A Brief History Of Pier 39, Home To San Francisco's Sea Lions

Pier 39
Pier 39 | © Pixabay
Courtney Holcomb

If you have ever visited San Francisco, you’ve probably heard of Pier 39. Pier 39 is the most popular tourist destination in the city, consisting of a shopping center, an entertainment complex, a selection of restaurants and gorgeous views of the water that surrounds San Francisco. Read on to get to know the history of this attraction.
Pier 39 first began development in August 1977, thanks to the entrepreneur Warren Simmons. Construction was completed throughout 1978, and the pier officially opened on October 4th of that year. At its opening, the pier’s attractions included 50 stores, 23 restaurants, a diving pool and street performers. A few of the initial restaurants are still active today, including Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, Eagle Café and Swiss Louis Italian & Seafood Restaurant.

Pier 39

Over the years, more attractions were gradually added. In 1979 the Blue & Gold Fleet began hosting Bay Cruises. Four years later, the diving pool was removed to make room for a Venetian Carousel, which would be replaced in 2008 with the two-story handmade Italian carousel that remains standing today. In 1996, the aquarium Underwater World was opened, which would go on to become the Aquarium of the Bay. By 2002, the Riptide Arcade was added with over 100 games, which would later become Players Sports Grill & Arcade. Later, Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze was opened in 2009, followed by the Musical Stairs in 2013 and 7D Experience in 2014. Restaurants were added over the years, as well, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in 1996, Crab House in 1998, Hard Rock Café in 2002 and, most prominently, Forbes Island in 1999, which remains the only man-made floating island restaurant in the world today.

Pier 39

One of the most recognizable features of Pier 39 is the sea lions it attracts. The sea lions first began arriving at the docks around the pier in January 1990, drawing both local and international attention. The sea lion population began to grow over the years, reaching peak numbers in November 2009 when the population was counted to be 1,701. As a result, the city added six new floats to the docks to make room for more sea lions. A few years later, the Sea Lion Center opened at Pier 39, offering visitors a variety of resources to help them learn about California sea lions.

Pier 39

Throughout the past few decades, Pier 39 has received a lot of recognition for its popularity. In 1989, USA Today named it the third most visited attraction in the country. In 2011, The San Francisco Travel Association ranked the pier the most visited attraction in the city after its 2010 Visitor Profile Study. Most recently, the SFTA’s 2014 Visitor Profile Study again concluded that Pier 39 was the most visited attraction in San Francisco.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

close-ad
Edit article