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The best Christmas events and holiday things to do in San Francisco

Achieve peak holiday cheer with these festive Christmas shows and events in San Francisco and the Bay Area
SantaCon on Lombard St
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/John Curley SantaCon
By Shoshi Parks |

December is here! Assuming you've already set up your Christmas tree, celebrate the season with festive shows, ice skating, drunken Santas and fun Christmas events around San Francisco. There are even events to make your Christmas errands—picking up a tree and shopping for holiday gifts—shine. Happy holidays! 

RECOMMENDED: Christmas in San Francisco guide

Christmas events San Francisco

Beach Blanket Babylon
Photograph: Rick Markovich
Things to do

Beach Blanket Babylon’s Holiday Extravaganza

icon-location-pin Russian Hill

Beach Blanket Babylon’s Holiday Extravaganza is a festive twist on the long-running musical revue. The holiday celebration is full of world-class singing, music and plenty of cha cha cha, includes Christmas carol parodies, an legendary extra-large Yuletide Hat and the sort of hilarious political spoofs that have kept this show up and running for over 16,000 performances.

Through Dec 31 at various times; $30–$155. 

Christmas tree at giant gingerbread house at Fairmont Hotel
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/dmac55
Hotels, Chain hotels

Gingerbread House at the Fairmont

icon-location-pin Nob Hill

Nothing rings in the holidays like visiting the Fairmont’s massive gingerbread house. Each year the hotel’s talented culinary and engineering teams work together to create an edible two-story Victorian with more than 10,250 gingerbread bricks and 1,650 pounds of candy that stands more than 25 feet high. Parties of up to ten people can reserve the dining room for a private, super-sweet afternoon tea, dinner or special occasion.

Through Jan 1; Free, Afternoon tea $89–$119.

The Guardsmen Christmas Tree Lot
Photograph: Yelp/Mark O.
Attractions, Farms

Decemberfest: Craft Beer Night at The Guardsmen

icon-location-pin Fort Mason

The second annual Decemberfest at The Guardsmen Tree Lot will include Bay Area craft beer, delicious German baked goods and bratwurst with a mustard tasting bar. All proceeds from the event, and from all Christmas trees sold, go to benefit at-risk youth in the Bay Area—$2.8 million was raised for their programs las year. Go ahead, wield your Christmas tree for good this year.

Nov 30, 6–10pm, $30-$40

SF City Hall Christmas
Photograph: Flickr/David Yu
News, City Life

Winter Park at Civic Center

For the first time ever, San Francisco’s Civic Center will play host to a winter-themed park modeled after the Wiener Eistraum in Vienna Austria. Glide along on a 6,000-square-foot rink at the center of a forest of lights or along a 400-square-foot track woven among the plaza’s trees. The rink will feature special events like Drag Queens on Ice and Sunday morning curling lessons ($20). General admission for a 75-min skating session is $5-20 (depending on age and time of day) and includes skate rental.

Nov 30–Jan 6, noon–10pm; $5-20

Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas at the SF Symphony

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Tim Burton’s stop-motion favorite takes center stage at the San Francisco Symphony this season as Jack Skellington plots to celebrate Christmas in Halloween Town. Watch the plot unfold as the symphony’s musicians skillfully bring Danny Elfman’s quirkily delightful score to life.

Nov 30, Dec 1, Dec 6 at 8pm, $89-$175

Grace Cathedral
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Christian Ortiz
Things to do, Event spaces

Tree of Hope Lighting

icon-location-pin Nob Hill

Join emcee Donna Sachet, drag queen extraordinaire Heklina, and a variety of artists, musicians and local dignitaries as they light up the night at Grace Cathedral. The performances, sponsored by the Rainbow World Fund, will help restore your faith in humanity and rebuild your hopes for our local, national and global communities.

Dec 3, 6:30–8:30pm, free

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

Holiday Soul with the San Francisco Symphony

icon-location-pin Civic Center

This December, drink in the glorious music of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at Davies Symphony Hall. Singer-actress Vanessa Williams will be joining the choir’s seasoned vocalists for a powerhouse performance of soul, jazz and Christmas classics. Stand up and cheer for explosive harmonies that will keep your feet tapping all season long.

December 7, 8 at 7:30pm, $25–$99

Theatre of Yugen

A Noh Christmas Carol

This twist on the Charles Dickens classic reimagines Ebenezer Scrooge (Ebezo Sukurooji) in Meiji-era Japan. Told through traditional noh, kyōgen, kabuki and butoh, the Yugen’s Christmas Carol is an inventive and beautiful reminder of the universal truths of love and selflessness that anchor the holiday season.

