Home > San Francisco Best Time to Visit
Updated: February 22, 2021
When is the best time to visit San Francisco?
The best time to visit San Francisco is May-June and September-October to avoid the peak tourist seasons as well as to enjoy cool weather with clear skies. Good deals can also be availed on travel and lodging during these months.
The best time to visit San Francisco are in the spring and fall months of May, June, September, and October, when the weather is generally clear and mild, and tourist season isn’t at its peak. Traveling to San Francisco in the winter guarantees chilly, damp weather, while summer trips in June, July, and August ensure higher rates and heavier crowds of tourists.
While summer is peak season for travel, in general it isn’t peak season for clear weather. Summer in San Francisco is notorious for its fog and this doesn’t make for great sightseeing or photographs.
San Francisco County’s coldest month is January when the average low temperature is 46.4°F. September is the warmest month, and the average day time temperature is 71°F. San Francisco can be chilly any time of year and it’s always wise to dress in layers.
- Best Time to Visit San Francisco for Sightseeing: The best time to enjoy pleasant walks around the city is during what’s referred to as “Indian summer,” generally just after Labor Day weekend through September, and often well into October. Typically in September, after a cool, foggy summer, the skies clear and the thermometer rises – locals head to the beach, while many tourists have gone home. As San Francisco weather is fairly mild year-round, winter is a good choice for sightseeing while avoiding crowds; if you don’t mind bundling up a bit, the weather shouldn’t get in the way of your plans. Summer, the height of tourist season, may actually be the worst time to visit San Francisco; tourists pack into the city, and often stand shivering in the unexpectedly cool weather, waiting in long lines.
- Best Time for Shopping: San Francisco is a shopper’s paradise year-round. There are no specific times to go for sales, but if you’re looking for unique vintage items or just a great bargain, consider heading to one of the city’s flea markets like the Treasure Island Flea or Alemany Flea. Arrive early in the morning as all of the best items will be quickly grabbed by store owners, collectors, and designers by 10am. If your goal is clothing, the day after Christmas is the best day of the year for great fashion buys, though you will have to wade through the hordes of other shoppers returning unwanted gifts. During other seasons, experts say Thursday evenings are the best day and time of the week for clothing buys as you’ll hit the early part of weekend sales, with good discounts and the best selection. Beyond sales and flea markets, Union Square is a pedestrian-friendly district of gorgeous historic architecture, top name-brand boutiques, and luxury department stores. Maiden Lane is the best high-end shopping district. It’s a pedestrian-only street from 11am – 6pm, with outdoor cafés and upscale retailers including Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Yves Saint Laurent.
- Best Time to Walk the Golden Gate Bridge: If you’d like to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, the best time to visit San Francisco is in September or October, after the fog dissipates and warmer temperatures arrive. If you go in the summer, it’s likely to be engulfed in fog in the morning hours, and while the air usually clears by early afternoon, be prepared for wind and cold. You can also rent bikes at a variety of locations and ride across the bridge.
- Best Time for Visiting Pier 39 & Fisherman’s Wharf: Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf are some of the city’s busiest and most popular sites. The area is filled with food stands, restaurants, shops and museums. The original Fisherman’s Wharf area is more authentic than Pier 39, which is really nothing more than an outdoor strip mall along the water. If you visit by car in the summer, parking can be such a nightmare that you may want to turn around. Your best bet, no matter what the time of year, is to go very early in the morning, or later in the evening. Highlights are seeing (and hearing) the sea lions, dining at the Franciscan Restaurant, eating clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, and visiting the Aquarium of the Bay.
- Best Time for Riding Cable Cars: Riding a cable car in San Francisco is the quintessential must-do experience. The Powell-Hyde cable car line has some of the best views in the city. You’ll want to make sure to ride down the north side of Russian Hill for truly spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz. The Powell-Hyde trolley is such a popular attraction, you can end up waiting over an hour for a ride, with lines sometimes stretching for two blocks or more. On weekends, and in the busy summer tourist season, it’s best to be at the cable car turnaround at Fisherman’s Wharf as early as possible or to plan a late evening ride. Another option is the California Street Car at Van Ness and California, which is never particularly crowded. If possible, avoid the summer months as the views are likely to be blocked by the ever-present fog; plan to visit sometime after Labor Day weekend and before about mid-November for the best weather and fewer crowds.
