Pier 39

Pier 39 is a shopping center and popular tourist attraction built on a pier in San Francisco, California. At Pier 39, there are shops, restaurants, a video arcade, street performances, an interpretive center for the Marine Mammal Center, the Aquarium of the Bay, virtual 3D rides, and views of California sea lions hauled out on docks on Pier 39's marina. The marina is also home to the floating Forbes Island restaurant. A two-story carousel is one of the pier's more dominant features, although it is not directly visible from the street and sits towards the end of the pier. The family-oriented entertainment and presence of marine mammals make this a popular tourist location for families with kids.

The pier is located at the edge of the Fisherman's Wharf district and is close to North Beach, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero. The area is easily accessible via the historic F Market streetcars.

From the pier one can see Angel Island, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge. Blue & Gold Fleet's bay cruises leave from Pier 39.

Pier 39 was first developed by entrepreneur Warren Simmons and opened October 4, 1978.

History of Pier 39 Sea Lions

California Sea Lions have been always present in San Francisco Bay. They started to haul out on docks of Pier 39 in September 1989. Before that they mostly used Seal Rock for that purpose. Ever since September 1989 the number of sea lions on Seal Rock has been steadily decreasing, while their number on Pier 39 has generally increased. Some people speculate that sea lions moved to docks because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the earthquake occurred months after the first sea lions had arrived at Pier 39. It is likely that the sea lions feel safer inside the Bay.

Although the reason for their migration to the pier is unclear, the refurbishing of the docks in September 1989 required the removal of all boats from that area, leaving large open spaces for the sea lions to move into. Once the project was completed, boat owners returned, but did their best to navigate around the sea lions; no efforts were made to encourage the new guests to leave. By the end of that year, less than a dozen sea lions frequented the docks at Pier 39. By January 1990, their numbers had increased to 150 animals. Owners of the 11 boats docked there began to complain about having to avoid the animals who can weigh up to half a ton, and odor and noise complaints began to pour in. Press releases caught national attention, and the sea lions began to attract tourists. Advice from The Marine Mammal Center was to abandon the docks to the animals, and to relocate the boats elsewhere. Although fluctuations in the number of sea lions at Pier 39 are dramatic, as many as 1,139 have been officially reported at one time, many of whom are recognizable to researchers and others, and some of whom have been unofficially named. Volunteers and staff at The Marine Mammal Store and Interpretive Center monitor the sea lion population each day, and educational information is provided to tourists who visit from around the world. Scientists continue to collect information there, adding to knowledge about sea lion health, dietary habits, and behavior. In November 2009 the more than 1,500 sea lions that had lived at the pier began to leave, and by late December 2009 nearly all were gone; a similar flux in population occurs annually, with the animals returning in the spring. Although the reason for their seasonal appearance and departure is not known for certain, according to Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, "Most likely, they left chasing a food source," anchovies and sardines. A handful of sea lions did return in February, and by late May several hundred could once again be seen on Pier 39. It remains unknown exactly where they went and why. However, in December 2009, nearly 4,000 sea lions that were identified as members of the California sub-species were seen outside Oregon's Sea Lion Caves, which meant that they were likely the sea lions from Pier 39.


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Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated 9 media, updated a digital reference, uploaded a media file and added a digital reference
    nrqd pier 39 san francisco ca
    about 4 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • Mike Cohn
    Mike Cohn commented
    Tourist traps like nobody's business, but locals frequent some parts of it too. Get a 1, 3 or 7 day MUNI pass for unlimited rides. They are in the stainless steel shack above Powell BART. Then take the Powell/Hyde cable car (more scenic than Powell/Mason) to the wharf for free instead of $5 once way. Then take the F line back along the water and up Market Street till it turns around at Castro. Get off there, enjoy the view of twin peaks, the outdoor tables and the naked people (no nudity laws, just lewd-ity) and take the subway inbound from Castro station (across street from F line stop) back to Powell. All MUNI service plus buses like the 5 to the museums (daily) and the 76 to Marin Headlands (Sunday only) are free with your pass. BART to the airports and east bay is another subway system and not included.
    about 5 years ago via Mobile