There’s no place like home for the holidays, especially when home is the Bay Area. Whether you like your holiday events merry and bright or scenic and mellow, there’s literally something for everyone. From traditional to unique, the Bay Area is bustling with Christmas events. The best part? The weather is just crisp enough to feel like a winter wonderland, but still mild enough to enjoy a variety of awesome outdoor activities. So get out there and celebrate!
1. Great Dickens Christmas Fair
For the nostalgia junkies among us- and there are plenty in the Bay Area- the Great Dickens Christmas Fair lasts from Nov. 23rd- Dec. 22nd! A time-honored Bay Area tradition since 1970, it’s one of the most popular local and tourist events of the season. There’s nothing wrong with going to holiday events for the novelty, especially not this grand, historic celebration. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another into another place and time when you enter Charles’ Dickens’ London Town at twilight. Hundreds of players in elaborate Victorian costumes bring the scene to blooming life. Watch and interact with some of the most colorful characters in literature and history as they eat, drink, and be merry!
You’ll love Daly City’s “London Town” for more than just its storybook charm. Stroll through a city of winding lanes, low-lit pubs, music halls, and picturesque Christmas shops. There’s over 120,000 square feet of fun to enjoy. The fresh-baked aroma of hearty foods and sweet desserts fill the air; street vendors hover just outside the bustle of the crowd, offering the variety of delicious foods one comes to expect from San Francisco. If you love the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, London Town will feel like home. Despite its ramshackle charm, this fictional village is overflowing with holiday gifts and handcrafted novelty items for all ages.
Nov. 23rd- Dec. 22nd, 2019
Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
Daly City, CA
Winter Wonderland San Francisco
2. Winter Wonderland San Francisco
Although Christmas in California isn’t always white, that doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming of a winter wonderland. Ragazzi Continuo brings San Francisco its classic concert series, Winter Wonderland. Their merry medley hearkens the toasty firesides and miles of snow that have graced iconic Christmas songs for decades.
Eleven out of the twelve months in a year, you’ll hear Californians boasting about the idyllic warm climate. But in December, Ragazzi Continuo honors the tradition of a white Christmas, happily bringing it to their many fans in San Francisco.
Our favorite thing about this family fun favorite? The concert isn’t just a generic combo of the classics. It features a cultured variety of hits, including works by Vivaldi, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Austrian drinking songs, and even texts from Shakespeare. It wouldn’t be San Francisco without variety.
3:00 PM- 4:30 PM
Sun., Dec 22nd, 2019
Trinity+ St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
3. WinterFest at Great America CA
We couldn’t write an article about Bay Area holiday without talking about WinterFest. Winterfest is the Bay Area’s most immersive holiday event. California’s Great America is transformed into a magical winter scene where people skate with family and friends on a pristine ice rink. It’s a colorful, magnificent Christmas display featuring over 60 rides and holiday attractions, lively holiday performances and light displays, and the iconic Carousel Columbia. (There are perks to living in a warm, beautiful climate during the most wonderful time of the year. You can enjoy outdoor activities that most of America wouldn’t have the luxury of in December!)
When you’ve had your fill of skating, move on to Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’s candy-coated kitchen! It goes without saying, but WinterFest has just about every hearty, sticky, or sweet Christmas dinner, dessert, or cozy cafe beverage one can imagine.
Another fun fact: WinterFest boasts one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees, adorned with thousands of twinkling fairy lights. Beneath the towering tree, giant toy soldiers merrily greet guests. You can get some serious Christmas shopping done or just window-shop among rows of charming shops that sell handcrafted novelty items.
For grown-ups, it’s a storybook idyll that conjures all the wholesomeness of childhood Christmases. For the kids, it’s a magical winter wonderland complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus. One thing is certain: After experiencing Winterfest, everyone will believe in magic...the California kind.
