Moving to San Francisco, CA
Known as a hub for alternative cultures, one of the nation's largest financial centers, and the second most densely populated city in the United States, San Francisco is truly the Golden City. With its thriving industries, vibrant neighborhoods, and vast cultural network, San Francisco attracts a diverse mix of residents which make it one of the nation's most fascinating cities. Discover everything you need to know about living in the City by the Bay in this guide to moving to San Francisco.
First Impressions of the San Francisco Lifestyle
When you move to San Francisco, you'll quickly find that visiting the City by the Bay is completely different from living here. As a new resident, be ready to experience some common first impressions.
San Franciscans Love the Outdoors
From biking to work and hosting backyard parties to hiking along the coast over the weekend, San Franciscans love spending time outdoors. You'll easily develop a love for the outdoors, especially with the moderate year-round temperatures and easy access to national parks and local green spaces.
San Franciscans Are Cultured
The City by the Bay has some of the best museums, performing arts venues, and cultural events in the nation, and San Franciscans take full advantage of them. Start checking events calendars so that you'll be on top of all the latest cultural happenings when you move.
San Franciscans Are Passionate About Their Neighborhoods
In San Francisco, neighborhoods are much more than places to live. Each part of town has a special history and a distinct cultural identity. Get to know your neighborhood before you settle in, and once you move, take every opportunity to attend festivals and meet your neighbors.
Where to Live in San Francisco
You might choose where to live based on location, price, culture, or housing style. No matter what you prefer, you'll easily find the neighborhood for you in San Francisco.
Located south of the Haight-Ashbury and adjacent to Golden Gate Park, Cole Valley couldn't be better positioned. In addition to its easy park access and proximity to downtown, Cole Valley has an excellent bar and restaurant scene and public transit options. Many residents consider this neighborhood a great place for families and kids.
For a cutting-edge neighborhood with more of an industrial feel, take a look at Dogpatch. Located east of the Mission and adjacent to the Central Waterfront, Dogpatch is ideal for creative professionals. Once the city's main shipbuilding center, Dogpatch is home to converted warehouses, eclectic museums, and an increasingly trendy dining scene.
Nestled on the southern edge of the city, Excelsior makes up for its longer commute times with quieter streets and a more family-friendly vibe. Excelsior is also known for its cultural diversity, affordable housing, and proximity to the sprawling John McLaren Park.
For a great mix of cultures, some of the best food in town, and a lively bar scene, check out Inner Richmond. Also known as New Chinatown, this neighborhood is home to some of San Francisco's best dim sum. Sandwiched between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, Inner Richmond is also one of the greenest neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Located in the heart of the city, the Mission District is quintessential San Francisco. You'll find everything from historic row houses to new housing developments here alongside everything from burrito joints to upscale French bakeries. With its renowned nightlife scene, the Mission is a great pick for young urban professionals.
Nestled between the Financial District and the Design District, South of Market (SoMa) has a little of everything. The converted warehouses give the area an industrial vibe, while the sleek skyscrapers and contemporary museums add an upscale air. SoMa's proximity to downtown and Union Square offer extra perks such as short commute times.
Finding a Job and Working in San Francisco
The Gold Rush drove San Francisco's development during its early years, but today, the city has a much more diverse economy. Whether you want to find a job before you move across the country to San Francisco or you want to learn more about advancement opportunities, take a look at the city's largest industries.
San Francisco's proximity to Silicon Valley makes it a major technology hub, and you'll find countless tech startups in the city's South Park and Mission Bay neighborhoods. From software as a service and new media to biotechnology, tech companies support thousands of jobs on the east side of the city.
As a Gold Rush hub, San Francisco became a financial center as early as the 1840s. Today, the city is the West Coast's largest banking and financial center and has been called the Wall Street of the West. In addition to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the city also houses headquarters for institutions such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
Hospitality and tourism have also been major economic drivers for decades, and the industry continues to grow. San Francisco welcomes more than 25 million visitors every year, and in 2018, the tourism industry brought over $9 billion to the city. In total, the industry supports more than 81,000 jobs throughout San Francisco.