- Best Time to Visit Alcatraz: The best time to visit Alcatraz Island is during September and October, the warmest months of the year, after the majority of the fog has lifted and the main cell block won’t be as chilly. While January and February will be cooler and there’s a greater chance for rain, this can be a perfect time to go if you don’t want to battle crowds – the ferries have covered seating, so they won’t be canceled due to wet weather. The worst time to go is on a summer weekend, when the crowds are at their peak and fog frequently enshrouds the city, particularly during the morning hours. During summers and holidays, the ferries are often sold out. It’s best to pre-purchase your boat ticket as far in advance as possible.
San Francisco Travel Seasons
- High Season (mid-May through early September): The high season is generally summertime, June through Labor Day weekend. This is when you’ll find the biggest crowds, and with tourists filling the hotels, it’s also the time when accommodation rates peak, though it’s not generally the best period for good weather. Much of summer is marked by morning fog that brings a chill in the air, with days mostly overcast and cool, though the fog begins to dissipate in August or early September, bringing warmer weather that frequently sticks around through November.
- Shoulder Season (March through mid-May, mid-September through November): In the spring, the weather is generally mild with average high temperatures hovering around 17°C; hotel prices aren’t at their peak and the tourist rush has yet to hit. While not soaking up the sunshine on the beach, it’s a good time to explore the city’s sights. Early autumn may be the best time to be in San Francisco all year long, as the sun makes an appearance more often and it’s warmer now than it is in the summer. Plus, with kids back in school, the big crowds of tourists have mostly exited so hotel rates drop too.
- Low Season (December through February, except around the holidays): Winter is the least crowded time, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend as well as just before Christmas through New Year’s Day. While it can be chilly, especially when the wind hits, the temperature rarely dips below 6°C. Expect temperatures to range from around 10°C to 13°C, but between the fog and biting winds, it often feels colder. If you’re willing to bundle up and occasionally brave the rain, this is a time to usually strike the best deals of the year on accommodation.
San Francisco Weather by Month
San Francisco can be chilly any time of year, especially when it’s windy. A jacket is needed even in summer. It’s best to dress in layers and expect any type of weather no matter what time of year you visit.
- San Francisco Weather in January: January is one of the rainiest and coldest months of the year in San Francisco. While the cold is nothing compared to places like Chicago or New York City in the winter, you will need a warm jacket along with an umbrella; a scarf can make a big difference when it comes to warmth, especially on a windy day. An average of 119mm of rainfall occurs, which can be in the form of anything from light rain to heavy downpours. The city rarely sees snow, though occasionally a few snow flurries may drift through the air, with flakes melting before they hit the ground. Typically, temperatures hover around 10°C, increasing to 13°C on a nice afternoon, while overnight lows average around 7°C. Early in the month the days are fairly short, with sunrise just before 7:30am and sunset around 5pm, but by January’s end the sun will stick around until 5:30pm. (Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 119mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in February: February is still cool and wet, though the rain decreases somewhat to 97mm, while the average temperature rises a degree to 11°C, and on some days it will get as warm as 15°C. When the sun comes out, it may even feel a bit too warm if you’re bundled up, so plan to dress in layers with clothing that’s easily removable so that you can take it off or put it on easily when necessary. In the evening, a warm jacket is a must if you plan to do much walking outside as temperatures can get as chilly as they did last month, dipping down to 7°C. (Average Max Temperature: 11°C. Average Precipitation: 97mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in March: March brings gradually warmer days, with the average high notably increasing to 16°C, and precipitation lessens too, with 79mm of rain coming down over just 10 days this month. When rain does fall, it’s usually light to moderate rather than heavy downpours. The days are getting longer, and in part thanks to Daylight Savings Time, by March 31 the sun won’t go down until about 7:30pm. If you plan to be here during the first half of the month, there’s a greater chance for rain, so you might want to have an umbrella handy just in case. As you would for February, plan to dress in layers to be prepared for fluctuating temperatures. Keep in mind that the weather can change in an instant, even from one part of the city to another. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 79mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in April: The rainy winter season has come to an end, with just 38mm of rainfall on average over six days in April. You’ll see the sun more often, and longer this month too, with roughly 10 hours of sunshine a day and sunset holding off until 8pm by April 30. You won’t need a heavy coat or shorts, as it’s unlikely to be very cold or very hot, but temperatures can fluctuate all the way from 10°C to as warm as 17°C, though it isn’t unheard of for the mercury to rise as high as 23°C occasionally. Keep an eye on the forecast, and remember that different areas of the city can vary quite a bit, with light rain and 16°C temperatures in Golden Gate Park to sunny skies and 19°C in the Mission District, for example. In general, the west side of the city near the ocean will be cooler than the east, which sits along the bay. Again, it’s all about layers when it comes to packing; a light, wind-resistant jacket, a couple of sweaters along with short-sleeved shirts for warm days is your best bet. Don’t waste the room in your suitcase by bringing an umbrella, as you’re unlikely to need it. