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Cable Cars – San Francisco

Cable Cars, San Francisco, CA
Cable Car at Aquatic Park, opposite Ghirardelli Square on Beach Street, San Francisco

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ride on a San Francisco Cable Car. They’re a San Francisco institution and a lot of FUN, especially on the hills. Sit on the cable car’s outer bench seats or stand outside at each end for the best views of the city – and hold on tight! We like standing at the back of the cable car, where the gripman operates a crank for the rear wheel brakes. 

The very first Cable Car was invented by Andrew Hallidie in 1873. Before Cable Cars, horse drawn cars were used for transportation in San Francisco. But, horses were expensive to care for and couldn’t climb many of the city’s steep hills. Another problem, was the disposal of tons of horse manure in the streets. The introduction of the cable cars solved many of those problems. And today they are one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

Cable Car Turnarounds

The Cable Car Turnarounds are located at Aquatic Park – opposite Ghirardelli Square on Beach Street, at Bay & Taylor – and in the center of town, near Union Square, at Powell & Market. You can also hop on a Cable Car at selected stops along its three routes. 

Cable Cars, San Francisco, CA
Powell & Hyde Cable Cars atop Hyde Street hill, San Francisco

Cable Car Routes

At Powell and Market streets, the cable car turnaround serves as the beginning stop for two lines – the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines.  Both lines end near Fisherman’s Wharf, but at different areas.

Powell-Mason Line

The Powell-Mason line begins at the Powell/ Market turnaround, and runs from there, up and over Nob Hill, and down to Bay Street at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Powell-Hyde Line

The Powell-Hyde line runs over Nob and Russian hills, before ending at Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square. Take this route if you want to stop at the top of Lombard Street, San Francisco’s crookedest street. It’s a popular “photo stop” for tourists and locals alike. Get stunning views of San Francisco and the Bay.

California Street Line

The California Street line runs East-West from the Financial District, through Chinatown, over Nob Hill and stops at Van Ness Avenue.

Cable Cars, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Cable Car

Cable Car Bell-Ringing Contest

The Cable Car Bell-Ringing Contest is held each summer in San Francisco’s Union Square. Come and cheer on the Cable Car Gripmen as they compete for the title of “World Champion Cable Car Bell-Ringer.”

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