10 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city of transplants. Which means one thing during December — the entire city is a little less crowded as everyone goes back home for the holidays! Take advantage of the (relatively) quiet streets of San Francisco this holiday season and enjoy 10 of our favorite seasonal traditions #LikeALocal.

From the 60 foot (18 meters) Christmas tree in Tom & Jerry’s front yard to ice skating during a Bay Bridge light show  — here are 10 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays in San Francisco!

1. Ice Skating around Union Square

View this post on Instagram

Tis' the season! #skatingandthecity

A post shared by Jamie Perin (@jamie.starr) on

When: Daily, until January 16th
Price: ❄ ❄

New York City has the iconic ice skating rink outside of 30 Rock. Here in San Francisco, natives and travelers alike spend winters skating around our own historic Union Square. One of two annual outdoor ice skating rinks beloved by everyone in San Francisco during the holiday season!

If you weren’t able to snag tickets to “The Lion King” while you’re in town head over to the Union Square Ice Skating Rink on Saturdays at 6pm and 8pm. That’s when the rink turns gold and everyone gets a chance to listen to “The Lion King” live musical soundtrack!

For a more uniquely San Francisco winter experience join our uproarious annual Drag Queens on Ice event! Local Bay Area queens perform on ice for a 20-minute performance on Thursday, December 8th at 8pm. This is a great substitute if you weren’t able to squeeze a trip to Beach Blanket Babylon into your visit.

The details: From 10am to 10pm a ticket for 90 minutes on the ice and a pair of skate rentals run for $18 for adults. $13 for kids 8 and under. Be sure to stash your belongings away into a local rental for $3 – you won’t want to lug anything onto the ice skating rink! Tickets available online.


2.  Tom & Jerry’s Christmas Display in Noe Valley

View this post on Instagram

I am really going to miss seeing holiday lights around town. As promised in an earlier post, this is the very whimsical "Tom and Jerry" House in San Francisco. If you find yourself in the city, you MUST check it out. It is really cool! It is on quite a steep hill (or "deep" as my 3 year describes it) and it is interesting to see the modifications to the displays so they are level instead of slanted with the slope. I've seen a lot of displays and this has to rank as one of the best. I wonder where they store this stuff when not decorating the house and what happens to all of those stuffed animals when it rains? This was taken during blue hour on Sunday. Have a good night. ☺️ #tomandjerryhouse #heinekenbaylights #world_navidad16

A post shared by Family, Travel & Photography (@picturehappyphotos) on

When: Dec 14th – 24th
Price: ❄ ❄ ❄

Ever wondered what would happen if you planted one of those little store-bought potted Christmas trees in your front yard? Head over to the Victorian-lined Noe Valley neighborhood and take a look for yourself!

Tom & Jerry purchased a Norfolk Island Pine back in the 80s to decorate for Christmas. After the holiday season passed, they kept the tree growing indoors. Until it grew too big for the house. Eventually, they planted the tree on their front lawn — where the mighty coniferous now stands 60 feet (over 18 meters)!

The details: This massive Christmas Tree has been dominating the scene at 21st and Church in Noe Valley for nearly 30 years. Head over during dusk for the best viewing — we love trying to catch the lights just as they’re being turned on for the night!


Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” at the historic SHN Curran Theatre

When: Dec 14th – 24th

Price: ❄ ❄ ❄

Enjoy Irving Berlin’s timeless “White Christmas” in the heart of our Theater District at the historic Curran Theatre from 1922. Just a stones-throw from Union Square Ice Skating Rink — it makes for a perfect combo for those trying to squeeze the most into one day!

The details: Tickets start off at $60 online from SHN.


Festival of Lights — Under the Dome of the Westfield Shopping Centre

When: Weds, Dec 28th


Celebrate Hanukah – the Jewish Festival of Light – beneath a nearly 110 year old dome hiding inside of the Westfield Shopping Centre!

The details: This free events begins at 5pm – that’s when the live music starts! Enjoy traditional holiday treats and crafts before the lighting of the menorah.


“A Charlie Brown Christmas” – Live! At the San Francisco Symphony

When: Weds, Dec 21st – Sat, Dec 24th

Price: ❄ ❄

Watch as your favorite Peanuts characters come to life with the help with the San Francisco Symphony for our annual live performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”! Spend a night dressing up and head to the Symphony for one of our favorite holiday traditions. Make sure to get a good look of the building from outside — will you be able to tell the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is shaped like  a Baby Grand Piano?

The details: Tickets begin at $30 online at SFSymphony.org


Lighted Boat Parade at Pier 39

When: Friday, December 16th


Coastal Californians celebrate the holidays a little differently! Since 1994 our local fishing boats have been swabbing the decks decking the halls with bright holiday lights for a holiday sail along the waterfront. The festivities begin at Pier 39 and will parade east past Fisherman’s Wharf, the Aquatic Park, Fort Mason, the Marina Green, and Crissy Field – before returning back to Pier 39.

The details: The Aquatic Park is our favorite spot for catching the Decorated Boat Parade since our Famous San Francisco and Muir Woods Tour and San Francisco & Sausalito tour end right there! After your tour ends, you can create your picnic-on-the-go from The Pub at Ghirardelli Square and take it with you to the waterfront to watch the parade that starts at 6pm.


Hanukah Candle Lighting at Union Square

When: December 24th – January 1st


In 2016 we celebrate 42nd annual lighting of the Bill Graham Menorah in Union Square beginning on December 24th. Join our annual tradition dating back to 1975 — when the city hosted the first large scale Hanuka celebration outside of Israel!

The details: 1st candle lighting ceremony begins at 7:30pm on December 24th. 5pm on the 25th – 27th. 3pm on the 30th and 7pm on the 31st.


Great Dickens’ Fair & Victorian Holiday Party at the Cow Palace

When: Until Sun, December 18th

Price: ❄❄

The local Patterson family has been presenting the Great Dickens’ Fair since 1970 — come join in our festive tradition! Explore three acres of Charles Dickens’ Victorian London with over 750 beloved characters bringing Dickens’ work to life! From Punch & Judy puppet shows to the Bohemian Absinthe Bar – there’s something for everyone in the West End of the 1850s.

The detailsTickets online are $30 for those over 13. And $14 from kids 5-12 – under 5 are free!



When: December 10th at Noon in Union Square – but really SantaCon is where ever you make it!

Price: ❄

? ‘Tis the season to be jolly ? Don your best Santa garb — or stand out as a reindeer, an elf or maybe even Krampus —  and join in on the festive “official” (but not city-sponsored) Santacon pub crawl!

The details: Free, but toy donations to the SFFD are encouraged! Santa and all his little helpers will be in full force spreading cheer starting at Noon in Union Square on Saturday, December 10th.


Ice Skating at the Embarcadero Center

When: Until Jan 8th

Price: ❄ ❄

The largest outdoor ice skating rink in the Bay Area – and the second of our seasonal skating rinks within the city of San Francisco! Since the rink is larger — the lines tend to be more manageable than in Union Square. Plus — you get the bonus of seeing our iconic Ferry Building at night and the Bay Bridge Lights as you skate!

The details: A ticket and a pair of ice skates run for $16 if your 9 or older and $12 if you’re 8 or younger. Skate times begin at 10am and run until 9:30pm Sunday through Thursday. And until 11:30pm on Friday & Saturday.

Be sure to share your holiday adventures with us by tagging your photos #WinterInSF! Or if you need some more ideas you can join our 100% local tour guides by bus or bike with 10% off code “DylansTours”.

[Featured image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr]