Blue & Gold Fleet operates a bay cruise that lasts about an hour. Tickets may be purchased at Pier 39, near Fisherman's Wharf. The tour, on a ferryboat with outside seating on the upper deck, loops around the bay taking in the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge. An audiotape tells you what you're seeing. Discounts are available for tickets purchased online.
Blue & Gold Fleet (415/705–8200. www.blueandgoldfleet.com.)
Bus and Van Tours
In addition to bus and van tours of the city, most tour companies run excursions to various Bay Area and Northern California destinations, such as Marin County and the Wine Country, as well as to farther-flung areas, such as Monterey and Yosemite. City tours generally last 3½ hours and cost about $50 per person. The bigger outfits operate large buses, which tend to be roomy. Service is more intimate with the smaller companies, however, because they can fit only about 10 people per vehicle; the vans can be a little tight, but with the driver-guide right in front of you, you're able to ask questions easily and won't have to worry about interrupting someone on a microphone, as is the case with the big companies.
Centrally located in North Beach, Dylan's offers guided six hour tours around San Francisco, which then move on to Muir Woods and Sausalito ($75) in modern air-conditioned mini buses. The company also rents out bicycles for $22 for 24 hours—the best price in town.
Great Pacific Tours is a good small company and conducts city tours in passenger vans (starting at $59). Super Sightseeing is also locally owned and operates tours in 28- and 50-passenger buses. For $21 more, both companies can supplement a city tour with a bay cruise. Super Sightseeing can also add a trip to Alcatraz for $21.
Dylan's Tours (782 Columbus Ave., 94133. 415/932–6993. dylanstours.com.)
Great Pacific Tours (415/626–4499. www.greatpacifictour.com.)
Magic Bus San Francisco. Actors from the Antenna Theater Company lead the tours for this literal time machine that transports visitors back to 1960s San Francisco. The bus provides a space for music and film clips to both educate and entertain; once the bus stops, you arrive at the historic place you just saw on your screen. Tickets are $60 each and tours last two hours. Pickup is at at 280 Geary St. in Union Square, drop off on the Post Street side of Union Square. Book online, and in advance, to guarantee a seat. 855/969–6244. magicbussf.com.
Super Sightseeing (415/353–5310. www.supersightseeing.com.)
San Francisco Helicopter Tours offers several options that give you a bird's-eye view of the city. Its Vista tour sweeps over the western shoreline, the Presidio, Union Square, AT&T Park, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge; the tour lasts 15 to 20 minutes and costs $160 per person. The Vista Grande tour, which lasts 25 to 30 minutes and costs $205, takes in all of the above as well as Sausalito and Marin County. Longer tours, including trips to the Wine Country, also are available. The tours depart from San Francisco International Airport or the Sausalito heliport; a shuttle transports guests to and from the departure point, picking up and dropping off at downtown hotels and Fisherman's Wharf. Book at least 48 hours in advance.
San Francisco Helicopter Tours (800/400–2404 or 650/635–4500. www.sfhelicoptertours.com.)