This blog post was updated on August 28, 2018.
Fall in San Francisco, by calculating yearly weather averages, is supposedly the city’s best season. September and October on average are some of San Francisco’s warmest months, once again on record.
However, show up to this city in shorts and flip-flops for fall and you are really taking a gamble, one you should probably only take in Vegas.
Travelers often make the mistake of purchasing cheap airfare to the city by the bay and believing it to always have sunshine on its shoulders.
Frequenting San Francisco throughout college in those fall months, I quickly learned San Francisco could be difficult to pack for, especially in fall.
The city of unpredictable weather has even puzzled the likes of Mark Twain when he said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” As summer quickly shortens, Mark Twain still could have used this packing list for San Francisco in fall.
Layer Your Suitcase with Layers—I have been in San Francisco in September when it is so hot, a dress is almost too much fabric to wear. The weather in San Francisco is so unpredictable that you may hit those yearly highs or below average lows. I often follow Meg Ryan’s character’s wardrobe in the film French Kiss for San Francisco in fall. After losing all of her luggage, she is forced to just wear what she wore on the plane. Pants, a tank top, a t-Shirt and a jacket provide the recipe for all of the layers you could possibly need in San Francisco for fall. If you can’t add on to an outfit or take off pieces, you probably shouldn’t bring it to this city.
Head Gear—Due to San Francisco’s location, you can expect the wind to whip you like whipped cream. If you have long tresses, kiss any sort of styling out the window. It may be sunny in the fall, but the wind is still ever-present. Hair ties, scarves and hats are a good way to get by in this city in autumn.
A Thick Sweater/Sweatshirt—The weather report may tell you of sunny weather in San Francisco for fall, but at night, this city cools predictably due its position on the water. Temperatures might be in the 50s at night, 50s that can feel more like 30s and 40s. If you ever plan on booking flights to San Francisco in the fall, no matter what the weather report is indicating, always pack a thick sweater or sweatshirt in a classic color like black so that it will go with everything. If you don’t, you may find yourself down on Fishermen’s Wharf with all of the other tourists, buying cable car sweats.
Closed-Toed Shoes—Another common mistake travelers make when heading to San Francisco in the fall comes at their feet. Sure, you can sport those sandals and flip-flops, but once the fog sets in, be prepared to run for cover, for your feet’s sake of course. In case the weather is sunny, a good solution is to pack sneakers or flats. That way your feet are always covered and no toes are exposed to the elements.
A Trench Coat—I think the trench coat might have been constructed and designed just for San Francisco. A trench coat is the perfect weight for this city in the fall months. When it gets cooler at night, you can throw on a trench coat. When the rain and fog enter the scene after all of the sun, you can trust in a trench coat. Be sure and pick a coat that is longer, not just one that cuts at the waist. The trench coat also allows for layers underneath without looking bulky should it be colder than predicted.