Want to visit San Francisco, but don’t know what to do or when to go? I’ve created the ultimate guide to visiting San Francisco, so you get the real San Fran experience.
-Best Time to Go-
San Francisco has the best climate and weather almost year round. It does get cooler in “winter”, which is November through March. If you are from the midwest or East coast, you’ll have no problem with these cool days, as the average low is usually around 46 degrees. If you aren’t a fan of the cold, I suggest going August, September, October, or even November, as these months tend to have warmer days. You’ll also find that the tourist crowd tends minimize in the fall, since most people travel around spring break and summer. If you have kids in school, and can only go in the summer, I recommend August!
-What to Wear-
Since it can get cooler, especially in the morning and evening, be sure to pack layers. Bring some jeans, leggings, and a rain coat. See my ten tips for traveling to San Francisco, which talks a little bit more on attire!
-Where to Stay-
There is no doubt about it-San Francisco can get expensive. You don’t want to spend all your money on a hotel, rather than experiences and food. While the hotels around Fishermans Wharf are cool and beautiful, I would suggest making your way inland to the Financial District. The cost for a hotel is significantly reduced towards this way. Many also recommend Union Square, which is right next to all the shopping you could possibly imagine. This area has the lowest price for hotels, but is near “the tenderloin”, which is a high crime and dangerous area. The Union Square area isn’t all that pretty during the day, but it is technically considered safe. I do recommend that you use your street smarts, if you plan to go anywhere at night, though. If you aren’t a fan of hotels, book an AirBNB. In fact, you can actually rent one of the Painted Ladies through AirBNB. How cool is that?!
Yes, this is a photo from one of the two days we went to breakfast there. The restaurants small, but the coffee and food is great!
Mama’s on Washington Square
A San Francisco staple, with traditional yummy breakfast. Mama’s is right next to a beautiful cathedral and park.
Ask anyone who has gone to San Francisco or lives in the area, and they will all say go to Tartine.
Dottie’s True Blue Cafe
Dottie’s isn’t in the most ideal location, but it is a really neat cafe! Whether you get the muffin of the day or a giant cinnamon roll, you’ll be happy you checked out this brick exposed San Francisco staple that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Be sure to get there early as there will be a line before Dottie’s even opens!
Breakfast or lunch, you can’t go wrong with Cliff House. The morning we went, we watched whales while sipping mimosas. Cliff House is two conjoined restaurants that sit on a cliff, settled right next to Highway 1, and overlooks the Pacific ocean.
Nob Hill Cafe
Love pizza and pasta? Nob Hill Cafe is the place to go! It is located in Nob Hill, which is right next to the Financial District. Nob Hill Cafe is a laid back, old Italian restaurant. I would recommend going here for lunch, or you can make this your dinner spot for the evening!
Akiko’s has a small menu, but the fish is super fresh. Their fish comes in daily, and you can taste the difference. Pictured above was the house sushi roll of the day. I would ask if they could make it, because it was amazing!
Barbacco is an italian restaurant, and is like a Thursday night dinner. The atmosphere is very chill and laidback. For a San Francisco restaurant, Barbacco is very reasonably prices. No matter what you get from Barbacco, it will be absolutely amazing! I highly recommend the brussel sprouts and the burrata- these were my absolute favorite!
Perbacco and Barbacco are actually sister restaurants, but Perbacco is a step-up from Barbacco. The price point for Perbacco is a little higher than Barbacco, as it is considered “fine-dining”. With the white tablecloths and more intimate setting, Perbacco is a Friday night type dinner. Again, I would highly recommend the burrata! The burrata at Perbacco is a little different than Barbacco, as it has black truffle- YUM!
Michael Mina’s is expensive. Even for San Francisco, it is expensive, like $600 for two people expensive. It’s definitely a Saturday dinner, and it is totally worth the experience! The chef goes to the farmers market in the morning and picks out fresh food for dinner that evening. There are two different dining experiences- “the chefs tasting” and the “five course menu”. Either is a great choice, as you get to pick your choices for each course, however the pairing it a little bit pricier. I’ll admit, the portions are small, but the chef typically gifts some extra food, and with all the courses, you’ll be stuffed by the time dessert comes!
PS. Barbacco, Perbacco and Michael Mina’s are literally right next to each other.
21st Amendment Brewery
Great beer and good snacks. If you just want to try some new beers or are waiting to go to a San Francisco Giants game, stop by 21st Amendment Brewery.
Cliff House [again]
Cliff House has a fully stocked bar, even during the week and/or in the morning. While my delicious mimosas aren’t pictured, this bloody was also great. You can’t go wrong with either at Cliff House!
-Things to Do-
At&t Park is home of the San Francisco Giants, and previous home of legend, Barry Bonds. This is by far the coolest stadium I’ve ever been to, because it sits right on the water. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, check out a game, and if you’re lucky- you may see a home run and fans trying to catch the ball in McCovey Cove!
Want some amazing views of San Francisco? Head to Telegraph Hill and visit Coit Tower. Coit Tower has an elevator that goes to an observation deck, which gives a 360 view of the city. They only have limited availability depending on the time of the year, so be sure to check the hours and buy tickets online, before you make the trek.
If you are a hiker, hiking the Land’s End trail is a must! Land’s End is a little rocky, but even if you aren’t the hiking type, you can still manage the hike to the lookout. The trail from parking lot to the lookout and back is about 2.8 miles, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes!
Cliff House actually sits right next to Sutro Baths. All you have to do is walk to the right of Cliff House to get an up-close view of the old public swimming complex, and beautiful beach views!
Depending on where you stay in FiDi, you could only be a short walk away from Chinatown! We stayed at the Hilton, and we were right in the middle of this historic, old and established Chinatown. If you love learning about different cultures, or want some souvenirs, Chinatown is the place to go!
Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf
Ever heard of the sea lions at Pier 39?
Ps. Peep Coit Tower in the very background!
Ghiradelli Square is a landmark of San Francisco with a ton of shops, and delicious chocolate. It’s right next to a cute park, Hyde Street Pier and a small beach. If you don’t get a chance to get some chocolate, definitely keep an eye out around the park, because there a lot of LimeBike Scooters, and they are so much fun to ride around the park!
I had to add this picture of my husband/model at Battery Spencer. Battery Spencer has the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco and Alcatraz all in one. Battery Spencer is also a neat piece of San Francisco and Sausalito history, as it was an old fort meant to guard the Golden Gate Bridge. This was one of the outbuildings! Check out this awesome picture on my Instagram of us in front of the GGB!
In case you missed it, here are ten tips for visiting San Francisco. If you have been to San Francisco or live there, what are you recommendations?
Here are a few items that you may find helpful for your trip to San Francisco: