If you’re looking for things to do during spring in San Francisco, you’ve come to the absolute right post on the internet! As a San Francisco resident who’s enjoyed over 12 springtimes in the city, I don’t know how to stop gushing on how perfect the season, weather and scenery is in San Francisco, which is decked with the prettiest blooms and blossoms. This guide on the most delightful things to do in San Francisco in spring covers the very best activities in San Francisco from March-June for you to enjoy!
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WHAT TO EXPECT IN SAN FRANCISCO IN SPRING (MARCH, APRIL, MAY, JUNE)
San Francisco may have 72 problems, but spring ain’t one of them. Starting from March, San Francisco is bathed in the golden light of longer, warmer days with the sweet scent of jasmine filling the air. The city comes alive with flowers blooming from the sleepy buds all over the city-on tree branches lining streets, overflowing bushes pouring over the fences and flower laden patches on the sidewalks.
Besides the riot of reds, yellows, pinks and all other blossom shades in between, the city feels awake, lush and vibrant with all the greenery that comes to life, thanks to the nourishing winter rains. There are plant and flower festivals, wildflowers on hiking trails and a general sense of bonhomie all around. Indeed, spring is one of the best times to visit San Francisco!
As a SF resident of 12 years, I have lost count of the gazillion photos that I have amassed of San Francisco in spring over the period of my residence-from the cherry blossoms to plum blossoms, the blooming plants at the Conservatory of Flowers or the swaying magnolias in the Botanical Garden.
Spring is my favorite time to enjoy San Francisco and I am here to tell you all the delightful ways to enjoy spring weather in the months of March-June in this beautiful city of mine. So let’s get started!
WHEN IS SPRING WEATHER IN SAN FRANCISCO?
Officially, spring starts from March 20 (vernal equinox) and lasts till June 20/21 in the Northern Hemisphere. However, it feels like spring at least a few weeks earlier (more like beginning of March or even mid February in some cases) in San Francisco with the advent of the magnolia and plum blossoms blooming all over the city.
HOW IS THE WEATHER LIKE DURING SPRING IN SAN FRANCISCO?
San Francisco has mild weather year round, with the mercury hovering between 60-72F (15-22C) pretty much throughout the year (except two very hot weeks in September and October).
Spring is colder, but still way more manageable than the frigid tundra of the upper midwest and east coast, with the temperature being in the low 40Fs (4C) early morning with warmer days around 55F-ish (13C), followed by colder, chilly nights. It is also not uncommon to get some light rain.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SAN FRANCISCO IN SPRING
I have mentioned this in my previous posts on what to wear in San Francisco as well as my San Francisco packing list guide-always carry a jacket when visiting San Francisco. For spring, include a rain jacket or an umbrella.
Bring sturdy shoes or rain boots for hiking (it gets muddy on the trails), and sweaters for layering. Also, bring your camera to snap photos of all the spring blossoms. You can get a handy packing list for visiting San Francisco in all seasons in this post.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN SPRING IN SAN FRANCISCO
Come spring, San Francisco is agog with activities after a good winter shower. There are plenty of delightful things to do and festivals to explore in San Francisco during this season and I hope the photos inspire you to experience some or all of these. Here are my suggestions on enjoying spring in San Francisco in the following ways, many of which are great as date ideas in San Francisco.
DISCOVER SPRING BLOSSOMS AND BLOOMS IN SAN FRANCISCO
Spring weather means witnessing Mother Nature lay out a riot of colors and fragrances via flowers and San Francisco is blessed to have a myriad of these beauties that turns it into an urban garden. First, come the magnolias in February followed by the plum blossoms (these are the purple leaved trees and are not to be confused with cherry blossoms). Cherry blossoms follow duly in March while Wisterias are their deepest purple hue in April and May.
And, this is not all. Spring is when jasmine flowers bloom like crazy with bushes overladen with these tiny, white flowers pouring over fences and climbing the trellis of the Queen Annes and Edwardian homes. You also have the deep red bougainvillea clamoring for attention in warmer weather of May continuing all the way up to September along walls and home fronts. Plus, pretty tulips stand tall on soil beds in March-April while roses come to bloom in May.
