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SF City Hall at Christmas © Stephen Kelly/Flickr
SF City Hall at Christmas © Stephen Kelly/Flickr
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How To Celebrate Christmas In San Francisco

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 8 December 2016
The holiday season is upon us. If you’re looking for the best way to celebrate while in San Francisco, we’ve got you covered with events happening all month. Browse through our favorite options for ways to take care of your holiday shopping and embrace the festive atmosphere.

Holiday Light Displays

One of the best parts of the holiday season is watching the city light up with festive decorations. Take a Classic Cable Car Holiday Lights tour, leading you through the city’s landmarks as they stand lit up. Visit the SF Zoo to experience ZooLights, or explore the Union Street Fantasy of Lights to see Victorian houses decked out in holiday decor while getting some holiday shopping done. Be sure to check out some of the incredible light displays that decorate the city throughout Illuminate SF, too.

Union Square tree lights © Franco Folini/Flickr
Union Square tree lights | © Franco Folini/Flickr

Ice Skating

One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season is to embrace the winter chill with some festive ice skating. San Francisco has several ice rinks that open up during the holiday season, including the Holiday Ice Rink In Union Square and the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center. Alternatively, be sure to check out the options available at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating & Bowling Center. This rink is open year round and offers public skating, figure skating and hockey practices and lessons.

Union Square Ice Skating © Szilveszter Farkas/Flickr
Union Square Ice Skating | © Szilveszter Farkas/Flickr

Illuminate SF

The end of November marks the beginning of Illuminate SF, a series of light-focused art installations that transform San Francisco into a gallery of lights at night. These installations will be up from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, with offers of free guided tours and illuminated bike rides to help you get the most out of them.

Lights © Pexels
Lights | © Pexels
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The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is quite a unique event, bringing old English Victorian Christmas traditions to life at the Cow Palace. The event will feature theaters, a music hall, dance parties, taverns, shops, stalls, food, street vendors and period costumes. Explore offerings of unique holiday gifts and festive treats accompanied by the sounds of holiday carolers. The event will take place from November 19th to December 18th.

Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave, Daly City, CA, USA +1 415 404 4100

Holiday Shopping

Midway through the fall, San Francisco turns into a mecca for holiday shopping. The most popular shopping district is the area surrounding Union Square, featuring the massive Macy’s holiday tree. The streets are lined with huge department stores with festive window displays, and the Westfield Centre is just three blocks south. If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, check out some of San Francisco’s other crucial shopping districts. For something more unique, check out one of San Francisco’s seasonal craft fairs, like the Renegade Craft Fair and the Etsy Holiday Emporium. Alternatively, find something at one of the city’s awesome independent bookstores or record stores.

Union Square Macy’s © kennejima/Flickr
Union Square Macy’s | © kennejima/Flickr
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A Christmas Carol

If you’re looking for a festive and traditional way to celebrate the holidays, buy tickets to go see the annual performance of A Christmas Carol at ACT’s Geary Theater. This play is directed by Domenique Lozano, featuring a lively cast, authentic costumes, spooky ghosts and sweeping music by Karl Lundeberg. The performances will run from November 25th to December 24th, and they are expected to sell out quickly, so buy your tickets as soon as possible.

ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 749 2228

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Run Wild San(ta) Francisco

On Sunday, December 4th, strap on your Santa hat for Run Wild San(ta) Francisco, a Santa hat 5K. The main race, kids’ dash and post-race expo will take place at Crissy Field. The course is a flat loop out to Fort Point, giving runners gorgeous views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline. The main race will start at 8 a.m.

Crissy Field, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 561 4700

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SantaCon

Celebrate SantaCon this month, one of San Francisco’s most beloved traditions. The event will feature thousands of people dressed up as Santa all over the city, especially concentrated in the bars around Union Square and Polk Street. The official event starts at noon on Saturday, December 10th, and large crowds are expected.

Union Square, 333 Post St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 559 9579

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SFMade Holiday Gift Fair

The SFMade Holiday Gift Fair is a craft fair hosting 60 local artisans and manufacturers. Come buy your holiday gifts at this fair on December 18th between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., hosted at California College of the Arts. Enjoy the accompanying wine, beer, music and art exhibits. All of the artisans at this fair make their wares in San Francisco.

California College of the Arts, 1111 8th St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 703 9500

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Jewish Christmas

On Christmas Day, enjoy a multi-holiday celebration at the fifth annual Jewish Christmas, which will fill the Make-Out Room, a 70’s style nightclub, with a selection of holiday entertainment. At the event, you can expect a Chinese buffet, comedy, burlesque, Woody Allen movies, a Hanukkah bush and a DJ. This event is 21+ and will take place from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m

Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 647 2888

By Courtney Holcomb