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The 49-Mile Drive Has a Cute Sign - But What's the Big Deal?

49-Mile Drive San Francisco

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The 49-Mile Drive Has a Cute Sign - But What's the Big Deal?

49-Mile Drive's Distinctive Sign

© 2008 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
The 49-Mile Drive may be one of San Francisco's most-enduring marketing ploys, created in the early 20th century to show off the city. Why 49 miles? Well, the whole drive is about that long, but it's also about the city's size: 49 square miles. The route has changed over the years - today it officially starts at City Hall.

The 49-Mile Drive is one of San Francisco's top-rated sights. Find out what the rest are.

If you want to "do" the 49-Mile Drive, you'll follow signs that look like this. Their pleasing design is both a strong point and a weakness - they're so cute that people routinely steal them, which could cause you a lot of trouble if the one that's missing is the one you need.

Important Point: By tradition, 49-Mile Drive signs are posted to be seen if you're driving in the counterclockwise direction only. If you try it in reverse, a map is your only hope.

Because of all that, you'll need a good map to take along on the 49-Mile Drive. It will also help you make sense of our directions. This map is the best to see the 49-Mile Drive route, but it doesn't include enough details of street names, nor does it show one-way streets, so you'll need another map besides. Unfortunately, we can't find one online any longer.

Do Part of the 49-Mile Drive on Foot

Part of the 49-Mile drive is better seen on foot than in an automobile: the section that includes Chinatown, Union Square, North Beach and the waterfront. One-way streets, double-parking and traffic congestion will be so distracting that you won't have time to see much and you're like to get grumpy as well.

Skip the Boring Parts of the 49-Mile Drive

The rest of the drive has its ups and downs (literally and figuratively). To have enough time to enjoy the best bits (which are definitely worth the drive), start at Van Ness and Bay. South of the Cliff House on the coast, turn left onto John F. Kennedy Drive into Golden Gate Park, skipping the section of the 49-Mile Drive that goes south along Great Highway and around Lake Merced. If you're running out of time at the end of the drive, skip the last section, continuing on Market Street after you come down off Twin Peaks.

That probably turns the 49-Mile Drive into something more like 20-miles - we won't tell anyone if you don't.

Poll: What do you think of the 49-Mile Drive???

  • Yuck! Just say no
  • OK Some find it interesting. I didn't
  • Great I really liked it
  • Awesome! It's a must-see sight
See what other people think about it

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