The 49 Mile Scenic drive was created in 1938 by the Downtown Association to
highlight the city’s beauty and to promote it as a tourist destination. The
route was also created as a way for visitors to see San Francisco while they
were here for the Golden Gate International Exposition from 1939-1940.
The route starts at City Hall and takes you along many of San Francisco’s
historic and iconic landmarks. Printed maps of the drive are available at the
Visitor Information Center, 900 Market St.
Some notes and tips: Driving in the congested downtown area is not recommended
during commute hours and is not suggested for large recreational vehicles or
caravans. Portions of the route may be affected by construction projects.
To download a PDF map of the 49 Mile Scenic Drive, click here
Points of Interest
1. Civic Center includes City Hall, Federal and State Office Buildings, Bill
Graham Civic Auditorium, Asian Art Museum, Main Library and the Performing Arts
Center’s handsome components: Davies Symphony Hall, War Memorial Opera House and
Veterans Building/Herbst Theatre, where the U.N. charter was signed. A permanent
memorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations is located in
United Nations Plaza.
2. Cathedral Hill is dominated by the strikingly contemporary St. Mary’s
3. Once called the “Harlem of the West,” the Fillmore is a hip entertainment
district with restaurants, clubs and galleries.
4. Japan Center and Japantown have many shops, restaurants, several theaters and
two hotels. The Peace Plaza of the Japan Center is the focal point for many
5. Union Square is the heart of the downtown shopping and hotel district.
6. Chinatown, beginning at the Chinatown Gate, Grant Avenue at Bush Street,
offers Chinese Historical Society of America museum, lots of restaurants and
7. Nob Hill is the elegant hilltop area of hotels and apartments with Gothic
Grace Cathedral, Huntington Park and the Nob Hill Masonic Center.
8. Cable Car Barn, Mason and Washington Streets, have a visitors gallery and a
museum with 19th century photos of cable car operations and scale models.
9. Portsmouth Square, a small historic park in Chinatown where the U.S. flag was
raised in July 1846.
10. Jackson Square has preserved handsome 19th century buildings occupied by
antique dealers, art galleries, gift and apparel shops. Enter the square on
Jackson Street at Montgomery.
11. North Beach is a nightlife area clustered around Broadway and Columbus.
Three blocks north is Washington Square, the piazza of the city’s Italian
12. Telegraph Hill has Coit Tower, a 210-foot (64 m) landmark, plus one of the
city’s best views. (Congested area best visited on foot or via public
transportation; may be closed to private vehicles.)
13. PIER 39 is a waterfront marketplace. Built on a 1,000-foot-long pier and
flanked by small boat marinas, it offers sweeping views of the bay and city and
is home to Aquarium of the Bay and a colony of sea lions.
14. Fisherman's Wharf is the center for seafood restaurants, fishing boats,
harbor cruise boats, gift shops and numerous attractions including historic
ships. Ferry service is offered from this area.
15. Alcatraz, infamous former Federal prison, is an island off Fisherman’s
Wharf. Alcatraz tours leave from Pier 33. (Advance reservations are strongly
16. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, three blocks west of
Fisherman's Wharf, has Hyde Street Pier with old-time exhibition ships and
ship-shaped Maritime Museum. Municipal Pier is a popular spot for fishing.
17. The Cannery at Del Monte Square, an inviting three-level restoration that
was once a canning factory, is now filled with a spectrum of shops, galleries
and restaurants. Nearby, the nautically-inspired Anchorage Square offers
shopping, dining and lodging.
18. Ghirardelli Square, a collection of red brick buildings that served as a
chocolate factory, now is a charming restaurant and shopping center with
open-air plazas and waterfront views. Across the street is landscaped Victorian
19. Russian Hill has country-like lanes and terraces and panoramic bay views.
Lombard Street descends the hill from Hyde—with nine hairpin turns in a single
20. Union Street's Victorian buildings, from Van Ness to Steiner, now house art
galleries, antique shops, specialty stores, restaurants, coffee houses and pubs.
21. Fort Mason Center, hub of the world’s largest urban park—the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area, anchors a number of museums, theaters and galleries
and is a staging area for special events.
22. Marina Green, a grassy waterfront recreational area, is a good place to
watch yachting activities.
23. Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International
Exposition, has been restored to its original glory. Contains the Exploratorium
science museum and the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.
24. Presidio of San Francisco, a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation
Area, offers 1,500-acres (16 sq. km) of park like hills, ocean vistas and The
Walt Disney Family Museum.
25. Fort Point National Historic Site lies beneath the structure of the Golden
Gate Bridge and offers an unusual view of the bridge and the bay’s shifting
26. Golden Gate Bridge, the world’s most beautiful suspension bridge, links San
Francisco with Marin County and the area to the north. Auto toll collected
27. China Beach at 28th and Sea Cliff Avenue has 600 feet (183 m) of sandy beach
frontage for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking.
28. Legion of Honor, a replica of its Paris namesake, has masterpieces of
European art from Medieval times into the 20th century, many Rodin bronzes,
period rooms, prints and drawings.
29. Ocean Beach has plenty of sand and surf—and a view of the small, stony
islands called Seal Rocks. Swimming and wading at this beach are strongly
discouraged; immediately offshore are unpredictable currents which can take even
the strongest swimmer by surprise.
30. San Francisco Zoo contains Grizzly Gulch, Lemur Forest, Penguin Island,
Gorilla Preserve, Children’s Zoo and a thousand fascinating animals and birds
from all over the world.
31. Golden Gate Park, originally 1,017 acres (4 sq. km) of sand dunes, has
several museums, National AIDS Memorial Grove, miles of drives, green lawns,
playfields, bridle paths, lakes and flowers.
32. Japanese Tea Garden, an authentic Japanese garden dating back to 1894, has a
tea house, pagoda ponds, bridges and bonsai. In the spring the cherry blossoms
and flowering shrubs create a rare floral spectacle. San Francisco Botanical
Garden, a "living library," nurtures 26 unique gardens.
33. Museums in Golden Gate Park include the California Academy of Sciences, “the
greenest museum in the world,” encompassing many halls devoted to the natural
sciences; and the e Young Museum, a landmark art museum showcasing collections
of American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries.
34. Conservatory of Flowers, a landmark in Golden Gate Park since 1879, houses
rare tropical plants and flowers from around the world.
35. Mission Dolores, Dolores and 16th Streets. Father Serra established this
Spanish Mission in 1776; the historic church was completed in 1791.
36. San Francisco Visitor Information Center is operated by the San Francisco
Travel Association. Multilingual personnel are there to assist with brochures
and information. The Center is located at Hallidie Plaza (lower level), Powell
and Market Streets. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday. Closed Sundays November – April and major holidays.
37. Yerba Buena Gardens district includes Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial,
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Metreon, Children’s Creativity Museum and a
playground. Dozens of museums nearby include California Historical Society,
Contemporary Jewish Museum and Museum of the African Diaspora. Westfield San
Francisco Centre is nearby.
38. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, known for its innovative exhibitions, is
one of the most important museums of contemporary and modern art in the U.S.
39. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.