Sign In
The Best Ways To Celebrate The Holidays In San Francisco
Save to wishlist

The Best Ways To Celebrate The Holidays In San Francisco

Picture of Brie Shimada
Updated: 20 December 2016
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, The Culture Trip can already anticipate the extravagant holiday decorations, delicious seasonal treats, and traditional events in San Francisco signaling the most wonderful time of the year. There are numerous ways to embrace that warm, holiday cheer, and in this winter guide you’ll find the best ways to celebrate the holidays this year.

Tree Lighting Ceremonies

Tree lighting ceremonies are among the most popular traditions for ringing in the holiday season. Macy’s 25th Annual Great Tree Lighting will be taking place in the heart of Union Square on Friday, November 27th at 6PM. Along with Macy’s 83-foot tree, covered with more than 33,000 twinkling, energy-efficient LED lights and 1100 shining ornaments, there will also be a showcase of music and dance performances by Quintavious Johnson, San Francisco Boys Chorus, and many more.

Pier 39 invites you and special guests from The Happiest Place on Earth – Disneyland – to the Pier 39 Annual Tree Lighting Celebration on November 21st and 22nd from 12-6PM. Your favorite Disney friends will be bringing some magic with them from Disney’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration. Don’t miss out on the magic!

Holiday Light Displays

There’s no better way to spend your cold winter nights than with illuminating holiday sights throughout the city. And oh what fun it is to ride on a cable car for a classic San Francisco experience with the Holiday Nights & Sights Cable Car Tour. On top of spectacular views, the 70-minute tour includes a complimentary Santa hat and singalongs to all of your favorite holiday tunes. Private charters are also available for holiday parties. Buy your tickets now before these tours sell out!

Another enchanting light display you won’t want to miss is Union Street’s 25th Annual Fantasy of Lights. Thousands of festive lights will transform Victorians along Union Street into spectacular winter wonderlands for Santa and his elves. There will be jugglers, reindeer, face painters, balloon artists, and so much more. This is a wonderful event for families and friends to enjoy in Cow Hollow!

The Nutcracker

It’s that time of year again; everyone is dreaming of sugar plums and awaiting the magic of The Nutcracker. The San Francisco Ballet will put on a sparkling production of The Nutcracker set in the City By the Bay, which will be directed by Helgi Tomasson. This performance has been a San Francisco tradition since 1944. Peek into the grand world of ballet and witness the astounding beauty and talent of the San Francisco Ballet’s international cast of dancers. Tickets for the show are available now online; it runs from December 16-31st. Don’t miss out on this extraordinary production!

Reindeer At The Zoo

Santa is sending our four favorite reindeer – Belle, Holly, Peppermint, and Velvet – to the San Francisco Zoo starting November 22nd. Through January 1st, visitors will be able to visit these majestic creatures. The special reindeer keeper will sharing explain how and where these animals live in the wild. Zoo members get an early admission to view the reindeer at 9AM, and regular guests can view them from 10AM-4PM. Bundle up, grab a hot chocolate at the Lemur Cafe, and make your way over to the reindeer romp during your winter visit to the zoo!

Ice Skating In Union Square

One of San Francisco’s ultimate holiday destinations is the Union Square Ice Rink. The rink officially opened on November 4th and is open from 10AM-11:30PM (except on December 31, when it closes at 9:30PM). Each ice skating session is a total of 90 minutes, beginning on every even hour. General admission is $11 and only $7 for kids eight and under. Skate rentals are $6, and lockers are available for $3. There’s nothing quite like lacing up your ice skates and gliding on the ice in the heart of Union Square. It’s a truly memorable holiday experience for friends and families. You can even book the rink for private parties and get great deals with group rates from December 7-10th and January 4-14th. Make your winter one for the books, and mark the calendar for your ice skating session now!

By Brie Shimada

Brie Shimada, a Sacramento native, is currently studying Communication Studies at San Francisco State University. She can usually be found capturing photos of the city, reading a good book at Blue Bottle, or shopping local at one of the many farmer’s markets in San Francisco.