Things to Do in San Francisco in the Winter

Although San Francisco doesn’t get a ton of tourist traffic in the winter, it’s actually a really nice time to visit. There are shorter lines, fun special exhibits, and tons of winter activities for the whole family.

If you’re headed to the City by the Bay this winter, check out a few of our favorite things to do in San Francisco in the winter. Try one, or try them all!

San Francisco Sea Lions

Pier 39
January, 2016

This event is something to see – even for the locals. Each January, droves of sea lions take over the K-Dock at Pier 39 and camp out for a while to the delight and amazement of the entire city.

Come bundled up with a camera in tow prepared to see something truly amazing!

San Francisco Film Noir Festival

Castro Theatre
January 22 – 31, 2016

Image credit: Noir City Film Festival.

Image credit: Noir City Film Festival.

Who doesn’t love a good film festival, especially if you’re a big fan of classic theater and traditional genres? This year’s festival theme is “The Art of Darkness,” and we just love all that this promises.

Two films are shown each night, and both represent something about the darker side of human nature, of creativity, and of life itself.

Because of its theme and content, it’s probably an event best for the older crowd. Purchase tickets in advance, or pick up a festival pass that provides admission for the entire festival.

San Francisco Restaurant Week

Various locations
January 20 – 31, 2016

Samplings from the Thirsty Bear. Image credit: San Francisco Restaurant Week Facebook page.

Samplings from Thirsty Bear Organic Brewery. Image credit: San Francisco Restaurant Week Facebook page.

Foodies will love this fantastic big city event. It’s ten days filled with food, drink, and fun across the urban metro area.

Try out new restaurants you’ve been dying to get to, or return to old favorites.

If you’re a visitor in town, it’s a great chance to sample the local cuisine without spending too much money – especially at high end places. Remember to make reservations in advance (available online), or you might miss out!

San Francisco Boat Show

McCovey Cove & Pier 48
January 15 – 18, 2016

Image credit: San Francisco Boat Show Facebook page.

Image credit: San Francisco Boat Show Facebook page.

This is one for the boat lovers among you. While it’s going to be fun to observe the hottest new gadgets and sleek vessels for even a layperson, the real experts will get the most of out these new tech showcases, boat competitions, and product demonstrations.

It’s held at AT&T Park and an adjacent Pier, so it’s a perfect location to include as part of a larger touring itinerary. See magnificent views of the Bay, and perhaps even tour the park!

SF Sketchfest

Various locations
January 7 – 24, 2016

Image credit: SF Sketchfest Facebook page.

Image credit: SF Sketchfest Facebook page.

The area’s biggest and best comedy festival, SF Sketchfest is actually well known in comic circles across the country for their innovation and creativity.

This year’s star line-up includes the dynamic duo of Billy Crystal & Alan Zweibel, tributes to Jeff Goldblum, Sally Field, and Patton Oswalt, plus a comedy writing award with Dave Barry.

There are also a number of workshops, presentations, kids events like storytelling sessions, podcasts, improv shows, and tons more. Shows are held throughout the city (with some even at the California Academy of Sciences), and tickets may be purchased in advance on line, over the phone, or at the box office.

Watch the Super Bowl at a Sports Bar

Various locations
February 7, 2016

Planning to be in San Francisco for the Super Bowl? Be sure to scope out your sports bar of choice in advance and get there plenty early–it will be packed this year! Check out Eater’s list of The 15 Best Sports Bars in San Francisco for some inspiration.

California Academy of Sciences


Recently named one of the “New Wonders of the World” by Conde Nast Traveler, the California Academy of Sciences is open year round and features seasonal exhibits. Head to Golden Gate Park to visit this must-see San Francisco museum.

You’ll get to explore the world’s largest all-digital planetarium, a natural history museum, an aquarium, and a four story rainforest–the whole universe under one (living!) roof.

Children’s Creativity Museum


The Children’s Creativity Museum is known for it’s state of the art, hands-on exhibits that explore art and technology.

The museum’s mission is to inspire kids to think creatively and act as global citizens through fun, interactive exhibits such as the animator’s studio, music production lab, digital workshop, studio z, and more.

SF Indie Fest

Various locations

February 11-25, 2016

Head to the 18th San Francisco Independent Film Festival to experience the booming indie film and arts scene in San Francsico. This annual event features the best independent and subversive cinema from around the globe drawing large crowds and critic accolade.

Save on Admission 

So whether you’re into ice-skating or fine art, there’s something wonderful for you to enjoy this winter in San Francisco.

Don’t forget to snag an all-inclusive Go San Francisco® Card to help you save on admission to your favorite seasonal attractions. Happy Winter!
Go San Francisco Explorer Pass

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