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Best Times to Visit San Francisco

Let’s be honest: ANYTIME is a great time to go to San Francisco. This iconic peninsular city is the center of California’s Bay Area and always has something for everyone throughout the year.


So let’s start with the fall months and work our way through all the seasons of San Francisco and what you can do during each of them! Keep in mind that every month is guaranteed to have an annual film festival, holiday, free museum ticket days, and parade, so there’s plenty of activities for everyone.


Fall (the best season)


Image by: Orbitz

That being said, if you were to really choose the most optimal time to visit San Francisco, it would be during late summer and all of fall, specifically during August and September. This is when the city is at its warmest and coming out of the crowded summertime tourist season. You’ll get to enjoy bright sun and the best views without the rain of winter or the clouds of spring.


September


Average Temperatures: 58 - 79℉ (can sometimes shoot up to high 90s - 100℉!)

Weather: ☀️


Film Festivals

  1. South Asian Film Festival: Celebrating South Asian heritage, this film festival is dedicated to showcasing stories from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, France, UK, Canada, and USA. It typically occurs in late September and has been running for 20 years.

  2. Iranian Film Festival: IFF gives an apolitical platform for Iranian filmmakers and artists to present their works and support Iranian culture far beyond San Francisco. It will be entering its 16th annual festival from September 16-17, 2023.

Events

  1. Folsom Street Fair: Meant to support marginalized artists, this nonprofit arts and culture festival is the center for San Francisco’s BIPOC and LGBTQ+ musicians, DJs, performers, and more. Known as the “Home Base of Alternative Sexuality Communities” and running for its 40th year, Folsom will be at your SF doorstep on September 24, 2023.

  2. California Rum Festival: It’s wine-tasting but with rum. From talks with rum experts to tasting sessions, celebrate the rum awakening for the 8th year on September 16, 2023.

  3. Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival: Endless lion dancing, mooncakes, martial arts, and fashion fill Chinatown with great joy as people celebrate the annual Moon Festival, Chinese culture, and the legend of Chang’E. SFCMA will be from September 23-24, 2023.

October


Average Temperatures: 54 - 73℉ (can sometimes hit high 80s)

Weather: 🌤️


Film Festivals

  1. Latino Film Festival: Watch a vast array of fiction and documentary films from the Latinx community, from queer to indigenous to disabilities stories of Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and more. It typically runs in mid October and will be going strong in its 15th year of showing in 2023.

  2. Superfest Disability Festival: The longest running disabilities film festival in the world, Superfest not only portrays disabilities through multifaceted viewpoints but also focuses on disabled filmmakers and filmgoers. More than 50 years after its debut in Los Angeles, Superfest will be coming to SF on October 21-22, 2023.

Events

  1. Castro Street Fair: Located in the SF Castro District, this nonprofit brings out local artisans, vendors, and craftspeople whose sales profits go to funding Castro community charities and Castro’s famous Rainbow Flag. You’ll find the 49th Castro Street Fair on October 1, 2023.

  2. Litquake: SF’s literary festival is a gathering of writers, readers, and books to celebrate original literature. Listen to fellow authors present excerpts of their works and leave with newfound inspiration. More than 20 years after its birth in an English pub, Litquake will be happening from October 5-21, 2023.

November


Average Temperatures: 41 - 66℉

Weather: 🌤️


Film Festivals

  1. American Indian Film Festival: The world’s longest running exposition for US Native American and First Nation people has been serving Native American filmmakers, performers, and audiences for 48 years. This cinematic experience will be coming November 3-11, 2023.

  2. Dance Film Festival: Featuring all forms of groundbreaking screendance, watch as narratives unfold through musical and dancing expression. DSFS will enter its 14th season early November.

  3. Transgender Film Festival: SFTFF is the world’s longest running transgender film festival, challenging media stereotypes and uplifting transgender and gender variant filmmakers and filmgoers. The 25th showing will take place November 10-20, 2023.

  4. Arab Film Festival: North America’s longest-running Arab film festival presents contemporary films highlighting Arab culture and challenging negative stereotypes with a series of educational Arab films. The Arab Film and Media Institute will be bringing the 27th AFF in mid-November.

Events

  1. Ghirardelli Square Tree-Lighting: November marks the beginning of the winter holiday season, and what better way to start than a tree-lighting ceremony? Ghirardelli Square is just one of the many locations where you can see these shining lights spiral up to a bright star.

  2. Coffee Festival: Unite for some wine-tasting but with coffee! Learn more about coffee. Roast coffee. Vibe with coffee. The 7th annual coffee experience is coming November 11-12, 2023.

  3. Sundance Stompede: Dance to a wild-west weekend for the LGBTQ+ cowboys, cowgirls, and friends. Two nights of country exhibitions, three days of workshops, and four nights of dancing for the 22nd year will happen November 9-12, 2023.

Winter (the rainy season)


Image by: Secret San Francisco

It gets cold, cloudy, and wet but San Francisco more than makes up for it with many holiday festivities and events that start during the winter season. Many tourists even choose to go to the infamous Alcatraz Island during gloomy days to get a better picture of what life was like at the prison in the middle of the Bay.


December


Average Temperature: 39 - 58℉

Weather: 🌥️


Film Festivals

  1. Another Hole In The Head: Two weeks of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy short films by independent filmmakers changes the game of the genre interpretations every year. AHITH will take place for the 20th year from November 1-17, 2023.

Events

  1. New Years Eve Fireworks: Shot from barges near Pier 14, these fireworks light up the midnight sky in a flurry of blooming pyrotechnics for about 15 minutes. Best places to view these include Treasure Island, Telegraph Hill, near the Ferry Building, or on a fireworks cruise.

  2. Festival of Lights: Hosted by Illuminate SF, dozens of light artworks will be on display in various sites around the city. New artwork this year include Lucy In The Sky at Muni Station, Lantern Stories in Chinatown, the Van Ness Avenue Installation, and Wind Baffles at the Parks.

  3. SF Ballet Nutcracker: SF ballet season is pretty much year-round, but the famous Nutcracker show opens during December’s holiday atmosphere. It’s an incredible and exquisite production of a story so inspiring that it has been retold many times since its publication in the 1800s.

January


Average Temperature: 40 - 57℉

Weather: 🌧️


Film Festivals

  1. Noir City Film Festival: Preserving black and white films for 20 years, the Film Noir Foundation revives classic noir films and restores America’s noir heritage. The Hollywood noir movement is scheduled for January 20-29, 2023.

Events

  1. SF Botanical Garden Magnolia Bloom: 200 trees will bloom magnificent magnolias in mid-January through March. These exotic pink buds are a sight to behold, along with the beauty of the entire botanical garden.

  2. MLK Parade: Celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, this 1.5-mile march pays tribute to the historic Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama civil rights march. Most of the associated events happen on MLK day.

  3. SF Sketchfest: Experience the laughs of your life at the annual gathering of sketch, improv, and stand-up comedy with up and coming groups and comedians. Sketchfest has showcased actors from Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Simpsons, and more, and has returned in late January for more than 20 years.

  4. FOG Design & Art Fair: Responsible for SF’s Art Week, FOG assembles leading international galleries, design dealers, and exciting art programs and supports the famous SFMOMA’s exhibitions. The annual fair typically happens in late January.

February


Average Temperature: 41 - 59℉

Weather: 🌦️


Film Festival

  1. SF IndieFest: Showcasing the best shorts, features, documentaries, and animations by independent producers, IndieFest is part of a collection of five big annual SF film festivals and is one of the best avenues for independent filmmakers to get their works recognized. Its 25th annual showing happened February 2-12, 2023 and will return early February of 2024.

Events

  1. Noise Pop Festival: 160+ bands, 80+ events, 25+ music venues all in one week. With a lineup of indie bands and debuts, Noise Pop’s 30th anniversary was February 20-26, 2023 and plans to return in February of 2024.

  2. Chinese Lunar New Year: The year of the rabbit took the shape of a massive float parade on February 4, 2023. Three million people watch the parade each year as it makes its way through Chinatown.

  3. Tribal and Textiles Art Show: The arts, textiles, sculptures, pottery, wall hangings, and more from indigenous tribes of Africa, Oceania, Indonesia, and the Americas come on display here every year. It has been running for 30 years every late February.

Spring (the cold season)


Image by: Mansion on Sutter

The rain clouds are gradually receding to shine light on some of the biggest parades in springtime, from St. Patrick’s Day to Earth Day to Cinco de Mayo!


March


Average Temperature: 43 - 57℉

Weather: 🌧️


Film Festivals

  1. Berlin & Beyond: A selection of contemporary German cinema comes to the SF neighborhood every March to spread German culture and filmmaking. Its 27th annual film festival was held from March 23-28, 2023.

  2. Irish Film DocFest: Celebrating award-winning Irish documentaries and short stories, the Irish film festival promotes Irish language films (with English subtitles). It hosted its 20th anniversary on March 4, 2023.

Events

  1. Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: Over a hundred floats, dance troops, and marching bands participate in the St. Patrick’s Parade that travels down Market Street every March. There is a festival that happens right after the parade that is considered one of the best celebrations on the west coast. We’ve also covered plenty of out-of-state places to go for St. Patrick’s Day!

  2. Red Cross Gala: Recognizing the local heroes who have supported the Red Cross, the Gala presents awards to the most committed volunteers and organizations for their philanthropy. This year’s Red Cross Gala was March 24, 2023.

April


Average Temperature: 50 - 67℉

Weather: 🌤️


Film Festivals

  1. International Ocean Film Festival: Using film to raise awareness about ocean literacy and environmental health, IOFF attracts film enthusiasts, conservationists, water sports lovers, and diversity. It will be celebrating its 20th anniversary through its annual film festival on April 13-16, 2023.

  2. SF International Film Festival: The longest running film festival in America, SFFILM honors emerging global film artists, internationally compelling documentaries, and film appreciation around the world. The 65th festival will be held from April 13-23, 2023.

Events

  1. Eggstravaganza: Easter egg hunts everywhere! There are numerous hunts, activities, and performances happening all around San Francisco during Easter time. See if you can spot those colorful eggs in the bushes.

  2. Earth Day: A festival dedicated to the green revolution, this day marks the 53rd year since activists started Earth Day in 1970. This year’s festival will be on April 22, 2023 and feature inspirational music, performers, and speakers at Golden Gate Park.

  3. Art Market: The Bay Area’s longest running art gallery showcases talent of all genres and connects collectors with artists in a high-quality experience. Its 12th showing will be April 20-23, 2023.

May


Average Temperature: 49 - 70℉

Weather: 🌤️


Film Festivals

  1. CAAMFest: Also known as the Asian American Film Festival hosted by the Center for Asian American Media, this is the launchpad for many independent Asian American filmmakers and new Asian cinema. The 41st annual festival is scheduled for May 11-21, 2023.

Events

  1. Carnaval: Full of color, costumes, and creativity, this event brings together salsa, samba, reggaeton, Afro-beats, and hip hop music with world-class performers, artists, and vendors. The grand parade will take place on May 28, 2023.

  2. Cinco de Mayo: From pub crawls to parties to parades to festivals, San Francisco is alive on Cinco de Mayo day to celebrate the defeat of France by the Mexican army in May. Cinco de Mayo weekend runs from May 5-7, 2023 this year.

  3. Yerba Buena Gardens Festival: The YBG festival uses a variety of dance and world music to celebrate the vitality and quality of life of parks like the Yerba Buena Gardens. There’s dance performances, circus shows, theater plays, and educational/training programs all throughout May.

Summer (the tourist season)


Image by: AAA Northern California

Pretty much every major city is bustling during the summer and San Francisco is no exception. Huge musical performances and diversity events take place during these months that attract tourists or visitors from all over the nation.


June


Average Temperature: 55 - 70℉

Weather: 🌤️


Film Festivals

  1. Queer Women of Color Film Festival: Cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, and gender conforming women of color are welcomed here every year to use film to address social justice, awareness, and inequity. The 19th annual QWOC festival will be June 9-11, 2023.

  2. Black Film Festival: With a mission to uplift African American cinema, BFF has been reinforcing positive images and communication between races and cultures since 1997. The 26th annual event will be from June 15-18, 2023.

  3. Frameline LGBTQ Film Festival: For the pride-goers of pride month, this international event awards authentic filmmaking, touching narratives, and promotes visibility of the LGTBQ+ community. Frameline47 is happening from June 14-24, 2023.

Events

  1. Pride Parade: This year’s theme for the 53rd annual Pride Parade is “Looking Back and Moving Forward.” It is the largest gathering of the LGBTQ community and allies in the nation and will be coming to SF June 24-25, 2023.

  2. Juneteenth Festival: For 71 years, San Francisco has been holding Juneteenth events to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. From June 14-20, 2023, the largest Juneteenth gathering in Northern California will come alive with food, music, and shows in the city.

July


Average Temperature: 57 - 70℉

Weather: 🌤️


Film Festivals

  1. Frozen Film Festival: Contrary to its name, the Frozen festival is held every summer to promote independent and youth filmmakers and works, from short documentaries to student/first-time directors to surf/skate videos and virtual reality films! SFFFF celebrities its 17th year from July 12-16, 2023.

Events

  1. Fourth of July: Fireworks everywhere! Head to the piers or book a fireworks cruise to see the amazing show of lights for the nation’s Independence Day. Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf especially come alive with fun special celebrations.

  2. Fillmore Jazz Festival: The heart and soul of SF gets groovy on Fillmore Street as jazz artists and street vendors come out to put on the largest jazz festival in the west coast. The 37th annual event will be from July 1-2, 2023.

  3. SF Marathon: This ultimate 26.2-mile SF run takes you through the Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina Green, and Crissy Field, with breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and ocean along the way. The race starts at 5:15 AM on July 23, 2023.

August


Average Temperature: 58 - 75℉

Weather: 🌤️


There are no annual film festivals this month.


Events

  1. Nihonmachi Street Fair: Japantown celebrates its heritage every year with this street fair’s local entertainment, artisans, Children’s World, Doggie World, Sounds of Thunder Car Show, and more. The 48th NSF is likely to occur in early August.

  2. Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival: Outside Lands is hosted in Golden Gate Park and features a giant lineup of music artists: Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, Megan Thee Stallion, Zedd, the list goes on. Tickets are already in hot demand for the 15th annual performance happening August 11-13, 2023.

  3. Jerry Day: Jerry Garcia was one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and an SF native. In his memory, various bands and musicians gather at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater for Jerry Night live music, local art, and drink specials. The 21st anniversary will be on August 5, 2023.

 

And that concludes our extensive list of monthly film festivals, culture events, holiday specials, and activities exclusive to San Francisco. GlobeSisters has covered this city as well as the greater Bay Area extensively, from attractions to visit to places to avoid. Many of our GlobeSisters hostesses are based in this lively city or nearby (Berkeley, Oakland, Marin County, Sacramento) and await your next pitstop on your solo trip. Depending on what time of the year you’d like to travel, there’s something going on in SF that will give you an experience of a lifetime.


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