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 38mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in May: May is almost a carbon copy of April, though there is even less chance for rain with just 18mm coming down on average over four days. Some years May can be on the cool side, with winds coming off the bay making it feel even colder, so you’ll appreciate having a fleece jacket, or something comparable to keep you warm, although some years bring lots of sunny days and temperatures in the mid-20s. The odds of being able to comfortably wear shorts are quite slim, but you will want to toss both long- and short-sleeved shirts into your suitcase, and bring a pair of sunglasses too, as you’re likely to see the sun on some days during your trip. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 18mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in June: While the average temperature in June creeps up 2 degrees to 19°C, it’s unlikely to feel anything like summer as most people know it, though rain is practically non-existent this month, with just 3mm over two days. Fog is a common occurrence in the summer, and it can get pretty chilly when it rolls in. Now is a great time to have a fleece-lined nylon shell windbreaker with you as wind is common at many of the popular tourist sites like the Golden Gate Bridge and any spot near the water. If you plan to explore inland areas outside of San Francisco, such as Napa Valley you’re likely to experience more summer-like temperatures that can be as warm as 28°C. June brings the longest days of the year, with sunset at around 8:30pm throughout the month. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 3mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in July: Like June, although you’re now in the middle of the summer, expect to experience cool, damp weather during the majority of your trip unless you plan to spend time further inland, where the climate warms significantly. In fact, it’s not unusual for it to be 19°C in San Francisco and well into the 30s or even low 40s in the Central Valley, including places like Tracy, Modesto and Stockton just a little over an hour’s drive east. While July brings virtually no rain, the fog is a common occurrence now, and the average temperature is just 19°C, with lows dipping down to around 22°C, though occasionally it can get as warm as 22°C. Once again, layering is best, though you’ll probably need your sweatshirts and jeans the most. (Average Max Temperature: 22°C. Average Precipitation: 0mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in August: August starts out very similar to July. Most mornings the city will be blanketed in fog, with the sun making its presence by early afternoon, and it will still feel cool with average temperatures of around 19°C, occasionally rising as high as 22°C. As the month progresses, San Francisco begins to warm up, experience more summer-like weather. Evenings will be cool, with overnight lows at 14°C, so don’t forget to throw a few sweatshirts into your luggage, as well as long-sleeved shirts and pants. During the day, there may be times that you can get away with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and you’re more likely to need sunglasses now too. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 0mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in September: As summer comes to an end in much of the world, here in September, it’s only just getting underway. This is arguably the best time to be in San Francisco, with the thick crowds of tourists thinning as kids go back to school, and the fog lifting, giving way to warmer days are pleasant enough for enjoying the beach. Sea temperatures hover around 15°C, which is the warmest they’ll get here all year, so you may see some locals taking a dip, but it’s still rather chilly for most. There is only a slight amount of precipitation on average this month, with 8mm falling over two days, and when it arrives it’s usually in the form of drizzle and is unlikely to interfere with outdoor activities. Pack as you would for August, and leave the bathing suit at home unless you’re a hardy soul or will have access to a heated pool. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 8mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in October: While the average high temperature officially dips a bit in October to 20°C, this month can be the warmest of the year, with temperatures in the mid to upper-20s not unheard of. It’s often characterized by dry, sunny days, and odds are, you’ll experience a fair amount of sunshine, though the days gradually get shorter as the month progresses, with sunset at about 7pm on the 1st, and just after 6pm by October’s end. There is a slightly greater chance for rain, with precipitation increasing to 25mm over 4 days, though most of it arrives later in the month and it’s unlikely to cause an interruption in your plans for exploring the city. Once again, think layers. (Average Max Temperature: 20°C. Average Precipitation: 25mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in November: November ushers in a return of the rainy season, with at least some precipitation more likely this month as 64mm comes down over eight days on average. The rain is likely to be light or moderate, but it may become heavy at times, so it is a good idea to bring an umbrella along with you now. Appropriate attire most often will be some type of fleece jacket and long pants. While it’s not unbearably cold by any means, the average high temperature this month noticeably drops three degrees to 17°C, and it can get as chilly as 10°C at night. With clocks changing backward an hour due to Daylight Savings Time in early November, you’ll want to plan your outdoor activities accordingly as sunset is around 5pm throughout much of the month. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 64mm.)
