Because more than 75% of all tourists who visit San Francisco include Fisherman's Wharf on their itinerary, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Covering San Francisco’s northern waterfront from Ghirardelli Square to Kearny Street, the entire Fisherman’s Wharf area dates back to the 1880’s when Italian fishermen immigrated there because of the demand for food from the large number of people who had already moved to San Francisco after the Gold Rush. Ever since then, Fisherman’s Wharf has been the home of San Francisco's fishing fleet. During the 1970’s and 1980’s it was developed into a major tourist attraction with the addition of Pier 39, the Musée Mécanique, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Ghirardelli Square and the Cannery Shopping Center.
More than 100,000 people visit the Musée Mécanique annually to see the collection of three hundred 20th century penny arcade games, music boxes, coin operated fortune tellers, love testers, player pianos, peep shows, pinball machines and other mechanical machines. The Musée Mécanique also has a collection of machines that were built from toothpicks by prisoners from Alcatraz. Admission is free but there’s a charge to play each game.
The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park includes the Aquatic Park Historic District, a fleet of historic ships, a library, a research facility and the Maritime Museum. Dating back to 1939, the Maritime Museum contains the Steamship Room featuring 40,000 historical artifacts, 100,000 ship plans and drawings, 150,000 feet of movies and videos, and displays explaining the technological evolution of power from wind to steam. The second floor includes whaling guns, scrimshaw artwork and murals depicting the early San Francisco waterfront. The third floor museum gallery features modern exhibitions.
One of the more exciting rides for visitors at Fisherman’s Wharf is on the USS Pampanito, a World War II Balao class fleet submarine. On the ride people will also see the SS Jeremiah O'Brien and the famous Liberty Ship. Fisherman’s Wharf hosts many well known San Francisco events such as the annual 4th of July fireworks and the Blue Angels Fleet Week air shows. Of course there are many interesting restaurants for dining and some of the older restaurants such as Alioto's, Pompei’s Grotto and Fisherman’s Grotto have been owned by the same families for three generations.
A good time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf is during the annual 2-day Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in September, which features Ghirardelli chocolate delicacies, live music, cooking demonstrations by chefs, the best local desserts and ice cream eating contests. Parking is available at many parking lots near Fisherman’s Wharf and public transportation is easy by taking the Powell-Hyde cable car lines to Aquatic Park, the Powell-Mason cable car line or the F Market streetcar.