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.
96,046 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.

1,093 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
5,429 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
63 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
147 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.