- San Francisco Weather in December: In December, the rainy season is well underway, with precipitation nearly doubling over last month to 112mm over 10 days, though rainfall can vary from year to year depending on El Nino, which brings warmer wetter conditions, or potentially less rain and cooler temperatures. The average temperature this month hovers in the 13°C to 15°C degree range, so you will need a warm jacket along with that umbrella; gloves and a scarf are helpful too, particularly when chilly winds hit. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average precipitation: 21mm.)
San Francisco Events and Festivals
San Francisco in January
- New Year’s Day – January 1st is a national holiday, but in San Francisco, just about everything, particularly places that cater to visitors like restaurants and shops, will be open; government services like the post office, and banks will be closed. Public transit runs on a Sunday/holiday schedule. A number of eateries offer New Year’s Day brunch, and you can visit the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park for free.
- FOG Design+Art – This event held annually over 4 days in mid-January is a platform for contemporary design and art displayed through a wide variety of forms and dimensions held at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade Celebration – Held annually on the third Monday in January, this celebration honors the late civil rights leader with a festival, march and parade around Yerba Buena Gardens. The 1.5-mile journey crosses the Lefty O’Doul Bridge and stops at Willie Mays Plaza at AT&T Park to commemorate the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, a symbol of violence and victory in the civil rights movement. On arriving at Yerba Buena Gardens an interfaith commemoration commemorates Dr. King.
- Anniversary of the Sea Lions Arrival – The sea lions that lounge on the docks at Pier 39, have been one of the city’s most popular attractions for years. This event held over several days in mid-January, commemorates the time they arrived in droves, just after the Loma Prieta earthquake hit the city in October of 1989. Discovering the protected environment and plentiful supply of herring, they decided to stick around and make K-Dock their new home. Visitors can take part in Sea Lion Encounter Walking Tours, enjoy special discounts, refreshments, and more.
- San Francisco Noir City Film Festival – Held at the Castro Theatre over 10 days in late January and early February, this festival dedicated to noir philosophy, style, and attitude in films, art, music, and books, is the largest of its kind in the US and includes special guests as well as very rare films.
- Bay Area Brew Festival – Held on a Saturday in late January at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion, the Bay Area Brew Festival showcases 80 breweries and over 200 hundred beers, food trucks, DJs, corn hole, and much more. Admission includes unlimited beer samplings, with VIP attendees getting an extra hour of admission and some specialty beers poured during the first hour.
- Uncorked Wine Festival – Held in late January, this 1-day event at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture offers the chance to sample up to 200 wines and champagnes, a live DJ, gourmet food trucks, photo wall, and more. This event is 21 and over only.
San Francisco in February
- Chinese New Year – The Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco is one of the largest in the world. Named one of the Top 10 parades in the world, it was started in the 1860s by the Chinese in San Francisco, and today more than 100 floats participate, the largest and most popular of which is the 28-foot-long Golden Dragon. It takes a team of more than 100 people to operate and move it through the streets of San Francisco. Other festivities to celebrate include the Chinese New Year Flower Fair, the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and the Chinatown Community Fair, which all take place between late January and mid-February in San Francisco’s Chinatown District, the first, and one of the largest, most prominent, and highly visited Chinatowns in the Americas.
- Union Street Valentine Wine Walk – Union Street hosts a fun Valentine Wine Walk, in the days leading up to the romantic holiday. The annual tasting event includes merchants and restaurants that offer wine samples, finger foods, and special treats.
- San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SF IndieFest) – This event held over 2 weeks starting in late January and concluding in mid-February celebrates maverick filmmakers by screening films made by independent producers at various theater venues in the Mission District.
- Tulipmania Festival – Held for a little over a week in mid-February, Tulipmania brings more than 39,000 colorful tulips and seasonal garden favorites to Pier 39. Visitors can enjoy free guided and self-guided tours as well as learn helpful gardening tips.
- San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – The largest competition of American wines in the world, over 5,000 wine enthusiasts gather to enjoy a day on the bay in mid-February, with breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge views as well as samples from more than 800 wineries and a variety of fine food.
San Francisco in March
- San Francisco International Chocolate Salon – Held annually in early March, chocolate lovers can enjoy indulging in premium, gourmet, and artisan chocolates from over 50 confectioners and chocolatiers during this event at the San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park.
- CAAMFest – Formerly known as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, this festival held for 10 days in mid-March, is an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers and screens 130 films in San Francisco as well as Oakland and Berkeley.
- Bay Area Brew Festival – This newer festival, held on a Saturday in mid-March at Pier 35, features dozens of international and domestic beers along with San Francisco’s best food trucks.
- St. Patrick’s Day – As the home of many Irish immigrants, San Francisco celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in a big way. The highlight is the parade, one of the longest-running in the US, dating back to 1852, generally held on the Saturday before or on March 17. Thousands participate to honor Irish culture with over 100 colorful floats, Irish dance troupes and marching bands. After the parade, the day is celebrated with live music and dance as well as traditional Irish cuisine and Guinness.
San Francisco in April
- Cherry Blossom Festival – This annual 2-weekend-long celebration in April takes place in the Japantown neighborhood of San Francisco and offers the chance to sample gourmet treats, listen to traditional Japanese music, and buy or browse dozens of other vendor stalls featuring arts, crafts, and other items. Visitors can also watch origami making and flower arranging demonstrations, along with a parade that celebrates cherry blossoms and Japanese culture.
- Green Film Festival – This week-long festival in mid-April showcases more than 60 films from over 20 countries around the world, including the US, Canada, Sweden, Korea, and Japan, focused on our impact on the earth and the ways we’re trying to save it.
- Cesar Chavez Holiday Parade and Festival – Celebrating the life and work of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez around the anniversary of his death on April 23, this festival in the Mission District includes a parade that starts at Dolores Park as well as entertainment, music, and arts and crafts booths along 24th Street between Treat and Bryant.
- San Francisco International Film Festival – Held over 2 weeks in mid-April and into early May at Sundance Cinemas Kabuki Theatres and Castro Theatre, this festival is a spectacular showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation featuring over 150 films from more than 50 countries, including live action, animated shorts, television and theatrical dramas, and feature films.
- Union Street Easter Parade – Known to be wonderfully wacky and elegantly fabulous, the Union Street Easter Parade offers children’s activities including photos with the Easter Bunny, pony rides, a petting zoo, Mrs. Rabbit’s Fantasy Hat Garden, and a Faerie Garden. The event is famous for it’s Easter Bonnet Decorating Contest. The Easter Parade takes place at 2pm and is free for all to participate.
- San Francisco Salsa Festival – A weekend of world-class performances, dancing, competition, and workshops with top salsa instructors taking place at the Park Central Hotel.
- Hunky Jesus Contest – Every Easter Sunday in the Mission’s Delores Park, a gay charity group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence holds a contest for the hunkiest Jesus lookalike among a group of scantily-clad hopefuls. Contestants, clothed in barely-there togas and accessorized with crowns of thorns and crucifixes, strut their stuff on a temporary stage in the park, after which a vote is cast and a new reigning Hunky Jesus is crowned.
San Francisco in May
- Cinco de Mayo Festival – May 5, Cinco de Mayo, is observed in a bigger way here than it is in Mexico. This is a time when the Latino community celebrates the victory of the Mexicans over the French in 1862, with dancers, mariachi bands, kids’ activities, arts and crafts, food and more, usually in the Mission District’s Dolores Park.
- Uncorked Wine Festival – Held in early May, this 1-day event at Ghirardelli Square in Fisherman’s Wharf offers the chance to sample up to 50 wines from local wineries as well as enjoy music, food, and wine tasting seminars.
- Oysterfest – Also held annually in early May, Oysterfest is all about oysters. Taking place in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadows, visitors can enjoy oysters and other outstanding cuisine as well as local beers, wine, and premium spirits, along with live music.
- Bay to Breakers – The world’s largest footrace takes place on a Sunday in mid-May. This 12k race, continuously run for over a century, now brings together over 2 million costume-wearing runners, walkers, and centipedes that make their way from the bay near the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach along the Pacific Coast.
- San Francisco International Arts Festival – This 3-week long festival kicks off during the second half of May and features performances by over 40 artists and ensembles from the Bay Area and approximately 10 other countries performing in multiple venues at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.
