FAQs

About Our Walks | Private Tours | Our Organization

About Our Walks

What are your walks like?

Our mission is to share the history, lore, characters, and stories of our city in a fun, informative and engaging way. You’ll see the places that made San Francisco unique and hear about the people and events that shaped the city you see today. Because you’re walking with enthusiastic experts, you’ll have an experience that you just can’t get anywhere else.

What do your tours cost?

We’re proud to offer our public tours free of charge. Nevertheless, as a non-profit organization, we depend on the generosity of our walkers for support. Your guide will pass a yellow envelope at the end of the walk. If you enjoyed your walk, we’d appreciate a voluntary donation to City Guides. If you’re not sure how much to give, we’d suggest a $10 donation per person. (Please know that this is not a tip; our volunteer guides don’t accept gratuities.)

Do I need to make a reservation?

For almost all our tours, you don’t need to reserve a spot or sign up in advance. Just arrive at the starting point a few minutes before the scheduled start of the tour. (We do ask groups of eight or more, to schedule a private tour in advance – see below.) There are a handful of tours that require reservations, because the tour takes place on private property and the owners have asked us to limit the number of people on each walk. The descriptions of those tours will specify that reservations are needed.

How will I find my guide?

Your guide will be wearing a name badge bearing the City Guides logo and often our distinctive red jacket. 

Are your walks strenuous?

We do our best to design most of our walks to be suitable for the average walker. But remember that San Francisco is famous for its many hills, so some tours do require you to walk up or down some inclines. A few are more strenuous and are less well suited to those who don’t want to do much climbing. We note that in the tour descriptions.

Are your tours accessible for wheelchairs or for people with limited mobility?

The hills and staircases of San Francisco’s streets can be a challenge to navigate. We do our best to create walking routes that can accommodate wheelchairs but it’s not always possible to avoid relatively steep inclines or steps. Please check the tour descriptions for more information. If you still have questions, please call or email us.

Do you give tours on holidays?

We give tours every day of the year, but on some major holidays our schedule is relatively limited. Please check our website a few days before a major holiday to see what we are offering that day.

What happens if it rains?

We walk rain or shine. (We don’t have a snow policy, but it hasn’t snowed in San Francisco for decades.) We do, however, cancel walks should the air quality index be dangerously high as a result of wildfire smoke. Please check our website the day of your planned walk. If there is a cancellation for any reason, you’ll find that information there.

I’m at the starting point but there’s no guide. Now what?

It’s extremely rare, but sometimes due to personal emergencies a guide is unable to make it to the starting point. We do our best to find another guide to fill that spot, but as an all-volunteer organization that’s not always possible. So in the highly unlikely event that you have no guide, please call the City Guides office at 415-557-4266, or send an email to gro.sediugyticfs@sruot.

I have a large group, can we all join a public tour?

In order to ensure a great experience for all our walkers, we don’t allow groups of eight or more individuals to join our public walks and unfortunately, our guide will need to turn your group away. But don’t worry: We’d love for your group to walk with us by scheduling a private group tour instead (please note there is a charge for private group tours – see below).

Can I bring my pet dog/cat/monkey/goldfish along on a walk?

As much as we love our animal companions, not everyone does – so for the health, safety and comfort of our walkers we don’t allow animals on our walks. In addition, some of the buildings included on our walks don’t allow you to bring animals inside. Of course, service dogs as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are always permitted on our tours.

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Private Group Tours

How do I arrange for a private group tour?

Private tours are available for large groups or organizations by prior arrangement. There is a charge for private tours of $15 per person (discounts are available for seniors and non-profit groups); a minimum charge must be paid in advance. Click here for more details, or call the City Guides office at 1-415-557-4266, or send an email to gro.sediugyticfs@sruot.

Can I choose any walk for my group?

You may ask for any tour of interest and we will do our best to identify a guide who is qualified to lead that walk and is available the day and time you request. Because we are an all-volunteer organization, however, it may not be possible for us to meet your specific request. In that case we’ll discuss options with you for other tours or times.

I have a school group – can I schedule a walk for my students?

We offer selected walks for school groups of students in grades 4-12. Walks are free for San Francisco schools; we just request a modest fee per student for schools from other communities. For more information about school tours, please call the City Guides office at 415-557-4266, or send an email to gro.sediugyticfs@sruot.

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Our Organization

Who runs City Guides?

City Guides is a non-profit, volunteer organization founded in 1978. We are affiliated with the San Francisco Public Library, and the San Francisco Parks Alliance is our fiscal sponsor. We have more than 300 active volunteer guides who lead all our walks and do most of the work of running the organization, developing our tours, training new guides, and organizing special events and continuing educational opportunities for our guides. City Guides is overseen by a nine-member management board that is elected by the active guides themselves. We employ two full-time staff members: An executive director and a program manager, both of whom work in our offices.

What is your relationship to the San Francisco Public Library?

City Guides has always had a special relationship with the library since we were founded by the library’s City Historian, the late Gladys Hansen. In our early years, we were funded as a project of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. As we grew, we became affiliated with what is now the San Francisco Parks Alliance, which acts as our fiscal sponsor. We still receive sponsorship from the San Francisco Public Library, including our office space in a library annex building. Our historic affiliation with the library and its mission is why we provide our walks to the public without charge, but we do not receive direct funding from the library, which is why we encourage (but don’t require) donations from our walkers.

Where do you get your funding?

The majority of our funding comes from the voluntary donations made by those who take our tours, from individual sponsorships, and from a few generous corporate and foundation sponsors. We also receive funding from the Grants for the Arts, which is supported by the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.

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