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Cable Car Museum

Learn about the old-fashioned cable cars that have transported San Franciscans for generations as you tour around a historic powerhouse and working museum.

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is a tribute to the city’s iconic transportation system. Discover the fascinating heritage of one of the last manually operated cable car systems in the world as you explore museum exhibits that link the 19th century to today. Find out about the inventor of the cable car, as well as the system’s technology and rapid expansion throughout the decades. Explore the functioning powerhouse, which still drives three of the historic downtown lines.

Enter the spacious old powerhouse and begin your exploration of the historical exhibits. The museum was established in 1973 and encompasses a complex of heritage engine rooms and galleries. Stroll around several restored cable cars, including two restored cars from the 1870s.

Follow a timeline of San Francisco’s public transit history, beginning with the invention of the cable car and its installation in the city in 1873. Find out about the system’s expansion throughout the city, as well as its near demise before being resurrected by the dedicated Friends of the Cable Car Museum group. Peruse mechanical displays, photographs and historical artifacts that help to tell the story of San Francisco’s cable cars.

Check out the machinery that drives the cables from two lookout decks in the powerhouse’s upper floor. You can also descend below the Mason and Washington streets’ junction to see the expansive underground haulage cables. Stop by the museum’s gift shop to pick up cable-car souvenirs, memorabilia and history books.

Jump onboard one of the historic cable cars and go on an inexpensive and nostalgic tour around the city. You can ride one of two lines that connect Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf. A third route travels along California Street.

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is situated in the Washington-Mason Powerhouse and car barn on Nob Hill. It is open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. This attraction is free to visit; however, cable-car rides incur regular transit ticket costs.

It's worth giving yourself loads of time at Cable Car Museum. Below are some of the most popular things to do:

Want to discover this famed attraction in the best possible way? Then you can't miss a Nob Hill Walking Tour with Optional Lunch.

If you're chasing more activities, examine our San Francisco things to do page.


Guide to Exploring Cable Car Museum


Map

Top Cable Car Museum Hotel & Accommodation Deals

See all 1,543 properties near Cable Car Museum
Hotel Spero NZ$253
Hotel Spero

Hotel Spero

405 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA
     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Downtown San Francisco, this romantic hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and Cable Car Museum. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco City Hall are also within 1 mi (2 km). Powell St. Station is 8 minutes by foot and Civic Center Station is 11 minutes.

    Hotel Zephyr NZ$282
    Hotel Zephyr

    Hotel Zephyr

    250 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in North Beach, this boutique hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, and Aquarium of the Bay. Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square are also within 15 minutes. Ferry Building Station is 28 minutes by foot.

      Fairmont San Francisco NZ$376
      Fairmont San Francisco

      Fairmont San Francisco

      950 Mason Street Atop Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA
         
        5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        This family-friendly San Francisco hotel is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Grace Cathedral and SHN Curran Theatre. TransAmerica Pyramid and Westfield San Francisco Centre are also within 15 minutes. Powell St. Station is 14 minutes by foot and Montgomery St. Station is 15 minutes.

        Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square NZ$279
        Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square

        Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square

        345 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA
           
          4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in Downtown San Francisco, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 10-minute walk of SHN Curran Theatre, Westfield San Francisco Centre, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Moscone Convention Center and TransAmerica Pyramid are also within 15 minutes. Powell St. Station is 6 minutes by foot and Montgomery St. Station is 7 minutes.

          Hotel Whitcomb NZ$166
          Hotel Whitcomb

          Hotel Whitcomb

          1231 Market St, San Francisco, CA
             
            3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Downtown San Francisco, this historic hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Orpheum Theater, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Louise Davies Symphony Hall and San Francisco City Hall are also within 10 minutes. Civic Center Station is only a 3-minute walk and Powell St. Station is 13 minutes.

            Hotel Nikko San Francisco NZ$302
            Hotel Nikko San Francisco

            Hotel Nikko San Francisco

            222 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              This family-friendly San Francisco hotel is located in the entertainment district, just steps away from SHN Curran Theatre and Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround. Westfield San Francisco Centre and Warfield Theater are also within 5 minutes. Powell St. Station is only a 5-minute walk and Civic Center Station is 10 minutes.

              The Marker San Francisco NZ$253
              The Marker San Francisco

              The Marker San Francisco

              501 Geary St, San Francisco, CA
                 
                4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Downtown San Francisco, this romantic hotel is within a 10-minute walk of SHN Curran Theatre, Westfield San Francisco Centre, and Golden Gate Theatre. Warfield Theater and Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround are also within 10 minutes. Powell St. Station is 9 minutes by foot and Montgomery St. Station is 11 minutes.

                Hilton San Francisco Union Square NZ$239
                Hilton San Francisco Union Square

                Hilton San Francisco Union Square

                333 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, CA
                   
                  4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Downtown San Francisco, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround and Westfield San Francisco Centre. Ferry Building and Lombard Street are also within 2 mi (3 km). Powell St. Station is 6 minutes by foot and Montgomery St. Station is 11 minutes.