What is the best time to visit San Francisco?

You may be thinking that since San Francisco is in California, any time of year is a great time to visit — not so in this bayside city. Although San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, the weather does vary seasonally. Winters are cool and rainy, but low temperatures rarely dip below the mid-40s. Summer in this city is a relative term; it’s not unusual to see people wearing knit hats to ward off the chill in overcast June and July. Time your visit between September and November, and you’ll be rewarded with glorious sunny days more typical of the Californian ideal. Bottom line is: No matter what time of year you are visiting, your suitcase better have a couple of sweaters in it.

  • On June 18, 2013
    Katie Sweeney answered the question: Katie Sweeney

    What are the best art galleries in San Francisco?

    Walk around the streets near downtown San Francisco's Union Square and you'll stumble upon a wonderful collection of art galleries. If it happens to be the first Thursday of the month, you're in luck. That's when all of the galleries open their doors and invite the public in for a free evening of art, nibbles, and wine.

    The first stop on your gallery crawl should be at Caldwell Snyder on Sutter Street. The 30 year old gallery features new exhibits monthly and specializes in a variety of 21st century paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints. The curators at Caldwell Snyder are known for bringing in big name Latin American and European artists who wouldn't otherwise be found in the United States.

    Walk down the street and around the block to Post and you'll come to The Dolby Chadwick, another superb gallery worth visiting. Founded by Lisa Dolby Chadwick in 1997, the gallery represents emerging and early career artists from all over the world. Exhibits include drawing, photography, print making, sculpture, and oil painting.

    The last gallery that's not to be missed is the Fraenkel Gallery on Geary Street. Established in 1979, the Fraenkel focuses on photography and everything it encompasses from how the medium has evolved over time to its relation to other arts.
  • On June 15, 2013
    Kimberley Lovato answered the question: Kimberley Lovato

    What are the best places for brunch in San Francisco?

    San Francisco is a city that loves its food, but especially its laid-back weekend brunch, and you can barely throw an English muffin without finding a small cafe that's jammed with diners.  

    Ella's on Presidio Ave and Sacramento Street has been a longtime go-to brunch, with plenty of egg options on the menu and pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup. Mmmm.

    Nopa is popular dinner outing, but don't skip Brunch at this perennially popular hotspot on Divisadero Street.  Locally sourced ingredients create dishes like custard french toast with blueberry compoted, housemade bagels and granola, and oven-baked farm eggs.

    A local favorite in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is Kate's Kitchen.  Serioulsy good, home cooking at affordable (relative to the rest of SF) prices.  Eggs,  corn beef hash, French Toast---all the good stuff is represented, but I can't get enough of the cheese and green onion biscuits.   CASH ONLY.

    For the ultimate laid back vibe that doesn't skimp on quality food, you must head to Outerlands, near Ocean Beach. It's good for any meal, the line up outside will tell you that, but brunch here is exceptional, especially the Dutch pancake baked in a cast iron skillet.  Order it sweet, with fresh strawberries, or savory, with bacon and syrup. Heaven!
  • On June 15, 2013
    Kimberley Lovato answered the question: Kimberley Lovato

    What are the best holiday events in San Francisco?

    Holidays are magical in San Francisco and there's nothing that ignites the Christmas spirit like a tree lighting. San Francisco has a few too.  Pier 39 and Santa always draw a crowd, and the Union Square tree lighitng is a popular San Francisco outing, and ice skating in the square lasts until January. The Ghiradelli Square tree lighting is usually accompanied by music and other holiday cheer, and the hot chocolate is amazing! 

    On Christmas Eve, 1944, the audience at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House experienced the American premiere of Nutcracker ballet, and it has been a San Francisco holiday institution ever since.

    Many of the large hotels like The Palace Hotel and The Fairmont,  deck the halls and their gorgeous lobbies with holiday cheer and are fun places to celebrate the season.

    And Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill impresses any time of year, but most especially during Christmas with several events and concerts.
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  • On June 15, 2013
    Kimberley Lovato answered the question: Kimberley Lovato

    What are the best holiday events in San Francisco?

    Holidays are magical in San Francisco and there's nothing that ignites the Christmas spirit like a tree lighting. San Francisco has a few too.  Pier 39 and Santa always draw a crowd, and the Union Square tree lighitng in front of Macy's decorated windows is spetacular. The Ghiradelli Square tree lighting is usually accompanied by music and other holiday cheer, and the hot chocolate is amazing! 

    On Christmas Eve, 1944, the audience at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House experienced the American premiere of Nutcracker ballet, and it has been a San Francisco holiday institution ever since.

    Many of the large hotels like The Palace Hotel and The Fairmont,  deck the halls and their gorgeous lobbies with holiday cheer and are fun places to celebrate the season.

    And Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill impresses any time of year, but most especially during Christmas with several events and concerts.
  • On June 15, 2013
    Kimberley Lovato answered the question: Kimberley Lovato

    What are the best Fisherman’s Wharf attractions in San Francisco?

    Fisherman's Wharf tops the list of most tourists "must see" list when visiting San Francisco. There are a slew of restaurants and fish stands serving San Francisco's famous Dungeness Crab, Shrimp Coctail, and Clam Chowder---best served thick and hearty in a sourdough bowl.  

    Behind Fisherman's Wharf, on the waterside at Pier 45, is the Musée Mechanique. A museum kids will actually love,  this is really an arcade filled wtih over 200 ancient and modern coin operated arcade games, many  of which used to be and San Francisco's former Ocean Beach amusement park  Playland (Closed in 1972).  

