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Winter in San Francisco

Less Crowds and More Culture - Come to SF in the Winter for a Real Local Scene.

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Winter in San Francisco
Image Curtesy of the San Francisco Travel Association
Although the famous cliche "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" does have an element of truth to it, so does its inverse. Winters in San Francisco are very mild, with weather that still permits sightseeing, shopping, strolling around the city's parks and neighborhoods and even engaing in outdoor activities. Winter is also the height of San Francisco's theater and performing arts season and most hotels are running cut-rate specials. Flights are also usually at their best price point as well.

Check Our Travel Center for Winter Flights to San Francisco

San Francisco Winter Weather

While San Francisco is surely no snowbird haven like Miami or even San Diego, it still does have some pretty pleasant wintertime weather compared to the mid-west and the east coast. Snow never falls here, and although rain is more common in the winter, the absence of fog often makes for more sunny days than the typical San Francisco early summer.

Average temperatures vary by about 15 degrees annually in San Francisco, and the extra mild winters are considered pay offs by locals for the usually very mild summers. Expect windy and often wet weather, especially by the water, with temperatures hovering around the high 40s and low 50s.

San Francisco Accommodations in the Winter

Most San Francisco hotels, even the luxurious Historic Hotels that dot the downtown shopping district and crown posh Nob Hill, usually offer great room specials during the winter. The exception to this is around New Years Eve, which is a major bash in San Francisco - most hotels offer special party packages at this time.

Check Our Travel Center for Winter Hotel Deals in San Francisco

Christmas in San Francisco

The time leading up to Christmas brings a flurry of shopping relatied activity to the Union Square area of San Francisco, and there are many festive activites that go along with this. Outdoor ice skating rinks open up at both the Embarcadero Center and in Union Square itself, and the whole downtown area is generally full of good cheer.

San Francisco Sightseeing in the Winter

Fisherman's Wharf and the rest of the waterfront, outside of the always bustling Ferry Building Marketplace, are pretty dead in the winter and many of the wharf businesses take this time off. But cruises to Alcatraz and general sightseeing cruises on the San Francisco Bay are still in full swing, and the crazy lines that typify most of the year are usually absent as well.

Winter is the best time of the year to visit San Francisco's famous museums, including the California Academy of Sciences and the SFMOMA, both of which are absolutely packed during the other seasons. Buying a San Francisco City Pass bundles the admission to both of those museums plus the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 as well as your choice of the Exploratorium or both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor into one low price that includes a seven-day Cable Car and Muni pass, is well worth the effort in the winter.

Golden Gate Park and the Presidio National Park - the city's top public greenspaces- both simmer down considerably in the winter, but this is due more to the absence of tourists than anything else as the locals use them year-round. You can even hike the rugged Land's End trail in mid-winter, provided you dress for the wind, and you might even spot some migrating whales. Those looking for tamer active pursuits should check out the ice skating rink at Yerba Buena Gardens, which is indoors.

San Francisco's Winter Cultural Calendar

Although there are very few festivals in San Francisco during the winter, the cultural life of the city is far from dead: it just moves indoors. Winter is the best time of year to catch a play at one of the city's many top-notch theater companies, and the ballet, opera and symphony - all located in the Civic Center area - are also all in mid-season.

On a more local note, winter is when the city's impressive array of independent bookstores also role out their heavyweight events, from famous author readings to workshops and book fairs. The city's notorious cafe scene, which plays host to a slew of local performing arts activities from open mic poetry to punk bands, is booming year yound but becomes even more focused during the winter.

Winter and the Food Scene is San Francisco

Winter in San Francisco is eagerly anticipated by the city's top restuarants and foodies as it is the time when the city's most iconic dish comes into season: Dungeness Crab. Get your hands on this true delicacy at any of the city's waterfront restaurants, which provide a cozy way to enjoy views of the bay during the winter season.
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