What to Wear on Your Winter Trip to San Francisco

Published in: Beauty Tips, Just For Fun

San Francisco’s Union Square, June 2010

Hi, ladies. Aside from the brief period of time I spent away at college, I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area all my life. I love it here, and it definitely feels like home. πŸ™‚ When I opened this note from reader Tzu, I couldn’t wait to share.


Hi Karen,

I’ll be visiting San Francisco next week and was wondering if you could give me suggestions on what to pack in terms of clothing? I’m in NYC, and I know I won’t be needing my winter/snow woolly mammoth coat, but should I pack spring clothes? Layers? Any suggestions would be great! Thank you!

Hey Tzu,

Adventure awaits! I think you’re going to love San Francisco, but before I jump into suggestions, please promise me something — that you’ll never, ever refer to San Francisco as “San Fran” (bluh!) or “‘Fricso” (double bluh!) while you’re here. Try “S.F.” or “the City,” and merchants will take you for a local (as opposed to a tourist).

The weather is generally mild in winter — too warm for snow, but too chilly for shorts. It rains a little more than usual, and temps typically range from the low 40s to mid 60s.

In the city itself, the different districts and neighborhoods also have their own micro climates. You can literally go from one end of the city to the other (a distance of just 7 miles) and go through banks of thick fog, patches of sun, and areas of rain, which means it helps to be prepared for anything.

I think you’re wise to leave your heaviest snow coat at home, but you’ll still want to bring a warm coat, especially if you plan to do any walking (a good likelihood considering the poor parking). It also gets colder at night. Not East Coast cold, mind you, but chilly enough.

Layers are totally key; lightweight (but warm) sweaters, t-shirts, scarves, hoodies — basically, anything that you can peel off if the sun peeks out and put back on when it goes away.

Now I live about 40 miles north of San Francisco, and when I visit the city in winter I’ll wear a trench coat atop a button-down cashmere sweater, a short sleeve shirt and maybe skinny jeans, a scarf and boots.

Oh, and people tend to dress casually when they’re cruising San Francisco, so unless you’re planning to attend a fancy fashion-related event or a business meeting, you’re probably fine wearing jeans and/or khakis most of the time.

Cheesin’ it up in Golden Gate Park

I hope you have a great trip. Safe travels! πŸ™‚

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 26 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. san francisco’s probably my favourite city in california.

    have fun, tzu! you’ll love it πŸ™‚
    dani@callitbeauty recently posted … Collection Spotlight- Nina Ricci – Resort 2011

  2. AnieJ says:

    Oh, and make those boots either wedges, thick heeled or flat because I have never been able to wear super heels (kitten or stiletto) anywhere near hills. Especially if you can’t walk-walk in them (for extended periods). Just a thought.

    SF is so much fun, one of my fav cities in the world!

  3. Rads says:

    Love the last pic πŸ™‚ Have been to San Francisco only once or twice – just for a day – and it was crazy climate..so sunny and so cold πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  4. BeautyMaven says:

    OMG So smart to ask! I visited for a couple of days in September and only had a blazer with me– I had to buy a lined raincoat from Burlington Coat Factory in order to 1. stay warm and 2. block the wind! I was so surprised at how cold it was because “Sunny California!” always translated at HOT in my head, haha!!
    BeautyMaven recently posted … FOTD Friday- Emphasis on the Lower Lash

  5. Kate Williamson says:

    Awwwww……..This totally made me homesick for San Francisco. I miss wearing boots, scarves, and coats. There is nothing prettier than a blue sky in San Francisco. When the air is crisp, the sky always seems even bluer. Sometimes, when the light shines through my blinds a certain way, I feel like I am ten years old again, looking out my window in my Dad’s house. Then, I look outside and the palm trees remind me that I am in Hawaii.

  6. Vonvon says:

    Great tips! Was there in summer but it was pretty chilly too, and foggy.
    Vonvon recently posted … EOTD-FOTD- MAC Peacocky Mega Metal Eyeshadow in Mating Call- MAC Azalea Blossom Blush Ombre- et al

  7. Advah says:

    Those photos have just made me homesick (grew up by the Riviera and it looks very similar), I miss warm weather and normal clothes!

    Thanks for the Monday morning day dream Karen, and have a lovely trip Tzu!

  8. Thao says:

    SF has some of the most bipolar weather ever. Accessories are your best friend such as scarves, gloves, and hats are your best friend. Most people here just put on a long sleeved shirt and a warm jacket and they’re ready to go. Most of the time though, sf doesn’t get too cold or warm, so we complain a lot when it leans too much to one side haha. One thing that is always consistent though, is the fog in the morning. Oh, and most people heat up walking around sf because of the hills! I went to Chicago for the first time and I freaked when I saw flat land as far as the eye could see.

  9. Tiffany says:

    Ahhh SF weather. When I visited in May I thought it would be warm, and the heaviest thing I brought was a cardigan. I had to hit up the stores to buy a jacket. And my feet were cold the whole trip since I only brought flip flips!