In recent years, the medical research industry has begun to establish a foothold in San Francisco. The University of California, San Francisco, and the University of San Francisco, San Francisco Medical Center serve as the center of the medical research industry, supplying both jobs and new talent in this rapidly growing field.
Getting an Education in San Francisco
Whether your kids are entering elementary school or you're earning a master's degree, San Francisco has some of the best education options in the nation. Learn about everything from public and private schools to colleges and universities.
Public Schools in San Francisco
The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has served the city since 1851 and remains the only public school district in San Francisco. Today, SFUSD enrolls more than 55,000 students at more than 160 schools throughout the city. The district requires students to apply to their school of choice and offers specialized options such as Cantonese and Spanish immersion programs at select schools.
Private Schools in San Francisco
In addition to its extensive public school system, San Francisco also has a network of private schools at all educational levels. Highly rated institutes such as San Francisco University High School, Lick-Wilmerding High School, and the Urban School of San Francisco are known for their excellent academics, college preparation services, and flawless graduation rates. Many also offer specialized areas of study and competitive extracurricular activities.
Colleges and Universities in San Francisco
From private colleges to public universities, San Francisco has the right post-secondary institution for you. Take a look at some of the city's largest colleges and universities:
- City College of San Francisco (CCSF): With more than 23,000 students, this community college is one of the largest post-secondary institutions in San Francisco. CCSF grants associate's degrees in more than 100 disciplines.
- San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI): This small private college enrolls about 600 undergraduate and graduate students. Since 1871, SFAI has offered bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts, with a special focus on photography and painting.
- San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM):This private college enrolls less than 500 undergraduate and graduate students focused on music. SFCM offers bachelor's and master's degrees as well as academic programs ranging from conducting to composition.
- San Francisco State University (SFSU):Also part of the state university system, SFSU is a large public institution with nearly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. SFSU offers bachelor's master's, and doctoral degrees and more than 200 academic programs.
- University of California, San Francisco (UCSF): This branch of the state university system focuses completely on health sciences. UCSF enrolls about 3,000 graduate students and serves as a pioneer in biological and medical research.
San Francisco Weather
Like much of the Bay Area, San Francisco has a Mediterranean-style climate characterized by warm summers. Find out what to expect from typical seasons and regional climate issues so that you're prepared for Bay Area life.
Seasons in San Francisco
The City by the Bay experiences four seasons a year, but you won't notice significant temperature changes during any of them. Find out what to expect when you live in San Francisco:
- Winter: From mid-December through mid-March, highs generally hover around 60 degrees Fahrenheit and reach lows around 45. Winter is rainy season in San Francisco, and December tends to be the wettest month. Due to the short days and cloudy weather, you'll also experience the fewest hours of sunshine during the winter.
- Spring: From mid-March through mid-June, highs generally reach the low 60s and dip down to about 50 degrees. Spring brings ample sunshine compared to winter, and you'll enjoy the most hours of sunshine from April to June.
- Summer: From mid-June through mid-September, high temperatures typically reach the mid-60s during the day and drop down to the mid-50s overnight. Summer tends to be very dry in San Francisco, and you'll rarely see rain throughout the season.
- Fall: From mid-September through mid-December, San Francisco heats up. High temperatures reach 70 degrees in September and top out in the mid-60s in the late fall. Low temperatures typically reach the mid- to low 50s, and the rainy season begins to return in November.
Watch Out for Fog
San Francisco is known for its characteristic fog, but you won't see the thick blankets of low-lying clouds just anywhere. Fog is most common during early summer, but it tends to fade away in late summer and early fall. Although you'll see fog covering much of the city in the early summer, it's less common in San Francisco's eastern neighborhoods.
Know Your Microclimates
San Francisco's coastal location, hilly geography, and large size mean the city has a variety of distinct climate zones. For example, the east side of the city tends to be sunnier, drier, and less foggy than the rest of the city. In contrast, areas west of the city's central hills can receive 20% more rain and substantially less sun. If you're a sun lover, keep these microclimates in mind as you search for the best place to live in San Francisco.
