Home to iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Chinatown district, San Francisco is one of the most beloved and historic shoreline cities in all of California. It's a vibrant, progressive place that has led the way in many fields of culture and society for decades now, always seeming to be one step ahead of the rest of the world. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.San Francisco Trolley Rides

San Francisco Trolley Rides
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The Golden Gate Bridge and other aforementioned landmarks have come to define San Francisco and represent part of its persona and identity, but another key part of what makes the city special is its trolleys, or cable cars. San Francisco's cable car system, made up of manually operated trolleys that move along rails throughout the city, is actually the only one of its kind left in the world, with the cable cars themselves actually being classed on the National Register of Historic Places due to their cultural significance.

The San Francisco trolley system represents a fun, affordable way to get around the city, but has come to be seen as more than just a mode of transport over the years. Statistics show that around 7 million people ride the trolleys each year, and a huge percentage of that number are actually tourists who ride the cars as part of their 'San Francisco experience'.

The trolleys are still used for getting around and fulfil their original purpose, but have taken on new life as an actual tourist attraction, with many people riding them just for the fun of it. If you're planning a trip to San Francisco and would like to ride the city's cable cars for yourself, read on to learn all about them.

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2.San Francisco Trolley Details

San Francisco Trolley Details
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Historically, 23 separate lines have been established as part of the San Francisco trolley system throughout history, but only three are still used today. The lines are known by the numbers 59, 60, and 61. Line 59 runs from Powell to Mason, Line 60 runs from Powell to Hyde, and Line 61 Serves California Street and is typically known as the 'California Line'. In total, these three lines serve 62 stations, with over 20,000 people riding each day.

The trolleys on the California line are larger than those on the other two lines as they feature a double-ended design rather than the single-ended design seen on the others. 12 double-ended cars run along the California line, while 28 single-ended cars run along the two other lines. The California line is the shortest, at 1.4 miles in length, while Powell-Mason runs for 1.6 miles and Powell-Hyde is the longest at 2.1 miles.

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3.Tips for Riding the San Francisco Trolley

Tips for Riding the San Francisco Trolley
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The first important tip for riding San Francisco cable cars is to be aware that, as previously mentioned, these trolleys aren't like a typical form of public transportation; the trolleys attract millions of riders each year and are seen as a tourist attraction by many visitors to the city, so the act of actually getting on one and enjoying a trip around Golden Gate City isn't always as easy as you might think. It’s important to choose your times and stops carefully, and be prepared to be patient as you wait to climb aboard and enjoy the ride.

If you're riding the San Francisco trolleys to enjoy the view and simply appreciate the ride, rather than focusing on actually getting to a destination, try riding on one of the Powell lines and sitting on the side of the car facing out towards the bay. You'll get the best views this way and can really make the most of your journey, snapping some photos as you go along.

It's also worth noting that when riding the San Francisco cable cars you have the choice between riding inside or outside. The cars don't move faster than 10 miles per hour, so standing on the outside is safer than it might first appear and is a good option for people who want an authentic experience and to see the city in a special way.

However, it can get very windy as you go along, so be sure to wear a coat on a cool day. If you'd prefer to sit inside, that can be a fun option too as you'll get to see the grip person - the operator who helps the car run by connecting and disconnecting it from the cables - which can be very interesting, but you won't get the same sort of views, especially if the car you're riding is crowded.

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4.Routes of the San Francisco Trolley

Routes of the San Francisco Trolley
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As previously mentioned, the San Francisco cable car system runs on three lines. Learn more about each of these lines below and choose the right one for your journey.

- Powell-Hyde

The Powell-Hyde Line starts off in the busy area of Powell and Market and heads off towards Fisherman's Wharf, ending at Hyde at Jefferson, near Ghirardelli Square. This line is a good one to take if you'd like some views of the bay and it offers stops near major attractions like the Cable Car Museum, Union Square, and Chinatown.

- Powell-Mason

The Powell-Mason Line, like the Powell-Hyde Line, begins at Powell and Market and runs through to Mason at North Point. The Powell-Mason Line tends to be a little less busy in general than Powell-Hyde, so it's a nice option to choose if you'd like to ride on a less crowded car. This line is a good one to choose for locations like Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, the Cable Car Museum, and Chinatown.

