Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Wed October 28 2015

7 Cool Things to Do in San Francisco's Embarcadero

Destination & Tourism | John Roberts | October 28, 2015

7 Cool Things to Do in San Francisco's Embarcadero

Photo by John Roberts

I was cruising out of San Francisco for the first time and excited to go there the day before my ship, Celebrity Infinity, was due to depart, so I could get reaquainted with this great City by the Bay.

I had been there almost two decades before for my first visit and now had only faded memories of San Francisco.

This time, with fewer than 24 hours to stay and play, I knew we would only be able to enjoy a slice of what it has to offer. So, we chose to explore one especially vibrant region of the city. One that's jam-packed with action.

Right there, along the waterfront of San Francisco Bay, stretches the Embarcadero.

We chose a hotel nearby and hung out almost exclusively along the Embarcadero, going for a run, checking out the large colony of sea lions, exploring a fun science museum, gazing across at "The Rock" and celebrating the wife's birthday with a wonderful meal at a restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf.

I found at least seven awesome things to do at San Francisco's Embarcadero.

Take a run

The popular, well-maintained waterfront area is a prime destination for bikers, walkers and runners to get in their daily workouts. A wide sidewalk winds about five miles heading north from the San Francisco Giants home at AT&T Park past the Bay Bridge, parks, a ferry facility for tours to Alcatraz, a cruise ship terminal, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39.

Pier 39

The waterfront complex is a hub of activity, with restaurants, shops, live music and street performers. But you'll love it for the pier's most famous residents. Sea lions descended on the pier in 1990 shortly after the 1989 earthquake.

Seeking a protected area away from predators and with a plentiful food supply, they found an ideal spot in the marina and have been there ever since, with their number exceeding 1,000 in the colony today. Head on over to watch them haul themselves out of the water, waddle, wrestle, sleep and mostly bark. You'll definitely know that you're near when you hear the ruckus.

Fisherman's Wharf

A Seafood lover's paradise. Stroll amid the stalls teeming with pots of crab. Dozens of top-notch restaurants line wooden docks that overlook a marina filled with fishing boats. No visit to San Fran is complete without a stop at the wharf, which also is home to Ghirardelli Square and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Alcatraz Island

Welcome to The Rock. Take a ferry over for a tour of the famous former prison for the nation's worst criminals. Ferries operated by Alcatraz Cruises depart from Pier 33. Night tours, which run Thursday through Monday are highly recommended. They depart 5:55 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., last 2.5 hours and tend to be less crowded, allowing for more interaction with the guide for questions and answers.

The Exploratorium

This cool science museum at Pier 15 features all kinds of interactive exhibits indoors and out. The facility organizers aim to prod your curiosity by creating tools and experiences to "help you become and active explorer," asking questions and challenging perceptions. They offer hundreds of exhibits related to space, cooking, crime, motion, math, optics, puzzles, sport science and much, much more.

Giants baseball

Head over to the stadium to check out a game at the home of the San Francisco Giants, who have won three World Series titles since 2010. Want a unique experience? Join the Knothole Gang by arriving to the park early and watching some of the action from behind the park's chain link fence outside the right field.

The experience is free, though you could be limited to three innings of action on a busy night; workers will rotate in fans to make sure everyone gets a chance to watch.

Ride a trolley

A quintessential San Francisco experience is yours for the taking right there at the Embarcadero, where the famed streetcars roll past all day long. Adult fares are $1.25; seniors and youths pay $0.35.

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