The Most Budget-Friendly Time Of Year To Visit San Francisco

San Francisco is known for its unique neighborhoods — it has America's oldest Chinatown — cable cars, fog, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. The City by the Bay became a booming metropolis thanks to the California Gold Rush in the 1840s. The earthquake of 1906 and the fires that followed left over 80% of the city in ruins, via the United States Census Bureau. By 1915, the city had rebuilt and hosted the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, showing the world that San Francisco was back.

In the 1960s, San Francisco became known as the place to go for the hippie and counterculture scene. And with the computer boom of the 1980s and 1990s, San Francisco and the Bay Area became a hub of technological innovation that continues today with companies like Salesforce, Dropbox, and Square headquartered in the city. With the ongoing tech growth in the area, as well as the city's beauty and plethora of things to do, San Francisco has become one of the world's most expensive places to live, according to SFGate. You may not be looking to move to San Francisco, but if you're going to visit and don't want to break the bank, here's when to go.

Summer brings crowds (and high prices)

A large part of your San Francisco vacation budget will likely go toward accommodations. The average hotel room rates in San Francisco are $269 (as of this article's publication), according to The Mercury News. But that isn't spread out equally over the year, or over the city. Luxury spots like the Fairmont San Francisco in Nob Hill will be pricier than the micro hotel YOTEL San Francisco; split the difference by staying somewhere like The Clancy in SoMa. Hotel prices are generally higher in the summer, per U.S. News & World Report. The biggest bargain prices on hotels are in winter — not counting the lead up to Christmas and New Years, which will also see an uptick in prices. So depending on what you want to do while you're in San Francisco, winter may be the best time to go.

Along with higher room costs, you can expect higher flight costs to San Francisco during the summer, via Cheap Flights. One potential cost-saving option for flying into San Francisco is to book a flight to the Oakland International Airport (OAK) instead of the San Francisco International Airport (SFO); as Trips With Tykes explains, OAK can have cheaper flights and cheaper rental cars compared to SFO and the distance to the city isn't too different. OAK is around 19 miles from downtown San Francisco while SFO is around 15 miles away.

September or April are the sweet spots

While some destinations may have a cheaper price point in the off-season, the weather might be so cold or hot that you don't actually want to go then. Not San Francisco. The weather is mild year-round with averages, as noted by WeatherSpark, between 45 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. It's warmest from July to September, and while the iconic fog can roll in anytime, it's most common in June and through the summer, per San Francisco Travel Association. The biggest issue in terms of weather in the off-season/winter is the potential for rain. Keep in mind that thanks to the proximity to the bay and the hilly topography, San Francisco has microclimates where it may be foggy and chilly in one part of the city and sunny and calm in another, via KQED

For the Goldilocks time to visit San Francisco, visit in September. It's typically the warmest time of year, and the summer tourist crowds and hotel prices will have tapered off. If not September, then in springtime when the rain chances will be going down, the weather will be warming up, and costs won't be at summertime highs. More benefits to visiting in the shoulder and off-season are the festivals during those times, including the enormous Chinese New Year Festival and parade in January or February; Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in April, and Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival in September, per

San Francisco has plenty of free activities

What's friendlier to your budget than free? San Francisco City Guides runs free walking tours of San Francisco. Led by trained volunteers, they have 80 different city tours of sites like Downtown Art Deco, Coit Tower Murals, and Japanese Tea Garden.

Walking or biking across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge doesn't come with a cost, and you'll get incredible views. For a free 360-degree view of the city, go to Twin Peaks. History buffs and anyone looking for Instagram-worthy architecture should check out the one remnant from the 1918 Panama-Pacific International Exposition: the neoclassical Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District near the Presidio. Wander Fisherman's Wharf and take in the sight and sound of the sea lions that like to congregate at Pier 39.

To celebrate more San Francisco history, check out the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which was the 1960s center of counterculture, and see where Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix lived, according to SF Tourism Tips. Then there's the Painted Ladies, the pastel Victorian houses along Alamo Square Park, which "Full House" fans will definitely recognize. San Francisco has over 50 museums to explore, and some of them have free days throughout the year. The Asian Art Museum has Free First Sunday, the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor are free on the first Tuesday of each month, and SFMOMA has free family days during the year as well as select free galleries to check out.