Getting Around in San Francisco
With planning and patience, you can navigate San Francisco using your method of choice. Whether you're plotting your commute or estimating how far your new place is from your favorite restaurant, find out how to get around San Francisco.
Traffic in San Francisco
Traffic is notoriously bad in the Bay Area, and San Francisco's congestion is ranked fifth worst in the world. San Francisco's dense population and booming tech industry both contribute to heavy traffic, and the growth of ride sharing makes congestion particularly bad, especially during rush hours.
If you commute in San Francisco, consider taking advantage of infrastructure such as high-occupancy vehicle lanes and paid tollways. These options might require carpooling or paying a little extra money, but they can make your commute much smoother.
When you need to park your car in the city, watch for signs outlining street cleaning schedules and strict time limits for curbside parking. Try downloading the SFpark mobile app to find available spots or using the SpotHero app to reserve your spot in advance.
Public Transit in San Francisco
If you'd rather not get behind the wheel, San Francisco's comprehensive public transit system can help you get almost anywhere in the city. The Muni system includes everything from contemporary light rail trains and buses to historic streetcars and eye-catching cable cars. No matter what type of transit you choose, you'll pay a flat rate for single rides. You can also invest in a Clipper Card for monthly access to public transit. You can find route and schedule info on the MuniMobile app, which also offers savings on each ride.
To access destinations ranging from central San Francisco to the San Francisco International Airport and the East Bay, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has your ticket. Unlike the Muni system, BART fares depend on your destination and the length of your trip.
Cycling in San Francisco
Whether you want to combine your workout with your daily commute or you want to explore the city on two wheels, cycling is a great choice in San Francisco. The city has an extensive network of bike-friendly streets so that you can ride safely from the Mission to the Presidio and beyond.
Looking for a safe place to park your bike while you work, shop, or see the sights? San Francisco has more than 10,000 bike parking spots on more than 5,000 bike racks located across the city.
Walking in San Francisco
San Francisco's compact layout and relatively small size make walking around the city easy. Whether you're walking to work or to the closest park, be prepared for the hills. San Francisco is home to some of the steepest streets you'll find in a major city, which means you might be in for a workout.
Flying to and From San Francisco
Whether you're anticipating frequent travel after you move to San Francisco or you want to make sure family and friends can visit easily, you'll be relieved to know that flying to and from San Francisco is easy. Located south of the city, the San Francisco International Airport is one of the busiest in the nation and hosts dozens of airlines with destinations ranging from Atlanta and Austin to Seoul and Tel Aviv.
For more airline, destination, and pricing options, you can also consider flying out of one of the two smaller airports in the Bay Area. Oakland International Airport is great for budget travelers, and San Jose International Airport has a range of domestic and international flights from a quieter and less delay-prone facility.
Top Things to Do in San Francisco
One of the best parts about living in San Francisco is having the opportunity to be a tourist in your own city. Check out some of the city's top attractions that appeal to locals.
San Francisco's Top Culture and Science Museums
From arts and culture to science and history, San Francisco has an impressive array of attractions:
- de Young Museum:With one of the largest art collections in the San Francisco area, the de Young Museum is a must-visit destination. You'll see everything from contemporary American art and African artifacts to textiles and photographs. Whether you love cutting-edge art or you prefer seeing historical art from a new perspective, you'll find something to love at the de Young Museum.
- Asian Art Museum: Known for its expansive and diverse collection, San Francisco's Asian Art Museum exhibits art and artwork that span more than 6,000 years. From Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and Japanese and Korean ceramics to Chinese and Persian carvings, this museum has more than 2,000 objects on view at any time. Visit often to catch the temporary exhibitions.
- California Academy of Sciences: With a natural history museum, an aquarium, and a planetarium, the California Academy of Sciences has it all. Bring the kids along to watch the penguins eat breakfast, take a walk through a living rainforest, or challenge yourself to spot all of the 40,000 aquatic animals that call this place home. You can stay late for the academy's NightLife events, which include planetarium shows and cocktails every Thursday.
