Do you have an upcoming move to San Francisco? Home to the Golden Gate, Silicon Valley, and the Gold Rush, SF is a city full of hope, opportunities, and oddities (it really stands apart from the other cities in the United States).
It welcomes millions of people every year from across the globe. And, with great restaurants, a low unemployment rate, many green spaces, and world-famous landmarks, people often decide to stay out and call this city home.
If you’re moving to San Francisco, you likely have questions — this guide has the answers for you. Keep reading and get to know the Golden City more.
San Francisco Location
The city and the port of SF are located within San Francisco County, California, between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It is also the financial and cultural epicenter of the country.
San Francisco is very tiny — 7 miles by 7 miles. You can walk end-to-end in a day. And with 874,961 people residing here, SF is the 16th most populous city in the US and is understandably congested.
San Francisco sits perched atop 40 hills, the most famous being Twin Peaks. People reside in different neighborhoods depending on their backgrounds or income. You’ll find immigrants from Russia, Germany, and Japan living in their tiny communities, while the wealthy reside in Victorian houses and villas overlooking the bay.
San Francisco Weather
San Francisco has a Mediterranean climate, with an overall average temperature of 56.4°F. It receives more rainfall during winter (especially in February, it can rain for six days) than in the summer months. Throughout the year, this city gets 58.6 days of rainfall.
September is the warmest month of the year, with the temperatures hovering around 71.3°F, and the coldest month is January, with an average of 46.4°F.
If you’re coming from somewhere with four distinct seasons, be ready for confusion. June, July, and August — the months when the rest of the cities are experiencing peak heat, you will find San Francisco swaddled with thick fog (it’s got a name — Karla the Fog). You will need to layer up and break out your winter jacket, beanie, and scarfs to stay warm. Once the fog lifts, though, around September, you will find most of the city soaking in the Golden sun in one of the 220 parks.
Annual Events in San Francisco
There are dozens of exciting events happening in San Francisco throughout the year. Here are 9 of them:
- Chinese New Year’s Parade: This event usually happens at the beginning of February and is held for two weeks following the first day of the Chinese New Year. Celebrations occur throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and mostly combine the American parade with the Chinese Lantern Festival and other cultural events.
- Cherry Blossom Festival: In April, Japantown comes alive with cherry blossoms blooming everywhere, inviting more than 200,000 people to bask in its serenity. The Cherry Blossom festival is held on two weekends — April 11 – 12 and April 18 – 19. The celebration consists of music, dance, and other cultural festivities. You will also find vendors serving delicious Japanese culinary delicacies.
- Pride Parade: In June, most cities now have their version of pride parades, but nothing compares to San Francisco. Expect to see rainbow flags, extravagant costumes, and makeup, and over a million attendees celebrating freedom, diversity, love, and of course, the LGBTQ community.
- Bay to Breakers Footrace: This event is one of San Francisco’s legacy and is the oldest run footrace globally. Bay to Breakers is held on the third Sunday of May, and the 7.46 miles long course starts at the area adjacent to the SF Bay and finishes at the Great Highway. Expect to see many participants dressed up in costumes.
- Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival: Outside Lands is the largest independent music festival in the US held at the Golden Gate Park. It’s a gorgeous location with picturesque views and lovely walking trails. You can easily walk or bike to the festival. Every music festival tends to be held in the middle of summer when it’s scorching hot out, but since SF is one of the coolest cities in the summertime, you will be able to have fun at the concerts without sweating buckets. On the music front, the festival attracts some of the most prominent artists in the industry, and it also has a legacy act in which you will see performances from someone iconic from the past.
- SF Sketchfest: This event is a famous comedy festival held in January and February across various venues in San Francisco. You get to watch comedy skits, improvs, and comedians delivering their best stand-up routine. Although Sketchfest has largely in-person events, there are also live radio events and podcasts happening throughout. Film screenings, meet-and-greet, and game shows are also quite popular at Sketchfest.
- Oktoberfest by the Bay: If you’re a beer lover, Oktoberfest by the Bay is where you need to be. This event is held at San Francisco’s Pier 35 and emulates the annual Munich tradition by featuring German beer, food, music, and other festivities.
- Ghirardelli Square Tree Lighting Ceremony: While the city doesn’t see White Holidays in winter, it does get magical and lit up. After Thanksgiving, locals, and tourists start the holiday season together at Ghirardelli Square, where there’s live music, wine, coffee, hot cocoa, and other treats for the visitors.
- NYE fireworks over the Bay: On New Year’s Eve, you get to see a gorgeous display of fireworks over the waterfront near SF Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building. Thousands of people gather for about 20 minutes to see the sky lit up to ring in the New Year. Most people bring along games and food to enjoy time with friends while waiting for the fireworks.
Jobs in San Francisco
The Bay Area’s job market is abundant with job opportunities. SF residents earn significantly higher than those in other metropolitan cities, and the job also requires advanced degrees. Bay Area’s leading industries are as follows:
- Information and Technology: The Bay Area is home to many powerful technology companies like Uber, Google, Apple, and Facebook. This is why the nation’s best tech juggernauts live and work in SF.
