How to Avoid the Tourist Traps of Fisherman's Wharf

  • 01 of 06

    Start Your Day at Black Point Café

    Restaurants at Fishermans Wharf at dusk
    ••• Thomas Winz/Getty Images

    Skip the continental breakfast at the hotel, you’ve got better options. Black Point Cafe isn’t exactly off the beaten path—it’s directly across the street from Ghirardelli Square—but it’s somehow remained under the radar. Stop in for a breakfast sandwich done right with cheese, egg, and ham on a bagel, in a croissant or on toast. Snag a seat in its cozy dining room with views looking out at the Aquatic Park. 882 N. Point St. (at Larkin St.) 415-800-8448

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  • 02 of 06

    Go Sailing, Not Cruising

    Sailing

    Okay, so you have to take a bay tour. It's one of those San Francisco experiences that you will not regret. So don't skip out on it! But you can forgo the crowded steam-powered boat 50-feet above the water when you can be skimming across it under the power of wind? Adventure Cat Sailing has been chartering catamarans on the bay for 25 years. In a catamaran, you can feel the wind whipping your face, the waves licking the boat. They take the same route as most bay cruises, but they also supply a great soundtrack and beer and wine (bring cash). You miss out ON the audio tours, but listening to the sounds of the bay is way more inspiring.  $40 per person for afternoon sail; $55 per person for sunset sail; Pier 39

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  • 03 of 06

    See the Sea Lions

    pier 39 sea lions
    ••• Ingrid Taylar

    FREE If you’re not from California this is a really unique experience. Go ahead and take a peek at the sea lions from the pier—you’ll likely see them all flopped on top of one another for naptime. It’s best to time this with your bay cruise—they hang out on the piers next to Adventure Cat Sailing and you’ll get an even closer look at their whiskered faces and get a real understanding for just how large those bulls are once you’re out on the docks. But to get the real sea lion experience, listen for them at night—you can hear them from North Beach to Russian Hill. Pier 39

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  • 04 of 06

    Indulge in a Classic California Burger

    Burger and fries
    ••• Miguellarios via Wikimedia Commons

    Again, if you’ve never been to California, you have to go to In-N-Out. It’s a rite of passage. In-N-Out is the west coast’s Shake Shack and we will gladly wait in line for it. With fries that are both crispy and slender, shakes that are made with fresh ingredients and are just the right amount of creamy—and the delicious burgers with the crispest lettuce and the softest buns. Good news is that the line always moves fast and the burgers are always made fresh. If you’re feeling adventurous order “animal fries” off the secret menu or go “protein” style on your burger and replace the buns with lettuce. Whatever you do, make sure you order some fries and heck, even a shake. This is an hour meant for indulgence. 333 Jefferson St. (near Jones St.)

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  • 05 of 06

    Relax at Aquatic Park

    Beach

    The perfect break from the hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf is but a few blocks away. Aquatic Park is home to a beautiful, protected cove you’ll see locals swimming laps in the waters (the local Dolphin Swimming Club makes its home there) with views of Angel Island, Tiburon, and of course, the Golden Gate beyond. It's a great place to just soak in the view and maybe even watch the sunset later in the day. Don't forget to swing into the Maritime Museum for a history lesson on San Francisco’s ports.  2 Marina Boulevard

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  • 06 of 06

    Head to the Bar at Gary Danko

    Food

    Gary Danko’s restaurant is one of the hottest tickets in the nation, which usually means it’s impossible to get in (unless you’re really good at planning months ahead).  But here’s a local hack: sit at the bar. You can still order off the menu and enjoy a glass of wine or champagne while socializing with the bartender. It will still be an unforgettable experience but without the wait. 800 North Point St. (near Hyde St.); 415-749-2060 ext. 42