At first glance, San Francisco doesn't appear to be the best choice for wheelchair-users and slow walkers; after all, wheelchairs and hills just don't mix. But appearances can de deceiving.
The fact of the matter is San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods with hills between them. You can easily explore most neighborhoods on foot and use public transportation to go between the different neighborhoods -- all without encountering any hills. Additionally, San Francisco boasts a large number of top-notch cultural attractions -- most of which offer excellent wheelchair access -- plus a very accessible public transportation system.
King Tut Returns
Although it's hard to pick a favorite museum in this cultural Mecca, the must-see exhibition of the year (through March 28, 2010) is Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, at the de Young Museum (tel. 415/750-3600; www.famsf.org/deyoung). Unlike the 1979 blockbuster show which featured objects from King Tut's tomb alone, the new exhibition also includes pieces from the tombs of his ancestors.
Access is excellent throughout the de Young Museum, with accessible parking available in the adjacent Music Concourse Garage. Additionally, the museum will hold two Access Days during the exhibition; where visitors will find additional accessible parking, extra gallery seating, waiting line seating and a reduced number of visitors. Access Days will be held on December 21, 2009 (9am-1pm) and February 27, 2010 (6pm-8pm); but plan ahead as reservations are required. For more information, contact Tish Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hop Aboard the Culture Bus
Getting around San Francisco is pretty easy. Wheelchair accessible taxis are available through Yellow Cab (tel. 415/333-3333; www.yellowcabsf.com) and Luxor Cab (tel. 415/282-4141; www.luxorcab.com); however the most economical choice for museum hopping is the equally accessible Culture Bus (www.sfculturebus.org).
Otherwise known as route 74X, the SFMTA Culture Bus features service between many popular museums and cultural institutions, with stops in Golden Gate Park, Civic Center, Yerba Buena, and Union Square. The fare is a very reasonable $7 per day for adults and just $5 per day for seniors and disabled passengers. Busses run hourly, and you can't miss them -- they are bright orange. Access features include a kneeling capacity for slow walkers and lift access and tie-downs for wheelchair-users. And don't forget to save your ticket stub, as it's good for $3 off admission at the California Academy of Sciences and $2 off admission at the de Young Museum.
More Ways to Save
Your cultural sojourn to San Francisco doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg; in fact, there are many other ways to stretch your travel dollar. At the top of the list are the two popular multi-attraction passes; City Pass (tel. 888/330-5008; www.citypass.com) and Go Card (tel. 800/887-9103; www.smartdestinations.com). Both passes offer admission to a variety of attractions over a specific time period for one low price. They can offer substantial savings if you plan to visit the majority of the included attractions.
Another way to save money is to take advantage of the museum free days. The Asian Art Museum (tel. 415/581-3511; www.asianart.org) is free on the first Sunday of the month, while the de Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (tel. 415/357-5000; www.sfmoma.org) are free on the first Tuesday. All three museums feature barrier-free access. Special exhibitions are not included with the free admission.
Last but not least, don't forget to get your free copy of Access San Francisco, which contains access details on attractions, transportation and lodging in the city. Download your copy (Launches PDF file: www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/media/downloads/accessguide2007.pdf) before you hit the road.
Candy Harrington is the editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of 101 Accessible Vacations: Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at www.barrierfreetravels.com.