San Francisco – Steep Streets, Cable Cars, and Clam Chowder!

San Francisco – Steep Streets, Cable Cars, and Clam Chowder!

I want to share with you two fun and action packed days spent in San Francisco exploring the steep streets, cable cars, and clam chowder! On the first day, the backpacking husband and I rented bikes and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the beautiful Golden Gate Park in the morning and then took the afternoon ferry over to visit Alcatraz Island.

The second day, we were on a mission to enjoy two more typically iconic San Francisco tourist experiences – to ride on a traditional cable car down the incredibly steep streets and to admire the panoramic views – and then to savour a classic San Francisco lunch of clam chowder from a sourdough bread bowl down at Pier 39!

The Backpacking Housewife San Francisco



There are three routes to choose from and we chose to take the cable car from Fisherman’s Wharf turnpike, as we were staying at The Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf, all the way to Union Square where it turns around at the junction of Market and Powell Street and heads back up the street again.

You can ride on the cars by sitting on seats inside or outside. You are also allowed to stand.

Lots of people stand whether there are seats available or not – often on the running boards while hanging onto a pole – as this is how you get the best views of the steep streets and the harbour.

Cable Car tickets San Fran

The cable car system in San Francisco is fascinating and unique. Built in 1873 it’s synonymous with the streets of San Francisco and it’s the last working system of its kind in the world. The cable cars are powered by an engine located in a central powerhouse and they move by gripping an underground cable that is in constant motion. The man operating the cable car is called The Gripman as he is responsible for operating the grip and also ringing the bell.

The Backpacking Housewife riding Cable Cars in San Francisco
Riding the Cable Cars of San Francisco
Backpacking Housewife in San Francisco – Steep Streets & Cable Cars!

Watch the video I took as we rode the steep streets of San Francisco on a Cable Car!


The cable cars of San Francisco are the only mobile National Monument in the world and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is an annual cable car bell-ringing contests, which happens on either the second or third Thursday of June each year. Held in Union Square the spectacle attracts thousands of spectators.

You can visit The Cable Car Museum on the corner of Mason Street and Washington Street. It’s free to enter and you can see historic cable cars and displays of interesting old photographs. And, as this is actually the powerhouse of the cable car system, you can watch the huge engines at work as they pull those colossal cables that run the cars.


When we arrived back at Fisherman’s Wharf we had classic clam chowder at ‘Chowders‘ for lunch!

Clam Chowder at Chowders San Francisco The Backpacking Housewife
Clam Chowder at Chowders San Francisco


Clouds rolled in across the bay in the afternoon as we took a leisurely walk around Pier 39. We stopped to watch the sea lions that have made the place their home and were sleeping on the wooden dock. We had a look in the souvenir stores selling t-shirts and touristy trinkets. We admired the view of Alcatraz Island once again and enjoyed what was a beautiful breezy day. I’ve heard that San Francisco can be overly crowded at times and that it can be foggy and chilly with strong winds at certain times of the year. We were there in mid-April and found it was an absolutely perfect time to visit this beautiful city.

Pier 39 in San Francisco The Backpacking Housewife
San Francisco Pier 39



The best time to visit iconic San Francisco depends on what you want to do in the city. Generally, the weather in San Francisco is mild and cool throughout the year due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. However, microclimates can significantly affect the weather in different parts of the city. For instance, while it might be sunny in one neighbourhood, it could be foggy or drizzly in another.

Summer (June to August): This is the most popular time for tourists. The weather is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the mid-60s Fahrenheit (around 13-20°C). However, it can get quite foggy, particularly in the mornings.

Fall (September to November): Fall is often considered one of the best times to visit. The weather is still pleasant, and the summer crowds have started to diminish. September and October are particularly nice with fewer tourists and relatively clear skies.

Spring (March to May): Spring is another good time to visit. The temperatures begin to rise, and flowers start blooming. Like fall, spring tends to be less crowded than the summer months. We visited in mid-April and the weather for us was perfect!

Winter (December to February): Winter in San Francisco is mild, but it can be wet. The temperatures rarely drop below freezing, but it’s a good idea to bring a jacket and be prepared for rain. Winter is the low season for tourism, so you may find better deals on accommodations.


There are so many songs about San Francisco and while you are there it’s hard not to quietly hum the tune to ‘San Francisco – Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair’ or ‘Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay’ or ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco’ – or maybe that’s just me!

If you have enjoyed this post on my travels and experiences of San Francisco and you are wondering what to do in San Francisco for a weekend then you might also enjoy the other posts I’ve written on how to go Cycling Across The Golden Gate Bridge, A Fabulous Weekend Itinerary in San Francisco, and Visiting Alcatraz!

Getting to San Francisco

By Air: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the primary airport in the area. You can book a flight to SFO from major airports worldwide. Check with airlines for the most convenient and affordable options.

By Car: If you’re nearby or prefer a road trip, you can drive to San Francisco. Use GPS navigation or online maps for the best route.

By Train: Amtrak offers train services to the San Francisco Bay Area. The closest station is in Emeryville, and you can take a bus or other transportation from there to reach San Francisco.

By Bus: Greyhound or Megabus: Long-distance bus services like Greyhound or Megabus may have routes to San Francisco. Check schedules and book tickets in advance.

Local Transportation: BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit): If you’re arriving in the Bay Area, BART is a convenient way to get to San Francisco from surrounding cities. Consider taking a taxi, rideshare, or bus from the BART station to your final destination.

International Travel: If you’re coming from outside the United States, you’ll likely fly into SFO or another major international airport and then proceed to San Francisco. Always check with transportation providers, airlines, or online travel platforms.

Have you ever been to San Francisco?

Did you ride the cable cars?

Did you try clam chowder?

What’s your favourite song about San Francisco?



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RootsWings&TravelThings (@RootsWingsBlog) -

We loved the cable cars in SF! We usually avoid the real touristy stuff when we travel- but there’s something so iconic about the cable cars. And they were a great way to see more of the city! The line was long when we were there but it was still worth it!


Yes, it is such fun to ride the cable cars. We were lucky with the weather when we were in SF and also that the lines weren’t too long. The best way to get about for sure. Thanks for your lovely comment. xx


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