A Christmas season trip to San Francisco can be just as magical as any other northern hemisphere destination, despite the lack of snow.
If you’re having trouble finding the best Christmas activities in San Francisco, I’ve compiled them for you.
At least one of the events hark back to European Christmas traditions, to give you that warm, fuzzy holiday feeling.
Let’s begin with Dickens, shall we?
GREAT DICKENS CHRISTMAS FAIR AND VICTORIAN HOLIDAY PARTY
This has to be one of the best Christmas activities in San Francisco. Hands down.
Head out to the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls (I still giggle at the thought of a cow kingdom, filled with cow subjects, living under a wise cow Queen), where you’ll be transported to Victorian London.
Cor’ blimey, be sure to watch out for those streetwise child pickpockets and shady gentlemen named Fagin. That’s not a joke by the way, there are more than 800 Dickensian characters wandering the winding laneways.
That’s apart from the music halls, theatres, pubs and shops, roasted chestnuts and all the other treats you’d expect at a European Christmas market.
Dates: Each weekend from November 19- December 18, 10am-7pm
Entry: Fees vary depending on age, see website for details
CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK
Much like the Victorian Christmas, Christmas in the Park is built on 30 years of tradition.
To be completely honest, I’d never heard of it prior to this year, but made up for it with the amount of people who recommended it to me.
Held in downtown San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Christmas in the Park is spread over two acres of more than 60 musical and animated exhibits.
When you visit Christmas in the Park this year be sure to stop by our North Pole Information Booth and say hello to our friends at Christmas Town.
Posted by Christmas in the Park on Thursday, November 16, 2017
The real pièce de résistance though, are the Guinness World Record setting 600 illuminated Christmas trees. Of course there’s a giant Community Giving Tree to go with it.
Any Charlie Brown fans in the crowd? If you’re not up for the trip to the Charles Schulz Museum up in Santa Rosa, Winterfest is the next best thing.
It’s a far-sight newer than the some of the other festivities here, and is held at California’s Great America theme park.
The park is transformed into a winter wonderland complete with ice skating in front of the beautiful carousel Columbia. There are light displays to go with the rides, as well as live holiday shows, Santa’s workshop and Mrs Claus’ kitchen.
They go all out with one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees, and the entire park sparkles with more than 7 million twinkle lights.
Don’t miss the Peanuts Guide to Christmas show, where you’re joined by Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy for a holiday singalong.
Dates: November 24-December 30
Entry: Daily tickets start from $25
There are lots of Christmas lights and decorations dotting the city and bay area.
Starting with Illuminate SF, which I wrote about here last year. Wander around San Francisco enjoying the work of some great local light artists.
If you prefer to drive around and experience the lights from the comfort of your heated vehicle, you could head out to Willow Glen.
The residents of Willow Glen don’t hold back when it comes to Christmas lights. You get the impression that they’re in competition.
Use the map to find the best houses, or just stop off at one of the area’s great restaurants for dinner first and ask the locals where the best displays are!
Details: Illuminate SF: http://www.illuminatesf.com/, Willow Glen Lights: http://willowglencharm.com/lights/
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: CHRISTMAS EPISODES
If you’re a fan of 80s sitcom The Golden Girls, like I am, you’re going to love this. What would San Francisco be without Drag performances anyway? Boring! That’s what!
It’s a yearly tradition to get four talented local drag stars and put them into two new Christmas episodes of the beloved show.
Held at the Victoria Theatre in the Mission District, brace yourself for Blanche’s devestingly beautiful Blanche, Dorothy’s dry wit, Sophia’s antics and Rose’s feather headed comments.
Dates: December 14-23
THE NUTCRACKER BALLET
Just to keep things a bit diverse we’re headed to the ballet for The Nutcracker.
We were mesmerised by the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker last year at the War Memorial Opera House. It was a such a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and there were families and people of all ages settled in for the show.
Don’t be afraid to take your kids, the show is short and has an intermission for them to get up and run around in.
If you have really young children though, you might want to take them to San Jose for My Very First Nutcracker. It’s a special shortened performance that’s perfect for toddlers and is presented at a reduced price.
San Jose’s Hammer Theatre hosts the full length and shortened show, danced by The New Ballet Studio Company, students from The New Ballet School and professional guest artists.
The New Ballet Orchestra accompanies the performances live, except for the My Very First Nutcracker, which features a recorded score.
Details: San Jose: http://sanjosenutcracker.com/#home, San Francisco: https://www.sfballet.org/season/nutcracker/nutcracker
Dates/Entry: Various dates and fees, please check websites.