The BEST Time to Visit San Francisco! [January 2020]
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There’s so much to see and do in San Francisco that it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with the city! Its liberal, quirky, artsy, casual attitude mixed with its incredible restaurants, bars, outdoor spaces and architecture make the Golden Gate City worth visiting in every way.
But it’s typical weather conditions surprise many outsiders. This doesn’t mean that SF doesn’t have days of excellent weather, and – no matter what – rest assured that the city always has plenty to offer!
When deciding the best time to visit San Francisco, there’s a lot to consider – like what weather conditions work best for your desired list of activities, when prices and tourist crowds are at their highest (and lowest) and unique events that are offered throughout the year.
When is the best time of year to visit San Francisco?
San Francisco may be one of the most popular cities in sunny California, but it’s actually not as hot and sunshine-dominated there as most people think. In fact, the weather is quite unpredictable and chilly in the summer. One of the biggest factors affecting San Francisco’s conditions is the infamous fog. Thick, wet daily fog make June and July particularly cold and require packing sweatshirts instead of typical summer tank tops!
This is our INSIDER GUIDE for the best times to visit San Francisco! (Photo credit – businessinsider.com)
The good news is that the best time of year to visit San Francisco is not when tourist crowds and travel costs are at their peak – which is in the summer. The best time to visit San Francisco is actually in the early fall or late spring when the weather is best – and also happens to be the low tourist season.
Which neighborhood will you stay in? San Francisco has lots, so we’ve written a where to stay guide!
Is San Francisco safe?
While nowhere in the world is 100% safe, as long as you use your common sense, you’ll likely be fine in San Francisco.
Having said that, you should NEVER travel without proper travel insurance. We’ve tested all of the best travel insurance providers, and World Nomads is our favorite! Fill out the form below to get a quote for your trip to San Francisco so you can keep yourself (and your belongings!) covered and safe 🙂
What months are the best time to visit San Francisco?
As mentioned above, the most ideal conditions weather-wise, tourist and price-wise, happen in late spring and early fall. This is particularly the case in September and October, making them the best months to visit San Francisco. The average high in both months stays in a pleasant 70-72℉ (21-22℃) range, which is the city’s highest of the year. There’s also the added bonus of infrequent rain and little fog.
In addition to weather and tourist considerations, factor in the special events and activities taking place throughout the Golden Gate City. There’s stuff happening year-round, so take a look at your options and see what piques your interest!
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in January (Photo credit – newsela.com)
San Francisco Weather in January
January is the wettest and coldest month in San Francisco, so rain jackets and sweaters are required! The average low temperature is around 45℉ (7℃) with an average high of 57℉ (14℃) and average rainfall is 4 ½ inches (114mm). You can expect overcast skies and short days.
San Francisco Events in January
The Edwardian Ball (mid-January)
This quirky weekend event is an increasingly-popular beloved one in San Francisco. Friday features the Edwardian World’s Faire in honor of the macabre cartoonist and author, Edward Gorey. Saturday features the main event, the one-of-a-kind Edwardian Ball. If their list of highlights – ballroom dancing, circus performances, live music, fortune telling, tarot reading, and absinthe cocktails – appeals to you, then get your costume ready and be sure to check it out!
Zinfandel Experience (late January)
If you’re a Zinfandel wine connoisseur, this is one you don’t want to miss! Known as the only multi-day event dedicated solely to Zinfandel, you’ll appreciate there being hundreds of Zin styles from around California available for tasting. The four main events include an opening night dining function, a flights seminar, a winemakers dinner and auction, and the final grand tasting. Plus, there’s tons of excellent food!
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in Februray (Photo credit – sfgate.com)
San Francisco Weather in February
February is also one of San Francisco’s coldest months, and the weather is nothing short of unpredictable. You may encounter rain, clouds, sun – or all three in one day! But overall, you can expect an average of 48℉ (9℃) to 61℉ (16℃) and 3 inches (75mm) of monthly average rainfall.
San Francisco Events in February
SF Beer Week (early February)
This popular event celebrates craft beer and attracts beer drinkers from near and far. The opening gala alone features over 125 breweries that share seasonal, new and special-release brews. The line-up is full of activities bringing IPAs, ales, sours, pilsners and stouts to the thirsty crowds!
SF Indie Fest (early February)
If alternative, edgy, funky independent films are your style, you’ll have plenty of screenings and events to choose from during this 2-week festival. Don’t expect to find anything Hollywood here – or anything even close to it! This one is all about the underground scene and is known for some wild parties.
