Five Reasons To Visit San Francisco This Winter

Historic landmarks like Lotta's Fountain and the Palace Hotel are just a few reasons to visit San Francisco this winter
Lotta’s Fountain and the Palace Hotel San Francisco (credit: Randy Yagi)

It’s often said that the best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. However, for those looking to save some time and money on a Bay Area trip, the winter months should never be overlooked. While local weather can be windy and rainy, temperatures typically reach in the 60s or higher and low temperatures rarely get below 40 degrees. Coupled with some of the world’s most famous landmarks, along with a dazzling collection of gourmet options, see why San Francisco is worth visiting right now.

Lower hotel rates at hotels like the InterContinental San Francisco is one reason to visit San Francisco this winter
Presidential Suite at the InterContinental San Francisco (credit: Randy Yagi)

Better Hotel Rates

With the exception of holidays and major events like the Super Bowl, hotel rates in San Francisco are far more affordable during the winter season. While November and December offer the lowest average hotel rates according to Kayak.com, overnight accommodations in February are nearly as attractive. What’s more, there are more available rooms from mid-February through April, according to San Francisco Travel, the city’s official tourism site. Travelers can find an array of excellent deals and packages from multiple travel sites like Expedia, Kayak, HotelTonight and TripAdvisor. However, travelers should also consider booking directly with hotels like InterContinental San Francisco and San Francisco Marriott Marquis that are offering remarkable winter discounts. Additionally, moderately priced hotels like Hotel Union Square, Hotel Whitcomb and Hotel Zoe are all currently available for under $140 nightly when booking to visit San Francisco.

Related: The San Francisco Marriott Marquis Is Better Than Ever

Delta passenger plane at the boarding gate
Delta Plane (credit: Randy Yagi)

Best Rates For Flights

Like a lower average nightly price for hotels, rates for airfare are typically cheaper during the winter. But also in winter, travelers should book at least two months in advance to find the best rates. Kayak.com says January is the best 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, while other months are noticeably higher. Other factors to consider when purchasing airfare are price comparisons and the best day to buy tickets, which many experts say Tuesday afternoon although Expedia says Sunday is best.

Fisherman's Wharf sign with the famous crab stands in the winter background
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 other points of interest, it might require an extended stay or a repeat visit. While Golden Gate, the world’s most photographed bridge is definitely a must-see, other recommendations are Chinatown, Ferry Building Marketplace, Union Square and Golden Gate Park. Of course, there are also world-class museums like the Asian Art Museum, De Young, Legion of Honor and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Even further attractions may include Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square, Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, Presidio of San Francisco, Theatre District and cable cars that “climb halfway to the stars”. Depending on the length of stay, addition stops may be Land’s End, Crissy Field, Mission Dolores, the new Chase Center and for families with children, the Exploratorium and Academy of Sciences. Other famous landmarks like Alamo Square and the crooked Lombard Street may also be included on a suggested list. However, it also requires visitors to be particularly mindful of its residents and ongoing traffic.

Related: Best San Francisco Restaurants For Fresh Seafood

Fabulous seafood at ONE65 is one reason to visit San Francisco this winter
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. 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. 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.

Related: ONE65: The Hottest New Restaurant In San Francisco

Sparser crowds in Union Square is a great reason to visit San Francisco in winter
Union Square (credit: Randy Yagi)

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 and 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. Either way, travelers hoping to visit San Francisco this winter won’t be disappointed.

 

Related: A Closer Look At The Revitalized InterContinental San Francisco

About The Author:

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. His stories have also appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS Radio, and Radio.com, among others. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). 

He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, in California.

 

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