San Francisco is one of my favorite cities on the Pacific Coast. It’s got everything you want in a city – every kind of art, attraction, shopping, and food. Plus, San Francisco’s parks and waterfront make the city feel very “outdoorsy” and not crowded.
If you’re taking a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, or if you’re in Northern California, then San Francisco needs to be on your itinerary.
So here’s what you need to know to plan the perfect trip to San Francisco!
Stroll through China Town
Take pics from the top of Nob Hill
Drive down Lombard Street
Visit Alamo Square
See if the Billy Goat Hill Swing is up (you also get great views of the city from here)
Visit the Lyon Street Steps
Marvel at the Palace of Fine Arts
Walk along Marshall’s Beach
Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge
Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
Ride the Famous Cable Cars
When To Go
September – November has some of the warmest and sunniest weather all year. And the crowds and prices will be much lower after the peak summer months end. Fall is your best chance for beach days in San Francisco, but always bring some layers because the bayside breezes can be chilly.
December – February sees low accommodation rates, and you won’t be competing with many other tourists for the best photo spots at top attractions. But make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes and rain gear if you’re visiting during these months.
March – May is the city’s shoulder season, so tourist numbers and prices will be on the rise, but not at their peak. I do recommend avoiding popular Spring Break weeks from late-March to Early-April. Temperatures will be in the mid-’60s (around 18ºC) during the day and a bit cooler at night, so still bring layers.
June – August. Because these are summer break months in the U.S., this is the peak travel season for San Francisco. Prices and tourist numbers will be at their peak, and you’ll want to book accommodation and tours in advance. And to many people’s surprise, San Francisco is quite chilly, damp, and foggy during the summer. So always have a layer with you, and bring a raincoat.
Where To Eat
For Burgers: Super Duper Burgers, Causwells, Sam’s, Comstock Saloon
Brunch Places: Rose’s Cafe, Rusty’s Southern, Breadbelly, Lokma
Asian Food: Saucy Asian (Asian Fusion), Dumpling House (Dim Sum), Mamahuhu (Chinese), Rasa Rasa (food truck)
Rooftop Dining: Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge (pictured above), The View Lounge, Top of the Mark
Seafood: Alamo Square Seafood Grill, Anchor Oyster Bar, Farallon, Angler
Where To Stay
YOUR ACCOMMODATION IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF YOUR TRIP. SO I’VE GOT THE BEST HOTEL IN SAN FRANCISCO FOR YOU! READ ABOUT MY STAY AT THE INTERCONTINENTAL SAN FRANCISCO TO SEE WHY THIS CHIC, MODERN HOTEL IS WHERE YOU SHOULD STAY WHEN YOU’RE IN SAN FRANCISCO.
Best Day Trips
Napa and Sonoma. I highly recommend spending a few days in both of these wine regions, but they are also leisurely day trips from San Francisco. You can drive to one of the hotels or towns and catch the wine shuttles that serve Napa and Sonoma. Or you can visit one or both of the regions as a guided tour from San Francisco. Either way, make sure you’re using good transportation judgment after each tasting.
Here’s my Getaway Guide To Napa Valley
Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is a beautiful cape just 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. Here, you can take those iconic Northern California Coast Instagram pics! I recommend visiting Point Reyes Lighthouse, Drakes Beach, and hiking to a view of Chimney Rock.
Monterey. The Monterey/Carmel-By-The-Sea/Big Sur area is worthy of its own trip. But if you can only visit this area as a day trip, then I recommend you do the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey and hike the McWay Waterfall Trail in Big Sur.
Best Viewpoints Of The City
Alamo Square Park
Twin Peaks Summit
Golden Gate Overlook
Bernal Height Park
Browse City Lights Bookstore and walk through Jack Kerouac Alley next-door
Visit the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood – “birthplace of the hippie counterculture”
Relax at Golden Gate Park
Sail to Alcatraz Island
Explore the Union Square Neighborhood
Visit the Aquarium of the Bay
Tour the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Shop My California Essentials
Is there anything you’d add to this San Francisco guide? If so, let us know in the comments!
For Planning The Rest Of Your Pacific U.S. Trip
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This post is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article about the best things to do in San Francisco are entirely my own. Some of these links are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.