The next logical step is to reveal where exactly you’ll find these magical blossoms all over the city. So here is the list of places (based on my 12 springs in SF) to find the blossoms and blooms that make this season so special:
Magnolias: The San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is the best place to see these beauties, although you can see them pretty much anywhere in many neighborhoods in San Francisco and Golden Gate Park itself. Tickets are $10 for adults with discounts available for seniors and young adults. San Francisco residents enter for free, yay! Magnolias last till mid-end of March, so it is best to see them sometime end of February or early March in the gardens.
Plum Blossoms: Plum blossoms usually bloom in mid February-early March depending on the weather, They can be viewed all over the city, enveloping the urban canopy in delicate hues or brilliant bursts of pink, signalling the arrival of spring.
The most common ones are the pink blossoms that sprout from trees with purple leaves (also known as purple leaf plum or Prunus cerasifera) and last for a few weeks since they are so delicate. In addition, you can also find the other kind of plum blossoms known as Blireana plum (Prunus x blireana) which look like carnations and last longer.
Catch the plum blossoms in the Japantown plaza in Western Addition (one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco), in the Mission, Haight, Lower Pacific Heights (there is a row of them on Sacramento and Lyon near the Presidio public library) and Pacific Heights neighborhoods. I have listed only a few of the many neighborhoods in the city but these are sure shot spots to see them in their pink glory!
Cherry Blossoms: Ah…these precious white blossoms for which people trek all the way to brave the crowds in Japan! Luckily for us in San Francisco, we get a glimpse of these in full force in March. I highly recommend stopping the Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park to see some of the most beautiful, flower laden cherry blossom trees with pagodas in the background to get the feeling of being transported to Japan!
Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for SF residents with proof of residency and it is 100% free from 9-10AM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The tea garden has a namesake tea house right near the entrance where you can enjoy freshly brewed Japanese tea along with snacks and sweets with a gorgeous view of the gardens surrounding you from all sides.
Tulips: Tulips arrive in their red, pink and yellow glory in April but can sometimes bloom as early as March. The best place to see the tulips with a magnificent Dutch windmill as the backdrop is the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden located in Golden Gate Park near the Great Highway. Don’t forget to catch the jaw dropping murals inside the nearby Park Chalet restaurant and enjoy a beer or two in its beer garden with a great view of the windmill in the distance.
Jasmine and Bougainvillea: There is no set venue to see these flowers except letting your eyes and nose guide you as you walk through the city (and trust me, they will). A good rule of thumb is to veer into the quieter lanes and streets of a neighborhood to catch sight of them rather than the busy main streets where most of the foot traffic and businesses are.
The delicate white flowers of Jasmine bloom like crazy from their pink buds in Feb and March and the blooms last well into summer. Bougainvillea start blooming around March-April and last all the way till September with walls covered in flaming red flower bushes that comprise of some of the most beautiful photo spots in San Francisco.
Since I live in Lower Pacific Heights, I can guarantee that you’ll see Jasmine vines and Bougainvilla walls in my neighborhood, the adjoining Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights as well as in Laurel Heights, The Mission, Marina district and also Russian Hill, home to many hidden gems in San Francisco.
Wisterias are late bloomers and their vibrant purple colors come into effect around April with peak season being mid April-May in the city. Catch them in Pacific Heights, Hayes Valley (corner of Buchanan and Hayes) and the house at the corner of Mariposa and Connecticut streets in Potrero Hill which is supposed to be a Wisteria Instagram gem!
Roses: If you want to see dozens of species of roses in their full glory, head to the Rose Garden in Golden Gate Park in May. Sandwiched between John F. Kennedy and Park Presidio drives, this garden is home to over 60 rose beds producing some of the most spectacular blooms starting from May all the way to September. Entry is free and dogs can enter this garden.
Fay Garden in Russian Hill is another charming garden in San Francisco where you can see the roses in bloom come May. Carry a picnic basket or some wine and cheese to make it a lunch or happy hour to remember!
VISIT THE GOLDEN GATE PARK
Spring in San Francisco means only one thing and that is heading straight to the Golden Gate Park, the verdant oasis in our 49 square miles and one of the top 20 attractions in SF. The park is not only home to some of the most famous museums in the world but also many gardens and tranquil Redwood groves. You can read my complete guide to Golden Gate Park here for its most amazing attractions.
