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10 Holiday Activities to Enjoy this Winter in San Francisco

San Francisco Union Square

With the last pumpkin put down from the porch and the last witch sent to sleep in the decorations box until next year, the festive season is about to start. And in San Francisco, it begins somewhere around November 1st. Even though we don’t have snowy winters, we have cheerful and jolly ones, with many happenings and activities throughout the city. So if you visit San Francisco during the winter (and Holidays season), or if you’re a local in search of things to do, here’s a list of 10 holiday activities to enjoy this winter in San Francisco:

1. Visit a Holiday Market

Many holiday markets open throughout the city (and in the Bay Area) every year. Choose a couple of them and start the Christmas shopping. Or grab a glass of mulled wine and a cinnamon cookie and walk around the festive stalls. This year, I plan to visit at least these two:

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair: five weekends from November 18th – December 17th at the Historic Cow Palace in Daly City

Winter Walk in Union Square: Friday, December 15th – Sunday, December 24th

READ MORE: The Best Christmas Markets to Visit in Berlin This Year

2. See “The Nutcracker” at the War Memorial Opera House

the nutcracker

The Nutcracker is a beloved holiday tradition performed by the San Francisco Ballet, one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies.

They were the first to perform the Nutcracker show in America in 1944. Tickets are usually in high demand, so reserve yours in advance.

3. Go Ice Skating

San Francisco Union Square

Union Square Ice Rink will be open from November 1 until January 15. Grab your (not-so-warm) winter outfit and lose yourself in the crowd on the ice. Free skating lessons are offered on Saturdays and Sundays.

READ MORE: Finnish Salmon Soup (Lohikeitto)

4. Visit a Christmas pop-up bar

Miracle Bar

In November and December, San Francisco is home to some amazing holiday pop-up bars where you can have a thematic drink and get into the holiday spirit. Some of them are Miracle at Pacific Cocktail Haven, Deck the Halls, and Blitzen’s.

5. Sip a hot chocolate from Dandelion Chocolate

What is winter without a good hot chocolate? Dandelion Chocolate has one of the best chocolates in the city, so visit them, and you can also see how the famous chocolate is made!

READ MORE: Cinnamon Stars Biscuits – a royal recipe from the Buckingham Palace

6. See the holiday light displays all through the city


During winter, San Francisco puts up its light mantel and invites you to discover a world of fairy lights and holiday light displays. Here are some of them:

Entwined: starting December 7th in Golden Gate Park, the Peacock Meadow will be transformed into a dazzling light forest, an iconic destination for Bay Area residents since 2020.

Glow: light art installations at Exploratorium, November 16th – December 28th.

Let’s Flow SF: the largest holiday light projection happening in San Francisco’s downtown December 2 – 11.

7. Go to a candlelight concert

All through the city and in the Bay Area, you can find performances by candlelight in beautiful locations – ranging from the Beatles to Vivaldi and Hans Zimmer, or you can also see the Nutcracker.

8. Visit a beautiful garden dressed in twinkle lights

filoli holidays

Holidays at Filoli is a holiday display taking place every winter at the Filoli Gardens. Many events are happening, so pick what catches your eye: Holiday Tea in the Garden House, nighttime walks under the twinkle lights, or Christmas Wreath workshops.

9. See the giant Gingerbread House in the Fairmont Hotel’s lobby

Gingerbread House

The Gingerbread House at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco is a beloved holiday tradition in the city. The life-sized gingerbread house measures 25 feet high and 35 feet wide and features over 10,000 individual gingerbread bricks. It takes several weeks to assemble the house, and around the Thanksgiving holiday, the opening ceremony marks the beginning of the holiday season.

10. Go to a holiday concert at the San Francisco Symphony

Attending a holiday concert at the San Francisco Symphony is a wonderful way to celebrate the season and enjoy the magic of classical music. Most holiday concerts take place at Davies Symphony Hall, which offers excellent acoustics and a beautiful setting.

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