Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of San Francisco  are the cable cars (www.sfcablecar.com ), originally conceived by Andrew Hallidie as a safer alternative for traveling the steep, often slick hills of San Francisco . The cable cars ran as regular mass transit from 1873 into the 1940s, when buses and electric streetcars began to dominate the landscape.
Dedicated citizens, especially “Cable Car Lady” Friedel Klussmann, saved the cable car system from extinction, and today the cable cars are a rolling national landmark. Today, you can ride the cable cars from one tourist destination to another throughout the City.
A full day “passport” ticket (which also grants access to streetcars and buses) costs about $9. Cable car routes can take you up Nob Hill , through Union Square , down Powell Street, out to Fisherman’s Wharf , and through Chinatown .
Take a seat, or grab one of the exterior poles and hang on! Just be aware that cable cars have open-air seating only, making a ride chilly on foggy days.
For aficionados, a ride on the cars can take you to The Barn (1201 Mason St., 415/474-1887, daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m., until 5 p.m. Oct.–Mar., free), a museum depicting the life and times of the San Francisco cable cars.