What are your top San Francisco must-sees? The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, once the longest suspension bridge and among the most recognizable of its type across the globe. Lush Golden Gate Park, filled with everything from the peaceful Japanese Tea Garden to the one-of-a-kind California Academy of Sciences. The quirky, eclectic architecture and hilly streets of the Mission District. The hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina District. But the one thing that just screams San Francisco? The world-famous San Francisco Cable Cars!
Cable Cars were an early form of the modern light rail – a street-level mass transit system that pulled cars along designated routes using a wire rope system from above. After a few initial line installations in San Francisco in the 1870s, Cable Cars quickly became a convenient, cost-effective, and safe form of transportation all across the city. Cable Car routes covered the entire San Francisco metropolitan district until the great earthquake of 1906 damaged much of the system. Lines continued to operate throughout the twentieth century, although they were quickly replaced by the booming car industry. Today, the historic Cable Car system still runs in San Francisco along three routes, generally between the waterfront and downtown areas. (The California Line runs East-West through the financial district.)
To explore the various neighborhoods and historic sights that were once served by the great cable car network, hop on a San Francisco Trolley Tour. They’ll take you to major sights on the waterfront like Pier 41 and Fisherman’s Wharf, downtown neighborhoods including Washington Square, Chinatown, and Union Square, and some of the most uniquely San Francisco-esque areas, like the Haight-Ashbury District and rows of Painted Ladies Victorian homes. These tours encompass all of the city’s hotspots and cover much the same territory as the existing Cable Car lines.
You’ll even get to stop at the Cable Car Turn-Around at the intersection of Powell and Market Streets, where the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde Lines begin. Since the San Francisco Trolley Tour is a hop-on/hop-off service, feel free to disembark at this historic junction to watch the cable car operators perform the impressive feats of dexterity and strength required to maneuver the cars. Check out the Cable Car Museum while you’re in the area to learn more about these historic treasures!
If you want to get a feel for the riding experience, you can also opt to purchase a Cable Car ticket at $6.00 per single ride. If you’re in town for a while, though, we recommend picking up a Visitor Passport that includes unlimited rides on Muni buses, Muni Metro, historic street cars, and, of course, the iconic Cable Cars! Check out these and many other fantastic San Francisco attractions on your next visit!