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.
If you like a larger holiday accommodation, Hotel Union Square is a good choice. The comfortable rooms are 3-star rated. Transportation is available at nearby Caltrain King Street Terminus. From this location you can easily reach Coit Tower. This area offers several museums, including the popular Museum of Modern Art and Cable Car Museum. This accommodation is a convenient base for accessing Moscone Center.
Large and roomy, Grant Hotel is a popular choice. Here, great value for the money means you'll have more to spend on sightseeing, dining and other travel priorities. Explore the surrounding area in comfort thanks to the nearby Caltrain King Street Terminus. War Memorial Opera House is one of the easily accessible attractions from here. If you plan on visiting TransAmerica Pyramid, Transbay Train Terminal or City Hall, this accommodation is a good choice. This location offers easy access to Moscone Center, a popular conference and events arena.
Chelsea Motor Inn offers plenty of rooms and options. The rooms here are rated 2-star(s). Lombard Street is just one of the famous landmarks here. Palace of Fine Arts and Maritime National Historical Park are recommended favorites. Wandering through Exploratorium and Maritime Museum, both a short walk away, is time well-spent. Fort Mason Center is close to the accommodation, making it convenient for business delegates.
Looking for something on a grand scale? Mandarin Oriental San Francisco offers an extensive room selection. Enjoy exemplary 5-star service. The area is easily accessible thanks to Caltrain King Street Terminus's close proximately. AT&T Park and Aquarium of the Bay are recommended favorites. Museum goers will enjoy Railway Museum and Museum of Modern Art, both in the property's proximity. From this location you can easily reach Coit Tower.
Looking for something that's a cut above? You'll find it at 3-star Inn at the Opera. The popular attraction War Memorial Opera House is walking-distance close. You may want to see City Hall and Alamo Square; both are close to this location. The nearby Cable Car Museum, 2.0 km (1.2 miles) away, is worth visiting while in San Francisco. Cathedral Event Center is close to the accommodation, making it convenient for business delegates.
Looking for something that's a cut above? You'll find it at 3-star Washington Suites. The rooms here are small in number and the hospitality is highly regarded. Aquarium of the Bay, Maritime National Historical Park and Pier 39 are popular destinations you can easily reach from this accommodation. Nearby Cable Car Museum and Museum of Modern Art are recommended tour stops. Coit Tower can be found in the area nearby. One advantage for business travelers is the proximity of Cathedral Event Center.
Looking for something that's a cut above? You'll find it at 3-star Minna Express. The accommodation is near Caltrain King Street Terminus for easy accessibility. War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park are a short walk from here. The famous landmark City Hall is conveniently close, as are Transbay Train Terminal and TransAmerica Pyramid. Museums in the neighborhood include Museum of Modern Art and Cable Car Museum.
Mission Residence is a 3-star property, ensuring high-quality service and amenities. The lodging is easily reached from Caltrain King Street Terminus. War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park are interesting attractions in the vicinity. You'll be a short distance from City Hall, TransAmerica Pyramid and Transbay Train Terminal. A museum visit can be fascinating; try the nearby Museum of Modern Art or Cable Car Museum.
Rated 1, Youth Hostel Central & Hotel offers the basics at a price you can't beat. You won't get lost in a crowd here, as there are fewer than 20 rooms. Given the proximity of Caltrain King Street Terminus, it's easy to arrive here by public transit. War Memorial Opera House and AT&T Park are walkable from the accommodation. The famous landmark City Hall is conveniently close, as are TransAmerica Pyramid and Transbay Train Terminal. Cultural options in the vicinity include Museum of Modern Art and Cable Car Museum.
European Hostel has a 1-star rating. You'll be completely mobile, with Caltrain King Street Terminus connecting you to areas around San Francisco. Landmarks in the area include City Hall and Alamo Square. Museum of Modern Art is a must-see San Francisco museum. This location offers easy access to Cathedral Event Center, a popular conference and events arena.
Given its 1-star class, Encore Express gives great value for the price. With fewer than 20 rooms here, you'll avoid big hotel crowds. War Memorial Opera House is one of many fascinating attractions found within the accommodation's vicinity. From here you'll be near magnificent structures such as St. Mary's Cathedral. Nearby museum choices include Cable Car Museum and Museum of Modern Art. For a memorable San Francisco visit, be sure you see Coit Tower.
Taylor Hotel San Francisco is a 1-star establishment. The accommodation is near Caltrain King Street Terminus for easy accessibility. You'll enjoy this prime location that's just a short distance from War Memorial Opera House. The famous landmark TransAmerica Pyramid is conveniently close, as are City Hall and Transbay Train Terminal. From this location you can easily reach Coit Tower.
In Monte Cristo Inn neighborhood, you'll find interesting landmarks, such as Alamo Square. The popular attraction Palace of Fine Arts is walking-distance close. Enjoy easy access to Exploratorium. This museum is 1.9 km (1.2 miles) away. Cathedral Event Center is close to the accommodation, making it convenient for business delegates.
The modest-sized The Washington Square Inn offers attentive service. The 3-star rating promises an enjoyable stay in San Francisco. Lombard Street, TransAmerica Pyramid and Transbay Train Terminal are within a short walk from here. Make your trip especially memorable, visit Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39 and Maritime National Historical Park. Cable Car Museum and Maritime Museum are in the neighborhood of this accommodation. From this location you can easily visit Coit Tower, just 0.3 km (0.2 miles) from here.