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San Francisco Cable Cars

One of the best ways to see the city by the bay is on a historic San Francisco cable car. So last weekend I headed to the city by the bay to do something ultra touristy that I had never done before…ride a cable car!

What could be more cautiously adventurous than to hop on a crowded moving car with no real safety features?

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Tourist in my Town - San Francisco Cable Car Ride

San Francisco's cable cars are iconic signatures of the city. They were invented in 1873 and have traveled up and down San Francisco's hills ever since. There are three remaining lines: Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street.

I knew from research (that cautious side of me) that there are rarely any lines for boarding the cars at the end of the line at California & Market Streets. I walk around there all the time on my lunch hour and have observed half-full cars. So I drove into the city, parked near my office, and boarded a cable car.

It costs $8 (in 2024) one way, so if you plan on going “there and back” or want to switch lines to head to places like Fisherman's Wharf or Union Square, you better buy an all-day pass (which costs $13). The cars run from very early in the morning until midnight so if you are in the city for the day, you can take multiple cars. [Tip: Pay the guy in the back, the driver in the front is driving!]

Tourist in My Town All Day San Francisco Cable Car Pass

Given that I wasn't going in the “busy” direction, the car wasn't that full and I had the opportunity to observe the city as we rose into the hills. The architecture is remarkable and I loved looking at the intricate details of the roofs.

I love the small details. Like this handle on the cable car. Focusing on small details, and being thoughtful in the things I do, has made me a far happier person. Also, when I look at this handle I wonder about the stories of all the people who have grabbed it!

Tourist in My Town San Francisco Cable Car

The drivers have stories too. They are a special breed of Muni drivers that get a bad rap sometimes, but dealing with tourists for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week would likely make anyone a little grumpy sometimes. I myself had great drivers who played songs with the cable car bell (they actually have an annual contest every year.)

Tourist in My Town San Francisco Cable Car Drivers

I stopped at the crossroads of California & Powell where the lines intersect, the TransAmerica building was calling to be photographed and I was happy to oblige.

Tourist in my Town - San Francisco Cable Car Intersection

Heading back down we paused in Chinatown and I captured these tourists taking pictures of the passengers in the car. Tourists capturing tourists! I love Chinatown, especially all the red!

Tourist in My Town Capturing Chinatown

When I had exhausted my cable car thirst I headed to a drug store near my office to grab a bottle of water. I walk on this street quite often but only noticed these “buildings” for the first time.

Tourist in My Town

It's funny how playing tourist opened up my eyes to see something I had not seen before. I grabbed a water. Next to the refrigerated cases were the freezer ones where many varieties of ice cream were on display. It wasn't a particularly warm day in the city (as you will see in a bit) but as I planned to do some sunset photos I knew I would not be eating dinner for several more hours, so I decided to give myself a sugar boost.

Sugar-rush installed I headed to Pier 7 for some sunrise photography. The pier is a great spot to see the city in the backdrop or to capture the recently added lights on the Bay Bridge. I am not the most patient photographer so I concentrated on the people strolling on the bridge. Again, like the cable car handle, and like I often do at places like airports, I try to imagine their stories.

It was getting pretty cold. But as I work in the city I know how fickle she can be, particularly in July, so I had on a long-sleeve shirt, a sweater a scarf and a jacket! Still, I kept myself busy by playing around with the Canon Powershot that Skinny Cow provided me (being a Canon girl I was pleased!) :

Tourist in My Town Pier 7

As well as with my iPhone. I tried to take pictures from a different perspective, like this one:

San Francisco Pier 7

Ultimately, my favorite shot of the day was of this couple at sunset walking towards the city. I felt transported. It was like watching a beautiful scene from a movie.

Tourist in My Town

But it wasn't. It was real life. It was San Francisco. And playing a tourist for the day had brought me this gift. A reminder of how important the small things are. My authentic self? Well when it comes down to it, it is about recognizing the small things in life, appreciating them for what they are, and embracing what that brings.

TIP: If you are down by the Embarcadero, buy your tickets at the Walgreens across the street from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco on Drumm Street.

How about you? Have you been a tourist in your town? Have you taken your girlfriends out on the town and discovered something you have never seen before? Do tell!

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San Francisco Cable Cars


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  1. Oh what fun! What a great assignment too. I am doing something similar with them so cannot wait to share stories with you, Andi!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Charu, how fun, can’t wait to see what you will be up to!

  2. Katie @ Domestiphobia.net says:

    Eeek! It’s still that cold there?? I don’t even know if I *own* a scarf anymore! Tell it to warm up over the next couple of weeks. 😉

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Katie, July and August are our coldest months. It is absolutely arctic today!