Dec 7-30 at various times; $15-$45

The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy SF Ballet
Things to do

The Nutcracker

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Since the 1944 American premiere of The Nutcracker, San Francisco audiences have embraced the sensational ballet as a true holiday tradition. From composer Peter Tchaikovsky and choreographer Helgi Tomasson, this magical event will delight your family and set the tone for the festivities to come.

Dec 12–29 at various times; $29-$285

Nautical lights
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Daniel Parks
Things to do, Event spaces

Lighted Boat Parade

icon-location-pin Fisherman's Wharf

The boat parade is a de-light-ful holiday tradition 25-years running. Watch as yachts adorned in lights and decorations sail from Pier 39 to Crissy Field and back again. For the best views of the parade, head to Aquatic Park, Pier 39, the Marina Green or Crissy Field or make a night out of it with a window seat at a waterfront restaurant.

Dec 14, 6-8pm; free

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

Handel’s Messiah

icon-location-pin Civic Center

San Francisco’s annual presentation of Handel’s timeless score moves this year from Grace Cathedral to the Davies Symphony Hall. Experience the majesty of 100 voices in harmony as the Grammy-Award winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus belts out songs like “Hallelujah” that will send your holiday spirit soaring.

Dec 14, 15 at 8pm; $35–$180

Pasquale Esposito: Bianco Natale

Pasquale Esposito: Bianco Natale

Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito takes to the stage at the historic Herbst Theater this December for a concert benefitting Peninsula Volunteers, Inc. Accompanied by the San Jose State University Orchestra, Esposito will serenade his audience with arias, Neapolitan classics, holiday songs and original compositions.

Dec 15 at 8pm; $65-$95

Charlie Brown Christmas
Music, Jazz

A Charlie Brown Christmas

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

Pianist Adam Shulman takes centerstage with the a tribute to Bay Area jazz legend Vince Guaraldi's classic, festive score: A Charlie Brown Christmas. Bring along the kids for a performance full of Peanuts favorites and Christmas standards from “Christmas Time is Here” to “O Tannenbaum.”

Dec 21 at 7:30pm and Dec 22 at 11am; $15-$70

SF Jazz center
Photograph: Yelp/ Kevin Y
Music, Jazz

Blind Boys of Alabama Holiday Gospel Show

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

Since emerging from the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in the late 1930s, the Blind Boys of Alabama have been leaving their mark on gospel music. Their holiday performance this winter will include songs from their new “Talkin’ Christmas” album and their Grammy-winning 2014 release “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Experience this legendary musical phenomena 70+ years in the making.

Dec 22 at 7:30pm and Dec 23 at 3pm; $17-$95

Photograph: Garrett Gooch, Courtesy Oasis

Alaska: Christmas in Space

icon-location-pin SoMa

Drag queen Alaska, international siren of stage and screen, will join forces with her sidekick Handsome Jeremy for a holiday-themed musical romp across the galaxy. Cheer on the intrepid pair as they glamp their way through the perils of outer space in search of alien civilizations.

Dec 21, 22 at 7pm; $30-$60

A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE
Photograph: Courtesy New York Pops

A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live!

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Every December, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the entire Peanuts gang bring this television classic to life at Davies Symphony Hall. With live actors, an animated backdrop, and Vince Guaraldi’s timeless score performed live, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas experience you won’t want to miss.

Dec 21–24 at 2, 7:30pm; Starting at $102

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy

Abstaining from this year’s Christmas celebrations? Grab a seat at Jackson Square’s New Asia Restaurant for the city’s longest running comedy show, Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. It’s a hilarious comedic romp that celebrates the classic Jewish answer to Christmas dinner, the Chinese restaurant. Catch the show with an early evening dinner or late evening cocktails.

Dec 23-25 at 5, 8:30pm; $52–$72 

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus
Photograph: Credit John Vajda

Home for the Holidays

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Join the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus for a hilarious, sometimes irreverent and always brilliant evening of music and laughter. Be dazzled by the 250-man strong choir harmonizing everything from “Silver Bells” to “Silent Night,” a brass quartet, and the solo stylings of SF Opera soprano Marnie Breckenridge.The final concert of the night is slightly bawdier than the first two family friendly performances.

Dec 24 at 5, 7, 9pm; $30–$40

Things to do in San Francisco this week

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