were on point, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Absolutely amazing rolls.

I just love San Francisco and the Fisherman’s Wharf. Now knowing that Guardino’s is there only makes things even better. I hope that I will be able to go back soon to enjoy more of their seafood goodness.

IMG_8971      IMG_8971