The festive season is one of the best times of the year to visit San Francisco. From holiday tree lightings to parades, and from special events to special exhibits, the City by the Bay is just bursting with holiday spirit. If you’re spending time in San Francisco during the holiday season this year, check out our list of holiday things to do and fun seasonal activities. Our suggested attractions and activities include:
- Union Square Christmas Tree Lighting
- Illuminate 2019
- SantaCon SF
- A Christmas Carol
- Holiday Heroes 2019
- San Francisco Symphony—A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Great Santa Run in the Presidio
- Black Friday Shopping in Union Square
- Christmas in San Francisco Crystal Fair
- Ice-Skating in Union Square
- Giant Gingerbread at the Fairmont
- And more!
Union Square Christmas Tree LightingNovember 29, 2019 One of our favorite ways to celebrate the holidays in San Francisco is at this iconic Christmas tree lighting celebration. During the time prior to the tree lighting, visitors can enjoy musical performances by local artists. Remember to arrive early if you want to get a good view of the 83-foot-tall tree - this is a very popular event with visitors and locals.
Illuminate 2019Thanksgiving 2019 – New Year’s Day 2020 A brilliant two-month event for all of San Francisco to enjoy, Illuminate 2019 is SF’s Festival of Light. The event is a unique one, with 39 different light sculptures and illuminated works of art being installed throughout different neighborhoods of the city. As part of the festival, there are free light art tours, neighborhood art walks, artist talks at select installations, and more.
SantaCon SFDecember 7, 2019 An event found in many major cities throughout the country, SantaCon is a fun and lighthearted way for locals and visitors to explore the city and spread good cheer and holiday spirit. Participants should arrive at 11:30 am in Union Square in their Santa costumes and are encouraged to bring a toy for the 2019 holiday toy drive.
A Christmas CarolNovember 29 – December 24, 2019 Prepare to delight in everybody’s favorite Christmas show, “A Christmas Carol”. Head to the A.C.T. Geary Theatre to enjoy this holiday classic. The show runs from the start of December until Christmas Eve. Seeing Charles Dickens’ popular story is a San Francisco tradition, and definitely not to be missed if you’re a lover of literature.
Holiday Heroes 2019December 10, 2019 If you’re looking to embody the spirit of the season and give back to the community, the Wender Weis Foundation for Children is again hosting the tenth annual Holiday Heroes event. Held at Oracle Park, this charitable event transforms the Club Level into a delightful winter wonderland for kids and their families. You can expect a teen lounge, arts and crafts, cookie-decorating, video games, and talks from athletes. Tickets for the VIP experience are available as well.
San Francisco Symphony - A Charlie Brown ChristmasDecember 21-23, 2019 What better way to celebrate the holidays with your kids than with a visit to the San Francisco Symphony? This year, the Davies Symphony Hall will host a few live performances of the Christmas classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. They will also offer a number of other seasonal performances, including a festival of Christmas carols, family music events, and Handel’s Messiah. Consult the San Francisco Symphony website for their full schedule of performances.
Great Santa Run San FranciscoDecember 8, 2019 Runners love to celebrate the holidays with a themed run - ideally, one which requires an elaborate and painstakingly constructed costume. The Great Santa Run is no exception to this rule. So if you’re just itching to get a 5k in during your San Francisco vacation, don’t forget to pack some red running gear and a Santa hat. The route goes by some of the city’s best attractions, but if you want to enjoy the views without having to run, then try a Golden Gate Bay Cruise.
Black Friday and Small Business Saturday ShoppingIf you’re visiting San Francisco around Thanksgiving, you can make the most of the city’s excellent retail offerings and get a start on your holiday shopping. Head to Union Square for some great Black Friday deals, and then explore other areas of the city to enjoy small business offerings the next day. Check out our guide to San Francisco shopping for more ideas and inspiration.
Christmas in San Francisco Crystal FairNovember 30 – December 1, 2019 Held in Golden Gate Park, this San Francisco tradition offers a holiday-themed celebration of the earth and our connection to it. If you’re looking for unique gifts or a present for a spiritually-inclined loved one, then come here to browse their collection of minerals, gems, beads, and jewelry. After you’ve scored that perfect gift, spend some time exploring the natural world in the park -we like the idea of visiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden or the amazing California Academy of Sciences.
Great Dickens Christmas FairNovember 23 – December 22, 2019 This totally unique Christmas fair will whirl you back to the world of Victorian London, with shopkeepers and vendors hawking their wares for the holiday season. Walk through the radically transformed Cow Palace Exhibition Hall (in nearby Daly City) as you marvel at folks in elaborate Victorian-era costumes selling the perfect presents, fragrant and delicious food and drink, and more. This holiday tradition has been part of the Bay area since 1970, so be sure to stop by to participate in the magic.
More Fun & Seasonal Things to do in San Francisco for Christmas 2019
- Ice-skate at the Civic Center or Union Square Ice Rink
- Take a GoCar Tour to explore the holiday lights
- Visit the massive gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel
- Partake of great local craft beer at Decemberfest at the Guardsman Tree Lot
- Make your holiday shopping & sightseeing a breeze with a Big Bus SF Tour.
- Marvel at the Fisherman’s Wharf Lighted Boat Parade
- Enjoy performances of The Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House
- Visit the Contemporary Jewish Museum—open on Christmas Day.
- Check out City Hall in Red & Green
- Say hi to Santa at the San Francisco Zoo