San Francisco 8-5 realistic things to do

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86 Posts
Joined Sep 2010
My mother,a friend & I are on a HAL Panama Canal cruise at the beginning of October. We're just there 8-5. My mom's must do activity is to ride cable cars. Mine is shopping on pier 39. I'm not sure if my friend has a must do. Can cable cars & time at pier 39 realistically be done in one day. I'm not sure that I want to do the cable cars. What do you think.
102,145 Posts
Joined Jul 2000

Pier 39 is relatively close to both Cruise Ship Terminals and riding a cable car is easily done.

Sometimes the wait can be long to ride the car depending on time of day, location and day of week.

You will easily be able to do not only both but more things.

1,818 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Your likely to be docked at pier 27, so a short walk to pier 39 in the AM or at the end of your day depending on how you route it. Unless you are heavily into tourist knickknacks there is not a great deal of shopping at 39. If you start there,check for openings as I suspect most shops will not be open before 9 or 10. From the pier you could continue along the waterfront, passing Fishermans wharf and make your way to the terminus of the Powell street cable car. Ride the cable car downtown and then you have all of the downtown area open to you. At the end of the afternoon you could take the F-line or a cab back to pier 27.
There are many other things to do in SF but if these are your bucket list items this would be easy to do.
San Francisco
30 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
Cable Car waits can be terrible if not first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening. It's $7 each time you step on. But if you can't hit them first thing when you get off the ship, know that most people make the mistake of picking it up at the end of the line. You don't need to do that. You can board at any stop. You can also ride much easier if you take the California line. It doesn't have the spectacular views that the others have, which is why its easier to ride.

You could walk along the Embarcadero from the Cruise Port to the Ferry Building. The California Line is across the way in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. You could take that up the hill to Chinatown (which likely has similar and cheaper trinket shopping than Pier 39). From there you could walk to North Beach (our Little Italy) to grab lunch - and then continue either by bus or Uber to Pier 39 to see the bridge in the distance and the sea lions (and do more shopping if you haven't found what you want yet). Then the short walk back to the ship.

Enjoy your time in the City!
Chicago suburbs
6,032 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Another viewpoint - Pier 39 is indeed touristy, but then again I am a tourist and I love going there! If you want the usual touristy stuff, then that is a good place to go. If you continue further towards Fisherman's Wharf, then you will see more stores along the Embarcadero and finally the shops at Ghirardelli Square. All of your must do's are easily doable, although the walk could be modest or fairly long depending which pier you dock at.

Have been on two coastal cruises in recent years and have docked at different piers each time - one close and one far. We are walkers so no big deal for us but it took more time. There is a free shuttle bus along the Embarcadero you can catch (although it doesn't seem to go by very frequently) or you can catch rides (for a price) from young guys driving bicycle shuttles or whatever they are actually called (although I think they all only seat two)
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Central Valley, California
89 Posts
Joined Dec 2013
Pier 39 is very touristy but if you're a tourist, it can be fun! Check out the harbor seals and get some yummy crab and sourdough bread further along the wharf. There are always street performers (some are actually good) to watch as well. You can visit penny arcade museum for free at the wharf as well Hyde Street Pier (historic park).

You can ride the cable cars and explore the wharf in one day. Ditto on getting in line early, especially if you are visiting on a weekend. I would hop on early down at the wharf, ride to the end at Powell Station, visit the Westfield Mall (fabulous), walk Union Square, and then go back to the wharf area. Lines can be long at the termini but you can get on anywhere along the route.

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San Ramon CA
154 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
I you want to ride the cable car the Hyde St. line is the best ride. Catch it at the edge of Fisherman's Wharf. The return ride from downtown usually have LONG lines and easy to miss your ship. Come back on the F streetcar which runs along Market St. and down to the ship.
Hawthorne, CA
379 Posts
Joined Dec 2010
You can take a bus to Sausalito. Beautiful little town, has gslleries, shops, little restaurants, and a little park.

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Northern California
2,373 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Walk to China town, then walk to North Beach, walk to Fisherman's wharf, Walk to Ghirardelli. Walk to Pier 39 and the back to the ship.
102,145 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
The reality is you can do 100's of things but I would keep in mind that this thread is from last year and all the OP asked about was doing two specific things.

Oakland, CA USA
2,316 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
I don't recommend shopping at Pier 39. The storefronts there are mostly bars and restaurants, with some T-shirt shops. Best feature of Pier 39 is the free views of the sea lions.
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102,145 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
It's funny how we all see things differently.

I like the sports shop at Pier 39.

The Merry Go Round is also special for us. Why? Because for the four years we lived in the Bay Area we would take our children there at the time and they would go on it.

Pier 39 is one of many places that is just fun to stop by as a tourist or even for some (like me when we lived there). Some people enjoy the restaurants too.

No right or wrong.

2,159 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
I think the shopping is terrible at Pier 39. That said, I think Ghiradelli is fun. The Boudin's at the Pier is also really good (better than the one in the food court at the bottom of Macy's at Union Square for some reason).

I was gonna say to shop at the Powell end of the cable car (the one next to the Gap), but that was because Blondie's Pizza is there. Or was there, I should say. I guess they got shut down? It was a must have, and cheap for San Francisco. Without them, then I'd say to go ahead and shop at Pier 39 unless you like very impressive mall type shopping. As a tourist, it's still impressive to see a 3 story Old Navy, even if there's an Old Navy at your local mall. Or a 6 story Macy's that's just the Women's section (Men's and furniture are still in that other building I think). And those new malls are impressive for window shopping or the food courts.

But they're not kitchy like Pier 39, and that's fun in its own way.
102,145 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
We do very little shopping ever at the Pier but the OP didn't ask for opinions on where to shop.

The OP simply asked about doing certain things in one day.

That was it.

Sometimes I find it best to just answer the questions.

Now if the OP asked about where to shop, what to do, where to go then I would be offering a lot of opinions.

374 Posts
Joined Mar 2018
In addition to pier 39 a more local view of SF can be experienced at the ferry building on embarcadero. Lots of cute little local shops and good food, not tourist - tacky like pier 39 (but plenty of tourists)
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