- Financial Services: San Francisco is the nation’s third-largest financial center. It also has the world’s most prominent venture capital firms offering lucrative employment opportunities for financial professionals. SF’s Fortune 500 companies in the financial sector include Robinhood, Coinbase, Paypal, Square, Visa, SoFi, FICO, First Republic Bank, and Lending Club.
- Biotech & Life Sciences: San Francisco has a high concentration of scientists and engineers leading some of the most pertinent research in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Venture capitals in the area are happy to find these companies looking to solve significant problems for the world. If you are looking for job opportunities and are qualified in these fields, you will find plenty of positions in companies like Genentech and Gilead.
- Business Services: There are businesses, and then there are companies that provide services that help business owners run their processes efficiently. We are talking about recruiting agencies, consulting services, HR services, SaaS applications, etc. Some widely known companies in this space are Deloitte and KPMG.
- Manufacturing: San Francisco isn’t the first place people think of when considering the manufacturing sector in the US. But SF is where many companies manufacture everything from clothing, and sneakers to advanced tech. In some cases, SF holds the headquarters while the actual manufacturing plant is located away from the Bay Area. But it’s still a relatively easy commute to work.
- Hospitality: San Francisco is a huge tourist destination, and the residents savor the city’s renowned culinary scene. There are many companies here providing tourists and locals with memorable leisure experiences. With this comes employment opportunities in hotels, bars, resorts, restaurants, and more. While these opportunities aren’t the most lucrative, it’s a great starting point for those looking to gain a foothold in this city.
Education in San Francisco
Unlike most places in the US, children in SF don’t attend public schools based on where they live. This is done to have an even demographic across all schools based on race, income, and other factors.
There are also many private schools in SF. Getting your kids admitted to a private school requires testing and interviews. Most private institutions here are expensive, but Catholic Schools are a more affordable alternative.
San Francisco also has several international schools, which ex-pat parents usually favor. These schools accommodate students who are following a different curriculum in another country. There are French, German, and Chinese-based schools, where students are taught in their home language.
Here’s a breakdown of SF schools:
- Preschools: 264
- Elementary schools: 225
- Middle schools: 144
- High schools: 82
- Public schools: 116
- Charter schools: 15
- Private schools: 394
When it comes to colleges and universities, San Francisco has many options. The University of California, San Francisco is the only campus in the University of California system that’s fully dedicated to health and biomedical sciences. It’s one of the top 5 medical schools in the US.
There’s San Francisco State University that has approximately 30,000 students. This institution offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in over 100 courses.
The City College of San Francisco is the largest community college in the country, with 100,000 students.
Along with the ones above, there’s the University of San Francisco, Golden State University, the Academy of Art University (largest institute of art and design in the US), the San Francisco Art Institute, The California College of Arts, San Francisco Conservatory of music, the California Culinary Academy, and the California Institute of integral studies.
Getting Around in San Francisco
t’s easy to get around San Francisco even if you don’t drive or don’t own a vehicle. But to do so, you will need a Clipper Card.
Clipper Card looks like a plastic credit card with the Clipper logo. These don’t expire, and you can put in as much (or little) money as needed on the card. Once funded, you can use this card to travel on buses, BART trains, ferries, and cable cars.
With that out of the way, let’s get you familiar with the city’s excellent transit system. SF’s public transport includes the following:
- Muni/City buses and Trolleys: SF Muni operates a network of buses and streetcars that run on the rail.
Plus, SF has a rail line, known as F-line, with antique streetcars representing other cities that courses through the Castro District, Ferry Building, Embarcadero, to Fisherman’s Wharf. These streetcars are more fun to ride than the standard ones, but the fares remain the same for both systems.
- BART trains: BART, Bay Area Rapid Trains, refers to a train network that connects SF to cities in East Bay and Peninsula.
Similar to Subway, these trains run underground in San Francisco and only emerge above ground in the city’s outer limits.
The SF and Oakland airports are connected to BART trains, making airports an easy commute from the city.
You can use your Clipper Card to access the BART network, or you can purchase a monthly pass for unlimited rides on the BART.
- Cable cars: SF’s cable cars run on three routes:
- Powell-Hyde Line: Connects Powell and Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, at Beach and Hyde Streets.
- Powell-Mason Line: Connects Powell and Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, via Bay and Taylor Streets.
- California Street Line: Connects Drumm Street to Polk Street.
- Ferries: In total, four ferries are connecting SF with nearby locations. Two of them are public transit, and the other two are private services. Only the public ferries can be accessed using your Clipper Card.
- The SF Bay Ferry: This ferry takes Clipper Cards and departs from Pier 41 and the Ferry Building. It will take you to towns in the East Bay, like Oakland, Vallejo, and Richmond.
- Golden Gate Ferry: This is public transit. It takes Clipper Card and departs from the Ferry Building. The Golden Gate Ferry will take you to the towns in Martin County, including Sausalito, Larkspur, Tiburon, and Angel Island.
