San Francisco is magical during all times of the year and Christmas is no exception. The city has a mixture of traditional and non-traditional events and activities for merriment makers of all ages to enjoy.
San Francisco Christmas Top Picks
If you’ve never done the following things around Christmastime in San Francisco then you’ll want to make sure that you do them this year:
o Take a spin around an ice skating rink. There may not be snow in San Francisco at Christmastime but that doesn’t stop people from enjoying great winter activities. Ice skating is a top choice in the city and there are several rinks set up each year to enjoy this activity. A top pick is the rink at Union Square where you can skate away amidst the buzz of all of the holiday shoppers. The holiday rink at Embarcadero Center on the bay is another top pick.
o Visit the holiday boats. Each year boats lit up with Christmas lights come into the Bay and impress viewers with their great displays. They can be seen along Fisherman’s Wharf throughout the holiday season.
o Moscone’s Winter Holiday Party. This is a top pick for families with young children because they can meet Santa, play holiday games and make gifts and cookies during this party.
o Reindeer Romp at San Francisco Zoo. Each year you can visit real live reindeer at the San Francisco Zoo during the holiday season. They’re more magical than you might think. The zoo does other holiday events as well such as sprinkling the polar bears with snow, hosting Santa and presenting a song and dance holiday show.
o Golden Gate Audobon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts. Here’s something a little bit different that you can do and it’s been happening in San Francisco every holiday season for more than one hundred years. It’s an annual attempt to try to record every bird spotted in a 15-mile-diameter area in San Francisco and Oakland. At the end of each count down is a festive dinner for volunteers.
Annual San Francisco Christmas Events
Each year there are some events in San Francisco that come back again and again and never fail to provide a fun time. Those top Christmastime events include:
o Great Dickens Christmas Fair. This popular annual event has been drawing holiday crowds for more than three decades. Deck yourself out in a Dickens-era costume and step into Victorian London where you’ll find shopping, singing, dancing, theater and more.
o Gay Men’s Chorus. For over two decades this stunning chorus has presented a “Home for the Holidays” performances that can’t be beat.
o Nutcracker. This is the most famous holiday ballet and people see it performed at Christmastime all throughout the nation. San Francisco is no exception. Additionally, there are often performances with fun twists on them such as the dance-a-long Nutcracker night!
Additional Options for a Fun San Francisco Christmas
Besides the top picks and the great annual events, here are some other activities you might enjoy for Christmas in San Francisco:
o Tour hotels’ Christmas displays. Numerous hotels in San Francisco try to outdo each other each year with amazing displays. Large Christmas trees, falling snow and light decorations can all be found inside hotel lobbies. Some of the best ones to check out are the huge tree inside of the 17-story lobby of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, the 22 feet tall gingerbread house in The Fairmont San Francisco and the rotating sugar castle in the Westin St. Francis.
o Visit the many Christmas trees erected throughout the city. The most well known tree to visit in San Francisco for the holidays is the huge Christmas tree at Union Square. However, there are many others to check out as well including trees at Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, Civic Center Plaza and the Presidio Main Post. Also make sure to stop into San Francisco’s City Hall to see an amazing tree adorned with thousands of Japanese origami cranes.
o Check out the museums. Several of the museums in the Bay Area do various holiday themed events and displays each year. For example, in 2010 the Walt Disney Museum is doing a Christmas with Walt Disney film and a Candlelight Christmas singing event. Another example is the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, which is doing an Old Time Maritime Christmas event.
o Enjoy the theater. San Francisco is home to theater companies of all sizes and many of them put on special holiday shows. There are traditional classics, of course, like A Christmas Carol. There are also weird, random, funny and sexy shows such as the Trannyshack Drag Queens live performances of The Golden Girls Christmas. The city’s numerous burlesque troops also do holiday-themed shows each year. Check out Bay Area Tix and Goldstar for reduced priced tickets to all theater performances.
Where to See Christmas Lights in the Bay Area
One question that everyone always has about Christmas in San Francisco is where to go see a great Christmas light display. Your best bet is to head to Union Street and the shopping area of Cow Hollow where the stores are lit up with light displays. Other than that there aren’t too many neighborhoods in San Francisco with outstanding displays but there are a lot of good options in the greater Bay area. Get yourself a Zipcar and head out to these hot spots:
o Alameda. Thompson Avenue between High Street and Fernside in Alameda is known as Christmas Tree Lane. You can park your car and wander up and down the street to see one great light display after the other.
o San Ramon. The Woodland Terrance neighborhood in San Ramon goes above and beyond when it comes to the elaborate creativity of their Christmas light displays.
o Santa Cruz. This great beach town is keeping up an online map showing where all of the holiday lights in the area can be seen.