First-time visitors to San Francisco are drawn to the Fisherman’s Wharf waterfront district like moths to a flame—in part for the seafood, in part for the souvenir stores, in part for the people- and boat-watching, in part for the history and in part for the attractions that provide often kitschy diversion. Too-narrow sidewalks and heavy traffic in the past made the experience far from ideal. But a seven-year, $300 million infusion in public and private capital improvements has catapulted Fisherman’s Wharf into pedestrian-friendly renaissance mode.
Planners steering their convention guests to the district can recommend numerous new venues, including Surisan, a KoreanAmerican fusion restaurant; Hotel Zephyr, an oh-so-hip boutique property with a shipping-container aesthetic; the newly opened, nautically themed Hotel Zoe in the shell of the former Tuscan Hotel; the recently relocated Cartoon Art Museum; the Hard Rock Café, recently reopened following $8 million in renovations (including a private dining venue); and the revamped Fisherman’s Grotto #9, a historic, Venetian-themed seafood restaurant. In addition, the iconic Alioto’s restaurant has opened a casual street-level eatery called Café 8, while San Francisco Maritime Park has debuted a new visitor center that’s available for private events.
Ghirardelli Square, home of the famed chocolate company, is also getting a host of new tenants this spring. They include San Francisco Brewing Company, the district’s first craft-brewing facility; an indoor, 18-hole mini golf course called Subpar; and Cheese School of San Francisco, a café-cumcooking-class operation available for group lessons and team-building.
And don’t write off Fisherman’s Wharf as purely a tourist destination. The 30-squareblock neighborhood is still home to 185 active fishing vessels and 22 seafood distribution companies, says Rachel Brown, marketing and communications director for the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District. On average, she reports, some 24,383 people visit the district on a daily basis—a number that can swell as high as 120,000, depending on season and weather.