You are thinking about visiting San Francisco in December and want to know what to expect from the weather. Although it’s one of the coolest months of the year in this fabulous city, it isn’t freezing cold. In fact, people from most locations will consider the temperature moderate during this early winter month in the Bay Area.
There is only a ten degree temperature difference between the average high and low temperatures in December. The average low is 47 degrees and the average high is 57. This means that there are no dramatic swings in temperature throughout the day so you’ll mostly know what to expect when you step out of your San Francisco hotel room and you’ll be able to stay in the same clothes throughout the day. Plan for a day with an average temperature of about 52 degrees from beginning to end.
That said, San Francisco is a finicky place with lots of microclimates, so an average of 52 degrees can still feel a lot cooler in one part of the city than it does in another. For example, if you’re downtown at Union Square to do some holiday shopping, it’s likely to be warmer than if you’re out at Ocean Beach or on top of Twin Peaks getting a beautiful view of the city. The proximity to the water, the exposure to wind and a variety of other factors all influence how warm or cold you actually feel in the city.
Winter is the rainy season in San Francisco and you’re likely to experience at least a little bit of rain during a December visit to the city. The average rainfall in December is 4 inches, making it the second wettest month of the year (behind January). Make sure to pack an umbrella and a rain jacket, because it rains about ten days out of the month in December.
The Christmas holiday season is in full swing throughout the city during December. In fact, it all begins just before the month starts, with many large Christmas trees going up the weekend of Thanksgiving. Although you might miss the big tree lighting ceremonies, there’s a good chance that you can catch the annual Menorah Lighting ceremony at Ghirardelli Square (depending on when Hanukkah falls on the calendar in the year that you visit). You can also enjoy many other themed holiday events including the Fantasy of Lights on Union Street, the Filipino Parol Lantern Festival, the SPCA Adopt-a-thon in the Union Square Macy’s window, and SantaCon, a one day event when hundreds of people dress up like Santa Claus and do a pub crawl around the city.
If you enjoy performance arts, December is a great time to visit the city. You can see a classic like the Nutcracker at the ballet. Or you can see a modern favorite like the annual Cirque du Soleil show. The city also has a large number of small theaters that book their calendars with shows in December, including both holiday shows and shows for those who want to ignore the holidays.
And of course shopping is a big draw in San Francisco in December. In addition to the usual shopping areas around Union Square and on Union Street, you’ll find many opportunities to pick up more unique gifts as well. Check the schedule at Fort Mason for at least one weekend of craft shopping where you can buy handmade gifts direct from the artisans. Visit the annual Dickens Fair to purchase a wide variety of one of a kind items while taking in the historic ambience. Each neighborhood in San Francisco offers something different in terms of shopping so put on your walking shoes and get your wallet ready!
Traveling to San Francisco in a month other than December? Check our average San Francisco temperature chart to see what the weather will be during your visit.
By: Kathryn Vercillo