Hop on, hop off: A San Francisco treat. Maybe


A ride on the open-air top of a hop-on-hop-off bus over the Golden Gate Bridge is a thrill I most definitely recommend.


Haight-Asbury was the scene of San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967 and the neighborhood hasn’t forgotten.

I can’t decide whether to endorse the hop-on, hop-off buses in San Francisco. I only used one company. And there are two or three others that line up at Union Square to pick up passengers for a narrated ride around the City by the Bay.

This was my second experience with Hop On Hop Off Deluxe. I used the same company during a visit in February 2017 when I had a long time to explore the city solo. Mostly I shivered on the open-air top level and listened to the amusing patter of the tour guide.

I picked the red route, figuringit was a good way to see Haight-Asbury, the Tenderloin,


The quality of the buses—the tour guides and the buses’s physical condition—varied. Even the route wasn’t exactly the same each time I rode the bus. But I definitely saw a lot of San Francisco.

North Beach and some of the other neighborhoods I might not see otherwise. Plus I’d get to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge with the wind in my hair. Last year, it was fun. I almost wrote this post then but didn’t when I got sidetracked by other trips.

This year, I found myself with the same solo day in San Francisco and wanted to see a few of the places I’d always heard about. The hop on, hop off bus seemed like a no-thinking way to do it.

As before, the bus breezed by City Hall, the China Town Gate, and through the Golden Gate Park. And as before, the trip was a no-brainer way to see the city–except for the area near the Ferry Building. That’s a separate tour.


Some famous landmarks require you to get off the bus and take a walk. I do recommend getting off to see the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square—and the other victorian beauties here.

I was on five buses in 24 hours. The quality in bus and tour guide varied widely. I mean widely.

On one bus, the guide thought he was really funny. He wasn’t. Two other guides were pretty good. One, named Gordon, was my guide twice. He had a good patter, was informative and warned everybody about the tree limbs the tall bus was going under. (Yes! Ducking was necessary.)

The buses themselves were in various states of repair. Two had what looked like hand-made vinyl slip covers on every seat. It made me wonder what shape the seats were in. And one seat was miserable with a metal bar slamming into my back with every bump in the road. And wouldn’t you know it? I got on that bus twice. I didn’t stay on that bus either time. I got off as quickly as I could.

The hop on, hop off concept only works if the hopping back on works. I found that the wait for a bus could last an hour. On a street corner far from the places I was familiar with.

I wanted to get off at Ghirardelli Square. That wait was short.

I wanted to get off at Alamo Square. Buses aren’t allowed to drive past through famous houses and I wanted to see them. And added plus was the square itself, well worth worth strolling through. The colorful row of houses known as the “Painted Ladies” are lovely but the entire square is jam packed with gorgeous architecture all looking on a verdant park. So glad I took the stop. Even if it meant waiting on a nearby corner for an hour.

I hopped on again the following morning because I wanted to see the Conservatory of Flowers (More on that in my next post.) Such a good stop. But the wait here was another hour. And three buses from two other hop on, hop off bus companies passed me by before mine finally arrived.

It costs $40 a person for this transportation. I was in town in the off-season but this year on two of the most gorgeous days I’ve ever seen in San Francisco. The buses were fairly empty. The traffic in town was surprisingly light. I don’t know if I got a good deal or not.

Except for one thing. I can say I’ve seen Jimi Hendrix’s house, the church where Marilyn Monroe posed for wedding pix with Joe DiMaggio and Mel’s Diner from American Graffiti.

Maybe that made it all worthwhile. But you know, next time I may check out Gray Line or Big Bus.

ⒸText and photos Mary K. Tilghman



2 responses to “Hop on, hop off: A San Francisco treat. Maybe

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