The focal point of Fisherman's Wharf isn't the waning fishing fleet, but the carousel, carnival-like attractions, shops and restaurants of Pier 39 – and, of course, the famous sea lions. Developed in the 1970s to revitalize tourism, the pier draws thousands of tourists daily, but it's really just a big outdoor shopping mall. On the plus side, its visitors center rents strollers, stores luggage, and has free phone-charging stations.

The sea lions took over this coveted waterfront real estate in 1989 and these unkempt squatters have been making a public display ever since – canoodling, belching, scratching their backsides and gleefully shoving one another off the docks – becoming San Francisco's favorite mascots. And because California law requires boats to make way for marine mammals, yacht owners have had to relinquish valuable slips to accommodate the as many as 1300 sea lions that 'haul out' onto the docks between January and July. Follow signs along the pier's western edge – you can't miss 'em.