When to Visit San Francisco

Since it seems I’m hell-bent on showing you all I’m a San Francisco “native,” here’s the last in a series on my favorite city. We’ve talked about tips and tricks for the city (like BRING A JACKET in summer), and the Do’s and Don’ts for your visit (avoid calling it Frisco). Now: When should you actually make the visit?

San Francisco’s primed for a visit year-round. Thanks to an already moderate climate paired with California’s worst drought in history, you’ll likely hit sunshine and agreeable temperatures any month of the year. That said, there are some fantastic festivals during spring and summer, and if your schedule allows flexibility, try to plan your trip around one of these epic annual events.

April: Earth Day

San Francisco conjures up images of daisy chains, bare feet, and mandatory recycling laws (No? Just me on that last one?). It’s a city that embraces the local organic, green spirit, and so naturally, the SF Earth Day Festival is one for the books. Every year in late April, the city celebrates Mother Earth with an all-out eco fair near City Hall. Live music, an eco fashion show, passionate speakers, DIY stations, and organic cooking demonstrations call for a visit to San Francisco in April. You could learn how to save the world.

May: Bay to Breakers

Daisy chains aside, the city actually conjures up images of naked running men. If you haven’t heard of Bay to Breakers, you’ve been raised too conservatively. Bay to Breakers began over a century ago and is one of the world’s largest footraces. (In 1986, it set the World Record). Locals and visitors, athletes, and couch potatoes dress up or strip down to jog, walk, or drunkenly crawl the 7.5 miles from Howard Street (the bay) to Ocean Beach (the breakers). You haven’t experienced San Francisco in all its glory until you run beside a retiree wearing a banana costume. Just hope he doesn’t pee on you.

bay to breakers

Image by Kevin Edwards via Flickr


June: SF Pride

In June we see another event that encourages full-fledged nudity: The San Francisco Pride Parade. San Francisco was one of the first cities to pass gay rights laws in the 1970s, and its liberal culture comes out in flying colors during Pride. The parade marches down Market Street, with floats, flags, and drag queens galore. It’s a humbling feeling to witness the world’s largest celebration of acceptance, and my god, the LGBTQ community knows how to throw a party.

July: 4th of July

Sure, a holiday centered on barbecue and beer would be great just about anywhere. However, San Francisco rings in independence right at the Fourth of July Waterfront Festival, with live music, food, and arts and crafts overlooking the Bay. At night, catch a fantastic fireworks show over the water, or at least hear the booms when the fog rolls in too thick.

san francisco fireworks

Image by Christopher Michel via Flickr


August: Outside Lands

Outside Lands is San Francisco’s answer to Coachella or SXSW. The three-day music festival starts in mid-August and draws some of the biggest names in music: Kanye West, The Killers, Dave Mathews Band, Arctic Monkeys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Paul McCartney, among others. Are you convinced yet? TiqIQ is great for scoring tickets closer to the festival. If you’re in town that weekend, and wondering why the rest of the city looks deserted, look no further than Golden Gate Park. It’s the place to be.

As I said, San Francisco is a fantastic city to visit year-round. However, these festivals in spring and summer might elevate your trip from great to, well, running with naked men or fawning over Kanye. Are you really going to plan a visit for any other time?

This post was written by me for Hipmunk.com’s #HipmunkCityLove campaign. For hotels in San Francisco, you can check out Hipmunk’s suggestions.