Often called the Manhattan of the West Coast, San Francisco does Christmas with a big-city style that is unmatched outside of the big apple itself. From ice-skating under the skyscrapers to catching a Nutcracker performance, Christmas is one of the best times of the year to bring the family to to city. And the weather is considerably nicer than New York City, you might even be in for some sunny days!
Check Out My List of Top Christmas Activities in SF
Staying in San Francisco for ChristmasHotels in San Francisco pull out all the stops for Christmas, especially the Historic Hotels in the Nob Hill and Union Square area. Expect large Christmas trees by roaring fireplaces, live caroling in the lobby and all sorts of other festivities.
Prices can veer towards the high end of the spectrum during the holidays, but many hotels offer special Christmas packages, so book ahead and bargain for a deal.
Christmas Activities in San FranciscoThere are literally hundreds of Christmas events happening in SF during the holiday season, most of them very local yet drawing crowds of families from all over the world. For visitors, these are the top Christmas activities that should not be missed:
Christmas Performances: From the annual Christmas Carol production at the American Conservatory Theater to the Nutcracker Suite at the San Francisco Ballet, there are many Christmas time performances that will thrill and warm the hearts of the entire family in San Francisco. The world famous San Francisco Symphony also puts on a series of classic Christmas productions that are aimed at a family audience.
The Festival of Lights: One of the best things about having a compact urban skyline and lots of pedestrian friendly open spaces is tha fact that lights quickly transform the city into a festive holiday playground. Check out the lights down at Fisherman's Wharf - including the giant Christmas tree at Ghiradelli Square and then head over to the Embarcadero Center, where an entire four block stretch of skyscrapers is lit up for the holidays. A giant Christmas tree in the center of Union Square is also ground zero for free Christmas performances and gift fairs.
Go Ice Skating: Both Union Square and the Embarcadero Center - right at Justin herman Plaza on the waterfront - set up huge outdoor ice skating rinks during the holiday season. Sessions run about 90 minutes and require ice skate rentals as well as a session fee.
- The Dickens Holiday Fair: A family tradition since the 1970s, the San Francisco Dickens fair is one of the largest, most elaborate and most authentic Victorian style Christmas celebrations in the world. Get ready for a re-creation of 19th century London, with pubs, tearooms, shops and even a Grand Music Hall. www.dickensfair.com
Christmas Shopping in San FranciscoThe weeks leading up to Christmas are a full on frenzy of shopping madness in San Francisco with all downtown department stores and shopping centers bursting at the seams with locals and visitors alike.
It is also worth checking out ecletic San Francisco neighborhoods like the Mission, Haight Ashbury, North Beach and the Marina for everything from upscale designer boutique shops to thrift and vintage stores. In fact, you will often find better deals and much more unique offerings if you chance to wander outside of the downtown area and into the local side of the city.
Christmas Dinner in San FranciscoMost of San Francisco's larger restaurants are open and full of partying on Christmas night and Christmas eve, especially in the downtown area.
As you head out into the more residential neighborhoods however, you will find that many small business owners prefer to spend the holiday at home with family. You can always do a Chinese duck for Christmas however, or even an Irish shepard's pie - check my list of the best ethnic restaurants in SF for some alternative ideas for Christmas dinner in San Francisco.