Some spots just aren’t as appealing to visit during the harsh winter months. The good news? San Francisco is not one of them!
In fact, San Francisco takes a flip-flop approach to seasons. Summer is known to be foggy and chilly (cue Mark Twain’s famous quote: “The coldest winter I’ve ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”).
Winter, on the other hand, is entirely underrated. San Francisco is known to have lovely mild winters that allow you to wear your favorite sweaters and coats without chilling you to your core. Enjoy tons of outdoor San Francisco winter activities, city skyline views and creative establishments year-round!
The adventure continues even once winter settles in – here is everything you need to know about visiting San Francisco in the winter!
Explore the City with Fewer Crowds
Spring and Fall are widely known to be the “best” times to visit the city, thanks to the clear, warm weather. But with that warm weather comes the price of longer lines, more competitive tour reservations and more heads blocking your views. So if you want to explore the city with minimal crowds vying for the same San Francisco activities as you, winter is a great time to visit.
Thanks to flex pricing, visiting San Francisco during off-season times can get you better hotels, tours and transportation deals. So if you’re looking for a cheaper trip to a city known for its steep price tag, winter is a great time to plan your trip to San Francisco.
Easier to Make Reservations and Bookings
There’s nothing more frustrating than being excited about an experience only to realize it’s booked out for your entire trip. Alcatraz is a classic example of a San Francisco activity that is hard to book – but much easier in the winter than in the summer. That also goes for San Francisco’s most popular restaurants and hotels! You should always book well in advance, but visiting San Francisco in winter can give you a unique edge.
Great Crisp and Mild Weather (but expect quick weather changes)
Winter in San Francisco doesn’t have that biting cold of the midwest, heavy snows of the northeast or near-constant rain of the pacific northwest. So while you can expect to experience some rainy, chilly and cloudy days, it is definitely one of the more mild winters you can find around the country!
If you haven’t met Karl the Fog, you will eventually! But if you visit San Francisco during the winter, you may see a bit less than if you spend time in the area during the summer. Playfully deemed “June Gloom” and “Fogust,” the summer months are more prone to having giant walls of fog covering all the city and coastal views. Winter may be more cloudy and chilly, but you can take in the sights a bit easier.
STAY IN THE KNOW
With San Francisco’s winter weather, mixing outdoor and indoor activities throughout the day is the secret recipe to a perfect trip. Here are some of our favorite things to do in San Francisco during the winter!
Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tour
You can’t visit San Francisco without experiencing the views from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, you can drive, bus or walk across – but the best way to take in the stunning scenery of the bridge is by bike.
Biking the Golden Gate Bridge has the best of all worlds – It’s easier and quicker than walking, you get more views than you could get from a bus, and you don’t need to deal with the traffic that comes with driving. And once you cross this 1.7-mile bridge, you’ll land in the charming coastal town of Sausalito for some strolling, sightseeing or a lovely lunch.
If you go during the warmest part of the day and wear layers, you can take a Golden Gate bike trip during the winter! We just recommend you wear gloves to keep your hands toasty as you cycle across the most famous bridge on the West Coast.
Visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Art lovers, unite! The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will guide you through a wide range of artists that are known for contemporary and modern art. You can walk through more than 33,000 works by world-renowned artists such as Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol, as well as new and innovative exhibitions that are regularly updated. Enjoy unparalleled displays of architecture, installations and events as the perfect indoor activity during particularly chilly or rainy winter days.
Find some theater (past the big ticket shows)
You can see broadway and off-broadway shows in any major city in the world – so find some performances that are uniquely San Francisco! Some truly memorable shows you can’t find anywhere else are perfect for adding intrigue to a brisk San Francisco winter evening.
Audium is a one-of-a-kind sound bath experience that uses spatial sound art to create a deeply immersive experience. The Speakeasy is an immersive theater experience where you can interact with flappers, gangsters, and bootleggers while you enjoy a night of 1920s fun!
E-bike tour around the city
If you’re visiting for the first time, navigating the city can feel overwhelming. Having a helpful (and fun) overview of hotspots around the city by bike is the perfect way to help you find the nooks and crannies of the city you want to explore more!
San Francisco is a foodie city – so dive into the cooking world and learn some local cooking secrets!
18 Reasons is a nonprofit cooking school that focuses on creating community around food and offers hands-on classes that cover a wide range of food. The Cooking School at Cavallo Point is a great romantic date night activity that provides a nice balance of luxury and fun. A stunning kitchen and a focus on local food make for a beautiful cooking experience.
Catch a stunning sunset
With the city skyline, coastal views or even mountain scenery, there are endless spots to watch a sunset (if you’re lucky enough to avoid fog).
One of our favorite ways to ensure catching a gorgeous sunset is our Sunset e-bike tour. This comprehensive day tour includes an afternoon ride that will crescendo at a lovely spot to watch the sun go down with golden cotton candy skies to follow.
If you’re in the city, you can’t pass up an opportunity to get on Alcatraz Island. This prison was once impossible to escape, but nowadays, it’s increasingly hard to get into! So get your tickets as early as possible to ensure your spot on the ferry.
Known for its history as a former federal prison, you’ll learn about the prison’s most famous inmates, like Al Capone and The Birdman, as you tour the prison facilities. The chilling stories you’ll learn are softened by the stunning San Francisco coastal views you can see from the island.
Check your calendars – are you visiting San Francisco during one of these popular annual events? If so, add them to your trip itinerary to make some unique memories of the city with locals and visitors alike!
- San Francisco International Auto Show is like Disneyland for car lovers. Check out row after row of stunning makes and models.
- Chinese New Year Parade and Festival is the biggest parade celebrating the Lunar New Year outside Asia.
- Bay Area Brew Fest features award-winning brews from over 50 local craft breweries.
- San Francisco Wine Festival is the place to be for sommelier wannabes. Returning in 2024, this famous event will attract wine lovers from all over the globe to taste some impressive reds, whites, and blends.
- San Francisco International Film Festival is one of the longest-running film festivals in the United States. It showcases feature films, documentaries, and shorts from around the world to promote independent and international cinema.
Bring Your Layers
San Francisco weather can be fickle, so layers are your best friend! Be prepared for the cooler weather and bring layers, as it can be warm during the day and chilly at night.
Be Smart About Transportation
San Francisco is a big city, so you’ll need to account for transportation. Walking everywhere will deplete energy and time, while renting a car or Ubering will drain your budget. One smart form of transportation is e-bike rentals! An e-bike is a fun, energy-conserving way to get around the city.
Include Indoor Activities
Don’t be afraid of outdoor activities in San Francisco during winter! Most winter days are warm enough to spend extended time outside without catching a chill. But for the best experience, work in some cozy restaurants, fascinating museums or unique indoor performances to give yourself a break from the brisk weather.
All in all, we firmly believe that winter is a great time to visit the city! So, if you need help planning your winter San Francisco itinerary, reach out to our team! We are happy to show you the best of the city from the seat of a bike.