San Francisco is easily one of the top destinations in America, if not the entire world; and for good reason. A rich history, extensive food options, vibrant nightlife, beautiful architecture, and gorgeous scenery makes it one of the most well-rounded destinations in the world. However, just like any destination, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your San Francisco trip, from terrain to weather to season and much more. The following is 10 of our best tips for planning a trip to San Francisco.

Consider the season: San Francisco’s seasons don’t work the same way as the rest of America does. What many people may think of as winter or summer doesn’t happen in San Francisco. It doesn’t snow and it doesn’t get hot enough to sit inside beneath an air conditioner all day. The late summer and fall are typically the best times of year to visit, as this is when it is usually the least foggy. November through January is considered San Francisco’s rainy season.

Don’t bring a suitcase full of shorts: San Francisco rarely has “shorts weather.” It never gets above 90 degrees and only a few days get above 80. Even on those 80-degree days, the temperature drops as soon as the sun goes down. You can bring a pair of shorts, but don’t be surprised if it never gets warm enough to wear them.

Dress in layers: Similar to the point above, plan to dress in layers during most of your trip to San Francisco, especially if you’ll be out from your hotel all day. The weather is often so unpredictable in San Francisco that you could see a 10-20 degree temperature change in an hour. Don’t bring a winter parka, but other items that will come in handy include a rain jacket, fleece, sweatshirt, and toboggan.

Familiarize yourself with public transportation: Whether you plan on renting a car or not, it’ll be helpful to familiarize yourself with public transportation. This will typically be either the bus or BART train. BART only runs on one line through the center of San Francisco, so for outer-lying places like North Beach, the Marina, and Golden Gate Park, you’ll be riding the bus. This will especially come in handy when you don’t want to walk up another San Francisco hill.

Rent a car: For the best San Francisco experience, consider renting a car. While San Francisco features an accessible public transportation system, there are a lot of nearby attractions that are only accessible by car. The Jelly Belly Factory, Napa, Sonoma, and Muir Woods are just a few of the bay area’s best attractions that you’ll need a car for.

Bring a good pair of walking shoes: And if you plan on going to Muir Woods or Sutro Baths at Lands End, then a good pair of hiking shoes. San Francisco is a walking city, but it’s not like walking the streets of Manhattan. You can’t walk too far without having to walk a hill, and very large hills at that. Leave those heels at home on this trip.

Use Google Maps Street View when planning: See right above for the justification of this tip. This will probably come in handy the most when looking for a hotel. If you don’t want to be staying at the top of a hill you have to walk up to every night, then do your research ahead of time by using Google Maps Street View when looking at the location of accommodations.

Don’t spend all your time in Fisherman’s Wharf: Odds are that you’ll find yourself in Fisherman’s Wharf at least once, if not more, especially if you’re going to Alcatraz Island. However, so is everyone else traveling to San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf can often be a bottleneck of tourists, so make sure you use the time you have wisely to see those parts of San Francisco that are off the beaten path.

Have a wine day: If you’re looking for things to do in San Francisco, you’ve got to have your share of wine, as it makes up one of the best wine regions in the world. While there are some great wine bars and cellars in San Francisco itself, I recommend taking a day trip to Napa and/or Sonoma.

Consider which airport to fly into: Most people fly into SFO, and for good reason, since it’s convenient to downtown San Francisco, just a short cab or BART ride away. However, Oakland and San Jose are also nearby and are good secondary choices. San Jose and Oakland may be further away, but you might strike more cheap airfare.


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