Chinese New Year Festival (late February)
San Francisco has a thriving Chinese community, and the city boasts some of the most and best activities celebrating Chinese New Year. The parade is one of the largest in the world, complete with dragons, lion dancers, firecrackers and colorful, immense floats.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in March (Photo credit – curbed.com)
San Francisco Weather in March
March conditions are similar to that of February with slightly warmer temperatures. You’ll find an average low of 48℉ (9℃) and high of 62℉ (17℃) with any possible mix of clouds, sunshine and showers. The rain, however, often tapers off as it gets closer to April.
San Francisco Events in March
International Ocean Film Festival (early March)
A special, niche festival for ocean and underwater life enthusiasts. These 4 days feature sea-themed movies including documentaries, shorts and animations from around the world. The festival was started to raise awareness about the social and environmental importance of everything relating to the ocean.
St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade (March 17)
San Francisco knows how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The large, festive parade starts on 2nd and Market Street and finishes at the Civic Center. You won’t have any trouble finding green around the city on this day. And, of course, bars serve green beer!
San Francisco International Chocolate Salon (end of March)
A dangerous, but perfectly delectable, place to be for chocolate addicts! Here you’ll get tastings of some of the best in gourmet, artisan and premium chocolate. Participants include the finest chocolatiers and confectioners in the business. Enjoy a number of tastings, live demos and chef talks.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in April (Photo credit – shutterstock.com)
San Francisco Weather in April
April has mostly sunny days and marks the time when the heaviest rain has passed and before the cold summer fog arrives – and makes it one of the best times of the year to visit San Francisco. Days are long with at least 12 hours of sunshine and barely over 1 inch (30mm) of rain. Average temperatures range from 49℉ (8℃) to 63℉ (17℃).
San Francisco Events in April
Golden Gate Park Band Concerts in the Park (starts in April)
The GGPB season starts in April with a free concert every Sunday afternoon until October. Enjoy a free live band performance in the beautiful Golden Gate Part at the Spreckles Temple of Music – the band plays a variety of music favorites from classical to swing and show tunes.
Union Street Spring Celebration and Easter Parade (date varies)
This festive celebration is fun for kids and adults alike. Children’s activities include pictures with the Easter Bunny, a petting zoo, pony rides and the Faerie Garden where friendly faeries give out glitter tattoos and make balloon animals! Take part and enjoy the Easter Parade that starts at 2 pm.
Earth Day San Francisco (weekend closest to April 22)
Be a part of SF’s environmentally friendly festival with fun activities that include live musical performances from local and international talent, speakers, artists and a unique sustainable-material fashion show. You can also sample tasty, organic dishes prepared in the Sustainable Chef Zone!
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in May (Photo credit – triciagosingtian.com)
San Francisco Weather in May
If you like the idea of sunshine with warm – not hot – temperatures and very little rain, May could be the best time to visit San Francisco for you! Days gradually get longer with 14 hours of daylight, and you can expect average temperatures ranging from 51℉ (11℃) to 65℉ (18℃).
San Francisco Events in May
How Weird Street Faire (early May)
Yes, this event is just as interesting as it sounds! Thousands of people gather in the heart of SF dressed in costumes to celebrate weirdness. Featuring several stages of electronic music, the festival has people dancing in the streets and makes being weird so much fun!
Bay to Breakers (mid-May)
If you want to experience a true one-of-a-kind San Francisco event, the infamous Bay to Breakers can’t be beat! This 12k fun run is one of the most attended and highly anticipated annual events of the year and is nothing but pure fun. Everyone dresses in costumes of every kind imaginable, and the city turns into one giant block party!
Carnaval San Francisco (late May)
It’s not Rio de Janeiro, but SF knows how to throw a good party! The 2-day festival features plenty of entertainment and activities that include international music and cuisine, dance, arts and crafts. The Grand Parade is complete with colorful floats, costumes, samba music and more.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in June (Photo credit – lonelyplanet.com)
San Francisco Weather in June
Tourists are flocking to the Golden Gate City as summer arrives – and while the rain stays away, so does the sun! SF is infamous for its summer fog that can be so thick that you may never see sunshine break through. Average June temperatures stay at a chilly 53℉ (12℃) to 68℉ (20℃).
San Francisco Events in June
Haight Ashbury Street Fair (second Sunday in June)
A highly anticipated local event that celebrates the resurgence of one of San Francisco’s most well-known neighborhoods, the Haight. Best known as the center of the hippie movement in the 60’s, Haight-Ashbury stays strong today. You’ll find a variety of booths – from food to arts and crafts – live music stages and activities. It’s a great way to enjoy the birthplace of the “Summer of Love”!
Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon (early-mid June)
While you may not be one of the only 2,000 world-class athletes invited to participate in this prestigious triathlon, you’ll have lots of fun being a spectator! Triathletes willingly plunge into the icy waters for a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the SF shores, an 18-mile bike ride to Golden Gate Park and an 8-mile run to Baker Beach.
San Francisco Pride (end of June)
If you’re lucky enough to be in SF in June, you’ll want to be one of the over 100,000 spectators of the world’s biggest and oldest LGBT parade. The parade runs through the center of the city along Market Street, from Embarcadero to the Civic Center. The celebration includes a weekend of speakers and entertainment.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in July (Photo credit – freesftour.com)
San Francisco Weather in July
The colder-than-expected summer conditions of June are likely to be the same in July. Pack layers and a jacket to guard against the cold air that settles over San Francisco with the thick summer fog – especially at night! Expect average temperatures of 55℉ (13℃) to 69℉ (20℃).
San Francisco Events in July
Fourth of July Celebrations (July 4)
If fireworks are your favorite part of the 4th of July, you’ll be in the right place in San Francisco! You can’t beat synchronized firework shows happening from 2 of the city’s prime locations – the Municipal Pier at the Aquatic Park and from barges near Pier 39. Several thousand people gather at various parts throughout the city to enjoy the marvelous, patriotic display, so find your spot early!
Fillmore Jazz Festival (early July)
This weekend-long jazz fest is known as the west coast’s biggest free jazz event. Over 12 blocks of the Pacific Heights and Fillmore neighborhoods are dedicated to the festival with not just amazing jazz music, but gourmet food, dance lessons, art, crafts and more.
Circus in the Parks (Sundays in July)
Leave it to San Francisco to offer free one-hour circus shows at various parks throughout the Bay Area for all to enjoy! Local Circus Bella takes its acts outdoors to wow spectators with jugglers, clowns, aerial acrobatics and contortionists.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in August (Photo credit – grouponcdn.com)
San Francisco Weather in August
There’s a reason why San Francisco locals often use the term “Fogust” for August in the city. Fog and overcast skies that are common in June and July often extend longer – and sometimes they don’t. August is a variable month, so you’ll have to check the weather forecasts closely. On average, temperatures range from 56℉ (13℃) to 70℉ (21℃).
San Francisco Events in August
Outside Lands Festival (early August)
This is another biggie in San Francisco! Not only does Outside Lands feature concerts by some of music’s most well-known bands, but it includes events and activities that stimulate all the senses. The experience includes comedy, talks, arts, food and drinks galore with areas called Wine Lands, Beer Lands and Cheese lands – just to name a few. Don’t miss this SF original held every year in beautiful Golden Gate Park.
Eat Drink SF (end of August)
Fort Mason hosts this large and popular food, wine and spirits event featuring tastes from the Bay Area’s finest chefs and restaurants. There’s plenty of to eat, drink, sip and savor all under one roof! Special events include a Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening grand tasting.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in September (Photo credit – tripsavvy)
San Francisco Weather in September
Almost everything about September makes this the best time to visit San Francisco! Tourist crowds dwindle, fog lifts, temperatures rise and skies are clear. You can expect an average low temperature of 56℉ (13℃) and an average high of 73℉ (23℃) – which is the city’s highest. You still want to pack layers, but you should find plenty of sunshine to enjoy!
San Francisco Events in September
Oktoberfest by the Bay (mid-late September)
Who says you need to be in Munich for an epic Oktoberfest experience? You’ll have a blast at this German-themed fest South Bay style – with nonstop music, a live Bavarian band, dancing, bratwurst and, of course, beer!
Dragon Boat Festival (end of September)
Not only is this one of the most important annual festivals for the Chinese community, but it’s also one of the most fun to watch! It’s quite a sight as over 100 brightly-colored 40-foot dragon boats race to the beat of rhythmic Chinese drums. The 2-day festival is free and includes other entertainment like Chinese acrobatics, magic shows, lion and dragon dances, music and more.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in October (Photo credit – sftourismtips.com)
San Francisco Weather in October
You can add October as a prime option for the best time to visit San Francisco. Conditions stay dry, mostly clear and warm by SF standards. That’s not to stay that the weather isn’t variable, but you’ll enjoy fewer tourists and pleasant temperatures ranging from 54℉ (12℃) to 70℉ (21℃).
