What To Do With a Rainy Weekend in San Francisco?


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Today is a dreary Sunday in Dallas and the sound of the rain falling on the patio reminded me of this post languishing away in my drafts folder, almost completely forgotten… When I wrote it months ago, the 10 day weather forecast for San Francisco looked pretty gloomy. They were predicting days and days of rain, which was especially disappointing since my sister was visiting me that weekend, unaccompanied by any of her (then) three kids (now four!).

She hadn’t spent much time in San Francisco, and I wanted to show her a truly San Francisco weekend. I wanted her to fall in love with the city like I did.

Here’s the problem: so many of the fun things to do in the city are outside… Walking along the Embarcadero, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and through the streets and alleys of Chinatown. Seeing the murals in the Mission. Visiting a farmer’s market. Taking a bay tour by boat. Visiting Alcatraz. Climbing to the top of a scenic overlook like Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.

Which of these pictures looks more fun to you, cloudy Nob Hill or sunny Jackson Square? Now you see the problem. I was a little worried, and since I’m no expert at things to see and do in San Francisco, I did my homework, and here’s what I came up with:

What should you do if you visit San Francisco on a rainy weekend?

  1. Take in some art at the SFMOMA (with Blue Bottle Coffee and a great rooftop bar, many on yelp suggest going up there first and then, once fully caffeinated, touring the collection), Legion of Honor, or the de Young Museum.
  2. Drink up on an Anchor Brewery tour. The home of Anchor Steam beer located on Portero Hill. This brewery can trace its roots in San Francisco back to mid-1800s. They schedule brewery tours up to six months in advance and seem to be in pretty high demand. The biggest challenge is that tours are offered on weekdays at 10 am and 1 pm. So if you don’t have a Friday or a Monday in the mix, then you’re probably out of luck.
  3. Lunch at the historic Palace Hotel under the stained glass dome (Signature Palace Crab Salad with Green Goddess Dressing) – they even have a historic tour with lunch option (more info here); between 2nd and 3rd, right off Market on New Montgomery Street (map).
  4. Ride the glass elevator at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square to take in a view of the city (albeit a cloudy and rainy view). According to the reviews on Yelp, elevators A-E (right past the concierge desk) will take you straight up to the top. They also say it’s a bit scary on the way down because the elevator moves pretty fast. Cheap, scratch that, free thrills! Probably best saved for a moment when the clouds have parted. Listed by National Geographic as one of their Top 10 Elevator Rides.
  5. Head to Alioto’s the oldest restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf for clam chowder or cioppino. Via 7×7 The Cynic’s Guide to Fisherman’s Wharf. Or instead, we could eat at The Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, which is still on my ‘To Do’ list for SF.
  6. Visit Japan Center, the mall in Japantown connected to another mall by a tunnel, which means you can stay dry while window shopping and taking in all the options. I hear it’s best if you haven’t been to Japan, but that it’s interesting nonetheless. Via SF Gate’s Unlikely S.F. Places to Escape the Rain with Kids.
  7. Or, just buy some rain boots and an umbrella and plan to get a little wet.

My sister sandwiched among shoppers on Stockton in Chinatown.

Seeking out clam chowder at Alioto’s in Fisherman’s Wharf.

All’s Well That Ends Well…

We ended up lucking out with a windy, but sunny Saturday. We wandered from SOMA along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, then through the streets of Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Marina. Eating plenty of goodies and shopping along the way.

So we didn’t do many of the things on this list that weekend, but next time I have a visitor (or take a trip) to San Francisco on a rainy weekend, I’m already prepared.


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