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Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine

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Overview
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.
Highlights
  • 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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Reviews (40)
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1 - 5 of 38 reviews
Reviewed 6 days 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 4 weeks ago

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 4 weeks ago 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
Reviewed 21 June 2019 via mobile

We thoroughly enjoyed this tour. Luckily the weather was perfect. Even though we walked approximately 2-3 miles, the Emperor's narrative was so fascinating that the time flew. He brought the Emperor to life while giving us facts about San Francisco history. Note: there are two...More

1  Thank TravelTrooper1026
Reviewed 21 June 2019

The Emperor provides an outstanding two hour and one half hour walking tour of the streets of San Francisco. He is both a diligent historian and an outstanding communicator. The time flew by as my family and I learned much (sometimes bawdy) local history.

Date of experience: June 2019
1  Thank Jimaugust1
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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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