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San Francisco Cable Cars: How and Where to Ride Them

Updated on July 17, 2012
Turning the cable car around
Turning the cable car around

Ask ANY tourist what they want to do in San Francisco and you will get the same three answers:

1. Ride Cable Cars

2. Visit Chinatown

3. Visit Fisherman's Wharf

To locals, all three items are really a "do once" or "twice" affair. After you do them, they are out of your system, so to speak. Tourists coming to SF think the cable cars run all over the city and are free. Nothing is further from the truth.

A cable car fare for adult & youth (ages 5-17): $6.00 each way. That means taking the car to the turn around. If you want to return to where you started, it is another $6. A way to avoid this expense is to buy a one day cable car pass for $14, per person. This pass can ONLY be bought onsite from the cable car conductor, you cannot buy them online! The conductor can only make change for up to $20. Buying a day pass allows unlimited rides on the cable cars!

The cable car routes are the Powell St. -Hyde St. line, the Powell - Mason line and the California St. line.The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines stop at the museum. The booth at Hyde and Beach streets, near Fisherman's Wharf, or at Market and Powell streets, near Union Square, sell tickets. They are also available at San Francisco Visitor's Bureau near the Westfield shopping center.

Cable cars generally have working hours for operational purposes, usually from 0700 to 2100 hrs. After boarding the cable car, which is usually crowded, the conductor will ask each passenger for a ticket. If you have no ticket, you will have to pay that instant.

I have found that for tourists, the very best place to get the cable car is at Fisherman's Wharf, which is one place they will want to go to for food and shops, anyway. In a sense, you are killing two birds with one stone.

Taking a cable car to Chinatown is not possible. The closest it will take you is about three city blocks away. If you get off at the cable car museum on Mason St. Many of San Francisco's shopping is in and around Union Square, you can take the cable car right there. Most other tourist destinations, like Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill or the Transamerica Bldg, are a good four blocks away from the cable car line.


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    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Riding the Cable car is fine for a short distance, maybe up the hill and down, but not everyday. Once you do it, the thrill is gone, IMO.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I have had the pleasure of riding these in San Francisco. It's such a great way to experience the city culture. Good write-up.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Like I said, once you ride them, go to SF as a tourist, it's done!

    • FGual profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Rode at least once when I was there in 96. A good thing that gets better with age, hope they keep them forever.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 

      6 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Good job Perry, This is a good article for visitors to San Francisco.

    • NeilsHotDeals profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Used to ride them down to the Warf when I could. I lived out there for three years


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