The ride up the mountain is free and you get great views. There is a restaurant and you can sit outdoors and enjoy the evening. The gondola is enclosed so you don't have to worry about falling out, although they never stop moving so you do have to hop on and off. They don't open until 4:00 and it is weather dependent. If there is a storm they don't go up or you could get stuck up there until is passes. The only advantage to the paying tram is it goes all the way to the top so maybe the back of the mountain is also pretty but for free it is wonderful bargain. You just line up right next to where the tram leaves and off you go.
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