Which city is cheaper, San Francisco or Chicago?
These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.
Which city is more affordable and which is best for your travel style? If you're trying to figure out where to go next, comparing the travel costs between Chicago and San Francisco can help you decide which place is right for you.
Chicago is a vibrant, multicultural, and edgey city. Visitors will also find so much to do here because it's a large city with many sights and attractions. It offers plenty of beauty for visitors. It's also popular because of the theater, nightlife, and live music.
San Francisco is a one-of-a-kind, scenic, and beautiful coastal city. Visitors will also find so much to do here because it's a large city with many sights and attractions. The famous beauty of this place is one of the main draws. Other popular activities here include museums, theater, and nightlife.
Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between San Francisco and Chicago. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.
For an educational experience, head to a museum or a notable sight in either Chicago or San Francisco.
You'll find many recognizable landmarks that put Chicago on the map. Some of the most famous are the Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry. Notable landmarks include the famous Willis Tower - formerly the Sears Tower, Buckingham Fountain, and the iconic Cloud Gate (the bean).
Travelers visit San Francisco from around the world to see its many world-famous attractions. The city's landmarks are as diverse as the people who live there. The most recognizable landmark is the famous Golden Gate Bridge, but visitors also enjoy seeing Alcatraz Island, the Legion of Honor, the Palace of Fine Arts, as well as the small but fascinating Cable Car Museum.
Overall, Chicago is considered to be a more popular choice for theater-goers.
The theater scene in Chicago is world-class. Theater is big here with many of the major Broadway productions visiting the city. There is also an endless list of smaller, local theaters to choose from.
If you have some extra time in San Francisco, take in a show. The city has around a dozen theaters where you can enjoy musicals or plays.
There are opportunities to sample the local cuisine at great restaurants in both Chicago and San Francisco.
Chicago has long been recognized as a culinary destination with great restaurants. While you're in town you have to try the famous deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, and Italian beef.
Known for it's food and restaurant scene, San Francisco is always at the top of any foodie's travel list. There are local dives as well as five star restaurants, with everything in between. Popular local dining experiences include sourdough bread bowls and Dungeness Crab at Fisherman's Wharf, and dim sum in Chinatown.
Chicago has the better options when it comes to nightlife.
Chicago is a destination that you simply have to visit at least once for nightlife. Popular bars and clubs include the Smart Bar, Beauty Bar, and Le Nocturne.
If you're looking for night time activities San Francisco has a few options to choose from. Popular clubs in the city include Temple San Francisco, Monarch, and Audio Nightclub.
Chicago generally offers more live music options than San Francisco.
In Chicago you'll find nightly musicians performing at a variety of venues. The city is the birthplace of such interesting styles as modern gospel and the Chicago style blues.
The music scene helps keep San Francisco active and fun. Well known music venues include the Great American Music Hall, Slim's, and The Chapel.
Chicago and San Francisco are good choices for a beach vacation.
Many people head to Chicago to enjoy the beach. While you don't immediately think of beaches when you think of Chicago, there are some nice beaches by the lake.
You'll have a great beach vacation in San Francisco. Whether you're interested in surfing or simply taking in the dramatic views, the beaches of San Francisco will take your breath away.
Shopping is a popular activity in both San Francisco and Chicago.
Chicago is a world class destination for shoppers. The most famous shopping area is Michigan Avenue and the famous Magnificent Mile.
People travel from around the world to go shopping in San Francisco. The city has excellent shopping from local vendors to recognizable brands. Union Square, Embarcadero, Fillmore Street and Haight Street are some of the best neighborhoods for shopping.
You'll find kid-friendly activities in either Chicago or San Francisco.
Chicago is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. The city has a large number of activities for kids, including zoos, Shedd Aquarium, impressive children's museums, and large and elaborate playgrounds in Millennium Park.
San Francisco is a very family-friendly destination. With its many outdoor parks, hiking trails, beaches, and kid-friendly museums, this city makes a great family-friendly destination.
