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San Francisco Waterfront

Bay Bridge to Pier 35


San Francisco's waterfront around the Bay Bridge has undergone a renaissance after the 1989 earthquake. The massive freeway ramp that once snaked along the waterfront, dwarfing everything in its path was torn down and the transformation still continues, with renovations and new parks along the water's edge.

This waterfront walking tour takes you from the Bay Bridge to Pier 39, a distance of about two miles. Don't worry about getting tired before you reach your destination, the F-Line historic trolley runs right along your path and you can get on at any station along the way.

The Sights

  • The Bay Bridge often suffers in comparison to its counterpart, the Golden Gate, but it graces the span from San Francisco to Oakland most handsomely. The new and graceful eastern span is complete and will be even more beautiful once old bridge next to it is demolished. To make the bridge even more appealing, it sports the Bay Lights, an artist's installation of twinkling LEDs that has everyone in town mesmerized.
  • Waterfront Dining: You'll find two nice-looking restaurants near the Bay Bridge, tempting for their views and boasting gorgeous interiors by designer Pat Kuleto. Sadly, their cuisine doesn't match up to scene and prices are quite high. Go at lunch to enjoy the ambiance and view without going into debt to do it.
  • Rincon Park: This small park is home to the Cupid's Span sculpture which is rapidly becoming a new city icon. It's located next to the fire boat pier, and when the boats vent their hoses, the arching water spray adds even more to admire.
  • Pier 14: Dedicated to former Mayor Art Agnos, whose vision created today's revitalized waterfront, Pier 14 replaces the original, built in the early 1900s, when 100,000 ferry passengers traveled through the nearby Ferry Building every day. It's the best place in town to get a view of the Bay Bridge.
  • Ferry Building: The tower of this city landmark is modeled after the Hiralda Tower in Spain, and the interior houses local artisan food shops and restaurants. The shops are open every day and on weekends, it's all surrounded by a lively farmer's market.
  • Herb Caen Way… The sidewalk from Pier 1 to Pier 42 was named Herb Caen Way... in honor of Herb Caen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than 50 years. The three dots after the word "Way" are part of the name because of Caen's writing style, which included lots of - you guessed it - ...'s. Historical displays, poems and quotations are set into the sidewalk, all worth a moment to read. The glass blocks you'll find set into the sidewalk here are called the Embarcadero Ribbon, tying the wharf-front together with a continuous line of glass block surrounded by concrete walkway.
  • It Looked Like That???: Detour across The Embarcadero at Washington Street, where you'll find a display showing how the area looked before the 1989 earthquake damaged the old freeway beyond repair, setting off a chain of events that resulted in the ongoing improvements. You'll appreciate the waterfront's new look even more.
  • Pier 7: This public pier extends 900 feet out into the Bay, edged with Victorian-style light fixtures and benches.  It's the second longest fishing pier in San Francisco and yes, you can fish from it. Your catch might include starry flounder, sea perch, halibut or striped bass.
  • Fog City Diner: Where Battery meets The Embarcadero, you'll find the diner which was featured on a television commercial some years ago. Although its look has been updated from the shiny, chrome-and-neon look, it's truly photogenic and you can eat there, too. Skip the tables and sit at the little counter near the kitchen, where it's fun to watch all the action. They describe the cuisine as "modern eclectic San Franciscan cuisine, with an emphasis on wood-fired meats, fresh seafood and desserts that include house-made custard and French crullers."
  • The Exploratorium: San Francisco's justifiably-famous, hands-on science museum is located at Pier 15. It's so much fun that you might not even realize you're learning something and in the unlikely event that you get bored, their panoramic San Francisco Bay views are some of the best on the weaterfront.
  • Pier 35: This pier houses San Francisco's cruise ship terminal, but it will be moving to Pier 27 in 2014. 
Just past Pier 35, the tourist area around Pier 39 begins.

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