What to do now in San Francisco

Things to Do in San Francisco This Weekend

What to do this weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area
(©San Francisco Travel Association) What to do this weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area

Here are our top picks for making the most of the weekend Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-26, 2017. 

For more ongoing events and exhibitions check our calendar


'Tis the Season for Science

'Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Live reindeer, indoor snow flurries, an ice skating rink and the giant Snowman Theater return to highlight this celebration of the winter season at the California Academy of Sciences. Don’t miss holiday-themed programs, including quiz shows and live music. Nov. 22-Jan. 7. 

“A Christmas Story: The Musical” at SF Playhouse

 The Musical” at SF Playhouse

Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants nothing more for Christmas than an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model BB Gun.  Nominated for three Tony Awards in 2013, “A Christmas Story” is a classic and heartfelt holiday tale backed by a magnificent score. Nov. 22-13.

Winter Walk SF

Winter Walk SF in Union Square

Winter Walk SF, a one of a kind holiday pop-up plaza in the heart of Union Square, returns for its fourth year this Holiday season. For 5 weeks, two blocks of Stockton Street (between Geary St. and Ellis St.) will open for winter merriment. Nov. 25-Dec. 31. 

Tree Lighting Ceremony in Ghirardelli Square

Tree Lighting Ceremony in Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

The 53rd annual tree lighting ceremony takes place in the West Plaza and Fountain Plaza with free kids activities like face painting, henna, and caricatures. Also enjoy live music, snow and Santa.  Nov. 24. 

Treasure Island Flea

 Treasure Island Flea

Rain or shine, this weekend is the open-air indie market’s celebrates with the big holiday show. Each month the market brings together vintage and antique finds, wares from local artisans and food and fashion trucks. Live music, workshops for all ages and a dog-friendly policy create a community atmosphere. And with a $3 entry fee, it’s a bargain. Take the Muni 108 line from the city. (This is a good chance to visit the wineries and brewery on the island too!) Nov. 25-26, 10 am-4 pm.

Santa Trains at Napa Valley Wine Train

Santa Train at Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train transforms into an enchanting holiday journey of delight for both children and adults, the Santa Trains.  Guests of the Santa Trains will experience games, sing-alongs, and a fun cast of holiday-inspired characters, all while savoring hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies. Nov. 18-Dec. 29.

San Francisco International Automobile Show

Now in its 60th year, the auto show is back with everything from hot rods to hybrids, exotic sports cards to classic cars and many of the latest models. Nov. 18-26. 

“France is a Feast – The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child”

“France is a Feast – The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child” at Napa Valley Museum

On view at the Napa Valley Museum Yountville is “France Is a Feast— The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child.” Inspired by the book “France Is a Feast” by Alex Prud’homme and Katie Pratt, the exhibition features black-and-white photographs taken by Paul Child in France between 1948 and 1954, rare objects and pictures of Paul’s wife, Julia Child, long before she became a celebrity cookbook author. Nov. 11-Feb. 18. 

“Aladdin” at SHN

Aladdin at SHN in San Francisco

Opening Nov. 1 at the Orpheum Theatre, this blockbuster production of “Aladdin” is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon,” “Something Rotten!”) and features all the classic songs from the film as well as new ones written by Tony and Academy Award winner Alan Menken. The VIP Orchestra package includes the best seats in the house, a commemorative souvenir program and Aladdin tote bag. Nov. 1-Jan 1.

The Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center

The Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, San Francisco

Celebrate the holiday spirit in San Francisco with the Bay Area’s largest outdoor ice rink, a beautiful city setting and an array of shops and restaurants to enjoy. Located in Justin Herman Plaza, adjacent to Four Embarcadero Center and across from the historic Ferry Building. Nov. 3-Jan. 7.

“Couture Korea” Exhibit at the Asian Art Museum

“Couture Korea” Exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

A new exhibit on view at the palatial Asian Art Museum in the Civic Center neighborhood, “Couture Korea” showcases historical and contemporary Korean fashion, from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) to today. The exhibit features more than 120 works, including pieces by Korean designer Jin Teok and Seoul-based designers Im Seonoc and Jung Misun, as well as works by Karl Lagerfeld that were inspired by Joseon dynasty fashion and art. Nov. 3-Feb. 4.

Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square

Union Square Ice Rink in San Francisco

A local tradition, this outdoor ice rink is located in the heart of Union Square. “Arabian Nights”, Disney’s Aladdin-themed skate sessions every Wednesday this holiday season.  Nov. 1-Jan. 15.

“Le Switch” at New Conservatory Theatre Center 

“Le Switch” at New Conservatory Theatre Center , San Francisco

David is a self-possessed New York librarian with a need for classification, in this "wickedly smart boy-meets-boy story" that TimeOut calls “delightfully fun”.  What happens when his best friend’s bachelor party takes him to Montreal, and he is swept off his feet by a charming young florist? A witty and whimsical romantic comedy tied in knots. “Le Switch” by Philip Dawkins is playing. Oct  27-Dec 3.

ACT presents “Small Mouth Sounds”

ACT presents “Small Mouth Sounds”

This acclaimed comedy satirizing the mindfulness and wellness industry was written by from Drama Desk Award-winning playwright Bess Wohl and follows six urbanites on a silent retreat.  Oct. 11-Dec. 10. 

“Walker Evans” at SFMOMA

Walker Evans at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Examine the language of everyday American life in Walker Evans, which explores Evans’s impact and reflection on the culture and spirit of the United States in the 1930s. The exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art brings together the best of the best, pulling from national and international collections, including rarely exhibited pieces. Sept. 30-Feb. 4.

“Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument” at BAMPFA

 The Making of an Argument” at UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA )

This major exhibition at UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive of work by the photographer, artist, and filmmaker Gordon Parks explores the untold story behind Parks's breakthrough photo series "Harlem Gang Leader," which was published in Life magazine in 1948 and chronicled life among the street gangs of postwar Harlem. Sept. 27-Dec. 17.

Mexican Masters

This exhibition at the Mexican Museum comprises more than 42 works on paper by 15 Mexican artists, including Diego Rivera, Alfredo Ramos Martínez and Rosa Rolanda. Through Dec. 8.

San Francisco Opera Season

San Francisco Opera fall season opens

The opera's 95th season includes performances of Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot”. Through Dec. 9

“Fantasy Life” By Tabitha Soren

“Fantasy Life” By Tabitha Soren

Bay Area-based artist Tabitha Soren (ABC, NBC and MTV News) has spent the past fifteen years exploring baseball and the American dream. Soren takes us into intimate and thoughtful territory, creating a complex and epic portrait that celebrates the game we think we know. Tabitha Soren's “Fantasy Life” looks behind the scenes and through the hype of professional baseball. City Hall through Dec. 15.

“Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle”

 The Art of Eyvind Earle”

On view this month at the Walt Disney Family Museum, “Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle” explores the life and work of Earle, best known as the lead stylist for “Sleeping Beauty” and for concept art for both “Lady and the Tramp” and “Peter Pan.” The first-ever Eyvind Earle museum retrospective features more than 250 works, large-scale concept artworks, elaborate landscapes, scratchboards, sculpture, poetry and commercial illustrations. May 18-Jan. 8, 2018. 

Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown” at OMOC

 Humans, Friends & the Unknown” at Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California presents the world premiere of “Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown,” an immersive experience featuring a large-scale, commissioned work by Los-Angeles based FriendsWithYou—the fine art collaborative including Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III. OMCA’s Great Hall is transformed into an imaginative and otherworldly place that sets the stage for visitors to experience friendship, magic, and social connection. Oct. 7-Jan. 21. 





What to Do in the San Francisco Bay Area, Nov. 24-26, 2017.

The San Francisco Concerts and Shows Guaranteed to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

"The Christmas Carol" at the American Conservatory Theater
(©Kevin Berne) "The Christmas Carol" at the American Conservatory Theater

In San Francisco, the holiday season doesn’t bring snowfall or smoking chimneys, but we make our own traditions. Here are some of locals' favorite seasonal rituals.

Beach Blanket Babylon's Candle Girls

Beach Blanket Babylon Holiday Performances (all month)

The nation’s longest-running musical revue celebrates the holiday season with its ongoing satire of the biggest names in pop culture and politics in these playful presentations of holiday song and dance. Club Fugazi, 678 Green St., 415.421.4222

 The Christmas Episodes”

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes (Dec. 1-23)

Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sofia from the popular 1980s television show return to San Francisco's Victoria Theater this month, but this time they’re played by four comic drag performers. This annual tradition brings plenty of laughs and over-the-top costumes. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St.

