7 Holiday Attractions Around San Francisco


When you think of the holidays, you may imagine sleigh rides, snowball fights and colorful lights twinkling through snow-covered trees. In San Francisco, however, the temperatures, which stay within sight of the fifties, make holidays in the Bay Area something just a little different.

The moderate weather and the incredible diversity of San Francisco offers a multitude of ways to celebrate the holiday season. Let’s look at seven of them now!

Union Street Fantasy of Lights

Ring in the holidays with the twinkle and glow of the 27th Annual Union Street Fantasy of Lights celebration on December 2nd from 3-7 PM, beginning a month-long celebration of festive holiday happenings in the historic, beautiful Cow Hollow neighborhood. Union Street kicks off this holiday celebration as its shops and Victorian homes adorn their buildings and surrounding areas with thousands of twinkling white lights.

  • On December 2nd, enjoy the lights and celebrate with Santa and his elves, along with live ponies dressed as reindeer, costumed characters, balloon artists, face painters, singers, jugglers and other live entertainment. Don’t forget to bring a toy to donate to the SF Firefighters Toy Program for needy children. Collection barrels will be available throughout the holiday season.
  • Take part in the Great Union Street Holiday Elf Hunt! For one full week, from December 2nd through December 10th, a toy elf, hidden in the stores of participating merchants, is just waiting to be discovered.  Those who find the elusive elves are entered into drawings to win prizes donated by Union Street Merchants. Get your 2017 Elf Hunt Map here.
  • During the month-long celebration spanning parts of November and December, the stores on Union Street twinkle with lights, offer open houses complete with refreshments and stay open until 9 PM Fridays and Saturdays. The parking meters are transformed into giant candy canes and validated parking is provided.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

On weekends beginning November 18th through December 17th, journey to Victorian London during the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Since 1970, visitors have discovered holiday revelry and enjoyed the enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods in the winding lanes of this lamp-lit city which covers more than 120,000 square feet of the Cow Palace in Daly City. Enjoy an immersive holiday experience as you interact with hundreds of lively and colorful characters from the imagination of Charles Dickens and the pages of history, plus the sometimes-saucy world of the Victorian stage. Finish your Christmas shopping as you barter with street vendors hawking their wares or at dozens of lamp-lit shops filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts.

The Christmas Carol

What holiday season would be complete without Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, A Christmas Carol? Featuring a lively massive cast wearing gorgeous costumes, including those spooky ghosts, A.C.T.’s Geary Theater brings Dickens’ tale to life. A Christmas Carol is one of the Bay Area’s favorite holiday traditions and it returns this year with a sparkling, music-infused production with performances on December 8th through the 24th.

Performances sell out quickly, so make your reservations soon if you want to make A Christmas Carol part of your holiday fun this year. Leave all “humbugs” at home!


Since its first performance on Christmas Eve 1944, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, performed at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, has been a traditional holiday favorite that tops many holiday bucket lists. The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker performances are from December 13th through the 30th.

During special Family Performances, the first 500 children (ages 4-12) to arrive will receive a free gift. Complimentary beverages and treats will be served at intermission and Nutcracker characters will be available for photos one hour prior to curtain. Holiday Date Night packages provide pre-performance light bites with sparkling wine and sweets at intermission. VIP Box Patrons enjoy a private reception at intermission with complimentary sweets, beverages and special gifts for the children in your party, plus the best seats in the house. Group Discounts are available.

During the Nutcracker Benefit Luncheon to be held on December 16th, you’ll journey to the Land of Dreams while savoring a delightful lunch followed by a luscious array of sweet treats. This fantastic event, which includes activities for the whole family, culminates with a matinee performance of the Nutcracker. Plus, you’re supporting the SF Ballet’s world-class education and training programs – what could be sweeter?

Handel’s Messiah

Another holiday tradition for many is to enjoy a heartfelt rendition of Handel’s Messiah. On December 14th and 15th, Handel’s Messiah will be performed by the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus at Davies Symphony Hall. One-hundred voices singing in harmony make this celebrated masterpiece a holiday treat. Pre- and Post-show events (free to ticket holders) are scheduled, including an informative talk by Alexandra Amati-Camperi which begins one hour prior to the concert.

Handel’s Messiah is also being presented by the American Bach Soloists, led by Jeffery Thomas, at Grace Cathedral, one of San Francisco’s most awe-inspiring sacred spaces, on December 13th. Every year since 1998, the American Bach Soloists have presented Messiah in the Cathedral, attracting music lovers from around the world. This performance has been voted “Best of the Bay” by San Francisco Classical Voice readers.

Christmas at Grace Cathedral

Enjoy another one of San Francisco’s holiday traditions – Grace Cathedral’s Christmas concerts. Aside from Handel’s Messiah, Grace Cathedral offers several other holiday concerts. You better get your tickets soon though, because one of the concerts has already sold out.

  • A Cathedral Christmas features the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys singing classic carols and sacred masterpieces with a full orchestra and the cathedral’s Aeolian-Skinner organ.
  • The toys of St. Nicholas’s workshop take you on an extraordinary journey in Sing You a Merry Christmas, a sing-along and Christmas show for children and families.
  • The Snowflake Tea sing-along concert has sold out.
  • A Brass and Organ Christmas is the perfect marriage of the Bay Area’s finest brass musicians, the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, and the unparalleled acoustics offered by the cathedral.

Lighted Boat Parade

On December 15th from 6 to 8 PM, come enjoy the Lighted Boat Parade, a holiday tradition since 1994. It’s also the oldest and largest lighted holiday boat parade on San Francisco Bay containing boats covered with bright twinkling lights and festooned with holiday decorations. Although the boats can be seen from Aquatic Park, the Marina Green, PIER 39 and Crissy Field, the best viewing will be at Sport Fishing Harbor along Jefferson Street between Jones and Taylor.

Although the event is rain or shine, realistically, poor weather and/or choppy water conditions will affect participation.

Happy Holidays from Lake Park

Although San Francisco can’t provide the idyllic snow-covered setting often associated with the holidays, it matters not since the true warmth of the season comes in the form of family and friends. And we here at Lake Park are truly blessed with wonderful residents who we consider to be a very important part of our family. We invite you to become a part of our family, too. Contact us today to learn more. We wish you and yours a happy holiday season filled with wonderful blessings and the true warmth of the season.