Tony Bennett isn't the only one who left his heart in San Francisco. The City by the Bay has charm and style to spare: the taco joints and trendy boutiques of the Mission District; the Victorian mansions with breathtaking views of the bay in Pacific Heights; and Golden Gate Park, miles of winding trails leading to the famously scenic stretch of Golden Gate Bridge. But if you fail to leap off the fabled cable cars before they makes their fateful plunge down Hyde Street, you will end up in San Francisco's version of Times Square: Fisherman's Wharf.
Fisherman's Wharf is like the obnoxious, drunken, embarrassing cousin that showed up at San Francisco's family reunion. Need proof that you've fallen into a bona fide tourist trap? Look no further than the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, one of 30 outdated outposts of schlock that the good people at Ripley have erected in North America alone (would you be surprised to know there's also one in Niagara Falls?) Then there's Pier 39, the seaside strip mall where you can browse the wares at The Crystal Shop and The Crystal Shop II, or pick up a left-handed pair of scissors at Lefty's San Francisco, the Left Hand Store!
Before we bash Fisherman's Wharf completely, an acknowledgement. Many tourists travel to San Francisco assuming that the entire state of California is a sunny paradise, only to deplane at SFO in their shorts and T-shirts into a swirl of unpredictable fog and wind that would make Londoners shiver. For this reason and this reason alone, Fisherman's Wharf serves a purpose. There are nothing less than (this is only an estimate) 13,000 rinky-dink shops in Fisherman's Wharf selling San Francisco-themed sweatshirts, jackets, hats, scarves and full-body snowsuits. These shops save the lives of hundreds of pasty Midwesterners every year.