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What should I do when my group arrives?

Arrival: It is a good idea to arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled tour or class time. This will give you time to check-in and help us stay on schedule. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late, we may not be able to accommodate your group at your reserved time. If your group is running late, please call our Education Department at 415.623.5342.

Checking In: For Exploration Tours and Aquarium Self-Guided Tours, groups should line up outside the Aquarium’s main entrance on the upper deck. Due to safety concerns and space limitations, groups cannot wait in the lobby area of the Aquarium. Please have only the group leader check in with the front desk, make any additional payments for extra adults, and review the Behavior Agreement. Bring your confirmation letter with you. It is important that you know the correct number of students and chaperones when you check in. For every 5 students, 1 chaperone will be granted free admission; additional chaperones will have a discounted admission of $10 each.
For Sea Lion Center Programs, groups should head directly to the Sea Lion Center 10-15 minutes before the start of their program. Please wait on the West upper deck outside the main Sea Lion Center entrance. If your Sea Lion Center Program is accompanied with an Aquarium Self-Guided Tour, follow the instructions above for that portion of your visit.

How does my group get to the Aquarium and PIER 39 and where do we park?

Directions and car parking:
Please visit our Directions page.

Bus Parking: 
Buses may only pick-up and drop-off in the PIER 39 passenger and taxi-loading zone on a space available basis. This loading zone runs directly in front of the Aquarium. Busses in the loading zone are restricted from idling; there is short-term bus parking near the Aquarium that is permitted for up to 2 hours in the following areas:

  • The west side of Mason Street between Beach and North Point Streets
  • The north side of North Point Street between Mason and Taylor Streets
  • The east side of Hyde Street between Jefferson and Beach Streets
  • The east side of Jones Street just north of Beach Street.


Once at PIER 39, how does my group get to the Sea Lion Center?

The Sea Lion Center is located near the northwest corner of PIER 39, on the second level above K-Dock, home of PIER 39’s world famous sea lions.

What kind of weather should we dress for?

When visiting the Aquarium or the Sea Lion Center, dress for cool weather and bring layers. The San Francisco waterfront is almost always cool and breezy, even when it is hot in other parts of the Bay Area. Your students will have to wait outside the building while you are checking-in, so please be prepared for variable weather. 
NOTE: Some program activities may take place outside.

Where can my class purchase lunch?

Aquarium of the Bay and the Sea Lion Center do not sell food or drinks. There are many eateries on PIER 39, or your group can bring bag lunches on their field trip. 

Where can we eat lunch?

Neither Aquarium of the Bay nor the Sea Lion Center has facilities for eating lunches. There is a lawn and park area with benches located along the waterfront immediately east of the Aquarium.

Is there a place where we can store our lunches and other belongings during our program?

Aquarium of the Bay does not have a facility for storing lunches or other belongings. Please have students store their lunches in their backpacks or leave them in the car or bus and have a group of parents retrieve them a few minutes before your scheduled lunch break.

Will there be a break during my scheduled program?

All Aquarium of the Bay Exploration Programs and Sea Lion Center Classroom Programs are designed for a specific length of time. Exploration Programs run 75 minutes and do not have a break. Sea Lion Center Programs are designed to have a break if an optional Self-Guided Tours is included. If your class may need a snack, please do so PRIOR to the start of your programs and be prepared to start on time.  

Will restrooms be easily accessible for my group?

Rest stops are difficult to make during our programs. Please have your students use the restrooms before your scheduled start time if possible. Restrooms are located between Aquarium of the Bay and PIER 39, on PIER 39 near the Sea Lion Center, and in the Aquarium’s Retail Store.

What else is there to see and do at PIER 39?

PIER 39 is one of San Francisco’s top destinations, with more than 110 stores, 11 full service restaurants, numerous entertainment attractions, and beautiful Bay views. For more information, call 415.705.5500 or visit PIER 39's website.

Sea Lion Center:

  • The famous PIER 39 sea lions can be found on the west side of PIER 39 on K-Dock. The Sea Lion Center is free for all guests who visit PIER 39 and your class can use self-guided observation in viewing the sea lions.
Blue and Gold Fleet at Pier 41: 
  • Ferry service for Angel Island, Bay Cruise, Sausalito, Tiburon, Alameda/Oakland, and Vallejo.
  • Phone: 415.705.8200
Hyde Street Pier (National Park Service):
  • Hyde Street at Jefferson Street
  • Historic Ships available 10:00am-5:00pm;
  • Reservations required; phone: 415.556.3002
  • Students will have the opportunity to observe historical ships that have graced the waterfront throughout history. This trip is outdoors and not appropriate during the rainy season.
Maritime Museum:
  • 900 Beach Street at Polk Street
  • 10:00am-5:00pm
  • Reservations required two weeks in advance; phone: 415.556.3002
  • The history of the Pacific Coast, San Francisco Bay, and the whaling industry are depicted in this wonderful museum. Students can enjoy the beach afterward at Aquatic Park, located behind the museum.
  • Information: http://www.nps.gov/safr/learn/historyculture/bathhousebuilding.htm.
Submarine Pompanito:
  • Pier 45
  • 9:00am-6:00pm
  • Reservations required; phone: 415.775.1943
  • The USS Pompanito is a retired submarine docked at Pier 45. Students explore the submarine's intricate interior on this guided tour.