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus' holiday performance

Elfstravaganza: Making the North Pole Gay Again (Dec. 8-9)

This seasonal performance by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at the Nourse Theater and Castro Theatre features 250 elves in holiday drag, fabulous reindeer, Mr. and Mrs. Claus singing opera and more. 275 Hayes St. and 429 Castro St., 415.865.3650

The San Francisco Symphony's lobby decked out for holiday performances

San Francisco Symphony presents A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live (Dec. 21-24)

The symphony performs Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music as live actors portraying Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the whole Peanuts gang take the stage. The concert begins with a family-friendly reception in the lobby that features festive decorations and activities, including a giant Christmas tree and special Peanuts decor. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., 415.864.6000

"A Christmas Carol" at A.C.T.

A Christmas Carol (Dec. 1-24)

Now in its 41st year, this San Francisco holiday classic returns with legendary Bay Area actors James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge and Ken Ruta as the Ghost of Jacob Marley. This version of the Dickens classic—originally adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff—features a cast of dozens, live music and elaborate costumes. Since it began 41 years ago, the American Conservatory Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” has been performed more than 1,200 times to a collective audience of well over a million. A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., 415.749.2228

Maceo Parker

New Year's With SFJazz (Dec. 28-31)

Hailed as the “king of the funky saxophone and one of the primary architects of modern R&B,” Maceo Parker and company take over SFJazz Center for this funky New Year’s week celebration. The altoist has contributed classic funk solos to James Brown hits, played alongside George Clinton in Parliament/Funkadelic and has toured with artists including Keith Richards, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince. Bay Area blues legend Sugar Pie DeSanto opens the show. 201 Franklin St., 866.920.5299

New Year's Eve with the San Francisco Symphony

A New Year’s Event with Seth MacFarlane and the San Francisco Symphony (Dec. 31)

Seth MacFarlane is best known as a television producer, but he’s also an Academy and Grammy-Award nominated singer and songwriter. In the tradition of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, MacFarlane performs Broadway and jazz hits accompanied by the symphony. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., 415.864.6000

Norm Lewis at Feinstein’s at the Nikko (Dec. 10)

Tony-Award nominee Norm Lewis sings his interpretation of holiday favorites as well as the songs that made him one of the leading men on Broadway.

Norm Lewis

Join the locals for one of these beloved holiday traditions.

An Insider's Guide to Outside Lands, San Francisco's Major Summer Music Festival

Outside Lands takes over Golden Gate Park every August.
(©Tom Tomkinson/Outside Lands) Outside Lands takes over Golden Gate Park every August.

The foodie music festival Outside Lands returns to Golden Gate Park in 2017 (Aug. 11-13) with a packed lineup of performers and about as many local food and drink vendors. Headliners include Metallica, The Who, Gorillaz and Lorde, who will share the stage with countless other big-name acts, local bands, comedians and artists. Now in its tenth year, Outside Lands attracts more than 200,000 fans and has become one of the most popular and successful festivals in the country. Here’s what to expect this year.  

Nighttime crowd at Outside Lands in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park


The festival is known for its diverse lineup of established and emerging acts spanning a variety of genres. Beyond headliners, other top draws include A Tribe Called Quest, Solange and Cage the Elephant. Catch local artists including Kamaiyah, The She's and Oliver Tree. If electronic dance music is your thing, head to the giant white igloo known as the House by Heineken. In addition to four main stages, there’s a dedicated comedy and improv tent, The Barbary, featuring Nick Kroll and Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. And if you’re on a budget or can’t get enough live music, catch one of the Outside Lands Night Shows at venues around town.  

Food at Outside Lands in San Francisco

Food + Drink

Featuring 78 local restaurants, 40 wineries and 30 breweries, Outside Lands is as much a destination for foodies as it is for music fans. Bourbon Cake floats, donut cheeseburgers, crab rolls and pork belly burgers are just a few of the more than 200 menu options served up at six separate venues: A Taste of the Bay Area, Wine Lands, Beer Lands, Choco Lands, Cheese Lands and GastroMagic—a stage dedicated to food and drink themed performances. Food trucks like Curry Up Now and The Chairman along with a host of popular eateries like Namu, 4505 Meats and Proposition Chicken are joined by upscale restaurants like Marlowe, Rich Table and Stones Throw.

