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Go for a Ride picture in San Francisco
Wonwoo Lee / Getty Images

Price & Hours

  • $7 for one-way ride; $21 for one-day pass
  • Hours vary

Details

  • Sightseeing Type
  • 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend

Local Experts Scorecard
Based on 8 interviews

  • Must-see
  • Recommended
  • If You Have Time

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

Chances are you've seen a television show, movie, postcard or some type of San Francisco memorabilia emblazoned with the city's iconic cable car or trolley. So of course, to fully experience San Francisco's charm, you should hop on board. San Francisco's cable car system is the last of its kind in the United States, given the title of a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The cable car was conceived after Andrew Smith Hallidie, an immigrant from England, witnessed an accident involving a horse-drawn buggy trying to climb a steep San Francisco hill and failing. His father had a patent for wire rope in England and he used that to design a transportation system that relied on just that. Thus, cable cars were born in the late 1800s. 

Though cable cars are seldom used by locals (due in part to their small travel network and high fare), tourists flock to them in droves. More than nine million visitors ride the cable cars each year, and according to recent travelers, it's easy to see why. Tourists had a blast riding the cable cars up and down San Francisco's vibrant streets. Many say the way to get the most out of your cable car experience is to ride hanging out of the vehicle. Even though some said they encountered long lines to board, the majority of visitors believe the wait to be worth the experience. Though if you're not one for long lines, some say to board at one of the stops along the line instead at the beginning. 

You can catch the cable cars from a few spots around town, including the famous Powell-Hyde Line at Powell and Market streets, which passes the twisty Lombard Street and the equally popular Russian Hill neighborhood. Relative to other forms of transportation, the cable cars are a bit expensive at $7 for a one-way ride, so some travelers suggest buying a one-day pass for $21 (also good for unlimited rides on Muni, Muni Metro and streetcars). Visitors can also purchase three-day and seven-day passes, which cost $32 and $42, respectively. For more information on routes and stops, visit the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's website.

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Hotels Nearby

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Parc 55 San Francisco

Parc 55 San Francisco ...

  • 0.1 Miles Away
  • 4.0-star Hotel Class
Axiom Hotel San Francisco

Axiom Hotel San Francisco ...

  • None Miles Away
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Hotel Abri - Union Square

Hotel Abri - Union Square ...

  • 0.1 Miles Away
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#1 Golden Gate Bridge The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and ... Read more » John Lund/Tom Penpark / Getty Images

#2 Ferry Building Marketplace Attention all foodies: this delectable attraction needs to be at the top of your San Francisco to-do list. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a public food market that features a ... Read more » rramirez125 / Getty Images

#3 Golden Gate Park If California had a Central Park equivalent, Golden Gate Park would undoubtedly be it. Though Golden Gate Park sees a small fraction of the visitor's it's New York ... Read more » Dean Krafft / Flickr

#4 The Exploratorium This museum, or as it refers to itself, "a learning laboratory," features 600 hands-on exhibits that cover a plethora of subject matter, such as engineering, psychology, geography and biology. The ... Read more » Chris Chabot / Flickr

#5 Cable Cars Chances are you've seen a television show, movie, postcard or some type of San Francisco memorabilia emblazoned with the city's iconic cable car or trolley. So of course ... Read more » Wonwoo Lee / Getty Images

#6 Mission District The Mission District has attracted San Francisco's young bohemian crowd in the past decade, but it's still retained its authentic, local Mexican ambiance. This is the place that ... Read more » Courtesy San Francisco Travel Assocation

#7 Muir Woods National Monument What better exemplifies California's dramatic landscape than sky-high redwood trees? That's what you'll find at Muir Woods, the beautiful and expansive national monument just 16 miles north ... Read more » narawon / Getty Images

#8 Alcatraz While riding a cable car and getting a snap of the Golden Gate is a must when visiting San Francisco, both visitors and travel experts tend to argue the same ... Read more » Geoff Livingston / Getty Images

#9 Fisherman's Wharf Fisherman's Wharf is so tourist-laden that some travelers might prefer the quieter, more authentic attractions nearby (like the Castro or Golden Gate Park). But if you're looking to ... Read more » Mike Roqué / Flickr

#10 Chinatown While New York City's Chinatown tends to take center stage in the USA, San Francisco's Chinatown is just as much of a star. San Francisco's Chinatown hosts ... Read more » Thomas Hawk / Flickr

#11 AT&T Park The San Francisco Giants have been calling this stadium home since 2000, playing host to multiple World Series games. AT&T Park is regarded as one of the most scenic baseball ... Read more » Anna Fox / Flickr

#12 California Academy of Sciences Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see ... Read more » Anne Petersen / Flickr

