Why You Should Go to San Francisco This Winter

These exciting festivals, restaurant openings, and local delicacies are several compelling reasons to visit the Bay Area this season.

Why You Should Go to San Francisco This Winter

San Francisco’s month-long Chinese New Year celebration culminates with a parade each winter.

Photo by Shutterstock

While San Francisco’s weather is typically somewhere between cool and rainy throughout the months of January and February, travelers shouldn’t overlook a weekend getaway there this winter just because of the drizzle. From annual events like the Chinese New Year Parade and the Noise Pop Music & Arts Festival to exciting new hotel and restaurant openings, there’s plenty to experience across the city (and in the East Bay, too) over the next few months.

The Chinese New Year Parade takes place in San Francisco on February 23 this year.

The Chinese New Year Parade takes place in San Francisco on February 23 this year.

Courtesy of shutterstock.com

Celebrate Chinese New Year

The festivities for the Year of the Pig kick off in San Francisco in early February with the Chinese New Year Flower Market Fair, where you can shop for fresh fruit, candies, and flowers and also watch traditional Chinese acrobats and folk dancers perform. The monthlong celebration culminates with the Chinese New Year Parade in the city’s Chinatown—the oldest one in North America—on Saturday, February 23, 2019. The parade is free to attend, but tickets can be bought for bleacher sections along Kearny Street and Post Street. $35, chineseparade.com

Try Cowgirl Creamery’s first new cheese in nearly a decade

In late January, the Bay Area’s beloved Cowgirl Creamery introduced its first new cheese since 2011. Hop Along, a semi-firm, aged, pressed cheese, joins the dairy’s roster alongside crowd favorites like Mount Tam and Red Hawk. For now, you can find the new cheese at the Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, as well as local stores including Bi-Rite Market and Market Hall Foods. The rest of the country will have to wait for this spring, when national distribution starts. One Embarcadero, No. 17, cowgirlcreamery.com

Cozy up in front of the terrazzo fireplace at the newly redone Laureate Bar.

Cozy up in front of the terrazzo fireplace at the newly redone Laureate Bar.

Courtesy of The Laurel Inn

Sip cocktails at the Laureate Bar & Lounge

After finishing a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2017, The Laurel Inn, a Joie de Vivre hotel in Pacific Heights, turned its attention to updating its cocktail bar and lounge. After a full rebranding, Laureate opened in August 2018 with mid-century modern interiors designed by San Francisco’s RPM Studio to match the hotel’s historic 1950s facade. The relaxed, living-room-like vibe is still there, but the menu has been completely redone to be more cocktail-forward and the decor has been replaced with cozy pink, yellow, and deep red velvet couches. The terrazzo fireplace at the center of it all makes it the ideal place to enjoy a drink—or two—on a rainy night. 444 Presidio Avenue, jdvhotels.com

Go to the Noise Pop Music & Arts Festival

Now in its 27th year, this annual indie music, arts, and film festival takes place from February 25 to March 3 at venues throughout the Bay Area, from Oakland’s historic Fox Theater to San Francisco’s intimate Bottom of the Hill. Among the 2019 headliners are Beirut, Princess Nokia, and Bob Mould. You can buy tickets for individuals shows, or purchase a badge that gets you into all events for $199. noisepop.com

A deluxe queen room at the new Hotel Emblem.

A deluxe queen room at the new Hotel Emblem.

Courtesy of Hotel Emblem

Check in to Hotel Emblem

San Francisco’s hotel boom continues into 2019 with the late-January opening of Hotel Emblem, located where Nob Hill meets Union Square. Operated by Viceroy Hotels & Resorts, the 96-room boutique hotel features a design inspired by the Beat Generation, who defined the 1950s literary movement in San Francisco. In addition to a Writer’s Alcove in the lobby, there’s a Meditation Hour hosted by San Francisco–based Anchor Meditation every Saturday, as well as literary classics by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac available from the hotel’s Book Butler cart, curated by the staff at City Lights Bookstore. Look forward to the early February openings of Obscenity Bar & Lounge for cocktails and a Bluestone Lane coffee shop in the lobby. 562 Sutter Street, hotelemblem.com

Attend San Francisco’s first Night of Ideas

This annual night of talks, performances, and philosophical debates has been hosted in cities around the world—from Paris to New York to Los Angeles—since 2015. On February 2, 2019, the inaugural San Francisco edition of Night of Ideas will take place from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the San Francisco Main Library. Hosted by the French Consulate, San Francisco Public Library, and SFMoMA, the event includes keynotes talks and panels from the likes of Mayor London Breed, the French photographer and street artist JR, and Dominique Crenn, the chef/owner of Atelier Crenn, during the seven-hour marathon event. 100 Larkin Street, free, nightofideassf.com

Three of San Francisco's most popular eateries have teamed up for an airport food hall.

Three of San Francisco’s most popular eateries have teamed up for an airport food hall.

Courtesy of San Francisco International Airport

Grab lunch at SFO’s new Manufactory Food Hall

If you don’t have time to fit in a meal at Tartine, Cala, or Kin Khao during your trip, you now have a chance to grab the much-lauded pastries, tacos, and Thai fried chicken from the chefs behind these San Francisco restaurants before you fly out of San Francisco International Airport. Grouped together in a 3,241-square-foot space in SFO’s International Terminal, the Manufactory Food Hall includes a Tartine Bakery pastry counter (so you can bring their famed bread home in your carry-on), as well as fast casual spin-offs of Cala and Kin Khao. Tacos Cala will focus on tacos and breakfast tortas, while Kamin, from the team behind buzzy Union Square spot Kin Khao, will serve Thai fried chicken, sandwiches, and more. SFO International Terminal (near Boarding Area A), flysfo.com

>> Next: Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to San Francisco

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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