- CAAMFest – Formerly known as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, this festival, held for 10 days in mid-May, is an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers and screens 130 films in San Francisco as well as Oakland and Berkeley.
San Francisco in June
- Union Street Art Festival – This two-day outdoor event is one of the largest outdoor San Francisco neighborhood fairs every summer. Held along Union Street in the Marina District, it features gourmet food booths, music, entertainment and an art show with works by more than 250 artists during the first weekend in June. one of the largest outdoor San Francisco neighborhood fairs every summer.
- Haight-Ashbury Street Fair – Held on the second Sunday of June every year along Haight Street, this eclectic and somewhat gritty fair attracts a significant number of hippies and street kids with its ethnic foods, rock bands, and alternative crafts.
- Ethnic Dance Festival – Taking place over 3 weekends in June at the new Presidio Theatre. The event features dance and music performances from more than 20 cultures around the world.
- San Francisco Jazz Festival – This long-running festival held for nearly 2 weeks in June in various venues throughout the Bay Area, with most concentrated in San Francisco’s center, offers more than 30 jazz shows.
- San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade & Celebration – This event, usually held during the third or last weekend of June, draws as many as one million participants to its parade which proceeds west on Market Street, culminating at the Civic Center where there are hundreds of food, art, and information booths. There is live music and dancing in the streets all day long.
San Francisco in July
- Fillmore Jazz Festival – Held in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, the upscale portion of Fillmore is closed to traffic for the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast, drawing over 100,000 visitors over the Independence Day weekend on Fillmore Street in San Francisco between Jackson and Eddy streets. Instead of cars, the streets are filled with live jazz, unique arts and crafts, and gourmet food.
- Fourth of July Waterfront Festival – While this event can often be a disappointment due to the fog that rolls in the city, making it nearly impossible to enjoy the million-dollar fireworks show, if it’s clear, a spectacular display from the waterfront at Pier 39 is guaranteed. And, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, those who attend can enjoy some great local bands, food, and arts and crafts.
- Salsa Festival on the Fillmore – Three city blocks are closed off for this fun event that features free concerts, salsa lessons, and outdoor dancing at the Fillmore Center Plaza over a Friday and Saturday in mid-July each year.
- The Renegade Craft Fair – Over a weekend in mid-July, this fair held at Fort Mason Center brings some of the best makers of handmade goods from throughout the S.F. Bay Area and beyond. Attendees can purchase items and enjoy interactive workshops focused on indie-craft culture.
- J-Pop Summit Festival – This one-of-a-kind summer festival celebrates Japanese pop culture and Japantown over 3 days around the third weekend in July at various venues, including Fort Mason Center, Union Square, New People Cinema, and Castro Theatre. Enjoy new films, special guest appearances, live music, fashion, entertainment, and food.
- AIDS Walk San Francisco – Since 1987, AIDS Walk San Francisco has raised more than $90 million for HIV programs and services in the Bay Area and has grown into the largest and most visible AIDS Fundraising event in Northern California. The event takes place in mid-July and begins and ends in Golden Gate Park.
- San Francisco Shakespeare Festival – The outdoor festival takes place in San Francisco, as well as Pleasanton, Cupertino, and Redwood City. The free Shakespeare in the Park productions begin in June and the San Francisco production tends to take place in July.
San Francisco in August
- Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival – Held at Golden Gate Park, this massive 3-day event in early August is one of the largest outdoor live music festivals in the city. In addition to an incredible line-up of bands, including artists like Elton John and Mumford & Sons, who have performed in the past, it features gourmet food, internationally recognized wines, and hundreds of works of art on display.
- Nihonmachi Street Fair – This Asian-Pacific American festival held in Japantown during the first weekend of August, features live musical and cultural performances, delicious foods from Asian-Pacific countries and San Francisco delights, Asian artisans, music, a variety of exhibits and more.
- Jerry Day – Honoring the late Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia on a Sunday in mid-August at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, this event features an outdoor concert and fun family-oriented activities.
San Francisco in September
- Sausalito Art Festival – Just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, and easily accessible by ferry from Pier 41, this annual 3-day art festival takes places around the first weekend in September. It’s held along the shores of the bay and showcases more than 20,000 original works of art as well as jazz, rock, and blues performers from around the SF Bay Area and beyond.
