Mark your calendars. This holiday season is full of fun things to do with your family around San Francisco. Tree lightings, holiday performances (buy your tickets early), ice rinks and attractions, special holiday tea services, Hanukkah events, and other community activities are all listed below.
Know of something else we should add to the list? Comment below or email us at [email protected] In search of something non-holiday-ish to do with the family? Our November and December (coming soon) event guides are for you.
Embarcadero Building Lighting and Carnival, November 17
Four iconic buildings lit with 17,000 holiday lights, fireworks bursting in the sky and a magical show presented by Disney on Ice. The Building Lighting Ceremony at Embarcadero Center is a San Francisco tradition and the official start of the holiday season in the City. The festivities begin at 4:00PM with a family fun Carnival followed by the Building Lighting Ceremony at 6:00PM.
Pier 39 Tree Lighting Celebration, November 19
Disneyland® Resort is sponsoring the annual PIER 39 Tree Lighting Celebration with songs and Disney characters. Free. 12:30 PM – 6:00 PM (tree lighting at 6:00)
Union Square Tree Lighting , November 24
Macy’s annual tree lighting is sure to bring the crowds. Enjoy performances by local choirs and cast members from SF Playhouse’s A Christmas Story. Santa and Snoopy will also be on hand to officially welcome the holiday season. Celebration begins at 5:30, with tree lighting at 6:40 PM. Free.
Ghiradelli Square Tree Lighting , November 24
Come see the winter wonderland they’ve crated and enjoy live music, a visit with Santa, free activities for kids and more! The tree will be lit promptly at 7 p.m. Free. 4:00 – 9:00 PM
221 Fourth St.
Celebrate the lighting of the LeRoy King Carousel at the Children’s Creativity Museum and festivities in the Yerba Buena Children’s Garden. Plus, creative hands-on crafts and activities like carnival games, snow play, and an ice skating recital inside the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center (6-7:30PM), a free Lantern Luminaries workshop (4-6PM), and free carousel rides (4-6PM) 4:00 – 7:30 PM
555 California Tree Lighting , November 29
555 California St.
Come see the largest tree in the Bay Area get lit in this annual tradition. The tree lighting and live entertainment is free, but there are also tickets available to a private event hosted by All Stars Helping Kids that will benefit victims of the North Bay fires. Free. 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Ritz Carlton Tree Lighting , November 30
600 Stockton St.
Come see the 40-foot holiday tree outside the hotel illuminated by Santa Claus and his little helper from the Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay. Free. 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Westfield Mall Tree Lighting Celebration, November 30
865 Market St, Level 4, Under the Dome
Join Westfield San Francisco Centre for SF’s “most instagrammable Holiday moment” with the unveiling of the largest hanging crystal Christmas tree in North America. Westfield will kick off the Holidays with the Tree Lighting Celebration of the season with warm winter treats, cookies and adult beverages. Free. 6:00 – 8:00 PM
RWF World Tree of Hope Celebration, December 4
San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlet Place
Live entertainment and the official tree lighting ceremony. Free. 6pm – 8pm (tree lighting at 7:00 PM)
Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park, December 7
John McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park
The “Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park” event will begin with the City’s 88th Holiday Tree lighting tradition. Beginning at 4:00 PM, there will be many free activities including carnival rides, a cookie factory, arts and crafts for kids, a visit from Santa, music, and live entertainment. Santa will arrive shortly before the official Tree Lighting ceremony currently scheduled to begin at 6:00PM.
Presidio Tree Lighting Ceremony, December 8
Main Post, by the Presidio Y
There will be crafts for the kids, light refreshments, caroling, and a guided walk through the forest at 6:30 PM (bring a flashlight!). 5:30-6:30PM
Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade, December 15
Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39 to Chrissy Field
Not technically a tree lighting, but close enough. Boats covered in holiday lights and decorations will parade through the water for a festive celebration of the holiday season. 6:00 – 8:00 PM
The Velventeen Rabbit at YBCA Theater, November 25 – December 10
A Christmas Carol at the American Conservatory of Theater (ACT) , December 1 – 24
Deck the Hall at Davies Symphony Hall, December 3
Grace Cathedral Christmas performances, December 9 – 23 (check website for schedule)
The Nutcracker at The SF Ballet, December 13 – 30
A Charlie Brown Christmas at the SF Symphony, December 21 – 24
Nutcracker Sweets at Cowell Theatre, December 9 – 23 (50 minute performance for kids of all ages)
Ice Rinks & Attractions
Union Square Ice Rink, November 1 – January 15
Embarcadero Holiday Ice Rink, November 3 – January 7
California Academy of Sciences Ice Rink, November 22 – January 7
Zoo Lights at the San Francisco Zoo, December 15-17, 19-23, 26-30
San Francisco Zoo
The zoo is always a perfect day trip with the kids, but it is truly magical this time of year with twinkling lights, holiday music, Santa and reindeer.
‘Tis the Season at California Academy of Sciences, November 22 – January 7
California Academy of Sciences
Snow flurries inside, reindeer up close and personal, a snowman shaped theater, and an ice rink are crowd favorites at this annual tradition.
Teddy Bear Tea at The Ritz, November 25 – December 23
Ritz Carlton, 600 Stockton St.