- California Line

The California Line operates exclusively on California Street, running from California at Market to California at Van Ness. It's the shortest line and by far the least busy. It also offers a very fun ride, going up a very steep hill and offering some super views of the city. Take this line to simply enjoy those views or stop off at Nob Hill, Chinatown, and the Financial District.

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5.Riding the San Francisco Trolley

Riding the San Francisco Trolley
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Passengers aged below four can ride for free on the San Francisco cable cars, but everyone else will need a ticket. It's important to note that, unlike other trolley systems you may have used in the past, the tickets on the San Francisco trolley are only good for one ride. You can't hop off and back on with the same ticket; you'll need to buy a new one each time. Tourists and residents can, however, invest in passes like the Visitor Passport that allow unlimited journeys on the trolleys.

The best way to ride and get the most value is to start at the beginning or end of each route and ride it all the way, but if you'd like to get on at a mid-way point, you'll need to stand at the stop and flag down the driver by waving your hand as the trolley approaches. You won't need to let the driver know when you want to get off, as the trolleys usually stop at all stops regardless.

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4 Best San Francisco Trolley Rides



Attraction Spotlight: Pier 39

Pier 39 is located at the edge of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California. A popular tourist attraction, the pier includes the Aquarium of the Bay, restaurants, shops, virtual 3D rides, a marina and street performances among other attractions. Visitors can also view California sea lions from Pier 39. The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz can also be seen from the pier. Pier 39 first opened on October 4, 1978. In addition to the many attractions, the pier has numerous shop and dining options.

Open Heart

The "Open Heart" sculpture on Pier 39 is part of the 2014 "Hearts in San Francisco" collection by the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. The collection supports the crucial initiatives and programs of the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. Hand-painted by Patrick Dintino, a local artist, "Open Heart" represents the idea of self-concept and love. The sculpture also symbolizes the openess of San Francisco's heart.

Musical Stairs

Visitors to Pier 39 can create their own music at the Musical Stairs by walking up and down the stairs. Remo Saraceni created this interactive art exhibit, and also created the floor piano in the movie Big.

Musicians

Free live music performed by local musicians can be enjoyed at the Entrance Plaza of Pier 39. Shows occur daily beginning in the afternoon.

Aquarium of the Bay

Visitors to Pier 39's Aquarium of the Bay can discover the wonder, beauty, and magic of the San Francisco Bay. Situated along the water, twenty thousand local marine creatures can be seen at the aquarium. There are three main exhibit areas that showcase the spectacular treasure that lies beneath the surface of the waters of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding area. Views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz can be found from the aquarium's outdoor decks.

Opportunities to touch rays, be mesmerized by moon jellies, and look a Sevengill shark in the eye can all be found at the Aquarium of the Bay. Fascinating animals from the San Francisco Bay area swim over visitors' heads as they walk through clear tunnels. Aquarium naturalists lead animal interactions and feedings each day. There are also sustainable seafood discussions and hands-on science experiments among other daily activities. The Otters: Watershed Ambassadors exhibit educates visitor about the significance of the conservation and health of the area's natural resources and features three North American River Otters.

Sea Lion Center

Managed and operated by Aquarium of the Bay, the Sea Lion Center is the place for all things sea lion. The center includes interesting presentations led by Aquarium of the Bay Naturalists, educational videos, and interactive displays. Visitors can size themselves compared to an authentic skeleton of a sea lion, feel a sea lion pelt, and more. Once visitors get a better understanding of the California sea lions, they can walk outside to the K-Dock overlook to get a glimpse of the local sea lions that hang out near the pier. The Sea Lion Web Cam online provides people with a chance to view sea lions from anywhere in the world. The camera offers views of Pier 39's K-Dock, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sea Lions

The California sea lions usually found in the West Marina of Pier 39 are endearingly also known as the pier's "Sea Lebrities." These sea lions started coming to Pier 39 in large numbers in the beginning of 1990, not too long after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. There were about ten to fifty sea lions at first, but because of a bountiful supply of herring, plenty of dock space, and the protected environment of the marina, their numbers soon grew to over three hundred within just a few months. The number of sea lions at the pier's marina can reach up to 900, mostly males, in winter. The sea lions migrate south during the summer to the Channel Islands for breeding season. However, recently a small number have remained at Pier 39's K-Dock throughout the year.

