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Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine

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2 travellers
Be informed and entertained on this one-of-a-kind 3-hour walking tour of downtown San Francisco, led by an impersonator of the late Emperor Norton. Self-proclaimed as the Emperor of the US, this 19th-century character comes to life as your guide leads you back to the past. Step into a time machine of sorts and learn about the Barbary Coast, the 1906 earthquake, and historic landmarks surrounding Union Square.
  • 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
  • Choose between a morning and afternoon tour to fit your schedule
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, Maiden Lane, Portsmouth Square, the Old Mary Cathedral, 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.
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Important Information
Departure Point
Union Square, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
2h 45m
Return Details
Old St Mary's Cathedral, 660 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
  • Professional guide
  • All taxes, fees and handling charges
  • Entry/Admission - Union Square
  • Entry/Admission - Jackson Square
  • Entry/Admission - Maiden Lane
  • Entry/Admission - Lotta's Fountain
  • Entry/Admission - Portsmouth Square
  • Food and drinks
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off
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Additional Info
  • Confirmation will be received within 48 hours of booking, subject to availability
  • Travelers should have a moderate physical fitness level
Cancellation Policy
For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.
Reviews (42)
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All reviews barbary coast maiden lane the financial district historical knowledge fantastic walking union square walking tour gold rush fun tour booked this tour protector newton historian facts tunnel shanghai san
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Reviewed yesterday

The Emperor Norton’s tour was a great introduction to our time in SF . It gave us a good feel for the downtown area with lots of historical facts and very human stories that really brought the past to life . The Emperor delivered all...More

Date of experience: September 2019
Thank geoff l
Reviewed 1 week ago

Too much to see. Too little time. The Emperor knows his stuff (it is HIS City after all), and we got lots of tidbits of interesting info on San Francisco history, including a number of places we'll go back to on our own to explore...More

Date of experience: September 2019
Thank Don O
Reviewed 4 weeks ago

Emperor Norton's tour was fun and highly informative. He knew a lot about the city, it's history, its colourful characters and the buildings. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with this wonderful character!

Date of experience: August 2019
Thank Catherine E
Reviewed 22 July 2019

We enjoyed the tour of Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine. The Emperor greets you in the middle of Union Square and takes you for a back alley, historical tour of old town San Francisco. This is not the usual information you would find...More

Date of experience: July 2019
1  Thank MerryZ21
Reviewed 19 July 2019 via mobile

My husband and I spent four days in San Francisco. As lifelong East Bay residents we decided to go and be tourists and see places in the City we had not seen before. Emperor Norton's tour was highly recommended by friends, and we were not...More

1  Thank danielles830
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Questions & Answers
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Judy G
6 July 2018|
AnswerShow all 2 answers
Response from SWH166 | Reviewed this property |
I believe you would be best served by calling Emperor Norton directly to discuss hills and endurance. He's very accessible.We were hoofing it for about three hours, and yes there were uphill grades.
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