Cable Car Ride (the best route to take is the Powell-Hyde Cable Car Line, extending from the Union Square District to the Fisherman's Wharf District)
San Francisco's cable cars date back to the 1870s.
If someone told me that had only 30 minutes to experience the City, I would tell them to hop on board the Powell-Hyde Cable Car Line, wedge yourself in, and hang on!
(Click on picture to enlarge.)
This card is great for getting into a number of San Francisco attractions without paying a ton of money. My husband, son, and I purchased our cards online and they were delivered quickly. The card came with a color guide book, and trolley map--something I found very helpful while trying to navigate the streets of San Francisco.
What I loved most is that the card got us onto the Trolley Hop Cable car, the wax museum, a bike rental, exploratorium, SFMOMA, and the aquarium for one price--pretty decent for only paying $70 each (and for our son--$40)
Also, we didn't have to reach for our wallets all the time, a comfort when you're in a new city.
This was a lot of fun- a very long long wait (think disneyland ride) but it was fun and the views were great.
We caught the cable car near Ghiradelli Square. We did not go to the museum. Personally I found the terminology used for transportation confusing-what is generally considered a bus is called a trolley and what i considered a trolley is called a cable car. So if you want to take a ride on an authentic trolley ride that runs on the rails in the streets-this is considered a cable car. (just so you are not standing in the wrong line)
While in San Francisco we were on a boat, a plane, car, train, and a cable car. If possible I prefer to walk as it ends up taking longer to use other forms of transportation to get anywhere. We waited an hour for the F train to arrive because we were at the stop a second to late. With a total of 5 small kids in our group at dinnertime we were wondering how long it takes the %!@** "F" train to come back around to the stop. Bring a stroller and a baby bjorn for kids, and yikes if you miss the train find another way to get where you are going-better yet get back on the cable car and go back where you started. All is good though~ San Francisco was fun.
The CABLE CAR was introduced to San Francisco on August 2, 1873 and the idea was conceived by wire-cable manufacturer Andrew Hallidie.
The first cable car to descend down Clay Street on Nob Hill was an immediate success. Besides creating a vital link in San Francisco's public transportation system, the cable car opened the door for buildings on steep hills, which until this time was thought to be impossible.
San Francisco's beloved cable cars are the only vehicles of their kind still in operation.
Clang, clang, here comes a San Francisco cable car! This local institution was invented by Andrew Hallidie, who was at the controls during the inaugural ride up Nob Hill on August 1, 1873. An immediate success, the San Francisco cable car system expanded to include 600 operating cars, more than eight lines and 110 miles of track. The earthquake destroyed much of his network, which has never rebuilt. Yet the cable car, an essential part of San Francisco life, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and continuous to operate. Three lines exist today.
If there is one thing that every tourist in San Francisco cannot leave without doing it would have to be ride the cable car. There are three different lines the cable cars, The Powell - Mason line (closest to Fisherman's Wharf), Powell - Hyde line (to Aquatic Park and Ghiradelli Square) and finally the California line which runs East to West from the Financial District of downtown up to Chinatown and Nob Hill and ends at Van Ness Avenue.
Each ride on the cable car costs $5 which is quite pricy. A better way to do it is to buy a pass for the number of days you plan to stay in San Francisco and that way you can hop on and off any of the cars anytime you like. I bought a 7 day pass but 1 day and 3 day passes are also available. These can be purchased at the turn-about on the corner of Powell Street and Market Street downtown.
This is the "terminal" for the cable car at the end of the powell Hyde Line. As the cable car cannot make a "U" turn on its own, it is pushed to a "Turntable" ~ Turning it around to start its journey back to the city.
Here people are waiting in line to board. It can be a long line!
Do not be satisfied with seeing the museum and / or taking a ride, take the cable car to the end and see how it is turned! Not only do they have an operative turntable at the end of the line, they even have to operate it by manpower :-) This is a living museum, it happens right in the middle of the street. The turntable is in the Powell and Market streets, and is the beginning / end stop for the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines.
San Francisco has many icons. The cable car is probably just a notch below the Golden Gate Bridge in the pantheon of icons. Some people would place it at the top. A movie set in San Francisco will have the obligatory shot of the bridge and/or the cable car. They are that representative of the city.
If you just want to ride the cable car, take the California line, which is usually less crowded.