SOLVE IT! Think out of the Box Play Area

At SOLVE IT! Think out of the Box Play Area at Pier 39, children and adults alike can challenge their minds with puzzles and games.

7D Experience

Pier 39's 7D Experience offers competitive fun with three different experiences: Beam Buster, Laser Maze Challenge, and Dark Ride. Visitors try to complete their mission and compete to get the Top Score. In the Laser Maze Challenge, confidence, speed, and agility are tested as participants navigate their way through a crisscrossing laser beam web. The mission can be completed either solo or as a team as competitors stretch, crawl, and jump as they test their limits to beat the clock, as well as others. Those not competing can enjoy watching all the action.

Once visitors think they have mastered their Laser Maze skills and want try a new experience, they can test their skills at Beam Busters. This experience is similar to the Laser Maze Challenge but with a twist. Rather than navigating through crisscrossing beams, the mission is to try to break as many of the laser beams as possible within a certain amount of time. Competitors will be leaping and running to beat the highest score.

The Dark Ride experience combines a technologically advanced laser-blasting game with the thrill of a roller coaster at the 7D Experience. A gigantic movie screen combined with the most recent 3D technology will awaken visitors's senses as they blast their way through dimensions in a twenty seat theater, competing with others throughout the ride.

Frequent Flyers

Frequent Flyers lets children and adults alike see Pier 30 from a new perspective. This exhilarating bungee trampoline allows visitors to jump up to twenty feet up in the air, as well as try a bit of aerial acrobatics if they feel up to it.

Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

Visitors can challenge themselves to navigate their way through never-ending hallways, dead-ends, and infinite circles in the Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze at Pier 39. This challenging maze is the most fascinating one in the city.

San Francisco Carousel

Pier 39's San Francisco Carousel is intricately hand-painted and features well-known landmarks of San Francisco, such as Lombard Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Chinatown, California sea lions, and Coit Tower. The carousel, handcrafted in Italy, is the only known carousel in the city that includes artistic renderings of San Francisco. There are over thirty animals for riders to choose from, and the carousel has 1,800 twinkling lights. Traditional organ music is played as those riding take in the pier's busy promenade.

Street Performers

The street performers at Pier 39 are magicians, tricksters, comedians, and jugglers who delight and entertain visitors at the Carousel Stage every day. Shows begin at noon and continue through the evening. A schedule of performers can be found on Pier 39's website.

Caricatures

The caricature artists at Pier 39 create unique pieces of artwork for visitors as they soak in the sounds and sights of San Francisco, whether it's their name as art or a cartoon portrait. Online animated caricature art is also featured at the caricatures cart.

Players Sports Grill and Arcade

Situated at the Bay end of Pier 39, Players Sports Grill and Arcade offers 12,000 square feet of games, drinks, food and views of the San Francisco Bay. With a familiar sports bar feel and over two hundred live sports feeds from around the world, Players is the place to be at the pier if you want to watch a game. Players Sports Grill and Arcade also has delicious sandwiches and an excellent bar menu, sixteens beers on tap, over eighty-five arcade games, and more. Among the arcade's games are Skeeball, Bay View Air Hockey, Ms. Pacman, NFL 2-minute Drill, Old West Shooting Gallery, Elvis Pinball, and NBA Hoops. There's also a Tiki Bar and Luau Lounge.

Hard Rock Café San Francisco

Hard Rock Café features a unique rock 'n' roll atmosphere, including the most recent music and more than 250 pieces of memorabilia. The restaurant serves American fare that will rock diners' taste buds. There is also a full bar.

Pier Market Seafood Restaurant

Known for its award-winning clam chowder, sustainable seafood, and mesquite grill dishes, the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant is one of Pier 39's busiest restaurants. There is seating both indoors and outdoors. "To go" food is served outside the restaurant at the Pier Market Crabstand.