From November 25 through December 23, children are invited to gather for the annual tradition of Teddy Bear Tea and an entertaining holiday show. Each child will receive a teddy bear gift and photo with the giant Teddy Bear to take home. $2 per ticket sold will benefit Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area. Tickets for Teddy Bear Tea are available for purchase. 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Gingerbread House at The Fairmont, November 25 – January 1
The Fairmont Hotel, Nob Hill
The two story gingerbread house and giant Christmas tree are not to be missed. They’re on display beginning November 25 until January 1. Make a day of it, by reserving a spot at the Gingerbread Holiday Tea.
Westin St. Francis Holiday Lobby Display, November 23 – January 2
Westin St. Francis, Union Square
Pastry-made Sugar Castle and the St. Francis Enchanted Castle castles be on display. The popular St. Francis Sweet Boutique will be filled with tasty treats, and gorgeous holiday décor will adorn both lobbies. All of this, combined with traditional holiday tea service, delicious meals and fun hotel packages create the perfect festive staycation in San Francisco.
Children’s Magical Tea at Top of the Mark, December 1 – 26
999 California St.
Enjoy a magical afternoon, featuring Raul the Master Balloonatic, Face Painting by Drea, Wendy the Whimsical Elf, and a Cookie Decorating Station. Santa Claus will be in the lobby on certain Saturdays. Check website for details.
Tea Under the Tree at Sir Francis Drake Hotel, December 3 – 30 (weekends)
450 Powell St.
Enjoy a festive tea experience right on our Mezzanine level, including a pot of tea, glass of sparkling wine or cider, selection of snacks, photo opportunities, and a make & take craft for the kiddos.
Lovejoy’s Tea Room, year round
1351 Church St.
No need to wait for the holiday season to enjoy high tea at Lovejoy’s in the Mission.
Pictures with Santa
There are no shortage of Santa pic opportunities around the holidays, but for some truly authentic looking Santas try these spots.
Westfield San Francisco Centre, November 19 – December 23
365 Market St, Level 2 between J. Crew and Microsoft
Skip the lines and sign up in advance for a fast pass to reserve your date and time with Santa. 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Monday – Saturday, 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Sundays.
November 26, 8:00 – 10:00 AM: Sensory-friendly visit with Santa.
December 2, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM: Operation Santa Salute. Military families receive a free photo and digital download.
December 16, 11:00 – 8:00 pM: Santa Paws. Bring your fur babies to get their pics with Santa.
Stonestown Galleria, November 1 – December 24
3251 20th Ave.
Skip the lines and book your spot in advance to reserve your date and time with Santa. 12:00 – 8:00 PM, Monday – Saturday, 12:00 – 6:00 PM, Sundays. (extended hours closer to the Christmas, checklist online for schedule)
Macy’s Union Square Santaland, November 28 – December 24
170 Union St, 7th Floor
From 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM each day, visit Santa and drop a letter in Macy’s Believe Mailbox. Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish Foundation for every letter received.
Macy’s holiday windows open on November 17 at 5:00 PM, including a room on the 6th floor for visitors to meet and adopt animals onsite.
Chanukah Bill Graham Menorah Project, December 12 – 19
Check the website for the time of the daily candle lighting. December 17 is Bill Graham Menorah Day with a schedule of activities, including kids crafts and activities beginning at 2:00 PM (lighting at 6:00 PM).
JCCSF Hanukkah Lighting, December 12 – 19
3200 California St.
Celebrate with stories about the holiday and sing along to music played by Jonathan Bayer. Savor festive fried treats and revel in one of the most beloved holidays of the Jewish year. Free. 4:00 Storytime. 4:30 Hanukkah lighting and songs.
Festival of Lights at Westfield San Francisco Centre, December 18
365 Market St, Level, The Dome
Rabbi Moshe Langer, in partnership with the Chabad of Pacific Heights, will bring a traditional and authentic Chanukah celebration to downtown SF with a menorah lighting and homemade latkes. 5:00 – 7:00 PM.
Macy’s Holiday Windows Revealed, November 17
Macy’s puppy and kitten-filled holiday windows open on November 17 at 5:00 PM, including a room on the 6th floor for visitors to meet and adopt animals onsite.
3650 21st Street, San Francisco
This private residence in Noe Valley displays the best, most over-the-top Christmas decorations every year.
Union Street Fantasy of Lights, December 2
Union St between Van Ness & Steiner and Fillmore between Union & Lombard.
There will be live entertainment, ponies, face painting, and more!3:00 – 7:00 PM. Santa arrives around 5:30pm. Free.
Caltrain Holiday Train, December 2 & 3
700 4th St.
Celebrate the season with the Holiday Train! This beloved Bay Area tradition features a glittering train, a community toy drive and fun characters that delight families at train stations from San Francisco to Santa Clara. Don’t forget – Bring new, unwrapped toys to donate!! The show is free. 4:00 PM stop in SF (20 minutes)
Union Street Elf Hunt, December 2 – 10
Merchants will hide a toy elf in their stores, and if found, you will be entered to win at $500 Visa gift card!
Gingerbread House Display, December 5 – 27
Twenty-four gingerbread houses created by every department in the hotel will be on display, paying homage to cherished holiday movies and television specials.
Home for the Holidays at Carolwood Installation, December 6 – January 8
The Walt Disney Family Museum
For the second year in a row, the scale model of the Disney family home in Carolwood has been assembled – complete with a running model of the Lilly Belle, Walt’s personal locomotive that he built for friends and family to enjoy. Stick around for the special exhibition Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle, a dynamic exhibition of landscapes, scratchboards and illustrations from beloved Disney classics such as Sleeping Beauty. 10:00 AM