How To Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco

San Francisco, cable car
Welcome to San Francisco! Hop on a cable car.

Still one of the most romantic forms of transportation, San Francisco’s Cable Car network continues to be an excellent way to visit city landmarks like Union Square, Nob Hill, Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. As a cable car ride currently costs $6, consider purchasing a Muni Passport online or at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center at 900 Market Street.  Currently they charge $13 for unlimited rides for the entire day (multi-day passes are also available.) There is also a cable car app that points out places of interest along the way.

Start your cable car ride by Union Square in San Francisco

Avoid the long cable car lines at end-of-the-line stations by starting your journey on the Powell-Hyde Line (at the corner of Powell and Post Streets) by Union Square. Since many passengers depart here, good seats are more readily available. If you want to take pictures, it’s wise to select a bench seat instead of hanging on to the sidebars so your hands will be free.

Arrive early to the area and have breakfast at Sears Fine Foods – order the Swedish pancakes.

Chinatown, San Francisco
Ride a San Francisco cable car by Chinatown

Powell Street cable car

During the first 15 minutes of your cable car ride along Powell Street you will pass 12 stops, many at world famous hotels like the Top of the Mark with its spectacular 360 degree panoramic view from the rooftop bar. Next you’ll pass through the San Francisco neighborhood of Chinatown. Here you’ll have a great picture opportunity when the cable car slows down to make a left-hand turn onto Jackson right by the Woh Hei Yuen Park (Garden of Peace and Joy) with its graceful arch. As the cable car begins to climb up into the affluent Nob Hill neighborhood, you can jump off to visit the nearby Cable Car Museum.

Hyde Street and Lombard Street

The cable car turns right to travel along tree-lined Hyde Street passing many charming San Francisco townhouses. If you love unique shopping opportunities, hop off at Green Street to browse Hyde & Seek Antiques, a consignment store that is as interesting as a museum! A few stops further is the famous Lombard Street with its curves flanked by flower gardens where you’ll surely want to snag your personal version of this classic San Francisco photo.

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Classic San Francisco dining

As you continue down Hyde Street you’re probably starting to get hungry from all the delicious smells wafting into the cable car. Get off at the Lincoln Highway and walk a block west down to Ghirardelli Square. Although there are many restaurants in this famous brick complex, the classic San Francisco dining experience can be found at the McCormich & Schmick’s Seafood and Steak house with its expansive view of San Francisco Bay (including the infamous Alcatraz Island.)

San Francisco, cable car
Where to ride a cable car in San Francisco

Aquatic Park, San Francisco

Jump back on the cable car for a short ride to the end of the line at the roundabout in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. Stretch your legs and walk off your lunch with a stroll around the waterfront, checking out the old ships that are like floating museums and admiring the playful harbor seals. For the perfect afternoon pick-me-up, return to the corner of Hyde and Beach Street and settle in at the Buena Vista Café for a mug of their famous Irish coffee while nibbling on some sourdough toast. If you want to take the cable car back to the starting point, it’s wise to pack along bottled water because you can wait in line for an hour without shade or refreshment at the Fisherman’s Wharf turnaround.

This is a guest post written by Lela Lake. Photos courtesy of travel writer Nancy D. Brown.

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3 thoughts on “How To Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco”

  1. Very helpful. Is there any weekly pass? During the week I also need to go to San Jose. So wondering if there is any weekly pass which would cover charges for rides outside SFO as well?

    Is there any public transport available to the hill from where Golden Gate Bridge looks amazing? Especially during evening time?

  2. @VJ
    Depending on where you are headed in San Jose, you may take BART or rent a car. I recommend you visit the San Francisco Visitors Bureau website for more transportation specifics.

  3. Pingback: Hilton SF Union Square Business or Pleasure | Nancy D Brown

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