- Blue and Gold Ferry: This ferry leaves Pier 41 and goes to Sausalito, Tiburon, and Angel Island. It’s owned by a private company named Blue & Gold Fleet, so it does not take Clipper Cards. The company offers many bay cruises and tours.
- Alcatraz Ferry: Out of the four, this is the only ferry service that will take you to Alcatraz Island. These ferries are owned by Hornblower Company, which is a private entity. They leave from Pier 33. You will have to book an Alcatraz tour to get to the island. The ferry ride will be a part of your trip.
- PresidiGo Shuttle: This is a free shuttle service provided by the Presidio Trust, a federal agency related to the national park system. Their shuttles have three routes — Downtown, Crissy Field, Presidio Hills. The buses operate daily from morning to evening every 30 minutes.
Top Things to Do in San Francisco
Situated along the crystal blue ocean, among beautiful rolling hills and the glorious Golden Gate Bridge lies San Francisco — one of the most renowned cities in the world. The sightseeing options here are extensive. Other than the landmarks, there are numerous parks, beaches, and museums for you to explore.
- The Golden Gate Bridge: This bridge is among the most iconic landmarks in the world. Its orange build set along the blue water and low clouds peeking through the suspension bridge’s columns make the whole scene visually striking. You can drive through the highway, or you can also walk and bike along its sides. But note that the bridge is only open to pedestrians and cyclists during the day.
- Alcatraz Island: The Alcatraz penitentiary is America’s most historic prison. It operated for 30 years and closed in 1963. But in 1973, it opened again as a tourist attraction. This prison held some of the most notorious criminals like Al Capone and Birdman. Although most visit here to see the prison, Alcatraz Island is also a significant area where seabirds nest.
- Fisherman’s Wharf: This is one of the top tourist destinations in San Francisco. This little haven in San Francisco is bursting with more than 50 unique stores and restaurants set along with the waterfront backdrop. The views of the city from Pier 39 are nothing short of mesmerizing. You can take a stroll or take a tour. From the dock of the pier, you will also be able to see sea lions. Some of the most popular spots in Fisherman’s Wharf include Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and Ghirardelli Square.
- Golden Gate Park: Once home to dunes, the Golden Gate Park is full of life with gardens and museums. It’s a relaxing green space rightly known as SF’s lungs. This park has many walking and biking trails, a massive variety of plants and trees, many lakes, and a bison paddock. You can easily spend hours here exploring. Bike rentals are also available to navigate the site. Some of the attractions at Golden Gate Park include the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences Museum with Steinhart Aquarium, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the Japanese Tea Garden.
- Chinatown: When you think of Chinatown, you likely think of NYC. But the Chinatown in SF is one of the oldest and largest in North America. It was nearly destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, then rebuilt in Chinese style, making it look even more spectacular and ornate than before. It’s full of temples, businesses, stores, antiques, traditional pharmacies, grand tea houses, and souvenir shops. Chinatown is bustling with people all through the year, especially during the Chinese New Years’ celebration.
- Twin Peaks: These two magnificent hills are 900 feet high and provide some of the city’s most breathtaking views and bay. You can drive to its peak, park your car, and soak in the views. You can also hike up the trails to reach the peaks.
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area: This 600-square mile park has been designated as a biosphere reserve. It’s located in Marin County and is a beautiful place to enjoy nature. This park has many walking trails, campsites, and beaches with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also a historic site and is home to a former US Army post, Fort Baker.
- California Academy of Sciences: Located in the Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is an architectural masterpiece and a museum. This is a “green” building that’s built following the principles of sustainability. It has a 2.5-acre living room laden with native plants and rolling hills to meld with its natural surrounding. The giant roof has solar panels that power the site with electricity, and the soil provides insulation. The walls of the site are made of glass which lets plenty of natural light inside.
Inside the building, you will find a museum, rainforest, planetarium, aquarium, and more. The aquarium has 38,000 live specimens and a 25-feet coral reef. The rainforest is four floors high and has many animals and amphibians. You can see fish swimming overhead as you go down the glass elevator.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: SEMOMA, SF’s most visited museum, focuses on showcasing 20th-century art. The exhibits change frequently, but there’s a permanent collection with about 33,000 pieces. If you get hungry while wandering about the museum, grab a bite at Cafe 5 or In Situ restaurant.
- Angel Island State Park: This is one of the largest natural islands in the Bay Area. If you enjoy hiking and spectacular views, then visiting Angel Island State Park is a must. The views from the summit of Mount Caroline Livermore are even more gorgeous. If you don’t want to hike, this park also has five picnic areas, 11 campsites, and many beaches to take a stroll or sunbathe. The island also has a cafe that’s open most of the year, except in winters. There’s also a restaurant in the park that’s open on the weekends between June and October and features live bands.
We hope this guide helped you get to know San Francisco a little better. If you or someone you know is moving to San Francisco and needs packing, loading, and transportation assistance from a reputable relocation firm, don’t hesitate to contact us.