San Francisco Cable Cars and Other Ways to Get Around the City

170527d Chinatown San Francisco _10We made a road trip up to San Francisco over the Memorial Day weekend, and we tried to make the most of our three full days there. It’s not our first time there, but it has been a little over 10 years since we last visited.

One advice that I have gotten over and over again about going to San Francisco is “Do Not Drive”. As a solution, I looked up the various ways we can get to the touristy locations via public transportation. In the end we decided to get a 1-day Visitor Passport, which was $21 and allows us to ride the Muni, Muni Metro, historic streetcars, and cable cars an unlimited time for the day.

I knew that if we purchased the day pass online via the CityPass website we would need to exchange our purchase for a passport booklet at the Cable Car Museum. However since we did not buy it online, we weren’t sure where to get a day pass, so we made our way to the Cable Car Museum to see if we can buy a day pass there.170527c San Francisco Cable Car Museum _01 Lucky for us, our hotel was actually rather close to the Cable Car Museum, so Sarah, BH, and I took a quick walk downhill to the museum. Located on the corner of Mason and Washington, it is a free museum displaying the history of the cable cars. It is opened from 10 am to 6 pm everyday.

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We actually got there a little before opening (fail #1)…so we explored the area a bit before returning here. When we returned a little after 10 am, the museum was opened and there were already quite a few people in there. One of the most prominent displays were the running cables lines that are used to run the cables cars.

We explored the museum a little and then headed to the gift shop area to ask about the 1 Day pass. Apparently we could purchase them directly on the cable cars (fail #2). I guess we didn’t actually have to go all the way to the museum…at least we got to explore a little.

170527e San Francisco Trolley _ 14

We ended up trekking (UPHILL!) back to our hotel to get our parents and Auntie, and then we headed out to get on a cable car and buy our day passes. Our hotel, the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins is actually right at the California Cable Car line, so we simply just have to walk out of our hotel and walk to the cable car stop across the street.

Probably the most annoying part was waiting for the cable car to arrive. We ended up missing the first one (fail #3), and had to wait another 20 minutes or so. According to the website, cable cars should come every 10-15 minutes, I guess it can vary a bit.
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Our first point of interest was getting to the Ferry Building (more about that in another post). We confirmed with the concierge at the hotel that we only had to take the California line Cable Car all the way to the end and then is a quick walk towards the clock tower.

We jumped on at the Mason stop, and told the conductor that we wanted to purchase a day pass. The conductor couldn’t immediately assist us, and just told us to grab a seat. It was still kind of early, a little before 11 am, so we were able to grab seats. And after a few stops, he finally helped us with getting the day pass. All-in-all the process was quick and quite easy.

170527f San Francisco Ferry Market Building _09170527g San Francisco Street Car _06

Our next stop was Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39. Unfortunately, there is no direct route from the Ferry Building via cable cars, so we opted to ride the Streetcars. Like the cable cars, the Streetcars are also a historic form of transportation that gives off a vintage feel.

There are several Streetcar stops conveniently located outside of the Ferry Building. From there ee hopped on the F-line streetcar head towards Fisherman’s Wharf. Maybe because it was later in the day, but it was rather crowded when we got on, with only standing room available.170527f San Francisco Ferry Market Building _07

There isn’t an actually stop called Fisherman’s Wharf, so you kind of have to know where in the Wharf you want to stop at. We ended up hopping off at the Pier 39 stop. A nice lady on the streetcar was also headed to Fisherman’s Wharf, and wasn’t sure where to get off. I kindly told her that the Pier 39 stop was Fisherman’s Wharf. In reality it isn’t quite the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf yet…I hope I didn’t get her lost (fail #4).

Anyone know of a better stop to get to Fisherman’s Wharf on the F-line Street Car…or a better way to get to Fisherman’s Wharf from the Ferry Building?

170527k San Francisco Lombard Street _02

We ended up walking from Pier 39 all the way to Ghiradelli Square, and from there our next intended stop was Lombard Street. The plan was to get on the Powell-Hyde Line from the Beach and ride UP to the top of Lombard Street. It didn’t work out as planned (fail #5). There was a long line at the Beach stop so we decided to walk up a couple of stops hoping for a shorter line. Although the line was shorter, every cable car that passed by were completely full…

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After waiting for about 10 or 15 minutes, we decided to not rdie the cable car (fail #6) and just walk up the hill to the iconic curvy road. By the time we decided this we were at the Bay stop which was just two blocks away from Lombard.

How hard can it be? Honestly, it was tough enough that called for a victory pose when I finally got there! Luckily from here it was all downhill walking.

170527k San Francisco Lombard Street _46After snapping some pictures at Lombard Street, we made our way downhill a few blocks to the Powell-Mason cable car line, and rode it back to the California. It was later in the day and all of the cables cars were expected to be rather full.

This one was no exception. Not only did we have to wait a long time for the cable car, but it was also rather full. All six of us managed to squeeze into the cable car. But I can’t really say the ride was very comfortable.

My advice, if you want to experience the cable cars or streetcars…go on them in the earlier hours of the day on the weekends. We did this on a Saturday, so I can’t really say much about the morning rush hours during the weekdays.

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Despite so many fails, we still managed to explore the North Beach area mainly using the various public transportation connected via this jumble of cables. Although we didn’t have a chance to ride the Munis/buses, but it was interesting to me that even the buses were connected to the various cable above us.

Are they connected to cables because of all of the hills?

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