December & Christmas 2016 In San Francisco – 'Tis The Season…

If you're lucky enough to be in San Francisco during the holidays, you'll be rewarded with some of the most magical events of the year. The city sparkles with seasonal decorations, and ornate trees are lit throughout the metropolis — Macy's in Union Square, City Hall, the Presidio, Pier 39.

Christmas in San Francisco is a busy season! Concerts, dinners and special events book quickly at this time of year, so we recommend you book your December SF events as early as possible. And the magic continues beyond the city gates. There are so many wonderful experiences to be had on day trips from town. First and foremost, of course, think wine tours in lovely Napa Valley & Sonoma.

Half-Price SF Tickets – Christmas 2016

Enjoy The Season And Save 50%

Half-Price Tickets

You're going to be even more jolly than usual if you can get your hands on a few discounted tickets through GoldStar.

There is always a good selection of half-price tickets for events and activities in San Francisco, and the holiday season is no exception. The number of tickets at these savings are very limited, so you have to act quickly.

Favorite Activities

Christmas in San Francisco 2016

SF City Tour + Alcatraz + Beautiful Muir Woods

The Best of Alcatraz and City Tour

We're excited about this new 3-in-1 tour that takes you to the best of the San Francisco Bay area. What's even better is that it's spread over 2 days (but always based in the city) to make sure you aren't rushed and have time to enjoy the sights.

You start out at Fisherman's Wharf and then are whisked across the famous Golden Gate Bridge to marvel at the giant coastal redwoods found in Muir Woods park. It's awe-inspiriting to walk among these 1000-year-old- trees that soar far up towards the sky. On the way back to San Francisco you have time to stop at the very cute seaside village of Sausalito and to enjoy the views of the city across the bay.

The next leg of your tour takes you to the best the city has to offer, from Chinatown, to the Painted Ladies (Victorian homes), to North Beach. Of course there photo stops — at the Golden Gate Bridge and other places along the route.

After a night's rest back at your hotel, use your ticket to hop on a ferry for a leisurely audio tour of Alcatraz and its infamous prison. Available most days in December.

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise

Relax and enjoy California hospitality with a casual two-hour cruise of the bay that gives The City by the Bay its nickname.

Take in the sights, bay-side, while sampling an array of appetizers, crudités, dips, seasonal fruits and dainty miniature desserts. You sail past Fisherman's Wharf, the Presidio, the Marina District. Don't forget to make a toast to the spectacular city view. Available Christmas Day!

Golden Gate Bridge Cycling Tour

Golden Gate Bridge Cycling Tour

This is California, so even though it's December, get out on a bike! San Francisco is a compact city and best explored on two wheels. Despite what you may think it's also a mainly flat city — perfect for cycling.

On this gentle 3-hour ride you follow the Bay's scenic waterfront before crossing Golden Gate Bridge. The ride is gentle and is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Currently shows availability every day in December!

The Best of Arts & Culture

Christmas in San Francisco 2016

The Nutcracker – Ballet

The Nutcracker

In December grab the chance to catch a performance of this classic ballet performed by the San Francisco ballet.

This uber-famous ballet runs for only two weeks. While there are two performances on Christmas Eve & New Year's Eve those tickets will sell out fast, so you've got to book now.

  • December 10 to 31
  • War Memorial Opera House

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

What would the season be without Charles Dickens' most famous work? This favorite Christmas story returns with Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, various of ghosts, historic costumes, and plenty of sparkling music.

The production by the American Conservatory Theater is a Bay area holiday tradition.

  • November 25 to December 24
  • ACT Geary Theater on Geary Street

Popular Day Trips

Christmas in San Francisco 2016

Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour

Wine Country Tour

This is a really easy way to explore the best of the wine country, letting someone else to the planning and driving.

Ride through picturesque California wine countryside, walk though vineyards, sample fine wines in both Napa & Sonoma Valleys. Best of all, you are picked up right at your hotel with the luxury of just enjoying the day. Available daily (except Christmas?)

