Anyone who takes a camera to San Francisco and doesn’t hop on a cable car to capture amazing views is really missing out.
If you are in town, please walk to a park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridgeclimb Coit Tower, enjoy the colors of Chinatown and North Beachsmile at all the cars that are dismantling Lombard Streetenjoy the history and the delicacies of foodies in the Ferry building.
Those are all great. But this classic San Francisco, your best ride in town, should be stop #1. It’s like a slow-moving roller coaster going up and down steep hills (that’s San Francisco) without the speed. And it has much better views. Best!
The last Photo WalksTV episode puts you in the heart of the action, right from the best funicular in town, Powell/Hyde, seen through the lenses of the Insta360 camera and Apple iPhone 14 Pro. I mounted my Insta360 at the front of the cable car to capture the entire ride, while also shooting videos and photos on the iPhone. And the images really pop. See!
This is the San Francisco we all grew up with and used to love crime got out of hand, tents started popping up everywhere and store closures became a sad sight. That San Francisco of yesteryear still exists (mostly) on the Powell/Hyde line of Russian Hill and Nob Hill mansions and apartments, stately hotels, Alfred Hitchcock film locations, living history, incredible hills in what is without a doubt the most photogenic city in the world. United States is States.
- Like all things photography-related, arrive early, such as between 7 and 8 am, before the tourists arrive. There are only eight seats on the outside of the car, which give you an excellent photo position. From here you get a great photographer advantage and the early morning lighting is fantastic.
- Second, take the Beach/Hyde route. It has the best photo spots.
- Third, a one-way ticket on the cable car costs $8. Want to go back to where you originally boarded? That’ll cost you another $8. Got a much better deal. The Muni Mobile App sells you a day ticket for $13. This allowed me to ride all three lines, for less than a round trip ticket on one, and it was great.
This local tradition has been going strong since 1873. Let’s honor this great invention that brought the locals to their feet in the days of the horse-drawn carriage, the basic operation of which has not changed since then.
Be sure to check out the Cable Car Museum (1201 Mason St. and on the Hyde/Beach route) for more history.
Says the SFMTA, the agency that oversees the cars: “No experience is more unique in San Francisco than a ride on a cable car. Cable cars have become the symbol of our great city… After all, we are the city that first launched cars pulled by cables running under the street. Invented here nearly 150 years ago and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, our agency maintains today’s San Francisco cable cars in top condition.”
Thank you SFMTA!
Beach and Hyde is located on the western edge of Fisherman’s Wharf, a stone’s throw from the iconic Ghiradelli Square. The Powell/Hyde Line begins by passing the historic Buena Vista Cafe, known for the invention of Irish Coffee.
From there it’s up the hill. You will meander past many San Francisco classics. you pass Lombard Streetthe crookedest street in the world, and if you look down the hill, on a good day you have a great view of Alcatraz Island.
Aside from that, weave through beautiful neighborhoods of San Francisco, past homes, condos, shops, and the like, and grab a little Chinatown and North Beach also, before ending in the urban center of Union Squareand Powell and Market.
The Powell-Mason line is the most popular of the three routes and passes through the same terrain as the Powell/Hyde Lineminus the Alcatraz and Lombard Street sightings.
The least popular rule is the California, which is a shame, because it is a lot of fun and also very photogenic. You get on it at the bottom of California Street, at the Ferry Building, and drive through the financial district, near the Tadich Grillthe oldest restaurant in California, dating back to 1849. You’ll go all the way to that most iconic photo of San Francisco, the cable car descending California and Powell, in Nob Hill, by the Fairmont Hotel.
This is similar to what we saw in the old Rice-a-roni ads of the 1960s.
The California line goes past Polk Street and ends at Van Ness where, unlike the other lines, you don’t need to buy another ticket to continue the ride. Once it’s flipped, hop off and on again for another ride past the classic California Street Nob Hill dashboard, toward the Bay Bridge.
Enjoy your rides on your next visit and watch the video. As always it was a labor of love making it, and I hope you enjoy it.