While rain isn't incredibly common in San Francisco (it's more likely to be the ubiquitous fog that kills your vibe), don't be afraid to put on a bit of rain gear and venture out into the city. Even in bad weather, you can find a museum for almost any interest, listen to music at the symphony, or explore some of the city's architectural wonders. Here are our 20 favorite ways to defeat a damp day in San Francisco.
Go on a Brewery Crawl
Craft brewing is on the rise in San Francisco, with more breweries in the city than there were before Prohibition. And luckily, many of them are concentrated together, making for the perfect rainy day activity.
Start your beer crawl at 21st Amendment Brewery, known for their seasonal brews and cartoon-esque can designs, before popping into nearby Black Hammer Brewing (where a taster will run you just $4, as of 2018), and ThirstyBear Brewing Company, the city's oldest brewpub, having opened in 1996. (The latter has 10 different brews on tap, all paired with tasty tapas.)
Have an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe
The first place in America to serve the warm mixture of Irish whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream is still going strong, and all that hot coffee and alcohol are pitch-perfect for a rainy day.
Buena Vista Cafe perfected their recipe way back in 1952, and it's estimated that they serve nearly 2,000 of the tasty beverage each day.
Let Someone Else Drive You Around
You might need to plan ahead, but you can stay dry and see the city at the same time in a classic Volkswagen van with Vantigo, a favorite San Francisco tour company. Their city tours include jaunts around some of San Francisco's most famous landmarks, as well as Alcatraz. They can even take you on wine country tours and brewery tours.
Musee Mecanique at Fisherman's Wharf is packed full of antique arcade games, some of them more than a century old. It appeals to all ages, including the most video-game-addicted kids. Change machines are plentiful, and a few dollars can keep everyone busy for quite a while. To see some of the games they have click here.
Go On an Indoor Tour
San Francisco City Guides offers some fun guided tours custom-made for rainy days. Among their indoor tours, they take you behind the scenes at the Palace Hotel, to see the upstairs murals at Coit Tower, or around the San Francisco Fire Department Museum.
Browse for Books
The concept may seem a little old-fashioned if you're doing all your reading on a mobile device these days, but City Lights Bookstore in North Beach is a real book lover's bookstore. Stop next door at Vesuvio Cafe, a remainder of the Beat era.
Relax at an Authentic Japanese Bathhouse
Take Some Photos
It's not as crazy as it sounds. Rainy days can offer the photographer some interesting shots.
Try a black-and-white photo of the skyline from the end of Pier 7. Focus on details. Look for reflections in puddles.
Learn How Things Are Made
Or stay in San Francisco and visit Dandelion Chocolate or any of San Francisco's top chocolate makers.
Visit the San Francisco Botanical Garden
Even during the rainy season, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is still one of the city's greatest natural wonders. Located in Golden Gate Park, the garden has more than 8,500 species of plants, showcasing everything from rare magnolias and native redwoods to South American cloud forests, befitting of a foggy, misty day in the Bay Area.
If you have kids in tow, pick up a family-focused adventure map from the visitor's center. For more information visit their website.
San Francisco's Union Square is home to the city's best shopping, including a sprawling Westfield mall with several large department stores and smaller boutiques, like Goorin Bros. hatmakers, Marlow, a cashmere shop, and the Archive, an upscale men's boutique.
Walk Around the Labyrinths at Grace Cathedral
This Nob Hill Episcopal church is more than just a church: It's home to two labyrinths, which guests are free to stroll, an AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel with an altarpiece designed by artist Keith Haring, and an event calendar full of yoga classes, choir performances, and more. For a full event calendar and more information click here.
Tour San Francisco's Elaborate City Hall
San Francisco's City Hall, a National Historic Landmark, is among the most beautiful buildings in the entire city. Home to more than 30 weddings each day, the Beaux Arts structure was built in 1915 and thoroughly restored after an earthquake in 1989.
The building's spans more than 500,000-square-feet, meaning there's plenty do and see here! Hour-long docent-led tours are available on weekdays at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. Visit their website for more information.
Eat Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl
There are few foods more comforting—and more quintessentially San Francisco! But that also means tons of different options for this comfort-food favorite, some better than others.
For the best clam chowder in a bread bowl, head to Alioto's at Fisherman's Wharf, a staple for more than 90 years, or The Grotto, an updated and re-imagined version of the city's classic Fisherman's Grotto, which has graced the pier since the early 1900s.
Visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses a collection of more than 33,000 works of art, all presented in the museum's 170,000-square-foot of exhibition space. Among the largest museums in the U.S., the SFMOMA is home to an expansive permanent collection, with works by Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and more, but also hosts rotating exhibitions, often five or more at a time.
Go See a Theater Performance
While there are many options for good theater in San Francisco, the non-profit San Francisco Playhouse, set in an old hotel on Union Square, is among the best. The small theater puts on nine different plays yearly, which range from Broadway hits to musicals and international performances.
Listen to the San Francisco Symphony
What better way to spend a rainy evening than with some classical music? The city's symphony, which performs out of the Davies Symphony Hall in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, plays everything from classical composers like Stravinsky to classical takes on favorite films, like Love Actually, which are shown on a projection screen behind the stage. To see a calendar or get tickets, visit their website.
Watch the Golden State Warriors
Head across the Bay to Oakland to watch one of the NBA's most-beloved teams duke it out at the Oracle Arena. Tickets to see the NBA champions can be pricey and hard to come by, but TicketsNow, Ticketmaster's secondary ticketing platform, usually has a good selection. While all of Oracle Arena is intimate (no bad views here!), splurge for the lower-level seats if you can. Check their website for more information.
Visit the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is an incredible science museum that will delight children and adults alike. Instead of high-tech displays and sleek videos, the Exploratorium focuses on simple, hands-on experiences. You can easily spend a full day or more discovering the more than 650 exhibits. The museum moved to its new waterfront building in 2013, which is bright and spacious. See more about the Exploratorium here
Learn How San Francisco's Famous Sourdough Bread Is Made
Visit the famed Boudin Bakery's Fisherman's Wharf location to learn the history and craft behind this San Francisco staple. Tours are centered around the company's history, including its founder's immigration to San Francisco. You can see all the action from a 40-foot catwalk suspended above the bakery and can even ask questions of the bakers via a two-way intercom system.