Spring is the perfect time to check out the many floral and botanical wonders in the Golden Gate Park, starting from the sprawling 55 acres of the Botanical Garden, followed by spending a few hours at the Japanese Tea Garden, Shakespeare Garden, Rose Garden and the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden.
Besides these gardens, the other attraction which you must visit is the Conservatory of Flowers, which by the way will be completely free to San Francisco residents from April 2022! The Conservatory of Flowers is home to hundreds of species of plants with special sections dedicated to tropical plants and orchids and is a greenhouse of botanical beauties that will leave you spellbound in their leafy splendor!
They also have a huge philodendron with its leaves almost as tall as a child which is also the oldest plant in their conservatory and is adorably named “Phil”. A day at the Conservatory means spending some valuable time in the lap of mother nature and enjoying the seasonal blooms. I highly recommend this as the number one activity for plant lovers visiting San Francisco in springtime.
ENJOY THE SPRING FESTIVALS (MARCH-MAY)
Spring is welcomed in San Francisco with many joyful celebrations, of which the two prominent ones are the Flower Bulb Day in Union Square and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown.
Flower Bulb Day is when more than 100,000 tulips and tulip bulbs descend onto Union Square in downtown San Francisco, transforming it into a Dutch Tulip field. Here, you can pick upto 15 tulips per person for free while enjoying free entry. The festival is usually held in the first week of March.
The second festival is the super popular Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown that occurs in April (2022 dates are 9-17 April) when Post Street is pretty much blocked for a street festival filled with good eats, vendors, performances and parades. This festival, marking the special friendship between USA and Japan, has been going strong since 1968 and is back with a bang after a brief hiatus in 2020-2021.
The other two cultural festivals that occur in San Francisco in late spring (May) are Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) and the vibrant Carnaval parade (May 28-29, 2022) in the Mission neighborhood, home to the largest number of restaurants in the city and tons of colorful murals.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with food trucks plus music and dance performances by neighborhood folks and school kids making it very much a community affair. I recommend going in the afternoon to soak in the ambiance of this joyful celebration by the Mexican community who play a big role in defining the Mission and its identity.
Carnaval is a much more lavish affair that occurs in the last week of May and is like a giant block party where everyone is invited to celebrate the diverse Latin American, Caribbean and African Diasporic roots that call the Mission District and the Bay Area home. The colorful parades with feathered dancers swaying to pulsating music sets the mood while a bunch of food trucks keep you satiated. Come early since it can get really crowded and don’t even try to find parking nearby since most roads are blocked for the event.
PARTICIPATE (OR NOT) IN BAY TO BREAKERS
Bay to Breakers is a San Francisco legacy and one of the largest foot races in the world that is truly for, of and by the people. This event kickstarted in 1912 and is still going strong.
This 12K spring run starts from the Embarcadero of San Francisco and ends at Ocean Beach with runners passing through nine historic San Francisco neighborhoods including zipping through through our Golden Gate Park. This is a fun costume run where the main mantra is to have fun and where anything and everything goes, i.e. it is not uncommon to see runners in their birthsuits (if this makes you uncomfortable, then just stay away).
Bay to Breakers is a sign of San Francisco “springing” back to life after a rainy winter and over 2 million breakers have participated in it since its inception. You can either watch from the sidelines (like we do cause I am anything but a runner) or join in for $50 as an individual runner. Remember, San Francisco is extremely hilly and your gams and stamina will be really put to the grind if you decide to participate! Here are the race FAQs.
GO ON A HIKE TO SEE WILDFLOWERS
San Francisco may be pint sized at 49 square miles but we have many urban hikes boasting of unmatched views of the city and the California coast. Spring is the perfect time to go hiking in San Francisco for not only cooler weather but also to enjoy the lush greenery and wildflowers that will greet you on your hike. The most enjoyable hikes are as follows:
Glen Canyon Park: Although there is a vast network of trails intersecting the park, I have hiked along the Glen Canyon trail that can be accessed from the intersection of Elk and Chenery streets, in the quiet neighborhood of Glen Park (my very first neighborhood in San Francisco 11 years ago!). The trail length is 1.8 miles (this is a moderate-difficult trail) and is best experienced in Spring with the wildflowers blooming everywhere.
