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Riding the historic Cable Cars in San Francisco

Cable cars symbolize one of the oldest transportation systems around the globe. Cable Cars offer a fun ride around the city from Union Square to Nob Hill. There is something incredibly romantic about a cable car ride in San Francisco.

In 1873, Andrew Hallidie witnessed that many horses drawing the wagons used to die while climbing the steep Jackson Street. This inspired him to build the cable car system. More than 24 cable car lines started operating all around the city by 1890.

Operating Hours
The cable cars begin operations at 6:00 am and continue until about 12:30 am. The cable cars are usually available after every ten minutes. The printed schedule is available at MUNI.

The Three Routes of Cable Car
There are three cable car routes including Powell/Hyde, California/Van Ness and Powell/Mason. Powell/Hyde and Powell/Mason start from Powell and Market intersection to Fisherman's Wharf while the California/Van Ness line takes the passengers from California and Market to Van Ness.

Powell/Hyde
The Powell/Hyde line stops near Ghirardelli Square. There are various shopping and eating places in the square including Kara's Cupcakes, Wattle Creek Winery, Gigi + Rose and ElizabethW etc. While heading to Wharf, one can stop at the steep Lombard Street which is considered to be ‘’the world's crookedest street". If you do not stop at Lombard Street, make sure that you capture some photographs of Alcatraz Island from Hyde and Lombard. Across the street from this line’s end is Hyde and Beach which houses the famous Buena Vista Café known to have brought Irish Coffee to the United States. You can also visit the San Francisco Maritime Museum and the Hyde Street Pier amidst the Fisherman Wharf’s tourist zone.

Powell/Mason
Powell-Mason car line takes you through Jackson and then reels right onto Mason Street. The Cable Car museum is situated at Mason & Washington which is only a block away. Thereafter, the line runs along the east of Russian Hill and heads to the North Beach. After a short trip to Columbus Avenue, the cable car head towards the Taylor Street. Feeling hungry on the way? Get down at Kennedy’ Irish Pub and Curry House for a grub. It features a game arcade, Irish bar and delectable Indian food. Across the street is Bimbo’s 365 featuring Super Diamond. It is a band that exclusively plays Neil Diamond’s songs. The final destination of this line is Bay & Taylor turntable.

California/ Van Ness
This line takes you through the Financial District hills towards the apex of Nob Hill; it is lined with several nightclubs and luxury hotels with spectacular cityscape. You will love visiting the Top of the Mark rooftop bar on the 19th floor of InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. It features great jazz music. Fairmont Hotel located at Mason and California houses The Tonga Room which is one of the best tiki-bars in San Francisco. At California and Taylor is located the Grace Cathedral which is an Episcopal cathedral church. The California and Hyde Streets are lined with some great taverns where you can enjoy a drink and play football. The Lumiere Theater at Polk Street is great for watching a movie. The cable car goes downhill towards Van Ness Street where the cable line ends. The cable cars do not turn around since they are gripped at both the ends of the car.

Fun Facts:

  • The cable cars for California Street are larger than those on Hyde and Mason. There are 12 maroon cars with a closed section in the middle and open seating section at each end. These cars have a grip on each end and hence can be operated from either side.
  • The Powell Street lines use 28 small cable cars which are single ended and are operable from one end. A turntable is used to reverse the directions of the cars.
  • The cable cars are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the only mobile National Monument in the world.

Insider Tips for Riding the Cable Cars

  • For the most spectacular views, choose the bay facing side. In the Powell cars, it is the eastern side, i.e. the right hand side for cars bound for Fisherman’s Wharf area and the left side for those bound for downtown.
  • Wait for the cable car to pass when you exit. Crossing in front of it can be problematic. Although the drivers are attentive, but the heavy car cannot be turned aside.
  • Cable cars can be late if it is raining because they have slow down if the tracks are wet.
  • The middle section of the car is slightly warmer, so if you want to ride comfortably, grab a seat in the middle section.
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*Fares are round trip, Fares include all fuel surcharges, our service fees and taxes. Tickets are non refundable, non transferable, non-assignable. Name changes are not permitted. Fares are subject to change without notice. Fares subject to availability. There is a higher probability of seats being available at this fare on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday. Certain Blackout dates may apply. Holidays & Weekend travel may have a surcharge.Other restrictions may apply. .

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