The best time to visit San Francisco usually begins in late summer and heads into the fall. The latter parts of August, along with September, October, and November, are ideal months for exploring “The City by the Bay”. These months typically see the best weather.
One thing to keep in mind is that hilly San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides. All of this cold water affects the local climates. It’s a good idea to dress in layers throughout the year.
San Francisco also enjoys different microclimates; for example, while it might be sizzling in the Castro District, the Sunset District, on the opposite side of the city, facing the Pacific, could simultaneously be quite chilly, especially when the fog rolls in.
Visiting San Francisco by Season
While California is a warm and sunny state overall, San Francisco’s water-bound peninsular location tends to keep the city fairly cool (by Californian standards), even in the summer.
Average highs during summer stay around 69°F (21°C). September actually clocks in as the hottest month of the year, with highs of around 71°F (22°C). July tends to be sunny-ish, and the afternoon skies in August generally aren’t too overwhelmed by clouds.
Some summer days can occasionally hit 80°F (27°C) or more on the thermostat, although this is not the norm. Summer is also a prime festival season, with many great outdoor parties, like San Francisco Pride, the North Beach (Little Italy) Festival street fair, and more.
Fall is one of the best times to visit San Francisco. As noted already, September, with average highs of 71°F (22°C) is the warmest month of the year. Autumn is also very light on San Francisco’s famous fog and rain.
As you move into November, with highs of around 62°F (17°C) and lows of 50°F (10°C), you’ll probably notice more precipitation and fog, with around 2.14 inches (54mm) of precipitation on average.
It’s wet, fairly cold, and foggy on the peninsula during the winter, which probably isn’t the best time to go to San Francisco. And while the temperatures do cool down, it doesn’t actually freeze or snow. Pacific Ocean fog often shrouds the city in mist, adding to the chill factor.
Average winter highs hover around 59°F (15°C). Average lows linger in the vicinity of 48°F (9°C), although the damp weather and fog can make it feel much colder.
If you do visit in winter, check out February’s colorful Chinese New Year Parade, with a blast of lively Asian culture on display in Chinatown in Downtown San Francisco.
San Francisco in spring can be quite lovely and is actually a great time to go to the city. Temperatures are usually in the 60s; and as the season progresses, the rain tapers off.
For example, March generally experiences highs of around 63°F (17°C) and lows of 50°F (10°C), with about seven days of rain. As you get into May, highs reach 68°F (20°C) or so, with only one or two days of rain. Again, dress in layers, but chances are you won’t have to rely on your raincoat or umbrella all that often come the spring.
When Is Rainy Season?
Winter is San Francisco’s rainy season. The month with the most precipitation is December, with approximately eleven days of rain, and around 3.7 inches (94mm) to 4.8 inches (122mm) of precipitation, depending on the year. December also happens to be the coldest month.
If rained out in San Francisco, you’ll find plenty to do indoors. You can head over to the Aquarium of the Bay down by Pier 39, or enjoy the installations and art displays at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), both of which are highly recommended rainy day activities.
When Is High Season?
The high season in San Francisco lands in summer, even though the best weather is in the autumn. Like high seasons elsewhere, prices go up, and you’ll have to deal with crowds. Summers here are also known for cool morning fog, although the fog tends to burn off during the afternoon.
When Is Shoulder Season?
Autumn and spring are San Francisco’s shoulder seasons. Shoulder season, particularly fall, is often the best time to visit San Francisco.
Fall is fairly dry, with comfy temperatures, which make exploring the city much easier compared to having to contend with rain, fog, and summer travelers during other times of the year.
When Is Low Season?
Winter is cold—as far as temperate climates go—and wet. Most would agree winter is San Francisco’s low season. If arriving in December, January, or February, get ready for rain and fog. On a positive note, you’ll have museums and galleries to yourself.
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