  3. TheWanderfullTraveler says:

    Very fun assignment and you can now have your blog logo self in the cable car rather than next to it lol jk.
    I am thinking of heading to San Francisco in September (I can’t remember if I mentioned this before) my friend is moving there from Vancouver, BC and I think it would be a great way to get to know the city with a soon to be local.

    My city, Kelowna BC, is a very touristy place in both winter and summer. I played tourist one New Years Eve when I headed up to the local ski hill to celebrate – I don’t ski or snow board but I love spending wintry evenings in a hot tub out in the cold after a day of ice skating and touring the village.
    In summer my favourite tourist activity is wine tastings at all the local spots. I will be playing tourist again in August when I attend the Feast of Fields event and get to know my local farmers, restaurants and wineries in a giant field belonging to a local farmer.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Murissa, you sound like you are embracing the local tourist groove! We have to meet-up when you come!

  4. So many fun ways to enjoy your home turf – you certainly made the most of it!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Lindsey, wasn’t hard to do with a city like SF!

  5. Cathy Sweeney says:

    I love playing tourist in my own area (SF Bay Area, too). There’s always something new to learn and enjoy. I think the cable cars are must-dos in SF — touristy or not. I’ve been riding them since I was kid just visiting from Chicago and now whenever we have out-of-town guest. I think I enjoy it as much as they do. Great photos, especially lovely is the couple at sunset.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Cathy, thanks for the compliment on the photo, it looks so much better blown up, but I find it dreamy. It was fun to ride the cars and I didn’t have to deal with a crowd which is a bonus!

  6. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I’m obsessed with the third shot, wow! And that couple shot is gorgeous too! What a fun day!!!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @AndiP, it was a fun day and that coupe was gorgeous!

  7. Rosanna Hendrix says:

    The city runs the trams (street-cars), buses and trolley buses. They all use the same e-ticket (e-talons), a single price covers any one route independent of the distance. Note that the same number may refer to a bus, a trolleybus and a tram all following different routes. On the stops, numbers of trams and trolleybuses are preceded by “T”, but numbers of buses by “A”.

  8. leza@ tours says:

    What a road and place! I love to journey by bus.I went to picnic with my family 2011.Really I enjoyed very much.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Leza, traveling by bus looks like a lot of fun, I haven’t done it other than to be bused around Napa Valley!

  9. Chania @ Sassy Sweet Style says:

    I’ve always wanted to ride in a cable car! Gorgeous photos & Skinny cow is delish! What a fun opportunity!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Chania, it was a cool experience and couldn’t agree with you more about Skinny Cow!

  10. I just went to San Francisco in June and it was great! I didn’t go on the cable car but I went on the CalTrain!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Daraya, those Cal trains for other cities are so much fun!

  11. Awesome, awesome pics. The perspective of the pier is really cool. I’d love those sculptures in my yard. I went to SF about seven years ago. I love the area. Lombard Street is too cool.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Paula, thanks so much, the pier is great for photos. I would like the sculptures too!

  12. Delmar Aguilar says:

    I’m on Weight Watchers and I’m also a chocoholic. These new skinny cow chocolates are so yummy and you can’t even tell they’re low cal. The only reason I’m rating this a 4 is because of shipping costs, ridiculous. CVS has a sale now, buy 1 box, get 1 for a penny. Now that’s a deal!

  13. Kathleen Downes says:

    This sounds like fun. I’ve been to San Francisco many times but I am always driving. It would be nice to ride the trolley and be able to relax and look around a bit.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Kathleen, having done the same I can tell you it is totally fun to just be a passenger!

  14. I grew up in the SF bay area, glad you got to experience it!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Helga, it was pretty cool!

  15. This is what a sponsored post should be — engaging with great pics! I had fun reading it and as a San Fran lover myself, you’ve now made me excited to go back!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Diane, that is so thoughtful of you to say and I really appreciate. I try to put me in the post whether it is sponsored or not, I am glad you perceived it as that as well.

  16. Helene Tienda says:

    Love the Cable Cars. Before my husband and I were married, we used to stay at the Holiday in on VanNess and California, and the Cable Car stop is right at the corner there. We loved taking the Cable Car to Fisherman’s Wharf for sightseeing and dinner, and it’s so great that they run into the early morning, so you can really make a night of it without having to drive.

  17. I’ve been slacking on my blog reading. I missed this. The photos are just terrific. I really like the cable car pic. My kids return to school soon, and with work more under control than ever, I hope I can begin reading more blogs. Little known fact – OKC had trolleys back in the early 1900s. I just posted a pic of one on a website I help out with for a govt org. They tore up the tracks. If they’d kept them, they’d be iconic, too. Some of the tracks are still around as they just paved over them for streets. I love the pic of you, too. You look chilly!