    A short walk north is Hyde Street Pier, which is oft overlooked but fun for all ages.  Here San Francisco's rich maritime history comes alive and there are several large historic ships to climb aboard including the impressive Balclutha, an 1886 square-rigged sailing vessel.  Or book a sail on the flat-bottomed schooner, Alma, once one of 250 schooners that delivered goods all over the bay.

    The Hyde Street Cable Car turnaround is also located right above the Hyde Street Pier and takes riders on a scenic trail through San Francisco's hills and neighborhoods, offering some amazing views along the way. It stops downtown on Powell Street.
  • On June 15, 2013
    Kimberley Lovato answered the question: Kimberley Lovato

    What are the best clothing boutiques in San Francisco?

    San Francisco is a fun city to shop in, mainly because its a city of neighborhoods each with its own ecclectic personality, much like the shops found there.  I personally love Luna in Presidio Heights.  Luna carries stylish sweaters and scarves year round (necessary in San Francisco), along with ocktail attire and comfortable yet sophisticated everyday wear.  Luna focues on small, niche designers that aren't found everywhere mixed with a few bigger name brands.  In Hayes Valley, an assortment of unique boutiques are popping up on Hayes Street. Lingerie, swimwear and coverups are sexy at Alla Prima and younger fashionistas, men and women, might like the contemporary streetwear found at Acrimony.
    Union Street is loaded with chains, which is fine, but there are also a few one off boutiques to be found too. I like Ambiance (4 locations around the city) for its ecclectic assortment of big names and off brands packed into shelves and racks. From shoes to bags, jewelry to jumpsuits, you're sure to find something here, and prices are often discounted off retail.  


  • On June 14, 2013
    Katie Sweeney answered the question: Katie Sweeney

    What are the best holiday events in San Francisco?

    San Francisco is a beautiful place to celebrate the December holidays. There are several brilliant Christmas trees on display. The first is in Union Square, which is transformed into an ice skating rink. The second is at Pier 39. When I was growing up, my family would always visit this massive tree. You can enjoy a bowl of clam chowder or an ice cream sundae at one of the shops nearby. The Embarcadero also has its own ice skating rink, one that is a little larger than the Union Square rink. Local hotels get in on the holiday spirit, too. The Grand Hyatt has a massive hanging light display and miniature train exhibit, while the The Fairmont is home to an extraordinary life size gingerbread house. Of course, no holiday season should pass without a show and San Francisco Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker is superb. The American Conservatory Theater's annual production of A Christmas Carol is another great show that is not to be missed.
  • On June 14, 2013
    Katie Sweeney answered the question: Katie Sweeney

    What are the best beaches near San Francisco?

    When planning a trip to a beach near San Francisco, the first thing you need to know is that it will most likely be foggy and cold. Occasionally the beaches are warm enough to be in a bathing suit, but this only happens a few times a year. Also note that the average temperature of the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco is in the mid-50s, so it's never really hot enough to swim. Still with a sweater, blanket, and picnic, the beaches can be quite enjoyable.

    For a view of the Golden Gate Bridge head to Crissy Field or Baker Beach. To watch the sunset over the Pacific, Ocean Beach is your best bet. Natives to the Bay Area love to head to the cost and spend a day at one of the beaches in Marin. Stinson Beach has a small seaside town feel and family-friendly beach access. Tomales Bay is home to the Hog Island Oyster Farm, which is a great place to spend an afternoon eating fresh local oysters with a beautiful view as a backdrop.
  • On June 14, 2013
    Katie Sweeney answered the question: Katie Sweeney

    What are the best tours of San Francisco?

    When it comes to tours, San Francisco has plenty to offer. Perhaps the most infamous is the tour of Alcatraz Island. Since it is one of San Francisco's top attractions, book tickets for Alcatraz in advance. The self-guided tour is fascinating. Each guest is given a pair of headphones and an easy to use device that plays a narrative with voice over from original Alcatraz inmates and guards. It takes you through the prison and provides detailed information on what it was like to live and work on Alcatraz. The whole tour lasts about two hours.

    To get a more intimate view of San Francisco's varied neighborhoods, I recommend taking a walking tour. City Guides has a wide selection of tours from the Japanese Tea Garden to Fisherman's Wharf to the Palace Hotel.

    If you're a foodie looking to experience San Francisco's tremendous culinary offerings, sign up for an Avital Tour. You can eat your way through Little Italy in North Beach or sample the amazing cocktails of Union Square.
  • On June 14, 2013
    Katie Sweeney answered the question: Katie Sweeney

    What are the best indoor activities in San Francisco?

    Many tourists arrive in San Francisco and are surprised to find that the weather is cold, windy, and foggy. If you end up in the city on a blustery afternoon, head indoors and enjoy one of the following activities.

    The Ferry Building is the perfect spot to have a leisurely meal. Walk around the stalls and check out all the merchants have to offer, from artisanal cheese at Cowgirl Creamery to hand made ceramics at Heath. Pull up a chair at Boulette's Larder and order lunch made in a truly California style with seasonal and local produce. After, grab a seat at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant where you can sample and purchase a variety of excellent California wine.

    Golden Gate Park might seem like an unlikely place to go to on a cold day, but there is a trio of interesting indoor sights. The first is the De Young Museum. Currently there are a variety of exhibits to check out such as Objects of Belief from the Vatican and a selection of map prints from the Anderson Collection. If art isn't really your thing, go to the California Academy of Sciences. Located across the park from the De Young, this museum is filled with fascinating kid-friendly exhibits on animals, habitats, and earthquakes. There's even an albino alligator named Claude! The last spot on your tour of Golden Gate Park is the Conservatory of Flowers. With it's fragrant blooms and lush tropical plants, this indoor greenhouse will transport you to another place.
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