It was a sunny July day when I left Seattle for San Francisco. Two days later I was shivering on the beach wearing every item of clothing I had with me watching muted fireworks explosions through the fog on the 4th of July. Fun fact: it’s not always sunny in California, and Seattle isn’t constantly rainy. Having lived in both San Francisco and Seattle, I’ve got tips on the best sights and activities no matter the weather.
San Francisco, Golden or Gloomy
San Francisco on a sunny day is glorious, but if sun’s what you’re after, visit in spring or fall, not summer. Summer in San Francisco is typically cold and foggy, and an excellent time to make day trips to Napa or Sonoma which aren’t affected by the coastal gloom and happen to be full of excellent wine.
If you are in the city on an overcast day, this can be an excellent time to take advantage of San Francisco’s great museums, especially the lesser-known Walt Disney Family Museum or the iconic Cable Car Museum.
A stop at The Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee (where this caffeinated cocktail was perfected) is another excellent way to warm up, and it’s conveniently located between Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, two tourist meccas you’re likely to visit no matter the weather.
If you know enough to visit in the spring or fall for a sunny trip, you probably already know about the tourist highlights: Golden Gate Park, a walk across the bridge by the same name, Dolores Park, Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, etc. Here are a few unique experiences best enjoyed on a sunny day:
Angel Island is a short ferry ride into the bay and offers incredible sweeping views of the city. Rent bikes for a pleasant and not too challenging ride around the island which is virtually devoid of cars.
Coit Tower also offers beautiful vistas of the water and the city and is located near iconic crooked Lombard Street for checking things off your tourist bucket list. The monument offers great views even from its base, which is free to visit, or for a small fee you can take an elevator to the top for a true change in perspective.
Seattle, Damp or Dry
Summer is the season to visit Seattle. Full disclosure, there may be a slight drizzle some mornings, but most days are warm and dry.
Spending time on the water in Seattle is the ideal way to celebrate the sun. There are myriad boat tours to be had on Lake Union, beach days and bonfires on the Puget Sound – Golden Gardens is a local favorite – or laid-back relaxing in an oversize floatie on Green Lake. Stand Up Paddleboards are readily available to rent at any of these locations as well.
Other lesser-known outdoor adventures include the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is downtown just past all of the tourist-focused waterfront and Seattle’s small but lovely Woodland Park Zoo, which feels like a botanical garden with animals tucked away in the foliage.
Given the good chance of rain most of the year, having an indoor backup plan is wise. MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture has exhibits focused on Seattle’s music scene, all things sci-fi, and an excellent array of rotating exhibits.
My favorite place to take visitors is the Future of Flight Boeing Factory Tour, which is just north of the city. It’s truly incredible to visit the warehouses that are the size of small cities and watch airplanes come together before your very eyes.
No matter which left coast city you visit in any type of weather, you’re sure to have a good time enjoying either of these lovely cities full of culture, natural beauty and unique experiences. Enjoy!
Christina is a So Cal native who now calls Seattle home. She loves to explore cities on foot, eat all the things, dance, and shop. When she’s not doing any of those things, you’ll find her on the couch, snuggling her French Bulldogs and knitting.