Select Dates from Nov. 29th- Dec. 31st from 5-10 PM
California’s Great America
4. The Christmas Ballet in San Francisco
Fans of The Nutcracker will be dazzled by this festive combination of time-honored classics and contemporary numbers. The Christmas Ballet is unique in that it features classical ballet, jazz, tap, and even swing. The first act is called “Classical Christmas”, which celebrates ballet in its traditional incarnation: Pristine ensembles featuring evocative instrumentals and graceful dancers, fairy-light on their feet and dressed in white from head to toe. The second act is called Cool Christmas, which takes a festive turn with red-hot costumes and sultry, theatrical performances. (Case in point: The iconic “Santa Baby” featuring a 42-foot long red leather boa).
San Francisco Chronicle called The Christmas Ballet “sheer joy...the finest toast to the season”. No other seasonal show captures both the festive spirit and classical nostalgia of Christmas quite like this one.
The Christmas Ballet is a traveling show, and it’s next stop is the Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco before it goes out with a bang in Carmel.
Dec. 23rd, 2019
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
5. Holigays Are Here
Happy Holigays! It wouldn’t be San Francisco without some LGBTQ-themed holiday events, and this one is our favorite. Every year, the beloved San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus brings you three memorable, entertaining concerts at the historic Castro Theatre. This year is the 30th iteration of “Home for the Holidays”. The show is a unique celebration of the holiday season in the colorful city of San Francisco. Many Bay Area residents have made an annual tradition of attending this uplifting holiday event, which celebrates the spirit of togetherness more than any one specific holiday.
Holigays are here is also a great choice if you like a bit of humor infused into your holiday event! Hilarious comedy skits are interspersed between hearty Christmas classics and festive contemporary medleys. The multi-talented Gay Men’s Chorus doesn’t just have musical talent- they’re versatile stage actors, accomplished choreographers, and highly skilled dancers.
Dec. 24th, 2019
Gay Men’s Chorus- LGBTQ Center
6. Christmas Day Supper Cruise on a Hornblower Yacht
Many city Christmas events are bustling with lights, cameras, and action. The Bay Area prides itself on its creativity, which translates to its colorful array of holiday spectaculars. But for people who enjoy mellow, quality time with family during the holidays, this cozy supper cruise is a peaceful alternative to the bustle and bright lights of the city. In fact, it’s a glorious way to get out and enjoy Christmas in the city without being lost in the noisy crowds. With breathtaking scenic views of San Francisco Bay, the Christmas Day Supper Cruise is a family favorite. It’s lively and fun, but just cozy and intimate enough to make you feel right at home with your loved ones. And you’ll enjoy a delicious, traditional Christmas dinner without the hassle of cooking or clean-up!
3:30-7:00 PM (Boarding is between 3:00 and 4:00)
Dec. 25th, 2019
Hornblower Cruises and Events
Pier 3, Hornblower Landing
San Francisco, CA
7. San Francisco Botanical Gardens- Free Admission on Christmas Day!
Admission to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is always free for San Francisco residents, but on Christmas Day it’s free for everyone! As one of the most diverse gardens in the world, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens are a popular tourist destination year-round. On Christmas, the Gardens make a quiet, beautiful getaway for those who prefer intimate celebrations with family and friends. Free Admission Day at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is the perfect idyll for families and friends who love the outdoors. Feel one with nature and close to loved ones as you stroll through a tranquil urban oasis.
This is also a really romantic Christmas date idea. The Japanese-inspired Moon Viewing Garden is considered one of the most beautiful spots in the Gardens, and a favorite spot for stargazing on a clear Christmas night. One of the best things about spending the holidays in San Francisco is the mild temperatures and gorgeous weather for outdoor events!
Dec. 25th, 2019
San Francisco Botanical Gardens
San Francisco, CA
8. Christmas Day Free Vegetarian Dinner and Concert
Eating at holiday events as a vegetarian or vegan can be very tricky, but not at this Badarikashramama concert and international dinner! While some love traditional Christmas dinners, which typically involve a lion’s share of meat and dairy, others prefer a more cultured variety of meals, appetizers, and desserts. You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this feast of epic proportions. But before you can ask, yes, there are vegan options. Many events cater to vegetarians but not vegans, which can be frustrating, but fortunately, it’s not the case with this one.
But you do have to love the peace and serenity of Badarikashrama atmosphere. Shubhangi Sakhalkar will be performing a delightful concert accompanied by harmonium and tabla.
Dec. 25th, 2019
15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, CA