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.
The 2-star Marina Inn is a smart choice for the budget traveler. In the surrounding area, Maritime National Historical Park, Palace of Fine Arts and Pier 39 are among the attractions you can enjoy. Lombard Street is one of many landmarks in the area. You'll be close to Maritime Museum and Cable Car Museum, where you can spend hours admiring the collections. Accessing Fort Mason Center is easy from here.
The roomy W San Francisco in San Francisco offers agreeable hospitality and guest services. The 4-star rating promises an enjoyable stay in San Francisco. Caltrain King Street Terminus is an easy jaunt from this location. You'll be a short distance from Transbay Train Terminal, TransAmerica Pyramid and City Hall. Both Museum of Modern Art and Railway Museum are quite close. Nearby Moscone Center is a popular place for conferences and banquets.
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.
Orchard Hotel offers a large selection of attractive rooms. Book a comfy 3-star room here. War Memorial Opera House is one of many fascinating attractions found within the accommodation's vicinity. This district is jam-packed with landmarks such as TransAmerica Pyramid, Transbay Train Terminal and City Hall. Nearby Cable Car Museum and Museum of Modern Art are important cultural attractions. For a memorable San Francisco visit, be sure you see Coit Tower.
The 1-star Youth Hostel Central & Hotel is a smart choice for the budget traveler. With fewer than 20 rooms here, you'll avoid big hotel crowds. The convenient transit hub Caltrain King Street Terminus is not far. City Hall, TransAmerica Pyramid and Transbay Train Terminal are within a short walk from here. From this property you'll be close to Museum of Modern Art and Cable Car Museum. Conference attendees at Moscone Center appreciate it's proximity to here.
Economize by staying at the 1-star Taylor Hotel San Francisco. Given the proximity of Caltrain King Street Terminus, it's easy to arrive here by public transit. While staying in San Francisco, you might enjoy visiting War Memorial Opera House. Coit Tower is no more than 2km (1.25mi) from here. If you're in town for a conference, Moscone Center is an easy stroll from here.
Europa Hostel is modest and comfortable, with a 1-star rating. Sight-seeing and travel is available via nearby Caltrain King Street Terminus. War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park can be reached on foot from here. This district is jam-packed with landmarks such as City Hall, Transbay Train Terminal and TransAmerica Pyramid. This accommodation is a convenient base for accessing Moscone Center.
The 2-star Pontiac Hotel is a smart choice for the budget traveler. The vast selection of rooms here ensures you'll find a suitable one. War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park are walkable from the accommodation. Staying here puts you within easy access of City Hall, Transbay Train Terminal and TransAmerica Pyramid. You'll be close to Museum of Modern Art and Cable Car Museum, where you can spend hours admiring the collections. The major local venue, Moscone Center is close by.
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.
Stay at the 3-star The Suites at Fishermans Wharf for an enjoyable San Francisco experience. Maritime National Historical Park, Pier 39 and Aquarium of the Bay are popular destinations you can easily reach from this accommodation. Staying here, you'll be near Coit Tower. Nearby museum choices include Maritime Museum and Cable Car Museum. Conference facilities nearby include Fort Mason Center.
Monte Cristo Inn is a small, intimate lodge in San Francisco. The comfortable rooms are 3-star rated. Alamo Square is just one of the famous landmarks here. Palace of Fine Arts is one of many fascinating attractions found within the accommodation's vicinity. A visit to Exploratorium, located only 1.9 km (1.2 miles) from here, will be memorable. The nearby Cathedral Event Center is a popular venue.
In contrast with impersonal corporate hotels, The Washington Square Inn offers a more intimate atmosphere. The 3-star rating promises an enjoyable stay in San Francisco. This property is centrally located near Lombard Street, TransAmerica Pyramid and Transbay Train Terminal. You can walk to Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39 and Maritime National Historical Park from here. Nearby are numerous museums, including the fine Cable Car Museum and Maritime Museum collections. Famous sites such as Coit Tower are close by.