San Francisco is one of the most historic and picturesque cities in America, drawing millions of visitors every year to experience the wonderful sights, tastes, and sounds of the City by the Bay. Being surrounded by water on three sides, San Francisco has an interesting climate, which has very little fluctuation throughout the year. The weather is mild and temperate, with an increase in rainfall during the winter and early spring.
Similar to most tourist hotspots throughout the world, summer is the most popular time to visit San Francisco, but the image of a West Coast summer is slightly different in the San Francisco area of Northern California. Although the temperature remains mild to warm, the summer in San Francisco typically has cool winds blowing through the city, as well as the iconic fog sweeping through the city in the mornings.
The average mean temperature for the San Francisco summer is a comfortable 12.5C for the overnight low, ranging up to 20.5C for the daytime high. Rain is scarce in the summer, with precipitation occurring only about 1 day per month.
Due to the relatively standard climate of San Francisco, many activities can be enjoyed in multiple seasons of the year with equal ease, but there are certain season-specific events as well. The San Francisco summer has a few highlights that visitors should not miss, especially Summerfest, which is a series of free concerts and festivals in the Fillmore Jazz District throughout June and July, as well as SFJazzFest, another series of free shows which occur throughout the city in the summer and fall. One of the best things about San Francisco is the “walkability” of the city, and the summer is the perfect time to walk the beautiful, coastal Embarcadero that wraps around the city and has some of the best views of the bay. On the Embarcadero, stop by Fisherman’s Wharf and feast on the freshly caught Dungeness crabs, a local favorite. Also on the walk on the North side of the city, check out Pier 39, a tourist-oriented marketplace of restaurants, shops, and San Franciscan treasures. If you’re feeling adventurous, take one of the popular boat tours to famed Alcatraz Island, the most notorious and inescapable prison in American history. If you want to leave the city and enjoy the outdoors for a day, take a quick ride north across the bridge and visit Sausalito, a beautiful town packed with wineries, quiet bistros, and unbelievable scenery only a short drive north of the city. In fact, most of the area north of San Francisco is considered California Wine Country, where you can tour and taste some of the most celebrated and exclusive wines that America has to offer.
The weather remains rather mild and comfortable in autumn, with a slight increase in rainfall, particularly in November. Pack a jacket in case of sudden chills or increased wind in the autumn, but the weather is generally pleasant well into the end of autumn.
The average mean temperature for autumn in San Francisco is an overnight low of 11.5C and a daytime high topping out at 20C.
San Francisco has consistently been voted the top destination for fall getaways in America, and with good reason. Because the city’s weather does not have the steep drop off that other American cities experience in the fall, it is still a great place to spend a vacation, but the autumn sees a decrease in the tourist masses as school and work is back in full swing for many would-be travelers. Autumn, just like summer, is the perfect weather for slow strolls through the city, navigating such legendary spots as the most crooked street in America, Lombard Street, or climbing to the top of Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower and take some breathtaking photos of the entire city. For the book lovers in the family, make sure you stop in at City Lights Bookstore, the publishing house and meeting place of many Beat Generation authors like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Grab a custom cocktail right across the street from that historic bookshop at Vesuvios, the bar famous for being the hangout of those same generation-defining authors. While you’re walking the city, swing by Chinatown, the oldest and one of the largest anywhere in America, rich with history and outstanding food. If music is your cultural treat of choice, then get tickets for a show at The Fillmore, the historic music venue that launched the careers of The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane which still hosts big-name acts to this day.
Winter in San Francisco is not quite as comfortable as summer and autumn, but the temperature rarely drops below freezing and snow is extremely rare. Rainfall is quite common in the winter months, with approximately ten rainy days per month.
The average mean temperature for San Francisco’s winters are overnight lows of 8.5C and daytime highs of 15C.
With the winter weather of San Francisco growing a bit chillier, long, city-wide walks might not be the ideal plan for your winter vacation, but there is still a multitude of things to do in the city. Ghirardelli Square is one of the most visited spots in the city, so after you feast on some freshly made Ghirardelli chocolate, stop in the Wattle Creek Winery Tasting Room for some rare selections of local wines. If you like to enjoy some art with your wine, it is easy to get lost in the mind-bending work within the world famous San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). If food is the key to your vacation, spend a few hours at the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Embarcadero, shopping through the strange and fascinating selection of artisanal foods and shops, a haven for foodies, chefs, and amateur eaters alike. For those nature lovers who don’t mind the bite of chilly weather, winter is the peak season for whale watching at Point Reyes, since the morning views are so often obscured in other seasons by fog. While you are down by the water, enjoy the City Lights cruise, a two-hour winter cruise with views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other views of the city, as well as a buffet, drinks, and live entertainment. For those extremely brave souls, leap into the icy water of the Bay for the Alcatraz Annual Winter Swim.
As the weather climbs back into the temperate, pleasant climes of spring, the tourist season begins to pick back up in San Francisco. Expect mild to warm temperatures in the spring months, and pack an umbrella, because rainfall is common in March, but decreases as the spring wears on into April and May.
The average mean temperature of springtime in San Francisco is a low of 10C and a daytime high of 18C.
San Francisco in the spring is a wonderland of activities and sightseeing spots that will keep everyone entertained on your vacation. The spring months, although still chilly at times, are a wonderful time for a memorable crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by a picnic in the sprawling beauty of Golden Gate Park. Cross over into the west side of the city for an entertaining peek at some 1960’s counterculture at Haight/Ashbury, the heart of the Hippie Revolution and the Love Generation in San Francisco. Many of the shops, restaurants, and bars are still populated and owned by some very interesting folks! Stroll down to the south side of the city for a colorful afternoon in Castro, the lively and exciting gay district of San Francisco, packed with live music, hip bars, and trendy eateries. For sports fans, catch nine innings of the San Francisco Giants at historic Candlestick Park. Spring is also the perfect season to enjoy a quiet afternoon at the Japanese Tea Gardens, or a fun day with the whole family at the San Francisco Zoo.
The city is alive and energetic all year round, so whenever you choose to travel, expect mild weather, friendly people, and a whole lot of fun.
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