The City by the Bay provides an exciting experience that varies depending on the time of year you visit. Deciding when to travel to San Francisco is merely a matter of learning about the weather and activities unique to each season. Located in Northern California, San Francisco stays cooler in the summer months compared to the cities in the southern part of the state. You can admire the colorful foliage in autumn, or snap photographs of the springtime flowers in Golden Gate Park.
When you stay at a San Francisco vacation rental, you can enjoy easy access to an Alcatraz cruise, as well as the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf, a ghost tour in Chinatown, and the Japanese Tea Gardens. Check out museums with stunning artwork from the Renaissance to the Modern era, or ride to the top of Coit Tower to see the city laid out below you. Use this guide to find the best time of year to visit San Francisco.
Visiting San Francisco in the Summer
San Francisco is known for its foggy summer months. In fact, a famous quote incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain, claimed, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While early mornings and evenings may dip into the mid to low 50s, the fog generally burns off in the afternoon sun, meaning that as long as you bring layers — a long-sleeve or light jacket to account for weather fluctuations throughout the day — you should be golden!
Get your feet tapping if you’re in town for one of the San Francisco Symphony’s two free concerts during their summer series, or enjoy the Fillmore Jazz Festival around the Fourth of July holiday. Traveling on one of the cable cars is a great way to enjoy a summer day, and the bold members of your group can hang on to the side of the car as it navigates the hills. After a dinner at the iconic Fog City Diner, take a stroll along Pier 39 to see the sea lions stretched out on the rocks.
Visiting San Francisco in the Fall
Visiting the City by the Bay in the fall months treats you to slightly warmer temperatures than the summer months thanks to its lovely “Indian Summer.” Enjoy shopping in Union Square as the temperatures reach the mid-60s to low-70s most days, dropping into the mid to low 50s in the evening. If you’re visiting in November, add an umbrella to your packing list, since this month begins the rainy season. Other things to pack include jeans, sweaters, and a warm jacket for the cool evenings.
Enjoy a bluegrass concert at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in the Golden Gate Park that includes live music, vendors, and great food. Pack your running shoes and Halloween costume to make a dash for the finish line in the SF Costume Dash, a 5K run, and celebrate making it to the finish line with pumpkin or eggnog-flavored ice cream from Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Make a farm-to-table meal at your vacation rental with fresh veggies, fruit, cheese, and baked goods picked up at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.
Visiting San Francisco in the Winter
The winter months in this fun-loving city are the coldest and rainiest of the year, but the temperatures aren’t as cold as those at some winter destinations. Expect to find days that warm up to the mid-50s and nights that cool off to the mid-40s. You’ll experience an average of one rainy day every three days, but check the forecast before grabbing your umbrella. Pack your favorite winter coat and best winter clothes for a trip during the winter months.
In early December, the Painted Ladies, Victorian homes painted in a variety of pastel colors, come to life during the Union Street Festival of Lights. This family-friendly event includes ponies disguised as reindeer and street performers from jugglers to dancers. The California Academy of Sciences hosts the ‘Tis the Season for Science event to help guests learn more about the formation of snowflakes and how animals such as reindeer become accustomed to cold weather environments. Catch a movie at the Castro Theater during the San Francisco Film Noir Festival, and enjoy fine dining at great prices during the San Francisco Restaurant Week.
Visiting San Francisco in the Winter
Spring showers bring May flowers, and San Francisco enjoys some rain along with gorgeous blooming flowers during this season. During the day, the air warms up to a respectable 60 degrees most days with lows hovering around 50, making it essential to bring a jacket on your trip. Pack your favorite jeans, sweaters, and umbrella but also throw in a couple of short-sleeve shirts for afternoons when the sun comes out as you walk through the tulip garden in Golden Gate Park.
Remember riding your Big Wheel as a kid? Well, each spring, adults take to Lombard Street, a twisty and steep hill seen in many movies, with their Big Wheels for the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel Ride. Join the race or watch the fun from the sidelines as grown-ups race down the twisty street on a child’s toy. Reserve tickets for a San Francisco Giants baseball game at AT&T Park. Festivals are numerous during this season, including the Bay Area Brew Festival and the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Best Time of Year to Visit San Francisco
The good news is that there isn’t a bad time of year to visit San Francisco, thanks to its moderate weather year round and amazing attractions open throughout the year. However, during the spring months, you enjoy mild weather and fewer crowds than during the summer. The city comes alive with festivals and flowers, making it truly a magical time to visit.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing San Francisco vacation rentals on Tripping.com.