- Exploratorium: If you thrive on curiosity, the Exploratorium is the place for you. You'll find countless interactive exhibitions focused on science, history, and art designed for kids and adults alike. Since it's on Pier 15 in the heart of the Embarcadero, the Exploratorium is minutes from other kid-friendly attractions such as the Children's Creativity Museum.
San Francisco's Historic Sites
The best way to learn about the history of your new hometown is stepping back into the past. Follow in the footsteps of some of San Francisco's most important historical figures when you visit the city's most fascinating sites:
- Fort Point National Historic Site: A key point of defense from the 1840s through World War II, Fort Point is an essential stop for history buffs. Explore the fort's architecture and history as you take in the amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge above.
- Chinatown:As the oldest Chinatown in the U.S., this neighborhood is packed with history. Head here to enjoy great food, browse the boutiques, or attend the lively festivals.
- The Haight-Ashbury: Known as a hot spot for the counterculture movement in the 1960s, the Haight-Ashbury still maintains its alternative vibe today. Visit for the new age bookstores, thrift shops, and artsy atmosphere.
- Alcatraz Island: Visiting Alcatraz is a rite of passage for San Franciscans, and it's a trip you'll want to take again and again. Tour the historic island prison and return for the art and history exhibits that rotate regularly.
The Best Parks and Hikes in San Francisco
San Francisco may be compact, but it has plenty of green spaces for hiking and recreation. Spend an afternoon or a weekend at these popular parks:
- Golden Gate Park: Large and centrally located, Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's most popular green space. Golden Gate Park spans more than 1,000 acres and has everything from lakes and trails to gardens and playgrounds. Stop by for a lunchtime stroll or check the events calendar to catch a concert or performance.
- The Presidio: Located on the northern edge of San Francisco, The Presidio is the place to gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge, stroll along the paved trails, or take in some culture. At this national park, you can cover more than two dozen miles of hiking trails and more than a dozen miles of cycling trails, or you can hit the golf course or bowling alley.
- Yerba Buena Gardens: This green space might be small, but the tranquil atmosphere of Yerba Buena Gardens and its cultural opportunities make it one of San Francisco's most in-demand parks. Whether you want to host a picnic, admire the manicured gardens, or take a look at the public art, this park is an excellent place to catch your breath.
- Lands End: As its name suggests, Lands End is perched on the far northwestern edge of San Francisco. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Lands End features wild trails, rocky cliffs, and windswept coastal areas. As you walk or bike through this beautiful area, keep an eye out for shipwreck sites and marine life offshore.
Bay Area Sports Teams
Whether you're a baseball, football, basketball, soccer, or hockey fan, you'll have a team to cheer for in the Bay Area. Get to know your new hometown teams:
- Golden State Warriors: One of the most winning and most highly valued NBA teams in the U.S., the Golden State Warriors play at San Francisco's Chase Center.
- Oakland Athletics: Better known as the A's, the Bay Area's MLB team has played at the RingCentral Coliseum (formerly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) since 1968.
- Oakland Raiders: This Bay Area NFL team also plays its home games at Oakland's RingCentral Coliseum. The team is slated to begin playing at the Las Vegas Stadium in 2020.
- San Francisco 49ers: Since 2014, San Francisco's NFL team has played at Levi's Stadium in nearby Santa Clara.
- San Francisco Giants: The city's MLB team has played at San Francisco's Oracle Park since 2000.
- San Jose Earthquakes: The Bay Area's MLS team plays at Avaya Stadium in nearby San Jose.
- San Jose Sharks: The Bay Area's NHL team hits the ice at the SAP Center in San Jose.
The San Francisco Food Scene
With its coastal location and diverse population, San Francisco has a vibrant food scene. You'll love getting to know your new city through its cuisine.
