The Exploratorium's Day Guide to the Embarcadero
A sunny day along the piers of the Embarcadero is quintessential for any visit to San Francisco. Whether you’re a city native or visiting for summer vacation, this itinerary advice from the Exploratorium will guarantee you have an amazing day.
8 a.m.: Get Started Easily—Without Spending a Fortune
The Embarcadero’s location makes it easy to plan an all-day adventure along the piers; getting there is half the fun! Hop on a historic F-Line Muni streetcar and make the journey part of your adventure. The F-Line starts in the vibrant Castro District and moseys down Market Street, San Francisco’s main drag, before turning onto the picturesque Embarcadero. If you’re driving, there's ample parking in adjacent lots for anywhere from $25 to $40/day. The Embarcadero BART and Muni station is also within walking distance, and there are plenty of places to lock up your bike. Take advantage of the Exploratorium's limited-time offer of a discount on parking at nearby lots.
9 a.m.: Gem of the Waterfront, the Ferry Building Marketplace
Try starting your day at the beautiful Ferry Building. This 100-year-old terminal-turned-public-food market is every foodie’s dream, with local favorites including Humphry Slocombe and Slanted Door. On Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, experience the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, where sustainable growers, producers and chefs show off their goods to urban dwellers.
10 a.m.: Spark Your Curiosity at the Exploratorium
Next up, jump-start your curiosity at the Exploratorium at Pier 15. Only three streetcar stops away from the Ferry Building, the F-Line will drop you off at the Exploratorium's doorstep. With more than 650 hands-on exhibits, there's plenty to see and do, both indoors and outdoors. Be the envy of all your friends and make sure to get viral-worthy photos of the exhibits. If you're here on the weekend, catch one of the popular programs, such as Explorables, Saturday Cinema, or Full-Spectrum Science. Pro-tip: Book time in the Tactile Dome, a one-of-a-kind experience. Crawl, slide, and bump your way through the pitch-dark Dome using your sense of touch as your only guide through its chambers and mazes.
Recharge and refuel for the afternoon. Check out the Exploratorium's SeaGlass Restaurant for a fabulous, family-friendly meal with a view, or grab a bite on the go at the Seismic Joint Café as you move on to your next destination. Make sure to get your hand stamped so you can return to the Exploratorium later in the day. Come back for more curious exhibits and a cocktail at the SeaGlass Restaurant’s bayside bar (more on that later in the day). For your food truck fix, check out Off the Grid's lineup at their pop-up location on Vallejo Street on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Take your treats back to the waterfront to enjoy amazing views of the Bay and city skylines. This is also the perfect time to try some of San Francisco’s famous clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. Head toward Fisherman’s Wharf or PIER 39 to get your clam chowder fix.
2 p.m.: Get Up Close with the Bay
At the other end of the Embarcadero is Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39, a zany and exciting neighborhood that showcases San Francisco’s portside past and fun present. Here you’ll find plenty of amazing fish and seafood markets with their own unique spin on the San Francisco clam chowder classic. Wander around the docks and meet some of San Francisco’s cutest attractions—the sea lions that live on PIER 39’s K Dock. Head back in the direction you came to enjoy more outdoor exhibits at the Exploratorium, including Buckyball. Interact with the Bay in ways you've never thought of, explore what’s in the water, and get the ultimate San Francisco experience (no matter what the weather) on the Fog Bridge. Inside, enjoy a unique perspective on the Bay and the bridge from the Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery—and keep an eye out for a visit from your new sea lion friends. Pro-tip: Relax with a drink by the water. SeaGlass Restaurant serves artisanal cocktails with fresh ingredients all day. Have a Pisco Punch, a San Francisco–invented classic, before they close at 3 p.m. and enjoy the views in peace, as most crowds thin out by 2 p.m. For a no-frills bar, catch that sea breeze with a beer at Pier 23 Cafe. La Mar is nearby and has wonderful happy hour specials on tapas and their house margaritas.
5 p.m.: Golden Hour!
Don’t miss out on the beautiful light cast along the Bay during Golden Hour. Grab a group shot to commemorate your day. Find a beautiful spot by the water or see how many different colors you can capture in Leo Villareal's Buckyball. Historic Pier 7, with its weathered wood and old-fashioned streetlights, is a spectacular place for a photo. Pick your background: You can place yourself in front of the Bay, the Exploratorium, or the city skyline. It's a straight shot to the landmark Transamerica Pyramid—the second tallest skyscraper in San Francisco. Share your photos and tell the world what you've been up to: #summertime #summervacation #embarcadero #exploratorium #fishermanswharf #ilovesealions #visitcalifornia #alwaysSF.