It’s often said that the best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. However, if you want save some time and money on a Bay Area trip, the winter months should never be overlooked. Although local weather can be windy and rainy, temperatures typically reach in the 60s or higher. What’s more, low temperatures rarely get below 40 degrees. Coupled with world famous landmarks and a gourmet options, see why San Francisco in winter is worth visiting.

Better Hotel Rates

With the exception of holidays and major events, hotel rates are far more affordable over winter. While November and December offer the lowest average rates, selections in February are nearly as attractive. What’s more, there are more choices from mid-February through April. That’s according to the official tourism entity, San Francisco Travel. If that’s not all, you can find excellent deals from travel sites. For instance, Expedia, Kayak, HotelTonight and TripAdvisor offer great rates. Of course, there are even more travel sites to consider, like Booking.com, Orbitz, Trivago and Hotels.com.

Booking Direct Can Save More Money

Although you can get great rates through booking sites, should also consider booking directly with hotels. For example, connect directly with hotels like InterContinental San Francisco and San Francisco Marriott Marquis. In fact, most every major hotel offers winter discounts. Additionally, moderately priced hotels like Hotel Union Square and Hotel Zoe are worth visiting. That’s not to mention even more hotels like the Mark Hopkins, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and the St. Regis.

Related: FAQs For The First Time Visitor To SF

Best Rates For Flights

Like a lower average nightly price for hotels, rates for airfare are typically cheaper during the winter. But you should book at least two months in advance to find the best rates. Kayak.com says January is the best winter month to fly to visit San Francisco although last purchases for airfare may be still available. Although Kayak also says February and March are in the high season, airfare still averages under $270. If you look beyond March, you’ll notice that rates are noticeably higher. Other factors are price comparisons and the best day to buy tickets. Many experts say Tuesday afternoon although Expedia says Sunday is best. Either way, you should do a price comparison between sites, in order to get a great rate.

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco (credit: Randy Yagi)

The Attractions

What largely draws travelers from all over the world to visit San Francisco is its wealth of leading attractions, like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. But San Francisco offers so many points of interest, it might require a repeat visit. While the Golden Gate, the world’s most photographed bridge is definitely a must-see, there are other recommendations. To illustrate, Chinatown, Ferry Building, Union Square and Golden Gate Park. Of course, there are also world-class museums like Asian Art Museum, De Young, Legion of Honor and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). With this in mind, you may prefer to visit indoor attractions, just because it’s winter, even in San Francisco.

More San Francisco Attractions

Even further attractions may include Ghirardelli Square, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco Presidio and cable cars that “climb halfway to the stars”. Additional stops may be Land’s End, Crissy Field, Mission Dolores, Chase Center, Exploratorium and Academy of Sciences. Other famous landmarks like Alamo Square and Lombard Street can also be included. However, it also requires you to be particularly mindful of its residents and ongoing traffic. All in all, you will have plenty of options for things to see and do.

Related: San Francisco Restaurants For Fresh Seafood

Half Smoked Salmon, ONE65 (credit: Randy Yagi)

The Food

Routinely cited as one of the world’s finest culinary destinations, San Francisco is home to an extraordinarily large number of restaurants. In fact, the City by the Bay offers more restaurants per capita than any other American destination. On top of that, the Bay Area also holds the largest concentration of three-star Michelin restaurants in the country, including San Francisco’s Atelier Crenn, Benu and Quince. Even more Michelin-starred restaurants are on the affordable side, like Al’s Place, Commonwealth, Kin Khao and State Bird Provisions.

San Francisco Seafood

Seafood lovers will enjoy perennial local favorites when in town to visit San Francisco, like Fog Harbor Fish House, Hog Island Oyster Bar and Waterbar. In all, there are hundreds of other outstanding places to dine representing a vast number of culinary styles and flavors. Neighborhoods like the Financial District, Mission District, North Beach, SoMA offer great dining while others like the Fillmore, Richmond and Japantown are also worth considering.

Affordable San Francisco Dining

Visitors on a tight budget should also visit some of the many food trucks in the city, with a high concentration at StrEat Food Park and Off the Grid. Lastly, some hot new restaurants are also quite extraordinary, including the fabulous ONE65 near Union Square, Nari in Japantown and Tsuta, from the founder of the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen eatery in SoMa.

Smaller Crowds

Like any popular destination, San Francisco does have its fair share of crowds, especially at hotspots like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. However, it’s pretty evident that crowds are smaller. Furthermore, lines to get in at museums and restaurants are typically shorter. By the same token, restaurant reservations will also be much easier and its likely there’ll also be less waiting to be seated. Of course, the weekends are always much busier at tourist attractions, especially if the weather stays nice. Be that as it may, if you’re hoping to visit San Francisco this winter you won’t be disappointed.

Related: Winter Driving Tips

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com.

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