5 Things You Have to Eat and Drink in San Francisco
From bread and main dishes to dessert, start your culinary exploration of San Francisco with the following five classics:
- Sourdough Bread:Like many famous dishes, this bread recipe started out as an accident. Sourdough bread first appeared in San Francisco during the Gold Rush of the 1840s and quickly became a specialty at upscale bakeries. This slightly tangy bread is still popular throughout the city, and today you'll find alternative versions such as cheese and vegan recipes.
- Chop Suey: An American Chinese classic, chop suey is a stir-fried noodle dish featuring meat, eggs, and vegetables. Chop suey also emerged during the Gold Rush era as an affordable dish, and today it's still a staple on menus in San Francisco's Chinatown.
- Mission Burritos: Known for their large size and flour tortilla base, these burritos first appeared in San Francisco's Mission District during the 1960s. Today, you'll find these huge rice- and bean-stuffed burritos throughout the district.
- Fortune Cookies: These sweet treats originated in San Francisco and first became popular on Chinatown menus during World War II. Help yourself to a freshly baked snack at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown.
- Farm-to-Table Cuisine:Thanks to San Francisco's location near Northern California's farm country and the area's focus on sustainability, farm-to-table cuisine has thrived in the Bay Area since the early 1970s. Today, you can find creative, farm-fresh menus at budget-friendly and upscale spots throughout San Francisco.
The Best Foodie Spots in San Francisco
Hot new foodie destinations pop up regularly in San Francisco, but you can't go wrong with these longtime favorites:
- Nob Hill: From raw oysters and Dungeness crab to clam chowder, Nob Hill is your destination for some of the best seafood in the city. Set your sights on a classic spot such as Swan Oyster Depot.
- Telegraph Hill: When you're craving hearty Italian and French dishes, make your way to Telegraph Hill, west of the Embarcadero. Whether you indulge in the airy soufflé at Café Jacqueline or the massive cioppino at Sotto Mare, you'll find plenty of timeless spots here.
- Mission Dolores: For some of the city's best baked goods and desserts, head for Mission Dolores. Pick up your favorite breads and croissants at Tartine Bakery before treating yourself to a scoop or two at Bi-Rite Creamery.
San Francisco's Best Annual Events
The City by the Bay hosts hundreds of cultural, culinary, musical, and holiday events every year. You won't have time to attend everything, but you shouldn't miss San Francisco's best annual festivals and parades.
Chinese New Year Parade
Considered one of the top 10 parades around the globe, the Chinese New Year Parade is an essential addition to your calendar. This popular event is hardly new: San Francisco's annual celebration of the lunar new year dates back to the 1860s. More than 150 years later, this festival is bigger and better than ever, with more than 100 groups participating in the parade. Be sure to catch the lion dancers, the massive golden dragon, and the many fireworks shows throughout the celebration.
Fillmore Jazz Festival
San Francisco hosts several noteworthy jazz festivals every year, but the Fillmore Jazz Festival is by far the largest. It's one of the biggest jazz festivals in the nation, and it's free for everyone to attend. Head to the Pacific Heights district over the Fourth of July weekend for two days of music from big and small musicians alike. When you need a break from the stages, browse the vendor booths packed with delicious food and local arts and crafts.
If pop music is more your speed, mark your calendar for Alice's Summerthing, a free concert in late June. For more than a decade, this free music show has attracted some of the most notable pop stars in the business for a sunny day of fun in Golden Gate Park. Arrive early to get the best picnic spots and to hear local artists perform before the headliner.
Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
Summer is music festival season in San Francisco, and Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is a must-visit spot in mid-August. This three-day event attracts more than 200,000 attendees and dozens of electronic, rock, rap, and hip-hop artists. Since the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival happens in Golden Gate Park, you can also enjoy views of the bridge and the city's most iconic landmarks while you dance to the music.
San Francisco is known for its LGBTQ-friendly culture, and its massive Pride Parade celebrates the city's inclusive nature. Every June, the streets burst with colorful parades as rainbow-bedecked partiers celebrate love.
Whether you can't wait to relocate to San Francisco or your dates are flexible, start planning your move now. Get a free moving quote and begin looking forward to your new home, job, and lifestyle in the Bay Area.