Fishermans Wharf Where the Locals Go

fishermans wharf, san francisco, california, crab
Visit Fishermans Wharf like a local. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

If you live in San Francisco, it’s the city everyone wants to visit. The first place visitors want to go see is Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. We all have our list of the best things to see and do in San Francisco, but everyone wants to know where the locals go. The Mission is a great place to hang out, eat Mexican food and see some cool murals and Golden Gate Park or the Castro are not to be missed, but if you want to visit Alcatraz or listen to the sea lions while eating fresh Dungeness crab, you’ll want to visit the places in Fisherman’s Wharf where the locals go.

fishermens grotto, the grotto sf, fishermans wharf, san francisco restaurant, california
Fishermen’s Grotto becomes The Grotto. Photo © Nancy D. Brown


Restaurants come and go more frequently than the waves hit the sand under the Golden Gate Bridge, but some have survived the test of time. The Grotto on Fisherman’s Wharf has been serving fresh, local seafood and drinks since 1935. If you like Dungeness crab, a raw oyster bar or classic cocktails, check out the Heritage Lounge inside The Grotto. If you’re looking for clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, stop in to Boudins. You can watch them making the famous sourdough loafs at Fisherman’s Wharf and there’s another location at Pier 39. Hard Rock Cafe also offers locals specials, just ask.

musee mecanique, fishermans wharf, san francisco, california
Bring quarters to Musee Mecanique. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

The Exploratorium on Pier 15 is a must visit if you are traveling with kids in San Francisco. However, if you want to go way back in time, bring lots of quarters and your imagination when you visit Musee Mecanique on Fisherman’s Wharf. A wise gypsy, perched in a glass box, dressed in velvet with a fancy bejeweled headscarf will tell your fortune or test your sex appeal when you grip the control on the romance meter. Are you hot stuff, wild, mild or blah? Look for the machine with the man in the bowler hat who asks, “what do your friends call you behind your back?”

“What Do Your Friends Call You Behind Your Back?”


cartoon art museum, fishermans wharf, san francisco, california
Cartoon Art Museum photo © Nancy D. Brown

Walking toward Ghiradelli Square, comic book fans and aspiring artists will want to stop in at the Cartoon Art Museum. Find your favorite piece of art, whether it be a rif on Hellboy from artist Garry Brown, a former cover artist for Dark Horse Comics, or Pashmina book art from author Nidhi Chanani. There is something for locals and visitors alike at the new and much larger home of the Cartoon Art Museum on Beach Street.

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Hellboy cartoon by Garry Brown. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

When you finally arrive at Ghiradelli Square, you’ll fall into two distinct camps; those seeking ice cream sundaes from the original Ghiradelli chocolate shop (that would be me) or those hoping to knock back a few craft beers at San Francisco Brewing Company (that would be my husband and our kids) all over the age of 21, of course. If you want to visit Ghiradelli Square like a local, you’ll know that SF Brewing Company has a side entrance for San Francisco locals – shhhs don’t tell anyone about this secret entrance for locals only! Opening April 2018, you’ll see them brewing Alcatraz Amber Ale, Marina Blond, Kable Car style ale or Broadway IPA to name a few. The logo glass is pretty sweet, but I prefer my calories covered in chocolate rather than liquid gold libations. Perhaps you prefer an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista before you hop on a cable car. Do you know how to ride a cable car? What’s your San Francisco treat?

sf brewing company, alcatraz amber ale, marina blond, kable car ale, broadway ipa, san francisco
SF Brewing Company photo © Nancy D. Brown

Insider Tip:

If you have a couple of days to visit San Francisco, take a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge with Bay City Bike Rentals & Tours – I have yet to do this and I am a San Francisco local! Another item on my San Francisco bucket list is taking a private VIP Segway tour on Fisherman’s Wharf or through Golden Gate Park with Electric Tour Company. Have you ridden a Segway or electric bike?

ghirardelli square, san francisco, california, chocolate factory
What’s brewing on tap at Ghirardelli Square? Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Fisherman’s Wharf Where the Locals Go article and all photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. I’m a fourth generation Northern California girl and I enjoy visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square with friends in San Francisco. Your experiences may differ from mine, and as always, all opinions are my own.