San Francisco

Why I Love Something You Hate: Fisherman’s Wharf

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Any time someone brings up Fisherman’s Wharf, every single San Franciscan lets out a groan. Sure, they’ll confess, they go there every once in a while for In-N-Out, but other than that, they think it’s a total tourist trap, a waste of time, and one of the worst things about SF. Well, sorry, but I’m here to tell all of San Francisco that when it comes to your snobby thoughts about Fisherman’s Wharf, you’re totally and utterly wrong.

Sure, nostalgia plays a part in my love of Fisherman’s Wharf (I used to spend hours upon hours there as a kid, watching street performers, raiding toy/candy stores, or¬†winning tickets at the arcade that used to be where Hard Rock Cafe is), but the truth is, even as an adult, there’s super-cool stuff to eat, drink, and do there. So yeah, I think Fisherman’s Wharf is totally underrated. Not convinced? Here are 11 reasons why it’s definitely The Best:

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

This bucket of mini donuts

Trish’s Mini Donuts might just change your life. ‘Cause they’re donuts. That are mini. That come in a bucket. Like, if you don’t believe that dreams come true after eating these, I can’t help you. One thing to know going in: they’re definitely more like a churro and less like a donut, but WHO CARES BECAUSE THEY’RE DELICIOUS.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

The best Irish coffee in town

The Buena Vista Cafe is known for one thing and one thing only: recreating the Irish Coffee found at Shannon Airport in Ireland and bringing this heavenly concoction to the United States. You could try to make this hot coffee, sugar cube, Irish whiskey, and whipped cream beverage at home, but why would you do that when the fine gentlemen at Buena Vista make it way better than you ever will? Only one thing — if you want one, you’ll either have to go to the domestic United terminal at SFO or, that’s right: Fisherman’s Wharf.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

This magic shop

Is there anything in the entire world better than a magic shop? I don’t think so. And this article is about why *I* love something you probably hate, so Houdini’s Magic Shop on Pier 39 totally gets a shout out. I used to put on elaborate magic shows as a kid (yes, I can still make a tiny ball disappear into a plastic cup — agents, call me), and this brings back all of the memories.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

The secret hidden Tiki bar

At the very back of Players Arcade (we’ll get there) is the Luau Lounge, a tropical oasis with stunning, unobstructed waterfront views, a crazy Tiki cocktail menu, and 15 beers you’ll actually be psyched to drink on tap. It’s legitimately shocking that more people don’t know about and/or go to this bar because, again, holy cow: that view. Also, who doesn’t love a Tiki bar? No one, that’s who.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Chowder in a bread bowl

One of the very best things about Fisherman’s Wharf is, without a doubt, the fact that you can get chowder in a bread bowl almost anywhere you look. Seriously, any food that lets you eat the vehicle in which it arrives is always worth it. (Looking at you, ice cream cones and sushi rolls.) Still, do yourself a favor and head to The Blue Mermaid on Jefferson St. Not only does the restaurant have a huge outdoor patio and a nautical vibe that’s fun but not over-the-top, it’s got a Hall of Fame/Award-Winning Dungeness crab and corn chowder that you can get in a bread bowl. Seriously people, why would you eat clam chowder when you could eat chowder with local crab in it?

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

The Gold Dust Lounge

When the nearly 100-year-old Gold Dust Lounge was evicted from its home in Union Square, it almost seemed sad that it was relocated to Fisherman’s Wharf. After all, this is a place where everyone from Herb Caen to Janis Joplin used to go for drinks. But you know what? The new space kicks ass. It has a bunch of the stuff from the old spot, like the marquis, chandeliers, mirrors, red velvet seats, and Jameson Irish coffee for under five bucks, but it’s also open at 7am every single day, has live music every single night, AND is home to the longest bar in San Francisco, which I’m estimating is almost 70ft end-to-end.

Flickr/Aidan Wakely-Mulroney
Flickr/Aidan Wakely-Mulroney
Flickr/Aidan Wakely-Mulroney

These lovable sea lions

First of all, they’re not seals. They’ve never been seals. And they will never be seals. Sea lions have ear flaps, walk on land using their front flippers, are way more gregarious than seals. But best of all? They bark loudly, which makes hanging out with them oddly rewarding. Why do I love the ones at Pier 39 so much? I mean, duh: they’re adorable. And so lazy. But mostly I think it’s cool they migrated to Pier 39 after the 1989 earthquake, forcing all of the residents at K-Dock to find somewhere else to park their boats. If only that’s how finding an apartment in this city worked…

Pier 39
Pier 39
Pier 39

The musical stairs

Yup, just like in the movie Big, these are stairs that make music when you walk on them. No need to go all the way to FAO Schwartz in NYC when you can just hop in an Uber (or a cable car) and create a song in your own backyard. Plus, these stairs go up and down, so you might actually get some exercise while you play (on) them.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

The carousel

You know what’s ALWAYS fun? Riding a carousel. But this one’s even more fun because it is hand-painted with famous SF landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and Lombard St. It also has 32 different animals to ride, but you’d better be first in line or quick on your feet if you want the sea lion. (Which you do.) No matter what, just don’t be that person who sits in the “chariot.” Zzzzzzzz.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Craft cocktails just like you’d get in The Mission

It’s not all Irish coffee in Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re the kind of person who prefers your adult beverages to be made by a mixologist, you don’t need to shy away from this tourist destination. There are plenty of restaurants with great food and drink that feel like they could be in any “normal” SF neighborhood. If you haven’t been to Pescatore, fix that. The signature cocktail menu is on-point and the tuna tartare with a citrus salad, onion, and serrano chile is for real the best I’ve had in the city.

Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Skeeball

Yup, you can bring your secret Tiki bar drink with you while you play any of Players‘ 85 arcade games. I could personally play skeeball for 17 hours straight, but there are also basketball games, air hockey, and whatever other games people who don’t have a bizarre skeeball obsession play. They also have a ton of TVs if your arm gets tired and you want to take a break and watch the game. Not that my arm would ever get tired…

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Daisy Barringer is Thrillist’s SF Editor and one day when she grows up, she’d like to have a skeeball machine in her mansion. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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