  10. Fieran says:

    Ohhh Karen – you’re making me miss SF so, so much. The bf might be going there in May for business. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to make another trip there..otherwise I’ll just give him a list πŸ˜‰
    Fieran recently posted … The Downside of Being an Expatriate

  11. Kim says:

    I’ve only been to southern CA but have heard that SF is cooler and foggier (though, not smoggier!). πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tips on not saying San Fran or Frisco, too. It’s definitely helpful to know what nicknames the locals hate!

  12. Kerry says:

    Haha – when I visited San Francisco as a kid, my parents called it both “San Fran” and “Frisco.” But I loved it there! The weather changes were crazy – we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and the change in weather was outrageous.
    (Tzu, if you can, try to make it to Sausalito. It’s gorgeous, and the sourdough bread is the bomb.com)

  13. Christen says:

    As a native Nor-Cal person off in Washington DC, this post makes me miss SF that much more! And yes, I cringe every time i hear The City referred to as “San-Fran” or “Frisco”. LIght layers are definitely the right choice – but check the weather reports for sure! I personally was always comfortable in flip flops any time of the year in CA, but I understand that some are not. Always have a jacket, especially for night. I feel like scarves are more of an accessory there than they are in DC, but still chic and if you run cold, nice to have. ahhh SF, how i miss you!

  14. bisbee says:

    I love San Francisco! I’ve visited 4 times…and I absolutely love it – we went to LA a few months ago (step-daughter lives there) and although we had a great time, I MUCH prefer SF! Can’t wait to go back!

  15. Nina says:

    ive only been once but i think i did leave my heart in san francisco. such a pretty city, and i am one of the few that find the fog very romantic!

    the only advice i can give is to layer — a sweater, a scarf, a shawl and a slightly heavy jacket. it would be a good tiem to break out those cute boots too! πŸ™‚

  16. chibu74 says:

    great tips. I love your pic

  17. Meghan says:

    I would love to go there one day!
    Meghan recently posted … MAC eyeshadow dupes-NYX

  18. corinne says:

    I’m a native San Franciscan and I say Frisco all the time…maybe the rules don’t apply to me? LOL i mean, when someone outside of the Bay asks me where I’m from I do say SF or San Francisco…but if it’s someone in the Bay i say i’m from the Sco or Frisco…hhhmmm urban legend says if an “outsider” says Frisco they will get shot…LOL so far, no bullets have harmed me =)

  19. Glosslizard says:

    Tzu, I hope you have a fabulous visit, and I hope the weather is as lovely for you as it’s been the last couple of weeks! If not, I might add one of those little micro-umbrellas to your list of accessories!

    Nice info round-up, Karen! πŸ™‚

  20. Cindy says:

    Wear heels only if you don’t plan on walking much (i.e. cab it everywhere if you can’t live without your heels). My staples include a cozy scarf, lightweight gloves, a semi thick jacket/blazer and maybe even a lightweight cardigan between your jacket and lightweight top. Bring a nice little tote or shopping bag in which to stuff your removed layers if you get lucky and the weather changes!

    If the weather is nice, beware, it could get chilly after 6-7 p.m. so it might be great to still bring a lightweight coat and/or scarf. Even on the warm days, I bring them along because I get cold very easily and have regretted one too many chilly nights!

    Have a great time and enjoy the sights, food, and shopping. Read up on the neighborhoods to avoid πŸ™‚
    Cindy recently posted … Hawaii Wish List!

  21. Lucia says:

    whew I thought I was the only one who gets annoyed with people calling San Francisco “San Fran”. I’m from the bay and I go to school in LA and people down here call it San Fran ALL THE TIME it drives me crazy!

  22. Jessica says:

    Just today I was talking to a friend who recently moved to SF and I might be visiting him late March!!! What great timing- and this post makes me even more excited~~!

  23. Tzu says:

    Hi Karen,

    Thank you for this! I arrived last night and cannot wait to explore the city! <3
    Tzu recently posted … Hello Kitty 50th Anniversary Pop Up Shop

  24. marii says:

    Ohh, I’m home sick too!!! πŸ™ I really want to move back to SF….Booo, I hate Los Angeles!!! SF is so romantic and beautiful city, full of Asian and European culture. Ppl are friendly and easy to make friends. It can get boring, because of the tiny city, but then again…I love SF. There’s no such thing as summer/spring, the weather pretty much stays the same in 50’s 60’s F. Winter maybe 40’s-50’s F. September/October are the warmest months there, it can get 70 to 80’s F on random days. I rarely can wear shorts, dresses due to the weather. Past 5pm, for sure, you need to put on your jacket, the wind is coming your way. SF weather is like Oct/Nov in NYC. Don’t forget the food in SF. Hit La Ciccia Italian restaurant, Slanted Door at Ferry Bldg, Thai OSHA on Geary Downtown, mmm…I forgot the rest. Damn it, I need to make a trip back there soon.

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