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“One of those things you have to do in San Francisco” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Cable Cars

Cable Cars
San Francisco, CA (Nob Hill)
415 673 6864
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Ranked #20 of 722 things to do in San Francisco
Certificate of Excellence 2014
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Owner description: Since 1873, cable cars have run up and down the hilly city, though after the 1950s, these cars have been kept in operation more out of historic nostalgia. Seventeen miles of track remain and have been deemed a historical landmark.
Lansing, Michigan
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424 reviews 424 reviews
195 attraction reviews
Reviews in 209 cities Reviews in 209 cities
728 helpful votes 728 helpful votes
“One of those things you have to do in San Francisco”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2013

Just like going up the Eiffel Tower in Paris or seeing the Empire State Building in New York City, no visit to this city is complete until you try to ride the cable cars at least once. As far as being a practical mass transit system or a good way to get from Point A to Point B in San Francisco, they leave much to be desired.

After visiting San Francisco this past March, here is my two cents on the cable cars. First, riding them is extremely expensive at $6 each way (regular city buses and trains cost $2). We had the city pass, which got us unlimited rides for a seven day period and it was so much easier to flash our pass at the cash collector on the cable car then dig out the cash. Highly recommend this option. Another option without buying the city pass is to buy a Muni pass.

Second, even though we were not in San Francisco during a crowded time of year, there was always a line for the Powell lines. We even tried riding the Powell lines on a Sunday morning at 9:30 and still had to wait about twenty minutes to get on. While waiting for the Powell line cable cars at Powell and Market, there was no separate line for the Powell/Hyde or Powell/Mason line. It seemed to me that you just got on whichever cable car pulled up. Since the Powell/Mason line ends up in a different area than the Powell/Hyde line this can be kind of annoying.

Third, don't count on getting on any of the Powell lines at a stop different from the beginning of the line at Powell and Market. They just about fill up the cable cars at the beginning and usually have a very limited amount of room to add new passengers. Since most people are riding them to the Fisherman's Wharf area, very few people get off to add extra room. Somebody told us the traffic island for the cable car stop next to Union Square is called "Fantasy Island" because nobody is able to get on the cable car at this stop even though the people there think they can get on.

Finally, the best way to avoid all of this madness and to get a coveted spot on the outside of the cable car is to ride the California/Van Ness line. There was never a line while we were there for the California cable car and the cable cars on this line were never full. If you start at the financial district on the California line, you can ride it to Chinatown, get off, explore Chinatown, and easily get back on to ride it to the top of Nob Hill.

Visited March 2013
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London, United Kingdom
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85 reviews 85 reviews
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45 helpful votes 45 helpful votes
“Open decked cable cars which service the hill districts with Union Square and the Embarcadero”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 16, 2013

Cable cars are a uniquely San Franciscan experience. Whilst there is an indoor space in each car, its much more fun to hang on the side step. The cable cars are not cheap, however, at $6 a ride. You can, however, purchase a 7 day pass from the MUNI transportation booth at the Powell Street Cable Car turnaround. This pass can also then be used on the streetcars and buses too. Also, its important to remember that the grearmen will not allow you to board with drinks or food in hand.

Visited March 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Shelton, Nebraska, USA
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57 reviews 57 reviews
42 attraction reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
40 helpful votes 40 helpful votes
“Don't miss the ride”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 15, 2013

When in SF, you have to ride the cable cars. Go to any Walgreens and purchase your transportation card. This will get you almost anywhere, as you can go cable car, bus or train to get from place to place. This icon of SF is a must do for everyone!

Visited March 2013
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Top Contributor
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35 helpful votes 35 helpful votes
“The only way to travel”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 15, 2013

Great fun and good way to get around the sites of San Francisco. If you are in San Francisco for any length of time it is well worth picking up a 3 or 7 day pass for all the MUNI transportation.

Visited March 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Senior Contributor
35 reviews 35 reviews
18 attraction reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“What I wish someone had told us - if you're visiting in the summer”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 15, 2013

Riding the cable car, hanging on the step is the quintissential San Fran experience right up there with crossing the Golden Gate bridge and driving down the "crookedest street in the world" - no I don't mean Wall Street lol
However, if you're going to San Fran in the peak season months of July or August and you're not starting at the beginning of the line by the bay, you might be waiting for an hour and never get on a car as they all leave full from the bay. Worse, as we walked towards the start of the loop, the people we asked at the stops as we passed told us they'd waited an hour and longer without a single car stopping to pick anyone up so if you want to make this part of the experience (and I highly recommend it), start at the beginning ;-) Oh ya, and if you think even that will make things easy, there's a giant snaking line there too! So, we waited about half an hour but at least we knew we were getting on a car and best of all, we had that step location that allowed us to lean back over traffic and truly enjoy the experience. One last note, do lean in and watch your arms when the conductor tells you too!!! Thought I'd share the little detail that might make all the difference between enjoying the ride or standing around in frustration.

Visited July 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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