- San Francisco Fringe Festival – Over 2 weeks in mid-September, this festival held at a number of different venues in downtown San Francisco, is a marathon of more than 40 shows, including a wide range of classical, alternative, comedy, and cabaret.
- Autumn Moon Festival – This 2-day festival held in mid-September in Chinatown, features live multicultural entertainment, traditional lion and dragon dances, moon cakes and other traditional Chinese cuisine, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and a lantern village.
- Oktoberfest By The Bay – Held at Pier 48 near AT&T Park for 3 days around the third weekend in September, Oktoberfest features non-stop music, including a world renowned, 21-piece Chico Bavarian Band, singing, dancing, and German fare and beverages.
- Folsom Street Fair – This unique street fair, typically held on the last Sunday of September, is the world’s biggest leather, alternative, and fetish event in the world, attracting around 250,000 visitors every year – most of whom are dressed in leather, rubber, a variety of uniforms, drag, or practically nothing at all. As this gay-centric extravaganza is rather hard-core, it’s generally only for the very adventurous and open-minded. The event is spread out over 13 city blocks.
San Francisco in October
- Artspan – Kicking off on October 1 and running into early November, this event includes some of the city’s most exciting artists who open up their doors to the public, revealing their latest projects, how they work, and pieces that are available for sale.
- Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – A free gathering in Golden Gate Park featuring over 100 musical artists on 7 stages taking place in Hellman Hollow, Marx, and Lindley meadows. The event attracts thousands who come to enjoy 3 days of music, beer, and marijuana over the first weekend in October.
- Castro Street Fair – This gay-friendly fair held on the first Sunday in October features arts and crafts booths, live entertainment, music, and dancing around the intersection of Castro and Market Streets.
- Fleet Week San Francisco – Fleet week takes place over a 2-week period beginning in early October along the waterfront at Aquatic Park and Pier 39, the highlights of this event are the navy ship tours and the spectacular Blue Angels air show. The air shows take place between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
- Halloween – San Francisco doesn’t take Halloween lightly. On October 31st, there will be parties and costume contests hosted throughout the city. Castro Street is famous for its massive Halloween Street party, but it isn’t as wild as it used to be, though you will still see some residents in drag enjoying music and costume contests.
San Francisco in November
- Hip Hop Festival – For 1 weekend in mid or late-November, this festival offers the chance to see award-winning hip hop artists from around the world at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. This is the first festival of its kind that honors the artistry of hip hop dance in a theater setting.
- Tree Lighting Ceremonies – Starting in late November, usually around Thanksgiving, tree lighting ceremonies are held throughout the city, including Union Square, Pier 39, Presidio, and Ghirardelli Square.
- The Great Dickens Christmas Fair – Running for 5 weekends starting just before Thanksgiving, this fair has an old English Victorian Christmas theme complete with a music hall, dance parties, theaters, shops, stalls, taverns, food, street vendors and period costumes. The fair takes place in the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls.
- Another Hole in the Head Genre Film Festival – This film festival that begins in late October or early November and runs for about 2 weeks screens sci-fi, horror, dark fantasy, and exploitation films from filmmakers from the San Francisco Bay Area and around the globe!at the New People Cinema in Japantown.
San Francisco in December
- Noe Valley Holiday Wine Walk – This December 1st wine walk is held along 24th Street from Diamond to Chattanooga and Castro Street and features finger foods, wine samples and special treats.
- Parol Lantern Festival & Parade – Hosted by the Filipino-American Development Foundation on the second Saturday of December, this festival has become a must-see event during the holidays featuring a night filled with sparkling lights, music, games, and prizes as well as a parade that starts in Yerba Buena Gardens and proceeds to St. Patrick’s Church. Special Pilipino sweets and delicacies are a highlight of this special event.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – On Christmas Eve, many restaurants offer special holiday dinners, and the internationally renowned San Francisco Ballet performs two Nutcracker shows at the War Memorial Opera House – book early as they sell out quickly. On Christmas Day, many attractions will be closed, but multiple restaurants remain open, often with menus geared for the holiday. There are also a number of dinner cruises on the bay.
- New Year’s Eve – Parties will be held to ring in the New Year throughout the city, but the highlight is the impressive fireworks show over the bay that begins at 11:59pm on December 31st. It can be viewed anywhere along the eastern side of the city near the waterfront as well as Treasure Island, or by embarking on a New Year’s Eve cruise, which offers the very best views, often with dinner and live entertainment.
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