We plan on heading up to San Francisco in a few weeks and will be staying in the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood. I've gotten some mixed reviews online, etc. Some say it's a must, while others say it's too touristy. Any tips, insight, advice? Thanks much!
As a native of San Francisco, I can say with much authority that Fisherman's Wharf is an incredibly fun and exciting place to see when visiting The City. There are so many cute shops to visit, good restaurants to experience, great views to see, and plenty of museums to check out. You can see the entire Golden Gate Bridge and the best views of Alcatraz can be viewed from the wharf. You can also check out the famous barking sea lions as they sun themselves at Pier 39.There are definitely parts of Fisherman's Wharf that are a bit touristy, but if you are on vacation, that should probably be expected. I'd recommend walking up towards the Hyde Street Pier where some very cool old ships are docked and then stop by the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company, one of the best chocolate stores in the country. Plus, there are lots of cute souvenir shops, cozy cafes, and small eateries around that area. With this said, make sure you check out North Beach, Chinatown, and the Mission District too! All are great neighborhoods with tons to do and see in what's possibly the greatest city in The world!
For a great time for those who don't mind a bit of a walk, try the following:
Head south from Fisherman's Wharf towards Columbus (one of the two major "diagonal" streets in town--the other is "Market"). Walk down Columbus and stop in at one of the many Italian cafes and restaurants for a quick nibble, then continue past Washington Square and hang a right on Stockton (or go one more block on Columbus--since this block has some great restaurants--and then backtrack to Stockton) and head into Chinatown.
On Stockton you'll see all the open air markets and one block over to the east (on Grant) you'll see the main Chinatown shopping district. Find your way back by walking, taking a taxi, or hopping on the cable car that runs one block to the west down Powell street back to Fisherman's Wharf (one direction) or down to Union Square and the other main (non-Chinese) shopping district (think Macy's, Gucci, Abercrombie, Tiffany's, Saks, etc.). Also, if you go to Union Square, take the three block walk over to the Metreon for an unusual place to have a little fun.
Of course, there are also the seafood places at Fisherman's Wharf and there's Ghiradelli square which has two restaurants of its own, but I could be on this site for another hour recommending restaurants all over SF.
P.S. For the most part, the walk I've recommended does not take you up any of SF's giant hills. The one exception is the one block from Stockton up to Powell to catch the cable car. For this reason, those who wish to may want to take the cable car over--and then do the walk in a reverse order. In that case, get off the cable car at about Powell and Clay.
I should also mention that the ferry tour over to Alcatraz leaves from Pier 39 (not far from Fisherman's Wharf), and is worth the cost--although take it in the morning or early afternoon, since it gets very cold on the water in the late afternoon and evenings.
Also, be sure to visit the Sourdough Bread bakery right at Fisherman's Wharf--it's one of the best things to see while there. (I'm not going to mention the name since we aren't supposed to promote any commercial interests on the site.)