Crowd at Outside Lands in San Francisco


Navigating Outside Lands isn’t easy, so here are a few tips and resources to help you prepare. First, rent a bike. Buses are packed, taxis are scarce, rideshares are overpriced and parking is nonexistent. There’s even a bike valet at the festival where they’ll wash your ride gratis 10 am-8 pm. Past years have been notoriously chilly, windy and sometimes wet, so be sure to bring layers. And be sure to claim a locker early to stash those layers once the sun comes out. The Outside Lands app has you covered with features like personalized schedule sharing, a friend finder, maps, showtimes and news. If your phone dies, there’s a charging station and convenience store selling essentials like lip balm, blankets, ear plugs and more.  

What to expect at the three-day celebration of music, food and art.

What You Need to Know About SF Pride

San Francisco Pride Parade
(©SF Travel/Scott Chernis) San Francisco Pride Parade

The SF Pride Celebration returns to downtown San Francisco June 24-25, attracting hundreds of thousands of revelers for the annual parade and festival. Now in its 47th year, SF Pride is the largest LGBT gathering in the nation, and this year the theme is "A Celebration of Diversity." In addition to the main celebration, dozens of events kick off in neighborhoods around town, including, of course, the city’s historic Castro District, home to SF’s queer community since the 1960s.

San Francisco Pride Parade

Civic Center Plaza Park at the foot of City Hall will host the main festival (noon-6 pm Saturday, 11 am-6 pm Sunday), where you’ll find over 200 exhibitors and more than 20 stages and venues. Sunday’s parade of more than 240 contingents and floats will make its way from the Embarcadero through the heart of downtown San Francisco to the Civic Center festival. Dykes on Bikes, a longtime parade staple, celebrates its 41st anniversary this year with a fleet of nearly 400 riders. This year also features the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus as well as local activists recognized for their contributions to the LGBT community as the parade’s grand marshals.

Rainbow float at the SF Pride Parade

The Castro District, the historic home of San Francisco’s LGBT movement, will be celebrating Pride all month with a variety of special events. The GLBT Museum is the only one of its kind in the U.S., and is home to a must-see collection of posters, photographs and artifacts, including a display of Harvey Milk’s personal belongings. Speaking of Harvey Milk, be sure to stop by the Human Rights Campaign Action Center & Store at 575 Castro St. The building is the former site of Milk’s Castro Camera shop, where he also lived and organized his political campaigns. As you walk the streets of the Castro, you’ll notice the Rainbow Honor Walk, a series of bronze plaques honoring LGBT heroes. You can follow the sidewalk tribute from the heart of the Castro down Market Street, and on the way, rainbow crosswalks adorn the intersection of Castro and 18th streets.

San Francisco’s LGBT movement

The Castro is home to some of the city’s top eateries and bars. Twin Peaks Tavern, known as the “gateway to the Castro,” was the first gay bar in the country to feature huge glass windows, an important first step in bringing the gay community out of the closet. The Lookout is the Castro’s most popular bar and features an almost always packed balcony overlooking the intersection of 16th and Market streets. Perhaps the most acclaimed Castro restaurant, Frances is a neighborhood gem serving up modern California cuisine that changes with the seasons. Another neighborhood gem, the Michelin-recommended Anchor Oyster Bar has been a top seafood destination since 1977.

The Lookout balcony crowd


-Frameline, The SF International LGBT Film Festival

The historic Castro Theatre and other Bay Area venues host the longest-running and largest LGBTQ film event in the world. June 15-25

-SF Gay Men’s Chorus Presents “The Gay Kitchen Sink”

The SF Gay Men’s Chorus performs LGBT anthems from across generations, including Holly Near's "Singing for Our Lives" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" at the Nourse Theater. June 16-17.

-Annual Pink Triangle Installation and Commemoration

Volunteers install a giant pink triangle on top of Twin Peaks starting at 7 am, followed by a commemoration ceremony at 10:30 am. June 24.

-LGBT Night at AT&T Park

Tickets to the game include a special LGBT-themed Giants scarf and admission to a pre-game party from 5-7 pm. June 26.


How to navigate the largest LGBT celebration in the nation.

Celebrate All Things Chinese in San Francisco

The 268-foot golden dragon at the Chinese New Year Parade
(©Knight Lights Photography) The 268-foot golden dragon at the Chinese New Year Parade

It's 2017, the Year of the Rooster and the perfect time to visit San Francisco—home to one of the world's largest Chinese New Year celebrations. The festivities culminate in February with the annual Grand Parade, starting at the corner of Market and 2nd streets. The streets sparkle with glittering floats, red lanterns, colorful flags and giant dragons stretching for blocks. 