San Francisco Events in October
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (early October)
This 3-day musical event held annually is truly unique – since 2011 when it was founded by multi-billionaire, Warren Hellman, the festival has remained free and completely commercial-free. Over 750,000 people flock to Golden Gate Park over the course of the 3 days to enjoy some of the best in bluegrass and beyond, listen to music, dance, have a picnic and simply have an amazing time!
Liquake (early-mid October)
For true book worms and literature lovers, this 10-day literary event is for you! Events take place at various venues throughout the Bay Area and include talks and readings by famed authors, Kidquake for K-5 students, Poetics Tuesday and the popular Lit Crawl, a literary pub crawl through the Mission District.
Halloween (late October)
In a city that loves to dress up and be creative, you can bet there are countless Halloween events taking place throughout the city! From trick-or-treating for kids at the San Francisco zoo to costume balls and Halloween cruises – you’ll have plenty of options for an epic Halloween.
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in November (Photo credit – Shutterstock )
San Francisco Weather in November
Conditions get colder and wetter in San Francisco as November rolls around. Generally, it’s one of the city’s rainiest months with an average of over 3 inches (82mm) of rain. Days get shorter and temperatures drop to an average 50℉ (10℃) to 63℉ (17℃).
San Francisco Events in November
Day of the Dead (early November)
San Francisco’s Mission District has been honoring this Latin-cultural tradition since the 70’s. Dia de Los Muertos honors deceased loved ones with a wonderful celebration of flowers, candles, gifts, food and quintessential face painting. The elaborate altars built especially for this day are truly a sight to behold.
Illuminate SF Festival (end of November)
Starting Thanksgiving weekend and through New Year’s, enjoy a number of spectacular light art installations that light up the entire city! Over 30 artists collaborate to install over 39 installations in 17 neighborhoods. Embarcadero, Golden Gate Park, Mission District and more glow with some of the most impressive light exhibitions you’ve ever seen!
Read below for information about San Francisco weather in December (Photo credit – freetoursbyfoot)
San Francisco Weather in December
While it doesn’t snow in San Francisco, be prepared for cold and rain if visiting in December. You may find some hours of sunshine, but winter storms aren’t unlikely. December’s average temperatures range from a low of 45℉ (7℃) to a high of 57℉ (14℃).
San Francisco Events in December
Dickens Fair (starting mid-November)
Get caught in a time warp as you walk into the annual Dickens Fair in Cow Palace – that transforms into a 19th century London wonderland. Costumed characters, Oliver Twist and Santa all play the part to set the scene. You’ll find plenty of Dickens-era entertainment at the 7 stages set up for singing and dancing performances, or enjoy some bangers and mash and meat pies at the many food stalls. Wash it all down with a pint at one of the four English pubs!
New Year’s Eve Celebrations (December 31)
As you would expect, you’ll find awesome ways to ring in the new year in San Francisco. Buy tickets for massive hotel parties or make reservations at a romantic restaurant – or join the crowds to the city’s biggest New Year’s event, the Embarcadero Fireworks Show. The impressive fireworks display begins at the stroke of midnight above the Ferry Building.
What is the best time to visit San Francisco weather-wise?
San Francisco offers something for everyone year-round, which is why it’s such a popular travel destination. But the rain and cold, foggy conditions are not for everyone. For the warmest and driest conditions, the best time to visit San Francisco weather-wise is September and October. By then, the infamous – and cold – summer fog has dissipated, rainfall levels are at their lowest and average temperatures are at their warmest.
The second best time to visit San Francisco weather-wise is late Spring in April or May. The average rainfall is low, and the thickest of the fog hasn’t settled in completely. But be aware that these months are cooler than the fall and are highly variable – you can’t be sure of what you’ll get!
Final thoughts on the best time of year to visit San Francisco
Fortunately, you can’t go wrong when booking a trip to San Francisco no matter when you decide to go! The best time of year to visit San Francisco is usually considered to be when the weather is at its best, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the city’s beauty, culture, and myriad of events at any time of the year. You can be sure that San Francisco will charm you with its unique and quirky vibe – rain or shine!
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Emma Johnson lives to travel! Born in Washington D.C., Emma is a hotel connoisseur and a staff writer at Hotel Jules. An army brat, Emma got the travel bug early and has never been able to stop. Now, she has proudly visited 70+ countries and plans to visit every country in the world! Passionate about her ukelele (obviously) and her family, Emma eventually wants to retire in Thailand and write a book about all of her travel experiences.