San Francisco: Things to do in autumn

By: Maxine Sheppard

August 31, 2018

Sunny streets of San Francisco © Shutterstock

This is the best time of year to visit San Francisco. September, October and early November offer the best chance of clear skies, uninterrupted sunshine, warm temperatures and low rainfall, and the city’s famous fog – often at its most prevalent during the height of summer – all but disappears.

You’ll still be able to enjoy outdoor dining, long walks in the Presidio, and bike rides over the Golden Gate Bridge, but if that’s not enough we’ve put together a quick guide to some of the city’s best seasonal events…

SF Open Studios 2018

Organised by Artspan, a Bay area organisation whose aim is to connect the public to the visual arts, SF Open Studios takes place across five weekends in October and November. Art lovers can follow various self-guided tours across a diverse collection of city neighbourhoods for a unique peek into the lives of working artists. See who’s opening their doors this year, and download maps from the website. You can also pick up a glossy guide at more than 300 locations throughout the city.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Fancy a bit of banjo and fiddle? Head over to Hellman Hollow, Lindley and Marx Meadows in Golden Gate Park over the weekend of October 5–7 for the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Featuring an extensive, high quality lineup over six stages this is definitely not just a foot-stomping gala for beardy bluegrass aficionados. This is one of the biggest and best music festivals in the country, and fans of the whole alt-country spectrum of rootsy Americana – folk, bluegrass, country, blues, rock – will be catered for by artists as varied and well-loved as Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Graham Nash. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Fleet Week

A week-long display of military might in the United States’ most pacifist and liberal-leaning city might seem like something of a contradiction, but every year thousands of people line the Golden Gate Bridge and waterfront at Marina Green Park and Fisherman’s Wharf to watch Fleet Week kick off with a huge parade of Navy ships coming into dock. During the week (Oct 1–8) many of the frigates, destroyers and coast guard vessels open up for free public tours conducted by crew members, but it’s the aerial display by the Blue Angels, the Navy’s official flight demonstration squadron, which always steals the show. It takes place during Fleet Week’s air show on the Saturday afternoon, but for a less-crowded alternative, catch one of the practice sessions on the Thursday or Friday.

Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival

While we’re not entirely convinced it’s “world-famous”, there’s no denying the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival is one of the biggest local gatherings in California, and it’s definitely one of the most popular. It takes place in the tiny coastal town of Half Moon Bay, about 30 minutes south of San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway; a region known for its rich, fertile farmland full of pick-your-own pumpkin patches. The central hub of town is the renovated Main Street, full of galleries, craft shops and pavement cafes housed in restored 19th century buildings, and on October 13–14 the population will swell from 11,000 to more than 300,000. All manner of pumpkin-themed events take place over the weekend but most people come to gawp at the parade of gargantuan pumpkins taking part in the annual weigh-off (one winner topped the scales at a mind-boggling 1,535 lbs) or to marvel at the hollow stomachs of entrants in the whipped-cream-loaded pumpkin pie eating competition.

Virgin Atlantic operates flights to San Francisco from London Heathrow and Manchester.

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Places