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Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine

  • Skip the usual walking tour for one led by an eccentric fictional historical figure, Emperor Norton
  • See most of downtown San Francisco’s historical attractions in a few hours
  • Hear interesting historical stories you might not otherwise
Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine
From US$30.00
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  • Overview
  • What to Expect
  • Important Information
  • Reviews
  • Q&A
Select Date and Travellers
11am DepartureMost Popular
Tour departs at 11am
From US$30.00
2:30pm Departure
Tour departs at 2:30pm
From US$30.00
Instead of navigating the streets of San Francisco alone on foot, let a larger-than-life historical figure introduce you to the city. Your guide—the fictional Emperor Norton—takes you to landmarks near Union Square, including the St. Francis Hotel, Maiden Lane, and Portsmouth Square. Listen to the emperor tell stories you may not hear otherwise while you walk past some of San Francisco’s top points of interest.
What to Expect
Meet your guide—an 1800s San Franciscan named Emperor Norton dressed in a feathered hat and full regalia—at Union Square and set off on your tour of downtown San Francisco. The emperor is a colorful character who has also named himself the Protector of Mexico.

Walk about 2-miles (3.2 kilometers) to historic landmarks including Union Square, the St Francis Hotel, the Palace Hotel, Maiden Lane, Portsmouth Square, and Jackson Square. While you walk, the Emperor tells stories about the devastation of the 1906 fire and earthquake, and the beloved stray dogs of the 1860s, Bummer and Lazarus.

Visit the historical buildings that are not on any tourist map, and learn the backstory of the city’s eccentric history.
Reviews (28)
1 - 5 of 26 reviews
Reviewed 29 November 2018
Wonderful tour!

very knowledgeable, very passionate, and very interesting! really fantastic walking tour anyone is sure to enjoy. you'll have a new appreciation for San Francisco's unique history.

Date of experience: November 2018
Thank NikkiV215
Reviewed 6 November 2018 via mobile
Don’t Embarcadero without the Emperor!

Absolutely delightful! Having lived here for over 30 years already I went into this thinking I’d be hearing things I already knew but from a unique perspective. I was delighted to find that is was start-to-finish almost entirely new and fascinating information to me! Sometimes...More

Thank GenevieveGG
Reviewed 27 October 2018
Our favorite tour/do your first day

You can visit a lot of new places but if you don't learn any history then you just saw scenery. Emperor Norton's tour was full of history that I had never heard of. He brought the odd ball character to life. We toured all around...More

Date of experience: October 2018
Thank Hondasaki_cat_girl
Reviewed 3 October 2018
What Fun and Information at a Leisurely Pace!

Your guide impersonates a real character from San Francisco's well-known history of accepting odd balls and quacks. Before the Civil War, the original Emperor Norton declared himself the Emperor of all the United States and eventually the "protector of Mexico." Our present day Emperor leads...More

Date of experience: September 2018
Thank PeterEfromNJ
Reviewed 1 October 2018
Don't hesitate to book this tour

A phenomenal tour. We had kids 15 & 12 (with Asperger's) who trouped along and really enjoyed the experience. Unless younger kids are history buffs, they may drag by the end. The tour is not a grueling walk but it is a nearly three hour...More

Date of experience: September 2018
Thank Stephanie L
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Questions & Answers
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Judy G
6 July 2018|
AnswerShow all 2 answers
Response from okifyoulike | Reviewed this property |
San Francisco is hilly, but the tour guide stops a lot to talk about history, buildings, and people. You therefore won't feel the hills as much. The area covered by this tour is not as hilly as some other areas (like... More