Chinese New Year Parade

Whenever you visit, don't forget to pass through North America's only authentic Chinatown Gate—the giant green guardian of Grant and Bush adorned with dragons and lions. And that's just for starters. From downtown to the Mission District, the treasures and curiosities of Chinese culture await explorers. But you'd better start practicing using those chop sticks now.

Sweet Start

Golden Gate Bakery

No trip to Chinatown is complete without a taste of Golden Gate's world-famous $2 egg tarts. The only problem with this local landmark is you never know when it will actually be open.

Fancy Wheat Field Bakery

Fancy Wheat Field is unquestionably the most pristine bakery in Chinatown and decidedly less authentic, offering classic Chinese pastries like pineapple buns and pork sung buns. Check out the additional locations if you're around Excelsior or the Outer Sunset.

Mister Jiu's

Chow Down

House of Nanking

Situated at the cusp of North Beach, House of Nanking is one of the most popular and appetizing spots in San Francisco, featuring complex flavors, affordable prices and no frills service. You can't miss the sesame chicken, chili eggplant and the stunning wild blossoming tea.

Mission Chinese Food

Many locals swear this is the best Chinese-inspired food in town despite being in the heart of the Mission. The sign on outside says Lung Shan Restaurant, but nobody calls it that, so it’s easy to miss. The tea smoked eel, thrice cooked bacon and kung pao pastrami are crowd favorites.

Lai Hong Lounge

This expansive dining room is as authentic as it gets. In addition to the heavy rotation of dim sum, other popular dishes include the baked pork buns, shrimp noodle rolls and crispy duck buns.

Chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu's

Mister Jiu's

Mister Jiu's sets the bar for elevated Cantonese cuisine. Every dish is a work of art with inventive twists on Chinese classics. The impeccable service lends to the romance and helps justify the sizable check.

Truck Stop

The Chairman
This cult favorite originated as a food truck and expanded into a brick and mortar location in the Tenderloin. The Chairman is renowned for their signature bao. Imagine exotic proteins like Coca Cola braised pork and miso cured tofu stuffed in a chewy bun—available baked (more substantial) or steamed (cheaper).

Steamed bao bun at The Chairman


Li Po Cocktail Lounge

Li Po is a hot spot among hipsters and locals alike. It's known for having funky decor, a relaxed vibe and arguably the city's best Chinese Mai Tai. This quirky dive bar is endorsed by Anthony Bourdain, which just about sums it up.

Buddha Lounge

Just across the street from Li Po is Chinatown's second coolest bar, complete with a signature beer that comes in a green Buddha-shaped bottle. The service is consistently solid with knowledgeable, friendly bartenders.

Right Up Your Alley

Ross Alley

Recognized as the oldest alley in San Francisco, Ross Alley was once notorious for brothels and gambling houses. Check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and get a free sample fresh off the press.

Chinatown Gate

Waverley Place

Stroll down this picturesque alley into another era, seemingly another country. Waverley Place is lined with temples and brightly painted balconies adorned with ornamental iron railings. It's most notably featured in the Amy Tan novel “The Joy Luck Club.”

See the Sights

Chinese Cultural Center

This extensive visual arts and community center offers an evolving array of modern art exhibitions. They also offer a popular two-hour democracy walking tour through Chinatown.

Chinatown tea house

All About Chinatown Tours

Get an insight into the city's rich Chinese heritage on this two-three hour excursion with an optional dim sum lunch. The tour departs from Old St. Mary's Cathedral, which was the first Asian church constructed in North America.

Down to an Art

Chinese Historical Society of America

For a deep and intimate perspective on American Chinese culture, check out the extensive historical archives and impressive art museum.

Asian Art Museum Entrance

Asian Art Museum

Located in the heart of the Civic Center, the Asian Art Museum boasts a wealth of Chinese art in its permanent collection. A new exhibition called “Tomb Treasures” opens on Feb. 17, showcasing recently unearthed artwork from the Han Dynasty.

Travel Tip

Invest $21 in a one-day Muni Pass to hop on the cable cars and buses all day. Otherwise, it's $7 per cable car ride—no transfers. 

Exploring San Francisco's deep Chinese heritage