You can schlep around San Francisco carrying a guidebook or hire a limo to shuttle you around. For the best of both worlds, there's the GoCar.
These GPS-guided cars, rented by the hour, let drivers explore at their own pace. Not only will they take you to all the city's highlights, but they'll also tell you about what you're looking at through onboard narration.
"One of the great things is we're not a tour bus," said GoCar President Nathan Withrington. "The driver is not restricted. You get to see the real San Francisco. You get to get off the beaten path. Our tours go to Sea Cliff; you get to go through parks where buses don't go; you get to drive on Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world."
The vehicles have close to 100 miles of routes programmed in, and drivers get options on which route to take.
"If you take them all, you're pretty much gone all day," Withrington said. "Take one and you're done in less than an hour. … It's all about empowering tourists to go where they want and see what they want."
Customers get a helmet and a quick explanation: The three-wheeled cars have 50-cc four-cycle Vespa engines, and driving one is akin to driving a motorcycle. Rates start at $49 for the first hour, $39 for the second, $29 for the third, etc. It's all explained at gocartours.com, 800-914-6227.
The vehicles can reach speeds of 30 to 35 mph, plenty fast to keep up with city traffic. And they have enough oomph to climb most of San Francisco's hills.
"There are a lot of steep hills in San Francisco; some cars can't get up them," Withrington said. "You still get to Twin Peaks, you still go down Lombard Street. But for the really steep ones, you go around the block."
He's testing a 150-cc engine that would make those minor detours unnecessary.
One thing that won't change is the idea of making the ride memorable.
"The goal is to keep it lighthearted, but during the tour we want that person to get those two, three things they'll talk about at the next cocktail party."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun