Make planning your trip just as easy with these helpful tips that outline when to go, what to do and what makes this city so unique.
About the City
What is it about San Francisco that makes it so appealing? With its rich culture and seaside location, it charms people the world over. (It certainly captured my heart upon the first visit.) Historically, the city has served as a Spanish mission, Gold Rush hotspot, and the place to be to celebrate the hippie movement of the 1960s. Today, it is a technology hub as well as a center of innovative thinking. It’s also very cosmopolitan yet somehow laid back. Perhaps that mix is why San Francisco is always a good idea.
No matter where you go, Mother Nature seems to play a role in your travel plans. That certainly is the case in San Francisco. Temperatures seldom rise above 70 degrees (its oceanfront location has something to do with that). However, San Francisco is notorious for having micro-climates, meaning that the weather can change in the distance of a block or two. Another weather element San Francisco is famous for is its fog, although typically it doesn’t linger for long, leaving plenty of room for sunshine.
As far as when to visit, San Francisco is a little quirky. In fact, there’s a reason why Mark Twain once said: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Summer months like June and July can actually be chilly, around 55°-60°, thanks to the fog that sets in. Then, August through October the temperatures climb to 65°-70°, making it the perfect time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities.
Did you know San Francisco and Walt Disney World cover roughly the same number of square miles? Hard to believe, right? It’s true! At 47 square miles, San Francisco is one of the nation’s most densely populated cities. It also packs a lot into those miles, like distinct neighborhoods, and more than 200 beaches and parks. And that’s just the beginning!
Thanks to its size, it is relatively easy to get around. Walking is a preferred method of transportation, even with those trying hills. Within a few minutes, you can transport from Chinatown to Union Square and onwards to the Financial District.
In addition, San Francisco’s classic cable cars are a reliable way to get around town. In fact, riding one is an absolute must for any first-time visitor. There are three cable car lines: the Powell-Hyde Line, the Powell-Mason Line, and the California Line. Keep in mind, the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason Lines are the best routes to take for tourists.
You can also go the traditional route of taking taxi cabs. Fares average around $10 (like I said, the city is small) but hailing one down on the street is easier than it sounds. It’s best to call for one in advance. Newer rides services like Uber are available in San Francisco, and more and more people use this handy app to hop around town.
San Francisco is a haven for foodies! There are more restaurants here per capita than any other major U.S. city, and the cuisine runs the gamut from gourmet to food trucks. Local chefs have the luxury of having year-round seasonal produce and seafood available. As a result, they’re able to create menus that are renowned the world over.
As with any vacation, the cost to visit San Francisco can range greatly. Keep these price points in mind for your trip planning:
Budget: $150 a day
Midrange: $150-$350 a day
Top End: $350+ a day
These costs include hotel stays, food, activities, and transportation.
What to Pack
Along with your sense of adventure, it’s always wise to pack a good pair of walking shoes when visiting San Francisco. As stated above, exploring this city by foot is a preferred way to get around. It’s also a good idea to wear layers here, so you can easily accommodate the changing weather patterns. Items like windbreakers, light jackets and sweaters should be in your suitcase no matter what time of year you visit.
This quick visitor’s guide will give you a head start on all your trip planning. Visiting should be easy, as should your time in the city. As a whole, Rudyard Kipling put it best: "San Francisco has only one drawback: 'tis hard to leave."