San Francisco

San Francisco during the holidays is a special time for both locals and visitors. The neighborhoods are glowing with festive lights. Spectacular decorations adorn local businesses. And people all over the city are buzzing with holiday cheer. Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate the season in San Francisco over the holidays.

Photo by @eyeonthebay


Sparkling lights adorn the city! San Francisco’s Travel Association organizes Illuminate SF, a city-wide light art project. It actually occurs all year long but it peaks during the holiday season with its “Festival of Light.”

Photo by Lucas Saugen

Over 30 artists have created art installations throughout more than 15 neighborhoods. Note that some major attractions require tickets so plan ahead: here is an article that lists the new, must-see lights. For more information, please visit the official Illuminate SF website.


San Francisco’s Union Square is a major destination for holiday entertainment. Because it is surrounded by major department stores, the area is adorned with holiday ornaments and it’s all anchored by the magnificent Macy’s tree. Come for an array of incredible holiday sights and stay to buy gifts from Union Square’s wealth of shopping options. Simply walking around the area will get you into the holiday spirit but you can also check out all of the events taking place here. Don’t forget to take pictures with Santa in the middle of Union Square or inside the Westfield Shopping Center.

Photo by @vtkp524

Ice Skating

While it hasn’t snowed in San Francisco since 1976, there’s plenty of ice-skating rinks throughout the city. What better way to get into a festive frame of mind? The Embarcadero rink is the largest in the city and is blessed with a waterfront location beneath the iconic Ferry Building. Adults are $12, kids are $7, and skate rentals are $5. Also, there’s a nice variety of nearby dining and shopping to heal any of your post-skating wounds.

Photo by @jessieestellabrickley

These are just a few of the many experiences San Francisco offers during the holidays. There is a lot more to see throughout the city including art museums, theatrical performances, and everything happening at Pier 39.

With a warm drink and a childlike sense of awe, The City By The Bay can become a magical experience during the holidays, no matter how old you are. (Just remember to bring someone to pick you up when you fall down ice-skating!)

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