7 Activities in SF that Embrace the Holiday Spirit

December’s arrival means the holiday season is now officially underway. You know about the multiple holiday ice rinks at Union Square, the Embarcadero, and Civic Center, but San Francisco has so many more holiday experiences for you to enjoy with friends and family. We chose seven fun activities that showcase the festiveness of the season.


Winter Walk
Stockton Street near Union Square
Open until New Years Eve

Two downtown blocks have been converted into a unique holiday destination decorated with light-up benches, beer and wine gardens, food trucks, plus music from a silent disco, choirs, and DJs. There are also yoga classes, a couple’s photo booth, and a “Mean Girls”-themed drag performance. Look for the large Winter Walk sign spewing out fake San Francisco fog.


Great Dickens Christmas Fair
at Cow Palace in Daly City
Runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 23rd

For the 36th consecutive year, the Cow Palace is transformed into Dickens’ 1800s London for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party. Visitors get an immersive holiday experience with entertainment on seven stages. Options include dancing at Fezziwig’s, sword-fighting in “All’s Well That Ends Badly”, the holiday pantomime “The Surprising Tale of Baron Munchausen and Mopsa the Fairy”, and Cancan dancers & sailors at the risque Mad Sal’s Music Hall. For young guests there are craft activities, old-world games of skill and chance, and lively interactive shows in the Tinsley Green Children’s Area. Each day at 1pm there will be other activities on the Father Christmas Stage, an Adventure Carousel, a Toy Parade, and a British Punch & Judy puppet show.


Night Bloom
at Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park
Select days between December 2nd – January 6th, from 5pm – 11pm

For five weeks, a light and sound exhibition comes to Golden Gate Park for evening entertainment. Vibrant and luminous displays in five gallery rooms will create a dazzling, interactive nighttime experience. Night Bloom was developed in collaboration with consortium Lightswitch, a group that installs lush light art exhibits around the world.


Santa Skivvies Run
Start at 3600 16th Street in the Castro District
Sunday, December 9th at 9:30am

For the daring and philanthropic, consider running in the one-mile charity race wearing either a favorite festive costume or just undies to benefit San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Participants raise money to support life-saving HIV services. Across from the finish line will be Santa’s Village on Noe Street (between Market and Beaver Street) featuring a lineup of performances, awards, and contests. The Santa Skivvies run is proudly supported by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and the Lookout Bar.


Deck the Halls Bar
1217 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Through December 25th

Those looking to keep it simple should seek a stop at the annual holiday pop-up bar as they offer up cups of cheer. Examples of the decadently named cocktails being served include Lil’ Cocoa (maestro dobel tequila, spiced hot chocolate) and Yellow Snow (hennessey, luxardo amaretto, orange liqueur, lemon juice). The drinking hole is open Thursday – Saturday until 2am, Monday – Wednesday until 12midnight, on Sundays until 9pm. On November 30th, there will be a festival of lights as Dreidel Bar has a Hanukkah celebration.


CUESA’s Holiday Farmers Market
at The Ferry Building, on San Francisco’s Embarcadero
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in December

This holiday season, give the gift of good food while supporting local farmers and food crafters. Find all the makings for your wholesome winter feasts; along with distinctive stocking stuffers like apple cider caramels or lavender body care products. In addition to shopping, events like cookie decorating on December 15th with Batter Bakery (in partnership with Apple Pay) and a Holiday Cookie Decorating Fire Relief Fundraiser on December 22nd are great options. Avila’s Christmas Trees is selling locally grown Silvertip firs on December 1st, 8th, and 15th, with Bisou Chocolate treats made in the East Bay. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is open throughout the holidays except December 25th, 27th, and January 1st.


Macy’s SPCA Holiday Windows
in the windows of Macy’s at Union Square, San Francisco
Through January 1st

An essential stop during the holidays is a visit to Macy’s in Union Square for a number of reasons, but the most heartwarming experience has to be the SPCA animals available for adoption. This is the 32nd straight year that dogs and cats in need of homes will be on display the windows, playing on the emotions of passers by.

Written by Carlos Olin Montalvo

Follow me @carlosolin