#13 The Castro If you want to explore San Francisco's rich gay and lesbian culture, the Castro neighborhood is its beating heart. Not only is the Castro the center of the city ... Read more » Marco Simoni / Getty Images

#14 Twin Peaks If you want the best views of San Francisco, take a hike to Twin Peaks. These famous grassy pounds rise 922 feet from the ground, making them the second highest ... Read more » Daniel Hoherd / Flickr

#15 Baker Beach While San Francisco isn't known for being a beach town, the city's Baker Beach is often considered one of the best in California. Located in the northwestern area ... Read more » Naotake Murayama / Flickr

#16 Union Square Situated a couple blocks north of Market Street and southwest of the city's Financial District, Union Square sits at the heart of downtown San Francisco's hustle and bustle ... Read more » Christopher Chan / Getty Images

# Children's Creativity Museum Read more » M Mortati / Flickr

# Craft Beer Tours If you're a foodie exploring San Francisco, you should consider adding a craft brewery tour to your itinerary. That's because San Francisco is considered one of the craft ... Read more » Maksymowicz / Getty Images

# Local Tastes of the City Tours Read more » Rebeca Anchondo / Flickr

# Ocean Beach Read more » canbalci / Getty Images

# The Presidio Trails If you want to experience the Bay Area's pristine natural spaces but may not have enough time to explore neighboring Marin County, the Presidio is the perfect alternative. This ... Read more » EddieHernandezPhotography / Getty Images

# Walt Disney Family Museum Read more » Anna Fox / Flickr

Golden Gate Bridge picture in San Francisco
Ferry Building Marketplace picture in San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden picture in San Francisco
The Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium picture in San Francisco
Go for a Ride picture in San Francisco
The Mission District picture in San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument picture in San Francisco
Ferry to Alcatraz picture in San Francisco
Fisherman's Wharf picture in San Francisco
Chinatown picture in San Francisco
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California Academy of Sciences picture in San Francisco
The Castro picture in San Francisco
View from atop Twin Peaks picture in San Francisco
Baker Beach picture in San Francisco
Union Square picture in San Francisco
Creativity Museum picture in San Francisco
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Food tour picture in San Francisco
Ocean Beach picture in San Francisco
Presidio Trails picture in San Francisco
Walt Disney Family Museum picture in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge picture in San Francisco
Ferry Building Marketplace picture in San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden picture in San Francisco
The Tactile Dome at the Exploratorium picture in San Francisco
Go for a Ride picture in San Francisco
The Mission District picture in San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument picture in San Francisco
Ferry to Alcatraz picture in San Francisco
Fisherman's Wharf picture in San Francisco
Chinatown picture in San Francisco
AT&T Park picture in San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences picture in San Francisco
The Castro picture in San Francisco
View from atop Twin Peaks picture in San Francisco
Baker Beach picture in San Francisco
Union Square picture in San Francisco
Creativity Museum picture in San Francisco
Beer tour picture in San Francisco
Food tour picture in San Francisco
Ocean Beach picture in San Francisco
Presidio Trails picture in San Francisco
Walt Disney Family Museum picture in San Francisco

Until 1964, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Now, it's the second-longest suspension bridge in the United States and the 11th-longest suspension bridge in the world. John Lund/Tom Penpark / Getty Images

San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace should be at the top of every foodie's travel itinerary. It features plenty of stalls for ready-made meals, snacks and grocery items. rramirez125 / Getty Images

The serene Japanese Tea Garden is one of the top attractions within the sprawling Golden Gate Park. Dean Krafft / Flickr

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San Francisco's famous cable cars are best experienced hanging out the side as you go down one of the city's steep hills. Wonwoo Lee / Getty Images

The Mission District is known primarily for its Hispanic roots, easygoing atmosphere and colorful murals. Courtesy San Francisco Travel Assocation

Muir Woods is renowned for its collection of towering Redwoods. narawon / Getty Images

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The touristy Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood is packed with seafood restaurants and souvenir shops.  Mike Roqué / Flickr

San Francisco's Chinatown is touted as being the oldest in North America as well as one of the largest outside of Asia. Thomas Hawk / Flickr

AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, is situated on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. On top of great views of the bay, baseball fans enjoy the delectable fare found here. Anna Fox / Flickr

The California Academy of Sciences houses an aquarium, a natural history museum, a planetarium and an indoor rainforest dome all in one complex. Anne Petersen / Flickr

The Castro is the center of the LGBTQ community in San Francisco. It's also historic for serving as a hub for the gay rights movement in the 1970s. Marco Simoni / Getty Images

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Baker Beach's incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge makes it one of California's best beaches. Naotake Murayama / Flickr

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