Chart House

Chart House is a fine dining seafood restaurant located at Pier 39's Bay End. The restaurant is famous for its creative seasonal dishes that have an exotic touch. Guests can delight in spectacular views of California sea lions, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay as they enjoy delicious steak and seafood dishes.

Crab House

Famous for a delicious, mouth-watering crab menu, Crab House features dishes like crab chowder, crab cakes, crab legs, crab enchiladas, and more. The restaurant also offers the "Killer Crab®," a whole crab roasted in a secret garlic sauce.

Mango’s Taqueria & Cantina

Visitors to Pier 39 can find delicious Mexican food at Mango's Taqueria and Cantina. The restaurant includes a cantina, a taqueria, and a Bay view deck.

Back to: Best Things to do in San Francisco

Attraction Spotlight: Baker Beach San Francisco

As one of the largest cities in the state of California and one of the cultural, technological, and social hubs of the entire United States, the city of San Francisco attracts many millions of visitors from all around the world. With iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the warm waters of the bay just waiting to welcome you in, San Francisco is a popular spot for many kinds of outdoor activities, with Baker Beach being one of the top beaches in the entire Bay Area.

Both San Francisco locals and visitors adore Baker Beach and can be seen gathering at the area each and every day, especially in the evenings when the sun starts to set. Baker Beach is so popular as it offers some of the very best views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge that you can hope to find by land. Both professional and amateur photographers can be spotted here each and every day attempting to capture a stunning shot of this world-famous landmark, with visitors young and old posing for vacation photos too and simply enjoying the relaxing sounds and beautiful sights of this picturesque spot.

History of Baker Beach

Baker Beach measures up at almost half a mile (800m in total) and can be found off Lincoln Boulevard in the Presidio national park area of San Francisco. The area famously used to be a military base, set up back in the 18th century by Spanish settlers and used all the way through until the 1990s, when it was closed down and the area was converted into a national park.

The famous Burning Man festival was held at Baker Beach for several years in the late 1980s before moving to Black Rock Desert in Nevada, and the popularity of the beach has steadily grown over the years as more and more popular see and experience its stunning views. Out of all the beaches in the Bay Area, Baker Beach sees some of the highest numbers of visitors and is regarded as a key tourist hotspot for visitors to San Francisco.

What to Do at Baker Beach, San Francisco

Unlike some other beaches in the San Francisco area, water-based activities like swimming and kayaking aren't popular or even recommended at Baker Beach due to the choppy waters and rip tides. Instead, most visitors to this beach simply rest on the sand or banks and sunbathe on sunny days, while also appreciating the beautiful views, especially of the aforementioned Golden Gate Bridge.

Due to the highly scenic nature of this location, it's a top spot for photographers of all kinds as well, and it's not uncommon to see dozens of people kneeling down and moving around to find the right spot for their next snap. People can also simply enjoy the views and surrounding scenery by walking up and down the beach itself.

Baker Beach is also conveniently located for other activities and landmarks. Due to its spot in the Presidio area, Baker Beach has easy access to areas like the Battery Chamberlain, which is the home of the last artillery battery "disappearing gun" on the entire West Coast. The gun is open for public viewing on the first weekends of each month and can be accessed easily from the Baker Beach parking lot.

Naturism is also popular on this beach and it's not rare at all to see many nudists, especially at the norther end of the beach, closest to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s not compulsory to be naked at this beach, but public nudity is certainly a part of the Baker Beach experience that all visitors have to accept and understand.

Important Information for Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker Beach doesn't have any admission or parking fees, but it can get very busy, especially in the summer months when tourist numbers are at their peak. Traffic around the Golden Gate Bridge area can also get quite hectic at certain times of day, so it's wise to plan your trip to Baker Beach ahead of time and choose your dates carefully to enjoy the beach at its best. Picnic tables and restrooms can be found in the parking lot, and pets are allowed, as long as they're on a leash.

Baker beach is open in the daytime but closes before sunset. It's also important to note that, due to the conditions around the area, thick fog can build up around Baker Beach at certain times of year, namely in the summer months. So if you’re thinking of planning a trip to Baker Beach to snap some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, watch out for the fog.