Vacationing in San Francisco? Make Sure You Dress the Part

As the school year begins to wind down, many families and individuals are focusing on their summer vacation plans. There are a lot of factors that go into planning a big trip, not the least of which is determining where to go and why. So, if you already know that going to San Francisco is in the plans for you this year, you’re one step closer already.

There is so much that San Francisco has to offer tourists, though, that your decision to visit is really only the beginning. In fact, according to, San Francisco is one of the cities that tourists are least prepared to visit – many assuming that touring SF is as simple as getting up, getting dressed and driving over to Alcatraz or Fisherman’s Wharf. But, given the many historical, cultural, and entertainment options that the city and its surrounding areas, doing some basic homework before leave can save you time and money.

Tourist Facts

If you or someone you know is planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay area this summer, you will be in good company. In 2010, almost 16 million people from all over the world visited the Golden Gate City throughout the year. However, like most tourist destinations, the spring and summer time are hot for travelers, with peaks in July, August and September. This means that preparation for summer visits is even more imperative if you want to capitalize on your time in San Francisco.

Golden Gate in Fog

Climate Concerns

One important note about visiting in the summer months especially is the weather. Most people assume that the sweltering days of August heat exist across the country. In fact, San Francisco, due to its proximity to the sea (it is a peninsula after all) and hilly streets that catch a lot of shade from surrounding buildings, has peak temperatures only in the high 60s to low 70s throughout the year. September is actually the warmest month with an average high of 71 degrees.

The flip side is that the winter weather in San Francisco is similarly mild. The coldest month, January, has an average high around 58 degrees. Therefore, regardless of the time of year you choose to visit, packing layers of sweatshirts and windbreakers is essential. Otherwise, you will likely end up buying them.

Hoof It

Another big mistake that first-time visitors to San Francisco make is assuming that, like many West Coast cities, SF is spread out and will require the use of a rental car. Unlike Los Angeles and San Diego, however, San Francisco is quite small and very densely populated. This means that most of what you will want to do while there can be accessed on foot, by taxi or by cable car. Unless you plan on visiting outside of the city limits, say to the surrounding wine country of Sonoma and Napa Valleys, renting a car is a waste of money in San Francisco.

Make Reservations for Alcatraz

The final tip for San Francisco tourists is plan what attractions you want to visit and when. As I mentioned above, the weather is generally mild year-round and summers are characteristically dry. Therefore, taking the time to plan when you will visit popular attractions like Alcatraz can make a big difference in terms of waiting times, and you won’t be too likely to get rained out.

Tourist passes like the San Francisco City Pass and the Go San Francisco Card, which can save you a lot of money when traveling to San Francisco, do not include the Alcatraz tour; it’s that popular. However, brave holders of the Go San Francisco Card can receive a 50% discount on Alcatraz tickets if they have the time and inclination to get out to the island early in the day – the discount is only extended to same-day tickets.

Enjoy San Francisco

Clearly, there is a lot to look forward to if you plan a San Francisco vacation this summer, which can lead you to think it wise to “fly by the seat of your pants” while there. However, the basic time it takes to prepare now will pay back big time dividends in terms of time and money saved.