January in San Francisco: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

USA, California, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
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Among the reasons to pack your bags for a trip to San Francisco this January are an extraordinary fancy-dress ball, the Chinese New Year Parade, and some exciting art events. And it's the best time of the year to see a beautiful sunset.

San Francisco Weather in January

January is San Francisco's wettest and one of its chilliest months. It's not uncommon to get the entire month's rainfall in just a day or two, though. If the weather tries to dampen your vacation fun, try these ideas for things to do on a rainy day in San Francisco.

  • Average High Temperature: 57 degrees F (14 degrees C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 44 degrees F (7 degrees C)
  • Rain & Sun: 4.1 inches (10.3 cm) rain, 56 percent sunshine
  • Daylight Hours: You can expect about 9 hours of daylight for exploring the city.

To compare January to other months and get an idea of what things may be like, use the San Francisco weather averages in this guide. Before you make your final plans and pack that suitcase, check the San Francisco weather forecast a few days in advance of your trip.

What to Pack

If rain is predicted, you should pack an umbrella, but you'll also want a rain jacket for some circumstances. Umbrellas are hard to carry on crowded sidewalks and don't protect from wind-driven raindrops, so having a warm, waterproof jacket with hood is better when it's windy or you're surrounded by people.

While January is one of San Francisco's cooler months, a mid-weight jacket (or a bit more) will be enough on dry days. Locals often wear gloves, hat, and a scarf in the mornings. 

January Events in San Francisco

These popular annual events are favorites of locals and tourists.

  • The Edwardian Ball: This fancy dress ball is hard to describe, but irresistible once you've been. It's a surreal mix of dance, fantasy, steampunk style, and Edward Gorey. It runs for two days.
  • Chinese New YearLots of San Francisco events celebrate the new year according to the Chinese calendar, including a parade. The lunar holiday can happen in January or February, and once in a while, the parade can even be in early March.
  • SF Restaurant WeekSome of San Francisco's best restaurants offer you a chance to enjoy some great meals at reduced prices.
  • SF SketchfestThis comedy festival lasts two and a half weeks and is held at several places around town.
  • FOG Design+Art: The FOG Fair celebrates modern art, architecture, technology, and design. Besides some great exhibits, you'll also find custom installations, pop-up galleries, presentations, and discussions.
  • Whale Watching: January is gray whale watching season around San Francisco. Find out how, when and where in the San Francisco whale watching guide.
  • Sea Lions at Pier 39: The crowd of barking pinnipeds that hang out near Pier 39 takes time off from the pier every year, but they come back in January.

    The annual events listed above happen every year, but they're not all that's going on in San Francisco in January. If you're looking for a fun concert, sporting event or theatrical performance try these resources:

    January Travel Tips

    January is a great time to get the best prices on hotels in San Francisco. With demand for hotels low this time of year, room rates become low as well. Making it an even better reason to visit.

    Some visitors from colder climates think San Francisco feels like summer in January, and they run around in short-sleeved shirts just because they can. To avoid being instantly identified as an out-of-towner, resist that urge.

    A cold or rainy January day is a good excuse to try one of the real San Francisco treats. Irish coffee first landed on U.S. shores in San Francisco and the bar that introduced it is still going strong.