San Francisco is the second-largest city in California, and is also one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, when you visit San Francisco you'll experience a liberal community that offers coastal views, temperate weather, and hilly terrain for outdoor enthusiasts, and a level of technological adoption that is second to none. As part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, the city itself sits on a seven-by-seven mile peninsula with 812,000 residents. The Bar Area on the other hand, including Oakland, Berkeley, and Marin County, is home to a population of 7.1 million.
When to visit
With its impressive cultural diversity, there are many events going on in San Francisco throughout the year that make it perfect to visit at any time. The Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually in April, is celebrated in Japantown with a kid-friendly parade, street fairs, and live music. Fringe Festival occurs annually after Labor Day (September) and is a 10-day festival of theatrical experimentation.
San Francisco is also home to some of the United States' best holiday celebrations, including Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown, an Easter Parade on Union Street, and Fourth of July celebrations in the Fisherman's Wharf district.
Determining the right time of year to visit San Francisco depends upon the individual. If you live in a cold-weather climate, there might not be a bad time to visit the city. The area experiences cool, wet winters and dry, warm summers. If you want to dodge peak tourist season, a visit between December and February brings cooler temperatures average 57.1 F (13.9 C), but higher rainfall averages of around 4.5 inches (114.3 mm) monthly.
Between June and September, temperatures hover in the upper 60s F (20s C), and rainfall is less than one inch on a monthly basis. However, the warm temperatures draw more tourists, so you can expect to see plenty of other people out and about. September and October are considered the sweet spot in San Francisco, with warm, dry weather, and crisp autumn mornings.
If you're going to visit a coastal city such as San Francisco, it would be a shame to see it only from the confines of shore. There are many harbor tours available that give you stunning views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz island. These tours vary in cost and duration, but generally provide a slow crawl and plenty of photo ops.
For fans of the performing arts, San Francisco is home to its own opera and symphony, as well as countless other musicals and concerts. The best way to learn about all of them and purchase tickets is to visit the Half-Price Ticket Booth in Union Square. Operated by the Theatre Bay Area group, your ticket purchase get you in for half price while supporting the theater community in the city.
One trip to San Francisco might not be enough time to see everything. Must-see attractions include the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning San Francisco Bay, and the famous cable cars in the city's center that run up and down between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf. Speaking of Fisherman's Wharf, it's a popular destination for visitors and provides a variety of street entertainers, museums, and great cuisine.
The city's Chinatown neighborhood is just one of the many culturally diverse districts within the city. Located northwest of downtown San Francisco, it contains some of the best Asian cuisine in the city, along with endless shops bustling with people on a daily basis. Golden Gate Park in the Avenues district is the city's most popular outdoor park, and is a must-see during your trip.
Tips & Recommendations
• San Francisco CityPASS is a cheap and easy way to see many of the city's best attractions. Valid for 9 days, it covers five major attractions and includes seven days of fares on cable cars or MUNI public transportation.
• The city is home to a diverse array of musical genres, many of which can be enjoyed for free in local restaurants, bars, and clubs.
• Free walking tours exist if you want to enjoy the city on your own.
• Discover Walks offer a chance to "see San Francisco with a local." These 90-minute guided tours offer greater insight into the city and its landmarks.
• San Francisco prides itself on equality, whether its gender, race, or sexual orientation.
Hotel Boheme is a 3-star property, ensuring high-quality service and amenities. Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and this is one of those. Aquarium of the Bay is located close to this location, as is TransAmerica Pyramid. Less than 2km (1.25mi) away is Coit Tower. San Francisco museums are delightful! Spend some time in Cable Car Museum, or perhaps Railway Museum. Moscone Center is within easy access of this property.
Marina Inn has a 2-star rating. The lodging provides an excellent location from which to walk and view several attractions, including Maritime National Historical Park and Lombard Street. Nearby Maritime Museum and Cable Car Museum are important cultural attractions. The nearby Fort Mason Center is a popular venue.