Both Chicago and San Francisco are good destinations to visit as a couple.
Chicago is a good city for couples to visit. Couples will enjoy exploring the city's vibrant theater scene and diverse neighborhoods.
San Francisco is a great city if you're traveling as a couple. Couples enjoy the romantic backdrop of this beautiful city. There are world-class restaurants and plenty of spas that couples can enjoy during a honeymoon or romantic getaway.
Chicago and San Francisco are comparable places to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.
Chicago is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. The city doesn't have a huge backpacker vibe, but it does have a number of hostels that help keep costs in check.
It's common for backpackers to visit San Francisco. The city is one of the more backpacker friendly cities in the United States. There are a handful of hostels throughout, many concentrated in the popular Union Square and Downtown neighborhoods of the city.
Chicago and San Francisco are comparable places to visit for students.
Students come from all over the world to visit Chicago. The city has a large number of universities that bring in students from around the country and around the globe.
San Francisco is a great city to visit as a student. As a large and dynamic city, the area is popular with international students who want to experience this unique side of the United States. Major universities in the area include University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and nearby, the University of California, Berkeley.
You'll find somewhat comparable public transit options in both Chicago and San Francisco.
Chicago has a great public transit system. There's a subway (the "L"), a commuter well, as well as buses and countless taxis available.
Public transit in San Francisco is top-notch. The transit network includes a subway (the BART), trams, cable cars, ferries, and buses.
Chicago and San Francisco both are comparable when exploring on foot.
Chicago is a very walkable destination. The city has many restaurants, sights, and hotels that are easily accessible on foot.
San Francisco is very walkable. It is compact enough to explore on foot, but given the large hills, it's a bit of a challenge, even for the most fit among us.
Both Chicago and San Francisco have a number of activities to choose from. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in San Francisco than Chicago.
The ideal length of time for a trip to Chicago is 3-5 days, and the ideal length of time for a trip to San Francisco is 3-7 days.
Chicago is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.
In San Francisco, you'll find food and shopping. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This coastal city offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.
It's hard to know how much time to spend in Chicago. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.
In San Francisco, you'll find shopping and museums. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. Since there is so much to do in the area, a weekend is probably not enough for all of it.
Chicago is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. If you have five days, this is a great place to go. Five days is usually enough time to experience most activities.
San Francisco is a great place to explore. It is common to spend five days here. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that San Francisco has to offer. Anyone can find something fun to do here.
You'll find theater and nightlife around the city of Chicago. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.
It's hard to know how much time to spend in San Francisco. In San Francisco, you'll find theater and nightlife. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one week here.
These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.
The average daily cost (per person) in Chicago is $221, while the average daily cost in San Francisco is $175. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Chicago and San Francisco in more detail.
Looking for a hotel in Chicago or San Francisco? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.
Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.
Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Chicago:
Some specific examples of transportation prices in Chicago:
Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in San Francisco:
Also for San Francisco, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:
Prices for flights to both San Francisco and Chicago change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.
Below are a few samples from actual travelers for food and meal costs in Chicago:
Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Chicago.
For San Francisco, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:
Here are a few typical costs in Chicago for activities, ticket prices, and tours that come from previous visitors:
Here are a few actual costs in Chicago for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:
Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for San Francisco.
For more ideas for your next trip, check out The Best Free Things to Do in Chicago, Chicago Bucket List: The Best Places to See, The Best Museums in Chicago, The Best Museums in San Francisco, The Best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco, and Things to Do In San Francisco on a Rainy Day.
Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Chicago:
Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in San Francisco:
When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Chicago and San Francisco, we can see that Chicago is more expensive. And not only is San Francisco much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to San Francisco would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in San Francisco and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Chicago would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Chicago than you might in San Francisco.
Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.
Both San Francisco and Chicago during the summer are popular places to visit. The beaches, the city activities, the music scene, and the family-friendly experiences are the main draw to Chicago this time of year. Also, many travelers come to San Francisco for the beaches, the hiking, the city activities, the music scene, and the family-friendly experiences.
