12 Tips You Need To Know Around Christmas Time at PIER 39 

Warning – PIER 39 is NOT a good place for the Grinch or curmudgeon-y among us during the holiday season.

PIER 39 is decorated, lit up, and has holiday music playing full force. If you are looking to enjoy festively decorated spaces for the holidays including Christmas music, lights, decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, unique holiday shopping and other décor – you absolutely must visit PIER 39!

With ample holiday décor and many specialty shops, restaurants and attractions, you’re sure to enjoy yourself while visiting this fun outing on the San Francisco waterfront. Not only will you enjoy taking in the holiday cheer, you can get your holiday gift shopping done at the many specialty shops offering unique items as well as dine at some of the best restaurants in San Francisco offering dishes with a nod to the season like Fog Harbor’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding sesasonal dessert. YUM.

Whether you’re visiting with family and friends or just looking to spend some time alone, here are 10 things you need to know on PIER 39 during the holidays to soak in the holiday spirit

1) Take Photos At The Giant Holiday Tree

Pier 39 Christmas Tree

Right when you arrive at PIER 39 you will see a MASSIVE 60-foot Christmas tree adorned with ornaments and lights, surrounded by massive gifts around the base of the tree. This large decorated tree surrounded by tall lamp poles adorned in Christmas décor is an instant mood booster to fill you with holiday cheer as you begin your visit to PIER 39 this holiday season. Hello, instagrammable moment  Instagram, TikTok, Facebook or just sending a photo to your loved one via text to make them smile

2) Enjoy the Tree-Lighting Ceremony Every Night

PIER 39 offers a fun and festive lighting ceremony every 30 minutes! The huge holiday tree at the entrance to PIER 39. Starting November 23rd, be sure to visit the tree on the hour or the half an hour from 5pm-10pm when the tree lights “dance” as they are synchronized to holiday music and come to live every 30 minutes. This light show will dazzle our visitors of all ages. Be sure to check it out and get ready for a smile.

3) Menorah Lighting

If you are visiting November 28-December 5, you can also plan to catch the menorah lighting ceremony. The menorah is located at the front of the pier as well and will be lit at sundown each night until sundown on December 5th.  The Menorah is located in the planter bed in front of Only in San Francisco at the front of PIER 39. Happy Hannukah to those who celebrate!

4) Devour a Holiday Meal

Fog Harbor during christmas

Some of the best restaurants in San Francisco with incredible waterfront views can be found right on PIER 39. There is an abundance of delicious food, including fresh seafood and famous Dungeness crab to enjoy around the pier in festively decorated dining rooms.

Enjoy clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl to warm you up on the cold December days. Fog Harbor Fish House, the first 100% sustainable seafood restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf, offers a seasonal Pumpkin Curry Shrimp dish that is comforting and to-die for as well as award-winning cocktails like the pumpkin spice martini, and desserts including decadent chocolate cake and pumpkin bread pudding.  Make a reservation here.

Pro tip: Fog Harbor Fish House gives 2 hours free parking validation for dine-in guests who park in the PIER 39 parking garage. Be sure to ask your server after your meal.

5) Find Unique Holiday Decorations

Christmas in San Francisco is a year-round specialty shop on PIER 39 where you can find unique holiday decorations your guests will fawn over. This Christmas store carries a unique selection of personalized ornaments, tree skirts, stockings, wall art, artificial Christmas trees, and more. You can also purchase personalized stationery and cards, clothes for your pets to wear during the holidays, plus much more.

Yes, many people decorate their homes with the same holiday décor you saw at Target, but do they have a vintage coca-cola bus ornament that reminds them of their special visit to the pier you’ve never seen before?

It is an excellent place to find unique and handmade holiday decorations. The company sells fresh-cut trees, pre-lit trees, and holiday wreaths at affordable prices. You’ll also find gold ornaments, fairy lights, and more.

6) Explore the Aquarium of the Bay

The Aquarium of the Bay is home to more than 20,000 aquatic animals and offers a one-of-a-kind adventure that you can’t find anywhere else in San Francisco. While this attraction is a must-visit year round, it is an indoor experience that can be a welcomed break from the cold during the holiday months.

