Things to Do in San Francisco in January
While many parts of the country are blanketed by snow every January, this is the perfect time of the year to come out to San Francisco! This post will show you all the best things to do in San Francisco in the month of January. We’ll include daytime activities, the best nightlife, things to do with kids and families, and the best things to do on a budget. And if you’re coming from one of those cities that’s always below freezing during this time, you can look forward to plenty of outdoor activities on this list, because San Francisco has wonderful winters that let you enjoy all parts of the city even in the winter months!
So, on to the list!
Visit the Golden Gate Bridge
Easily the most famous sight in San Francisco, and one of the most recognizable places in the entire world, the Golden Gate Bridge is a wonderful place to visit in January. During wintertime, San Francisco will often have bright, clear sunny days which are perfect for viewing the bridge. So our first recommendation will be to take a Free Golden Gate Bridge walking tour. This tour will take you to the best photo spots to get that perfect Instagram. You’ll also go under the bridge and on the bridge to get the best views of San Francisco.
Whether you take a tour or explore the Golden Gate Bridge itself, you should certainly make the trip out there to check this off your bucket list!
Go to Alcatraz
As long as we’re talking about the most famous places in the world, we can’t possibly leave off Alcatraz island. Tripadvisor has named Alcatraz the #1 Landmark in the United States, and the #8 landmark in the entire world. So if you’re traveling to San Francisco, you should certainly check it out! We have put together a post on How to Visit Alcatraz so you can best plan your trip out to the prison island. We have heard people say that they don’t want to go to Alcatraz during winter because it will be too cold, but this is actually the perfect time to visit! First of all, it doesn’t get very cold here (minimum temperatures are usually around 50 degrees F or 10 degrees C). Plus, when other people decide not to go to Alcatraz, it makes the island that much more open to you. It can get pretty busy and crowded in July and August (when the temperature is only about 10 F/5 C warmer! So January is an ideal time to go to Alcatraz.
Take a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
We do understand that many people don’t really enjoy being outdoors in the winter weather. But if you have planned to visit our amazing city in January and you’d still like to see as much of the city as you can, we recommend taking a bus tour of the city.
San Francisco hosts many different bus companies that will drive you to the best parts of the city so you can get a great overview of San Francisco while sitting in a heated vehicle. If you are interested in seeing as much of the city as possible in the shortest time possible, check our our post on the best bus tours in San Francisco.
Check out the Sea Lions on Pier 39
One of the most fun (and adorable!) things to do in San Francisco in January is to visit Pier 39 to check out San Francisco’s wild sea lions. When you go out
Discount Restaurant Week
One of the things that we most love about living in San Francisco is that we have the best restaurants in the country! And if you come to San Francisco in January, you can experience these great eateries for yourself. From January 22 – 31, we are celebrating Restaurant Week. During this time, you can go to some of the best (and some of the most expensive!) 5-star restaurants in the city and get a highly discounted meal.
The price of this prix fixe meal at each restaurant will be $15 for lunch and $40 for dinner. This is a bargain compared to the high prices that many of these restaurants typically have! But be sure to make a reservation at your favorite places, because they are so popular that tables will fill up extremely quickly.
Free Museum Days
San Francisco has many great museums throughout the city, and in January many of them open their doors on certain days for people to get in for free. If you’re going to be here during the month, we encourage you to check them out!
Asian Art Museum: January 7
Botanical Gardens: January 1, January 8
Conservatory of Flowers: January 2
Contemporary Jewish Museum: January 2
de Young Museum: January 2
Legion of Honor Museum: January 2
LGBT History Museum: January 3
Museum of the African Diaspora: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: January 2
The biggest comedy fest of the year returns to San Francisco for the 17th year in a row! From January 11-28, comedians from all over the country will travel here for the San Francisco Sketchfest and to entertain us. This year we’ll have comedians such as John Hodgman, Jane Lynch, Ricky Gervais, Christopher Guest, Lewis Black, Fred Armisen, and many more. Check out their website for the full schedule and to buy tickets. And please note that tickets to these events sell out quickly, so make sure to get your tickets early!
Noir City, a Film Noir Festival
This year will be the 8th consecutive San Francisco Noir City, the best Film Noir festival in the country. Hosted at the historic Castro Theater, Noir City will show movies from January 26 – February 4. If you are interested in the dark and seedy film era, you shouldn’t miss going out to the theater for a couple of these great films.
Napa Valley Resolution Run
For those of us who made a New Year’s resolution to eat better and exercise more, the Resolution Run is for you! Yountville, a town in the heart of Napa Valley, will be hosting a 5k/10k run on January 1 so we can get a head start on our New Year’s resolutions. And if you’re anything like us, after the end of the tour you will go straight to one of Yountville’s amazing restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc to enjoy some of the best food and wine in the Valley.
The Amazing Fairmont Gingerbread House
Every year, the beautiful Fairmont Hotel creates the biggest gingerbread house you will ever see! For over 100 years, master bakers at the Fairmont have created a 2-story gingerbread house that soars 25 feet (8 meters) high and 35 feet (10 m) wide. For the first two days of January, if you are walking around downtown San Francisco, be sure to head up Nob Hill and check out this incredible creation. And just try not to eat the 1,200 pounds of candy and 3,300 pounds of frosting they use to create the house!
ZAP: The Zinfandel Experience
If you are a lover of California wine, you’ll know that Napa cabernets and chardonnays and Sonoma pinot noirs are the kings of the wine industry out here. But don’t forget about the often-overlooked Zinfandel producers out here! To remind you about how great these wines are, come out to ZAP (the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), a three-day festival between January 18 – 20 to learn about (and of course taste) some of the best Zinfandel wines that California is producing.