The brisk winds and pretty lights that adorn the Bay Area come wintertime — not to mention the great hotel room rates—make for a perfect family getaway. Here are some essentials that epitomize a lovely winter holiday in the City by the Bay.
1. Winter Park at Civic Center
Now in its second year, the Civic Center Plaza is converted into a pop-up winter park to celebrate the holiday season. From Nov. 30 to Jan. 5, you can skate the night away, participate in Learn to Curl sessions, or snap a family photo for keepsakes. https://winterparkicerinksf.com/
2. Ice Skating
Winter in San Francisco also means pop-up ice skating rinks. The most popular one is at Union Square, under Macy’s giant Christmas tree. It’s open through Jan. 20, 2020. Given its popularity, you would do well to book your tickets in advance. Also check for scheduled events at the rink, such as Drag Queens on Ice on Dec. 5, 2019, and the Polar Bear Skate on Jan.1, 2020. https://unionsquareicerink.com/
If you can’t find a spot at Union Square, you don’t need to be discouraged. Embarcadero Center has the biggest pop-up rink in the city, with gorgeous views of the waterfront. http://embarcaderocenter.com/experience/holiday-ice-rink/
3. “Curious Contraptions: Flights of Fancy”
For indoor holiday fun, head to the Exploratorium at Pier 15. This exhibition will display whimsical mechanical sculptures, also known as automata. Brought to life by simple mechanisms and handmade pieces, each automata performs an entertaining drama. Understand the inner workings of these automata in “Curious Contraptions” from Nov. 21, 2019 to Jan. 26, 2020. www.exploratorium.edu
4. Classic Cable Car Holiday Nights & Sights City Tour
Ring in the holiday season aboard a cable car, Nov. 22, 2019 through Dec. 30, 2019 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Classic Cable Car Holiday Nights & Sights City Tour begins at Taylor St. and tours through Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, Financial District, The Embarcadero and PIER 39. Along the way, you’ll see San Francisco’s festive holiday trees, trimmings, and twinkling lights decorating the city for the winter season. Enjoy jovial jingles along with a complimentary Santa hat. www.classiccablecar.com/tour/holiday-nights-and-sights/
5. Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar
Off the Grid (OTG), the quintessential champion of the mobile food movement in the Bay Area and beyond, is debuting Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar Nov. 29 to Dec. 24, 2019. Inspired by the tradition of European Holiday Markets, the Bazaar will take place at the iconic Salesforce Transit Center and Salesforce Tower Plaza. Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar will deliver a magical experience with classic holiday décor, cozy spots to relax and connect, and opportunities to shop for unique, handmade gifts – all paired with the soul-warming food and drink for which Off the Grid is famous. https://offthegrid.com/emperor-nortons-holiday-bazaar/
6. Dance-Along Nutcracker
The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Official Band of San Francisco, proudly produces Dance-Along Nutcracker®. Started in 1985 as a fundraiser for the LGBTQ+ community, Dance-Along Nutcracker has evolved into the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s signature annual event. Dance-Along Nutcracker blends Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with contemporary music in a new show each year, encouraging the audience to become part of the show whenever the “Dance-Along!” sign illuminates. This interactive audience participation makes Dance-Along Nutcracker a zany, uniquely San Francisco holiday experience! Accessible to families of any configuration, Dance-Along Nutcracker fulfills the Band’s mission of connecting diverse communities through public musical performances. The annual production of this San Francisco tradition takes place on Dec. 7 and 8 at the Yerba Buena Gardens Center for the Arts. https://dance-along-nutcracker.sflgfb.org/
7. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
A treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970, The Great Dickens Fair is a splendid way to celebrate the holidays with the family. On Nov. 23 – Dec. 22, 2019 at the Cow Palace, celebrate the Fair’s 20th season with over 800 performers in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, dance floors, and Christmas shops. Holiday treats and gifts overflow at every corner you turn! https://dickensfair.com/
8. Lucky Tuk Tuk Tour
This might just be the most holiday fun you can have on wheels. Lucky Tuk Tuk’s vibrant vehicles are eco-friendly and colorfully decorated with holiday lights to tour you through the city with holiday cheer. Lucky Tuk Tuk can fit up to six riders, perfect for a family outing. While on board, you can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, candy canes and even sing-along karaoke. www.lucky-tuk-tuk.com/
The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com or call 415-391-2000.
San Francisco Travel’s main Visitor Information Center is now located at 749 Howard St., adjacent to the Moscone Convention Center. San Francisco Travel also operates Visitor Information Centers at Macy’s Union Square and in Chinatown at 625 Kearny St. San Francisco Travel is also a partner at the California Welcome Center at PIER 39.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 50 international cities on 44 international carriers. The Bay Area’s largest airport connects non-stop with 85 cities in the U.S. on 12 domestic airlines. SFO offers upgraded free Wi-Fi with no advertising. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit www.flysfo.com.