See eye-to-eye with a Seven-gill shark and get an up-close look at playful, most amazing animals swimming overhead as you explore the tunnel with a moving floor that slowly takes you through a majestic underwater sealife experience of sea life that all can be found in the San Francisco Bay. You can even explore California’s coast physically with a touch pool that contains leopard sharks, bat rays, and jellyfish!

Don’t miss the final exhibit here which is viewing the playful river otters that run around, jump and play. This is the newest exhibit in the Aquarium and is most exciting and entertaining for all ages.

7) Sip a Holiday Beverage

The holiday season basically starts when the eggnog and gingerbread latte’s show up in the coffee stores. While you are walking around PIER 39 and exploring the decorations and festive cheer be sure to pick up and sip a holiday beverage made fresh at Biscoff Coffee Corner at the front of the pier. This coffee shop offers eggnog lattes, cinnamon cappuccinos, candy cane hot chocolates, and even freshly made decadent waffles topped with Biscoff cookie spread and Biscoff cookie crumble.

The best part? Every coffee beverage is served with a free Biscoff cookie! 

Biscoff Waffle

8) Get Your Holiday Shopping Done

Holiday shopping on PIER 39 is great because with so many specialty shops you can find the pefect gift for everyone on your list. There is no better place to shop than on Pier 39. You will find specialty shops that sell everything from clothing and accessories, electronics, jewelry, funny greeting cards, sportswear, and more.

Have a lefty on your list? Visit “Leftys” a store that has a full selection specifically for left-handed folk.

Dog-obsessed? Check out “Bow Wow” a store full of playful gifts for passionate pet parents.

Growing family? Stop by Little Blue House for those adorable matching PJs for Christmas morning.

Sports enthusiast? The largest Lids store in the country is right on PIER 39 full of merchandise of all professional teams for adults and kids alike.

The list goes on!

9) Ride the Classic Carousel

Who doesn’t love a good carousel ride? It is magical for our younger visitors first-time riders and equally fun for adults to remember the magic of the gentle spinning ride full of moving animals and horse-drawn carriage. With a variety of animals seated on the carousel, there’s something for everyone. This is a fun and exciting way to spend time with family and friends.

10) Watch Sea Lions Play

Pier 39 Sea Lions

It’s not often that you get to see sea lions up close without going on a boat, but also at a safe distance. Definitely do not miss your chance to watch these playful mammals! The sea lions showed up one day after the 1989 earthquake, ran the people who docked their boats there off, and have been inhabiting the pier ever since. They are not “pets” or “property” of PIER 39 they simply just choose to live there! The sea lions live and play on the docks at the end of the pier on the left hand side, the Golden Gate Bridge side, so you just so happen to have an incredible view of the bay and the famous bridge while you watch the sea lions play.

Watching sea lions may sound boring or childish but these mammals are so playful and interactive you will enjoy watching them loudly barking and body-slamming each other into the water to show their dominance over one another while others nap and cuddle each other. It is a very sweet and fun site to see – do not miss it!  It’s truly an awe-inspiring sight to see! The sea lions are one of the most interesting attractions at PIER 39 during Christmas time for sure. Of course be sure to bundle up as it can be chilly at the end of the pier during the winter.

But worth it!

11) Rent a Bike

One of the best ways to explore Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge is to rent a bike. You’ll see so many things you would not see in a car, and more than you would on foot since walking takes a long time and is very slow. Biking the bridge is a fun and exciting way to see some of the best sights in San Francisco. Take your time and enjoy the view of incredible views, wildlife, and landmarks. It’s truly an experience you can’t miss out on! PIER 39 also has maps available for guests who would like to go on a self-guided tour around the pier.

12) Destress

We can all agree the holiday season is fun and busy, but it can also be incredibly stressful even when you are taking in the happy sites and sounds of festive PIER 39. Make your way towards the end of the Pier where you will see a unique Vitality shop to help you relax. Vitality’s tagline is “it’s time to feel good” for very good reason. This relaxing shop has water massage and air therapy to help even the most stressed-out guests to get a few minutes of solitude and set you up for success this holiday season.

Conclusion:

If you want to enjoy the best of PIER 39, visit during the holiday season and get a glimpse at some of San Francisco’s most popular attractions, we recommend it in December. The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can experience during your visit!