Chicago is a little warmer than San Francisco in the summer. The temperature in Chicago is usually 77°F (25°C) in July, and San Francisco stays around 63°F (17°C).
It rains a lot this time of the year in Chicago. Chicago usually gets more rain in July than San Francisco. Chicago gets 3.9 inches (100 mm) of rain, while San Francisco receives 0.1 inches (2 mm) of rain this time of the year.
The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Chicago and San Francisco. Many travelers come to Chicago for the city's sights and attractions, the shopping scene, the music scene, and the natural beauty of the area. Also, many visitors come to San Francisco in the autumn for the hiking trails, the city's sights and attractions, the shopping scene, the music scene, and the natural beauty of the area.
In the autumn, Chicago is cooler than San Francisco. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Chicago in October are around 56°F (14°C), and San Francisco is about 63°F (17°C).
In October, Chicago usually receives more rain than San Francisco. Chicago gets 2.2 inches (56 mm) of rain, while San Francisco receives 1.3 inches (33 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.
The winter brings many poeple to Chicago as well as San Francisco. Many visitors come to Chicago in the winter for the museums, the Christmas ambience, the shopping scene, the theater shows, and the cuisine. Also, most visitors come to San Francisco for the museums, the shopping scene, the theater shows, and the cuisine during these months.
Chicago can get quite cold in the winter. In January, Chicago is generally much colder than San Francisco. Temperatures in Chicago average around 25°F (-4°C), and San Francisco stays around 50°F (10°C).
Chicago usually gets less rain in January than San Francisco. Chicago gets 1.9 inches (47 mm) of rain, while San Francisco receives 3.8 inches (96 mm) of rain this time of the year.
Both San Francisco and Chicago are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Chicago for the beaches, the activities around the city, and the natural beauty during these months. Also, the spring months attract visitors to San Francisco because of the beaches, the activities around the city, and the natural beauty.
Chicago is cooler than San Francisco in the spring. The temperature in Chicago is usually 52°F (11°C) in April, and San Francisco stays around 58°F (14°C).
It's quite rainy in Chicago. In April, Chicago usually receives more rain than San Francisco. Chicago gets 4.3 inches (108 mm) of rain, while San Francisco receives 1.2 inches (31 mm) of rain each month for the spring.
|Temp (°C)||Rain (mm)||Temp (°C)||Rain (mm)|
|Jan||25°F (-4°C)||1.9 inches (47 mm)||50°F (10°C)||3.8 inches (96 mm)|
|Feb||29°F (-2°C)||1.4 inches (35 mm)||54°F (12°C)||2.7 inches (69 mm)|
|Mar||41°F (5°C)||3.7 inches (93 mm)||56°F (13°C)||2.7 inches (69 mm)|
|Apr||52°F (11°C)||4.3 inches (108 mm)||58°F (14°C)||1.2 inches (31 mm)|
|May||63°F (17°C)||3 inches (75 mm)||60°F (15°C)||0.2 inches (5 mm)|
|Jun||73°F (23°C)||3.9 inches (100 mm)||62°F (17°C)||0.1 inches (3 mm)|
|Jul||77°F (25°C)||3.9 inches (100 mm)||63°F (17°C)||0.1 inches (2 mm)|
|Aug||76°F (24°C)||3.5 inches (90 mm)||64°F (18°C)||0.1 inches (1 mm)|
|Sep||68°F (20°C)||3.8 inches (96 mm)||66°F (19°C)||0.3 inches (7 mm)|
|Oct||56°F (14°C)||2.2 inches (56 mm)||63°F (17°C)||1.3 inches (33 mm)|
|Nov||44°F (7°C)||2.2 inches (56 mm)||57°F (14°C)||2.8 inches (71 mm)|
|Dec||31°F (-1°C)||2.8 inches (71 mm)||51°F (11°C)||2.7 inches (68 mm)|
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