We don’t even need to hear anything from the local weatherman to know that today’s San Francisco forecast likely calls for slight morning fog, early afternoon breezes and a pleasant 70-degree high. But consistent weather is but one part of the city’s charm.
To fully appreciate the things that this Northern California destination has to offer, pay close attention to the following vacation hacks.
The best time to visit San Francisco
Although San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, the weather does vary seasonally. Winters are cool and rainy, but low temperatures rarely dip below the mid-40s. Summer in this city is a relative term; it’s not unusual to see San Francisco Giants fans wearing knit hats to ward off the chill in overcast June and July nights at AT&T Park.
Time your visit between the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival (early September) and Halloween, and you’ll be rewarded with glorious sunny days more typical of the Californian ideal. Bottom line is: No matter what time of year you are visiting, your suitcase better have a couple of sweaters in it.
What you should pack for a trip to San Francisco
Though the fog and sunshine roll in and out whenever they like, most days are roughly the same — and your luggage should reflect the mildness (think: light sweater, jeans and sneakers).
When prepping for a long day of sightseeing along Fisherman’s Wharf or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll need to have on a pair of comfortable shoes and a couple of layers atop the upper body. By midday though, you should be able to remove the jacket. But do yourself a favor and keep it handy because it’ll be back down to a breezy 50-something when it’s time for dinner.
What public transportation is like in San Francisco
Public transportation in San Francisco is plentiful, covers a vast area and is mostly user friendly. The most storied part of the system is the San Francisco Cable Car, which is the last manually operated cable car in the world. You’ll see long lines of people waiting to board it at the foot of Powell Street; a better idea is to hop on the California line at California Street and Van Ness Avenue.
The San Francisco Muni is a system of light rail, buses and heritage streetcars that mostly operate above ground, 24 hours a day. Popular places to take Muni include along the Embarcadero and over to the baseball stadium. Things have gotten better lately, but Muni retains a reputation for running off-schedule at times, so it may not be the best choice if you’re in a big hurry.
You will definitely want to use Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), a system of speedy trains that runs throughout the city, as well as across the Bay to Oakland and Walnut Creek, and down the peninsula to San Jose. BART is also the best way to get to the airport in San Francisco or Oakland — as long as you don’t have too much luggage.
Consult the color-coded maps to figure out which line you need to take; the online BART Trip Planner is also quite useful. The only downside to BART is that it stops running at midnight.