“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” may be wrongly attributed to Mark Twain (the verdict is still out on who actually said it), but the sentiment is right. From June to August, while most of America heats up, California’s City by the Bay sits under a blanket of fog. But when the rest of the country is gearing up for falling leaves and dropping temperatures, sun worshippers looking to extend that summer feeling should set their sights on the Bay Area when it’s at its warmest and sunniest—September through early November.
Here are some of our favorite ways to maximize fun in the sun.
Suppenküche: Get in the spirit of Oktoberfest at this popular German restaurant in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Expect to find Wiener schnitzel, bratwurst, and other traditional meats served up with cranberries, roasted potatoes, and homemade applesauce. Raise a stein (or a boot) in the cozy restaurant—where you should expect a wait—or cross the street to visit its Biergarten for fresh air and food truck fare.
The Ferry Building: Established in 1898, this transportation hub continues to welcome ferry commuters on a daily basis. Slow down to take in a variety of food stalls selling regional favorites such as Cowgirl Creamery’s award-winning cheeses, Humphry Slocombe ice cream, and Blue Bottle coffee. Tours with local food-loving guides help you navigate the bustling marketplace; some even include tickets to visit Alcatraz afterward.
Kokkari Estiatorio: This swanky Mediterranean restaurant’s menu offers a cornucopia of fresh and seasonal fare—think grilled octopus cooked in olive oil and lemon; kebabs stacked with fresh roasted bell peppers and onions; and vegetarian-friendly tapas that might include sweet corn and crispy zucchini cakes.
Fisherman’s Wharf: It may be a hot spot for crowds year-round, but you can’t beat the fall sunsets from waterfront rooms or the proximity to Fort Mason and Ghirardelli Square’s Chocolate Festival in early September. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, where you can explore the Balclutha, a rigged sailing ship built in 1886, is within walking (or biking) distance of most hotels.
Nob Hill: For a more luxurious stay in the city, retreat to hotels that offer up heritage. At the Fairmont, you can soak up presidential history and stunning views; meanwhile, the Scarlet Huntington delivers on old San Francisco charm, all the way down to a restaurant and bar fit for the Gold Rush era.
Festivals: October in San Francisco means live music, Fleet Week, and literary celebrations. Get in free at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival in Golden Gate Park, catch the Blue Angels slicing through usually clear skies on Angel Island, and channel your inner beatnik during the citywide Litquake festival.
Dolores Park: Prime people watching happens at this community spot, whether you’re picnicking or working on your hula hoop skills. Be prepared for a diverse crowd of revelers that ranges from families to dog owners to wine-sipping San Franciscans. In the Mission District, a three-hour tour fills you in on the neighborhood’s culinary roots—allowing you to meet chefs and restaurant owners in between food and drink tastings—before ending at Dolores.
Bay Cruises: Pleasant weather means calmer boat rides along the San Francisco Bay. An hour-long outing departing from Pier 39 can be a fun way to knock out some major sightseeing from a new perspective. Be sure to walk down the K-Dock to find lazing sea lions catching some rays before or after your ride. Animal lovers should also consider heading out on a whale-watching excursion to the Farallon Islands for likely sightings of the migrating humpback and blue whales.