The large W San Francisco Hotel offers plenty of rooms. With its 4 stars, this accommodation meets and exceeds expectations. From here you can visit AT&T Park and Coit Tower, which are both accessible on foot. This is a great location for walking to landmarks such as Transbay Train Terminal, TransAmerica Pyramid and City Hall. Museums in the neighborhood include Museum of Modern Art and Railway Museum. For events or conferences at Moscone Center in San Francisco, you'll be pleased at how close it is.
Economize by staying at the 2-star The Herbert Hotel. A nearby station is Caltrain King Street Terminus. From this area you can easily visit TransAmerica Pyramid, City Hall and even Transbay Train Terminal. War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park can be reached on foot from here. This is a good location from which to visit Coit Tower, just 1.8 km (1.1 miles) away.
This 1-star Youth Hostel Central & Hotel delivers good value for money. You won't get lost in a crowd here, as there are fewer than 20 rooms. This location provides easy access to popular attractions such as Museum of Modern Art and City Hall. Caltrain King Street Terminus connects you to the rest of San Francisco. Walk to War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park --just a short distance from this location. This property offers a convenient location near Moscone Center.
Save money by staying in this 1-star European Hostel. By public transit, your best choice is Caltrain King Street Terminus. War Memorial Opera House is an interesting attraction just a stroll from here. The well-known landmarks, City Hall and Alamo Square are walking distance from here. This property is an excellent choice for visitors to Cathedral Event Center.
The 1-star Encore Express is a smart choice for the budget traveler. The rooms here are small in number and the hospitality is highly regarded. A stay here gives you close proximity to popular attractions such as City Hall and War Memorial Opera House. In the surrounding area is the interesting Coit Tower. Cultural options in the vicinity include Cable Car Museum and Museum of Modern Art. Just a short distance away you'll find Cathedral Event Center.
Taylor Hotel San Francisco has a 1-star rating. Close to TransAmerica Pyramid, this location also allows easy access to War Memorial Opera House. Coit Tower is located in the neighborhood of this property. Cultural options in the vicinity include Cable Car Museum and Museum of Modern Art. Nearby Moscone Center is a big draw for business travelers.
The small and cozy Washington Suites offers a homey ambiance. The comfortable rooms are 3-star rated. Several popular attractions are easy to reach from this location, including Aquarium of the Bay and Cable Car Museum. Lombard Street, TransAmerica Pyramid and Transbay Train Terminal are all within walking distance from here. This lodging is near numerous points of interest, including Coit Tower. Cathedral Event Center conference attendees will appreciate the short distance from here to there.
Minna Express boasts a rating of 3 stars. The accommodation is near Caltrain King Street Terminus for easy accessibility. Make memories at War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park, which are close to here. Nearby are numerous museums, including the fine Museum of Modern Art and Cable Car Museum collections. Here for business? The Moscone Center is nearby.
Outstanding The Suites at Fishermans Wharf enjoys a 3-star rating. Visit Maritime National Historical Park and Coit Tower during your San Francisco stay, both are nearby. This location is not far from Lombard Street and TransAmerica Pyramid. Nearby museum choices include Maritime Museum and Cable Car Museum. Just a short distance away you'll find Fort Mason Center.
With fewer than 20 rooms, Monte Cristo Inn offers the intimacy of a small accommodation. The comfortable rooms are 3-star rated. If you like exploring the city on foot, this location is an excellent choice, as Palace of Fine Arts and Exploratorium are walk able from here. One of the landmarks in San Francisco is Alamo Square. Cathedral Event Center is within easy access of this property.
The small The Washington Square Inn offers warmth and hospitality. A good option for those who seek a greater degree of comfort in San Francisco. Close to Lombard Street, this location also allows easy access to Coit Tower. In the surrounding area, Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39 and Maritime National Historical Park are among the attractions you can enjoy. Cable Car Museum and Maritime Museum are in the neighborhood of this accommodation.