If you want to go to Fisherman's Wharf, take the cable car with the yellow "Bay and Taylor" sign. If you want to go to Aquatic Park, take the cable car with the brown "Hyde and Beach" sign. If you end up at the wrong place because you did not mind the sign, just walk. On the return trip, the last stop is at Market and Powell, regardless of where you started.
If you want to see the inner workings of the cable car system, go to the free Cable Car Museum at NW corner of Mason and Washington.
Riding a cable car is one of the things to do while in SF. Because of this, nearly every tourist does so, or attempts to do so. The result is extremely long lines at cable car turnarounds where people wait as much as an hour for a ride & clusters of tourists assembling a cable car stop ready to resort to aggressive measures to board. Often they are pushed back by the crowd on the car with claims that there is no room for additional passengers. Its quite a frenzied sight which, fortunately, doesn't often result in violence.
All kidding aside, riding a cable car is probably something you'll want to do while visiting. You can wait an hour to board the slow moving car & then take about another hour to reach your destination. Cable cars move at a speed of about 9 miles per hour, when they are not stopping. Not an efficient form of transportation by any means.
If your goal is simply to ride a cable car, here are a few suggestions. One is to walk several blocks away from the cable car turnaround, cross the street, & ride the car a few blocks back to the turnaround. The obvious drawback to this is that you don't really get anywhere, but, then again, if you're riding the cable car, efficient forward progress is clearly not your goal. There are buses for people who actually want to get from one destination to another. The advantage of this strategy is that you'll probably get to ride for free. I did.
Another way to catch a ride is to follow a car as it proceeds up and down the street in the hopes that passengers will exit & you can just hop on. This one take quite a bit of energy as the cable cars are hard to keep up with when you're on foot. But, since they stop a great deal, you can probably maintain pace with them if you hustle. This method wasn't particularly successful, but, then again, I didn't employ it enough times to make an accurate determination. The advantage of this strategy is that you can follow the cable car back to your destination & not get lost in the Tenderloin District. Its quite a workout too.
This tour is aboard a replica of a cable car on wheels. It will show you the major sights of the city and you can sit inside or out. Unlike the real cable cars, this one is not confined to tracks so it can cover just about everything.
There are two options for this tour:
First is 2 hours and cost $20. A $2.00 discount is available if tickets are purchased on the web.
A second ticket buys you a hop on hop off option. For $32.95 (a $5.00 internet savings available) you can hop on hop off the trolley at 3 locations and pick up a later trolley.
For visitors to the city without a car, these are a great way to see sites that are harder to reach on foot or by public transportation. The tour crosses the GG Bridge and stops for a brief photo opportunity at Vista Point.
The massive brick building located at the junction of Mason and Washington Streets is San Francisco's only surviving cable car barn. Although the building's main function is as a powerhouse and barn, it also houses a small museum which offers insight into the inner workings of the cable car system as well as historical tidbits regarding cable cars. On the upper level there is a balcony which offers a view of the huge wheels over which the continuous loops of cables are revolving. It's quite an impressive sight, especially when you realize that the entire cable car system is run from here (the signs above the huge wheels read "California" "Mason" "Hyde" "Powel", the only remaining cable car lines). The museum's exhibits include the Car No 8, the only survivor of San Francisco's first cable car line, which began operation in 1873. The museum also includes explanatory displays, historical tools and photos. Downstairs you can take another look at the "sheave" (wheel) room where the thick steel cables enter the building before being routed up to the main sheaves.
The Powell-Hyde line has to be the most scenic of the cable car routes.
Especially in the evening this can be incredibly romantic :) !!!
Oh yeah, be prepared to wait in line for at least half an hour ! When you're waiting in the same place as I was on the picture say hello to Escape man from me :)
Before the modern cars, San Francisco public transport was handled by cable cars. As the hills are steep in the residential area in the city, normal light train systems cannot be used. The cable cars move by grabbing a constantly moving cable that runs below the street level between the tracks. When the car has to stop, the driver opens the grip.
There are four lines in the city, but the most famous of them runs from the downtown end of Powell Street to the Wharf on Hyde Street.
The cars are fully packed during high seasons and you have to reserve some time for standing in the queue at the both ends of the tracks, or then trust your luck the hop on the car on several stops during the journey.
This is a map of my roundtrip through the USA. San Francisco is just the beginning of my trip. I arrived by plane in San Francisco.
I didn't have a car in the beginning of my stay in San Francisco. The cable car was a perfect alternative to visit the city centre. But a car is handy to explore of the town.