Bubbles & Brunch – Balloon Ride Over Napa Valley

Balloon Ride Over Napa Valley

Here's another way to make your holiday really memorable — a sunrise balloon ride over Napa Valley. The day starts at Domaine Chandon, the famed sparkling wine producer, with a pre-flight snack. Then board the colorful balloon for a ride of a lifetime over the beautiful countryside.

Back on ground toast your flight with a glass of bubbly as you enjoy a classic American brunch.

Wine Country Tour With Gourmet Lunch

Wine Country Tour With Gourmet Lunch

As we've mentioned, the best way to visit the Wine Country is on a small group tour, and this one really delivers. You travel by luxury van through the best of California Wine Country — Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Along the route you stop at vineyards for tours and tastings, followed by a gourmet lunch in Sonoma.

Wineries include Viansa Winery, Cline Cellars, Larson Family Winery, Homewood Winery and a final stop at Domaine Chandon for a glass of bubbles and stunning views.

Top Food & Wine Activities

Christmas in San Francisco 2016

Little Italy & North Beach Gourmet Walking Tour

Gourmet Walking Tour

These two SF neighborhoods are well known to SF foodies. Take the opportunity this Christmas to discover the seasonal delights of Little Italy and North Beach while they're both decked out for the holidays. This tour is perfect for food lovers — and for walkers. Stroll & taste your way through San Francisco's most delicious neighborhoods.

Ferry Building Food Market Tour + Alcatraz Tour

Ferry Building Food Market Tour

With your food expert at your side you taste your way through the finest California delicacies in this famous food hall and heritage building. After sampling your way among creameries, delis, and patisseries, it's time to wander to Pier 33 to hop on board the ferry for your Alcatraz adventure, complete with 45-minute audio guide.

Seasonal Events, Holiday Lights & Celebrations

Christmas in San Francisco 2016

Dickens Fair – Celebrate A Victorian Christmas

Dicken's Fair

Three acres of the Cow Palace are transformed into the world of Charles Dickens, where it's perpetually Christmas Eve. Costumed characters and carollers roam the recreated London town with pubs, dance halls, tea shoppes. Visit Pickwick Place, the London Docks, a street carousel and pop in for a visit with Father Christmas.

Macys Tree Lighting Ceremony at Union Square

Macys Tree Lighting Ceremony

Every year, the lighting of the Christmas tree on Union Square in front of Macy's is the real kick-off to the festive season.

In 2016 the illumination extravaganza starts on Friday, November 26 at 6 pm. If you're planning to attend it's best to head to Union square at least an hour before to get a good spot. But not to worry, the tree is lit throughout the holiday season, so there's plenty of time to enjoy it.

Presidio Holiday Lights

Presidio Holiday Lights

What began as an Army tradition more than 50 years ago has evolved into a classic San Francisco event.

This tradition kicks off the holiday season at the Presidio with an interactive ceremony where participants join hands in a large circle. The tree lights when the circle is complete. Check the website for exact date and time.

Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz Carlton

Teddy Bear Tea

Children and their favorite stuffies gather in The Terrace Courtyard Tent to say hello to Santa Claus, the elves, and the giant Teddy Bear, the largest in the city! A special tea is served with hot cocoa and teddy bears.

Starts in late November and continues every weekend in December.

More SF Tree & Holiday Lights

  • City Hall Tree of Hope
  • Pier 39
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero
  • Golden Gate Park at McLaren Lodge

What's On at the Museums

Christmas in San Francisco 2016

VIP Cocktails at the California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

Be there when science + cocktails converge. Arrive at the museum after hours for your express entry to this adult only event. Get the skinny with a one hour behind-the-scene tour, then relax with drinks & music.

Upgrade to the VIP tour and have unlimited cocktails before the tour begins. What a great way to spend Christmas Eve or New Years Eve! Thursdays in December.


Claudy Jongstra – Dutch Designer
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
    Ends April 2, 2017


On the Grid – Textiles and Minimalism
  • de Young Museum
    Ends April 2, 2017

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