Lake Merced: Enjoy an easy walk around Lake Merced, a freshwater lake in the southwest corner of San Francisco. The Lake Merced loop will take you along Skyline boulevard, Lake Merced Drive and John Muir Drive from where you can enjoy scenic views of the lake and see wildflowers. Lake Merced is next to Fort Funston beach, which is one the best dog friendly beaches in San Francisco.
Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve: This is one of the most serene dog friendly hikes in San Francisco through a dense canopy of native trees and is best experienced in spring when everything is verdant. This beautiful reserve comprising of 5 miles of trails for public use is maintained by UCSF.
Our favorite is the Historic Trail but if you want to explore the many other trails in this reserve, read this updated article on hiking at Mt. Sutro. There are several trailhead to be found (see helpful trail map here), with the Historic Trail trailhead starting from from Stanyan and 17th streets (between two houses).
VISIT A LOCAL PLANT NURSERY
Houseplants are seriously enjoying some much deserved attention, thanks to the millenials and some not so millennials (like yours truly) bringing the outdoors inside to create our own indoor oases. In San Francisco, our plant frenzy is fed by the many beautiful plant shops and nurseries scattered all over the city.
Spring is their “spring cleaning” time as well with many stores having sales and discounts to make room for new plants. If you’re a plant lover driving into San Francisco, check out our beautiful plant stores and maybe go home with a green, leafy friend?
My top plant nursery recommendations are San Francisco Botanical Garden (their plant sales start in March and you can get your hands on some exclusive beauties right from their nursery), Clement Nursery for their reasonable prices (and also for the cutest shop dog Opal), Sloat Garden Center (multiple locations in the city), Flora Grubb gardens (for their vast selection of plants and pots) and Plant Fairies in the Mission.
EAT YOUR HEART OUT (ON A BUDGET) AT THE SPRING SAN FRANCISCO RESTAURANT WEEK
San Francisco is foodie haven, but this is one of the top three most expensive cities in North America and eating out can really make a huge dent in the pocket. You can read my cheap eats in SF guide, partake of some unique foodie adventures or visit in April during San Francisco restaurant week to eat some fabulous food at a very reasonable price!
Restaurant week in San Francisco occurs twice a year in Spring and Fall where participating restaurants (and we have tons of them) offering a three course brunch, lunch or dinner menu at set prices of $25-30 (lunch and brunch) and $45 (dinner) which is considered a steal in SF! I recommend checking out the participating restaurant list and making a reservation for a tasty meal at a bargain price!
CHECK OUT A FARMERS MARKET
San Francisco, blessed be its weather, has several farmers markets all over town throughout the year (yes, even in the dead of winter when the rest of USA is hibernating). We San Franciscans love our neighborhood farmers markets for the fresh produce directly from the small farms (located in Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley) to appreciate our food source and for making the connection with our farmer and grower friends.
If you want to get a taste of the mind boggling variety of Northern California’s produce (fresh fruit, vegetables and other products), visit a farmers’ market in the city starting with the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market (Saturdays 11AM-2PM) which is one of the largest outdoor markets in USA. Spring in San Francisco is a great time to visit these markets to get a taste of seasonal produce like fresh morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, artichokes, dandelion greens, cherries and rhubarb.
GRAB A BITE AT A FOOD TRUCK EVENT
Spring is the season of awakening, rejuvenation and renewal and that is reflected in San Francisco’s food culture as well. Although Portland (our cousin in the north) hogs the limelight when it comes to food trucks, San Francisco has a pretty good food truck scene too, thanks to the food truck coalition named Off the Grid.
Off the Grid comprises of dozens of food trucks representing a variety of cuisines (you name it, we pretty much have it all covered) and they have a huge food truck event from 5-10 PM every Friday at Fort Mason in San Francisco’s Marina district when the weather starts getting warmer, i.e. in April, which continues all the way to November. Bring cash (most places also accept card), come early (to avoid long lines-these food trucks are POPULAR) and come hungry.
Read my other San Francisco foodie posts here:
- Where to find the most delicious and decadent desserts in San Francisco
- The best places for afternoon tea in San Francisco
- The best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco
- Unique foodie experiences in San Francisco
- Best artisan chocolates in San Francisco: the complete guide
And that bring me to the end of another guide to my beloved San Francisco. I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on all the fun things to do in spring in San Francisco and will be making a trip here soon. Thanks a lot of reading and safe travels!
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