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San Francisco City Guides FAQs

How long do tours last?
Most tours last 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Can my group join a City Guides tour?
City Guides does not allow groups of 8 or more to join our regularly scheduled walks. Large groups are a challenge and need to be pre-scheduled as private group tours. (See below).
Do I need to make a reservation?
No. Just show up at the time and place indicated on the schedule. (NOTE: We ask groups of 8 or more to schedule a special tour several weeks in advance. See below.)
How do I recognize the guide?
Your guide will be wearing a badge that displays the City Guides logo. If you don’t see the badge, just look for someone at the appointed place who seems ready to lead a tour.
What are the tours like?
Very fun and informative. We'll show you a combination of tried-and-true San Francisco landmarks and off-the-beaten-path sites. For a quick view, see this video (a new window will open).
What if it rains?
We walk rain or shine. We do have a few indoor tours: Palace Hotel, Fire Dept Museum, Coit Tower. But most of our tours are outdoors, and our policy is if guests are ready to walk, we lead the tour. We don’t have a snow policy, but the last major snowstorm in San Francisco was in the 1890s. So we’ll play that one by ear. (Note, however, that a very few tours take place where the terrain would raise safety issues or otherwise be particularly unsuited for walking in the rain. The individual tour descriptions will indicate, in such cases, that the tour will be cancelled in case of rain.)
What if the guide does not show up?
We would like to say that this just does not happen. However, guides can experience an emergency and not make it to the starting place. If you experience a no-show situation, feel free to give us a call at 415-557-4266 or send an email. A no-show is a rare event.
Are tours strenuous?
Mostly no, although walking in San Francisco often involves hills. We try to indicate in the tour descriptions the somewhat strenuous tours. If you have mobility concerns, call the City Guides office for more information: 415-557-4266.
Are pets allowed?
In consideration of the health, safety and comfort of our walkers, pets are not allowed on tours. Besides common fears and allergies, pets can cause distractions or safety hazards during a walking tour. Pets are prohibited by public law or private policy in some buildings included on tours. Licensed service animals are excepted.
Do you give tours on holidays?
City Guides runs a very limited schedule on these holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Please check our website on those dates to view an accurate limited schedule of our tours.
What do tours cost?
Regularly scheduled City Guides tours are free, although donations are always welcome. We can arrange special tours (see below), which do have a fee.
How do I arrange for a private group tour?
Private tours are available for groups or organizations for a suggested donation of $12 per person. Groups of 8 or more need to make arrangements in advance. A discounted rate of $10 per person applies for senior groups. Click here for more details. Call 415-557-4266 or email us at:
Tours for school groups (grades 4-12) are $5 per person. For information about school tours, please see (click here).
Are donations accepted on regular tours?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Running an organization like this costs money even though the tours are given by volunteer guides. You can make a donation when you take a tour or you can become a sponsor (or both). Click here for sponsorship information.
Who runs City Guides?
City Guides is a non-profit, primarily volunteer operation. Officially, we are a partner of the San Francisco Parks Trust. There are more than 200 active guides. The guides annually elect, from among themselves, a management board. We have one full-time program director who runs the office.
What is your relationship to the San Francisco library?
City Guides has always had a special relationship with the San Francisco library. We got our start more than 30 years ago when a San Francisco mayor asked the city librarian to find volunteers to give tours in City Hall. In our early years, we were funded as a project of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. While no longer connected to the Friends, we still receive sponsorship from the library. City Guides provides fun yet educational services that are a logical extension of a free public library, which is the reason we continue to provide tours to the public without charge.
Where do you get your funding?
The majority of our funding comes from the voluntary donations made by those who take our tours and from individual sponsorships. We also receive modest grants from Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund and other organizations.
How can I become a City Guide?
We periodically hold a six-month course for new guides at an enrollment cost of $200. You’ll attend a series of Saturday talks by authorities on San Francisco history and receive coaching on tour presentation.
For details, please visit our "Become a Guide" information page.