Venue Details

48 Star Starred
Union Square
Geary and Powell San Francisco, CA 94102
Get directions

Reviews & Ratings

62 ratings
4.8 average rating
  • 48
  • 14
  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
29 events
20 reviews
34 stars
attended Mar 29 2012

Norton is a good example of what the city has to offer: it's full of generous and eccentric people! Let Norton lead you in SF with lots of historical facts and tales. You may feel it's odd to follow someone with an outfit in the streets, but it's...continued

star this review starred report as inappropriate
21 events
11 reviews
4 stars
attended Apr 19 2012

I’m a San Francisco history buff, and this by far was the most detailed, documented, and informative tour I’ve been on (and I’ve attended most of the city’s walking tours.) It was also just plain fun!

Two and a half hours of fascinating facts...continued

star this review starred report as inappropriate
638 events
360 reviews
-396 stars
attended Jun 07 2014

Learned many things, saw new things, got a little exercise and laughed a bit. Very nice way to spend a few hours.

star this review starred report as inappropriate
View All 50 Reviews
Member Photos
More Information



Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine promises patrons “history around every corner.” It’s a lively, informative, and entertaining walking tour of historic San Francisco, with stops at Union Square, The St. Francis Hotel, Maiden Lane, Lotta’s Fountain, The Palace Hotel, Jackson Square, Portsmouth Square, the Barbary Coast, and much more—led by Emperor Norton. “He was one of the most fascinating figures in the history of San Francisco,” says owner and operator Joseph Amster.

A displaced journalist with an acting background, Amster has created a walking tour with a twist, offering his patrons a unique experience. A businessman originally from England and South Africa, Joshua Abraham Norton arrived in San Francisco in 1849 with $40,000, which after some shrewd investing, increased to $250,000 (which would be $3 million today). After losing his fortune to a bad rice investment, Norton disappeared, returning to San Francisco in 1859, declaring himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. In any other city, he would have been dismissed as a madman, but the people of San Francisco embraced his reign. During his lifetime, Norton printed his own currency (which was accepted by San Francisco merchants), was served gratis in the city’s restaurants and always had the best seats at the theater. He also issued numerous proclamations, including calling for a bridge to be built between San Francisco and Oakland, and the founding of a league of nations. Today the Bay Bridge and United Nations stand as testaments to Emperor Norton’s vision.

The tour lasts approximately two-and-a-half hours and covers two miles.