Things to Do in San Francisco in the Winter

If you find yourself in San Francisco over the holidays, you’re in luck. This West Coast city is abuzz with holiday spirit, and is a hotbed of cultural displays, musical and dramatic performances, and arts and crafts fairs that put you in the mood to celebrate.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair

weekends, early November to mid-December

Step back in time to the streets of Victorian England, and take part in a San Francisco Christmas tradition. Visit Victorian shops, enjoy a Dickensian feast, stop in for a spot of tea, and watch the on-stage entertainment at this festive fair.

Holiday Ice Skating at Embarcadero Center

early November – early January

Enjoy a scenic round of ice skating at the Embarcadero, which houses San Francisco’s largest outdoor ice rink. Skate under the stars, then enjoy dinner at the Embarcadero Center. Free parking sweetens the deal.

Holiday Artisan Fair at the de Young Museum

late November

Come to the de Young for the fifth annual Bay Area arts and crafts fair, and browse through a large collection of gifts, jewelry, crafts and books…a great place for some holiday shopping!

Visitors may use their Go San Francisco Cards for entrance to the de Young Museum.

Tree lighting Ceremony at Pier 39

late November

San Francisco’s Pier 39 comes alive for the holidays with visitors from the Disneyland Resort who join to light the massive 60ft. tree against the backdrop of the beautiful city. The day’s events begin at 12:00, and feature live holiday music, booths, and oodles of holiday spirit.

Macy’s 22nd Annual Union Square Tree Lighting 2011

late November

Visit Macy’s at Union Square to see the city’s most-recognized tree lit up at 6PM, and then enjoy a guest appearance by Santa Claus!

Holiday Crafts Day at Randall Museum

early December

Give your holiday spending a break, and enjoy a day of creative expression and decoration-making. Families can roll their own beeswax candles; create candle holders, soaps, candy houses and more. Hands-on workshops take place between 10AM-12PM, and again from 1-3PM. During the break from 12-1, enjoy holiday entertainment in the Randall Museum Theater.

Haas-Lilienthal Holiday Open House

early December

Enjoy a cost-free cultural activity and celebrate the historic heritage of San Francisco at this holiday event. The Haas-Lilienthal House (the city’s only intact Victorian era home) will be decked out in holiday ornaments, and stocked with wintery refreshments. Enjoy a ride on the family train with the kids, as well as a visit from Santa at 2PM and some shopping opportunities in the lobby. Pick up your tickets in advance.

The Christmas Ballet at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

weekends in December

San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts bills this as “The Bay Area’s hottest holiday ticket.” Enjoy a ballet performance for all ages at the YBCA, put on by the Smuin Ballet. This year’s performance features new choreography, as well as ballet, tap and swing numbers.

Visitors may use their Go San Francisco Cards or Go Select Passes for general admission to the Yerba Buena Center for the Art, but tickets to the Christmas Ballet cost extra. See website for reservation details.

A Chanticleer Christmas

mid-late December

Chanticleer’s a cappella performance is a San Francisco holiday treat, featuring peaceful holiday sounds and music at St. Ignatius Church.

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