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Cable Car Museum

Cable Car Museum
Get up close to San Francisco’s historic cable cars at this free museum

Riding one of the iconic cable cars is a popular thing to do in San Francisco—but getting to explore them up close takes the experience to a whole other level. This free museum is a thrill for kids, as well as for grownups who have wondered how the historic cable car system really works.

Located in Nob Hill, the museum houses three cable cars from the 1870s, including the last remaining car from the Clay Street Hill Railroad. But it’s not just a look at the cable cars’ past. The museum is part of the Washington-Mason powerhouse and carbarn, which includes the giant mechanisms that power the current system’s cables.

Gearheads will love looking at the displayed tools, grips, track, cable, brakes, and more, as well as the displays detailing the history of the cable car. It’s no wonder, for starters, that cable cars first appeared in hilly San Francisco: their inventor came up with the idea for the steam-powered system after watching carriage horses struggle on a steep street. Check out the gift shop for an authentic cable-car bell, or visit in July for the annual Bell-Ringing Contest, first held in 1949, that now takes place at Union Square.

Another great stop: The SF Railway Museum (also free), across from the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, which looks at the impact of both cable cars and traditional streetcars. You can even feel like a conductor and take the wheel of a full-size replica of a 1911 San Francisco streetcar.

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Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

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A crimson bridge, cable carriages, a sparkling bay and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes, San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great

"I left my heart in San Francisco. High on a hill, it calls to me." - Singer Tony Bennett

cities. Located in Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine. The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches and the tech-savvy southern end of the Bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation.

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Courtesy of NPS Photo

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July

Get the Spanish spirit at this colourful event. Stroll the grounds of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards with a glass of bubbly, and take in a whirl of passionate music, flamenco dancing and food....

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World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class hotels and resorts. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills,...

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San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

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If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Make memories at some of California's family-favourite beaches

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It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
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Sample ultra-fresh, hyper-local, and downright amazing

When you come to California, come hungry. This is a state that really knows how to cook. Amazing and innovative chefs sprinkled with Michelin stars work with local farms and artisanal food...

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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city park charmers and boisterous adventures - smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play. These smaller parks offer...

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Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind the scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of actvities...

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Golden Gate Bridge

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Livermore

Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

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Sausalito

Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in brushwood and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

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Spotlight: Berkeley

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See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

A haven for backyard artists and coffee-shop philosophers, Berkeley has deep roots in the Flower Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. But...

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San Francisco's cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.