What to Do in San Francisco During the Holidays

13 ways to get in the festive spirit in San Francisco

Despite its mild winter, San Francisco knows how to celebrate the holiday season. Here are a few of the best ways to get in the festive spirit around the city this December. 

Union Square, San Francisco
Ice skate in the midst of the hustle and bustle at Union Square. (©Jerry Yi)

Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square

The holidays are officially here when the skating rink opens in Union Square. Visitors can frolic across the ice while taking in the 83-foot Christmas tree decorated with more than 1,100 shining ornaments and 33,000 twinkling LED lights. Through Jan. 18. 

The Westin St. Francis San Francisco
The Westin St. Francis overlooks a festive Union Square. (©Westin St. Francis)

Enchanted Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis

Executive pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team at the Westin St. Francis hotel created a rotating, 12-foot-tall castle entirely out of sugar. The winter wonderland is decorated with delicious colored ornaments, gift boxes, Christmas trees and climbing elves. The St. Francis Sweet Shoppe also sells holiday sweets that are made daily. Nov. 25-Jan. 2. 

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Children learn the science behind reindeer with interactive activities at California Academy of Sciences. (©Kathryn Whitney)

’Tis the Season for Science

California Academy of Sciences brings back its annual holiday exhibit that explores how reindeer adapt to winter climates. Learn how reindeer use UV vision to find food underneath snow and how they survive on a diet of moss and lichen during the winter months. Don’t miss the live reindeer and the indoor snow flurries that fall twice an hour. Nov. 25-Jan. 3. 

Winter Walk SF downtown San Francisco
Winter Walk SF brings a pedestrian friendly avenue to downtown. (©Winter Walk SF)

Winter Walk SF

For one month, two blocks of Stockton Street in the middle of Union Square are open for visitors to celebrate the holidays. Festivities include a light art show projected on the Macy’s Men’s Store building, food trucks, carolers and musicians. Nov. 27-Jan. 1. 

the Fairmont San Francisco
Pop in the lobby of the Fairmont to admire the life-size gingerbread house. (©Fairmont San Francisco)

Fairmont Gingerbread House

A giant gingerbread house has taken over the elegant lobby of this Nob Hill hotel every holiday season for over 100 years. Kids can walk inside the two-story furnished Victorian, made with thousands of homemade gingerbread bricks and over a ton of icing and candy, and pen a letter to Santa in the North Pole Nook. Nov. 28-Dec. 30. 

The American Conservatory Theater
The American Conservatory Theater's elaborate and polished production of "A Christmas Carol" is a local tradition. (©Kevin Berne)

“A Christmas Carol”

Charles Dickens’ holiday classic is back in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater. Watch the music-infused production bring the Ghosts of Christmas Past to life. Dec. 4-27. 

Gourmet Walks, San Francisco
Visit the city's top chocolatiers and take in the downtown holiday decor with Gourmet Walks. (©Gourmet Walks)

Holiday Lights & Chocolate Tour

Gourmet Walks takes participants on a culinary exploration of the seasons. The three-hour walking and tasting tour visits seven stops with generous tastings of truffles, holiday chocolates and hot chocolate from local chocolatiers. On the evening tour you’ll see the Christmas tree and lights in Union Square. Dec. 4-23. 

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus gives its 25th holiday performance this year. (©SFGMC)

HoliGays Are Here

Founded in 1978, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus hosts its annual holiday show at the Nourse Theater. The 300-man group rings in the festive spirit, singing medleys of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and Meghan Trainor’s “I’ll Be Home” as well as new original numbers. On Christmas Eve, the group returns to the Castro Theatre for the 25th year, giving three Home for the Holidays performances. Dec. 11-12, 24. 

SFMADE, San Francisco
Shop locally made goods at SFMADE's shopping event. (©SFMADE)

SFMade Holiday Gift Fair

Holiday shopping abounds at the free SFMade Holiday Gift Fair, featuring more than 80 vendors selling everything from jewelry to body products to chocolates and wines all of which are created by local manufacturers and artisans. Dec. 12.

Dancing snowflakes in "The Nutcracker" San Francisco
Dancing snowflakes in "The Nutcracker" (©Erik Tomasson)

“The Nutcracker”

The Sugar Plum Fairy, a nutcracker prince and angels dance their way through the San Francisco Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” a San Francisco tradition since its first performance on Christmas Eve, 1944. Dec. 16-31. 

Smuin Ballet, San Francisco
Smuin Ballet puts on a playful holiday performance. (©David Allen)

Smuin Ballet

The eclectic local dance company presents “The Christmas Ballet,” its annual holiday performance featuring ballet, tap and swing and incorporating global holiday traditions. Dec. 17-27. 

San Francisco Symphony
The symphony shows its lighthearted side for the holidays with a pop culture favorite. (©SF Symphony)

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

The San Francisco Symphony works with live singers, actors and dancers to bring the classic Christmas television special to the stage in this family-friendly performance. Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” will sing additional holiday classics, followed by a Christmas carol sing-along. Dec. 18-24. 

New Asia Restaurant, San Francisco
Comedian Dana Eagle performs at the New Asia Restaurant. (©Laura Burke)

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy

A San Francisco Jewish tradition, the 23rd annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show brings Jewish comedians to the stage for three days with a dinner and cocktail show. Dec. 24-26.