Festive Christmas events 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 Joel Riddell |

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. And don't forget to pick up some holiday gifts for your friends and family along the way!    

RECOMMENDED: Christmas in San Francisco guide

San Francisco Christmas events

Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Farms

Decemberfest: Craft Beer Night at The Guardsmen

icon-location-pin Fort Mason

The first-ever Decemberfest will include Bay Area craft beer, delicious German baked goods and bratwurst with mustard (of course). Face it, you're going to get a tree, so why not make it an experience?

December 1, 6–11pm, $30 in advance $50 at the door


Photograph: Courtesy Diane Reeves
Music, Jazz

Dianne Reeves at SF Jazz

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

Kick off the holiday season with Dianne Reeves as she performs holiday classics like "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "Little Drummer Boy," and "Let it Snow" from her Blue Note album, Christmas Time Is Here.

December 3, 2pm, $30-$90

Julie Bernstein
Things to do, Event spaces

Tree of Hope Lighting

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Join Mayor Ed Lee, Donna Sachet, ABC-7’s Cheryl Jennings plus artists, musicians and local dignitaries as they light up the night at Civic Center. Plus performances by the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Boys Chorus, Veronica Klaus and Tammy Hall.

December 4, 6–8pm, free.

Holiday Ice Rink At Embarcadero Center
Photograph: Yelp/Kevin Y.
Things to do, Ice skating

Holiday Ice Rink

icon-location-pin Downtown

This massive holiday ice rink has the distinction of being across from the historic Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. A ticket ($7-$12) gets you an hour-and-a-half to glide across the ice (skaters are admitted on the hour throughout the day). On Friday and Saturday, the rink is open late for an adult-skewing festive evening. Open through January 7, 2018. 

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

Gingerbread house at the Fairmont San Francisco

icon-location-pin Nob Hill

Nothing rings in the holidays like visiting the Fairmont’s massive Gingerbread house. The annual tradition began with an overambitious chef, and resulted in a massive mansion big enough for humans to have tea in. 

Union Square Ice Rink
Photograph: Courtesy Union Square Ice Rink
Things to do, Ice skating

Drag Queens on Ice

icon-location-pin Union Square

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence take to the ice for a holiday skating party full of glitter and boas. 

December 7, 8–9:30pm, $20-$25

Noe Valley Holiday Wine Walk

Noe Valley Holiday Wine Walk

Noe Valley, known for the Noe Valley Bakery and a plethora of boutique shops, will keep their stores open and their teams happy for an evening of shopping and holiday cheer.

December 7, 4-8pm, free

Feinstein’s at the Nikko

White Christmas in Concert

icon-location-pin Tenderloin

This is an evening filled with some of the greatest songs ever written from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas album. The dazzling score features well-known standards including Blue Skies, I Love A Piano, How Deep Is the Ocean and the perennial favorite White Christmas. Uplifting and heartwarming, this is an intimate evening of holiday cheer you won’t want to miss.

December 7, 8-9:30pm, $21-45

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

Elf Extravaganza

icon-location-pin Civic Center

San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus's Elf Extravaganza is full of joyous music and holiday standards. A performance by the SFGMC is a holiday must-do to keep the spirits up and embrace the season. 

December 8, 8pm, $25–$95

SantaCon on Lombard St
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/John Curley


If you would rather hang out with friends than shop for family, the SantaCon Pub Crawl could be for you. Thousands of jolly drinkers dressed in red come out in force to sip and laugh across town. If you choose to participate, do it with fun, grace and knowing full well you will need to sleep the rest of the weekend. 

December 9, 12pm, Free but bring an unwrapped new toy for the United States Marine Corps Toy-Drive

The Santa Skivvies Run
Photograph: Georg Lester, Courtesy Santa Skivvies Run

Santa Skivvies Run

Grab your sexiest Santa garb and head to the Castro for a fun-filled morning, afternoon and messy night of hilarity and new friends. The Santa Skivvies run is the perfect way to show off your ability to avoid carbs during advent and raise money for a worthy cause. You don’t need to strip down to be a part of the parade; there are a plethora of amazing costumes, some smaller than others. 

December 10, 11am, $45

Off the Grid Winter Walk

Off the Grid Winter Walk

Enjoy spirited musical performances from local school groups and musicians, with set lists that include all the holiday classics (old school and new), at this winter walk. Enjoy the tree, check out the holiday village at the Westin St. Francis, the windows at Macy's and watch people on the ice rink.  

December 11, 6–8:30pm, free

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

Holiday Soul with the San Francisco Symphony

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Drink in the glorious music of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The choir is joining forces with two legendary voices: 10-time Grammy-winner CeCe Winans, the best-selling female gospel artist of all time, and Edwin Hawkins, the Grammy-winning originator of the chart-topping “Oh Happy Day.” Don’t miss your chance to experience this powerful performance, featuring exuberant renditions of soul, jazz, and Christmas classics, with plenty of vocal fireworks and foot-stomping energy on display. 

December 12, 7:30pm, $25–$85

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

Handel’s Messiah at Grace Cathedral

icon-location-pin Nob Hill

American Bach Soloists' annual presentation of Handel’s timeless score set in one of the most iconic churches in the city. Perched high atop Nob Hill, the surroundings will inspire your holiday spirit. The concert features Suzanne Karpov, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Zachary Wilder, and Hadleigh Adams.

December 13, 7:30pm, $35–$125

California Academy of Sciences
Photograph: Tim Griffith
Museums, Science and technology

Night at the Museum: Holiday Bazaar

icon-location-pin Golden Gate Park

This holiday bazaar will be full of gift-worthy treasures featuring local makers and local merchants. Pick up some presents and then party into the night (ok not that late, the penguins need their sleep). Just don't miss the Hella-Gay Dance in the Philippine Coral Reef. 

December 14, 6pm $12–$15 (ice skating is extra)

Beach Blanket Babylon
Photograph: Rick Markovich
Things to do

Beach Blanket Babylon

icon-location-pin Russian Hill

San Francisco’s hilarious pop culture musical revue is a festival for the eyes. Check out this ever-evolving show, full of enormous talent, world-class singing, music and cha cha cha.

December 15, 8pm, $30–$155

African American Art and Culture Center

AAACC Holiday Winter Fair

Each year the African American Art and Culture Complex hosts a spectacular event to bring Christmas to low-income families and at-risk youth within the community. There will be free face-painting, arts and crafts and food. To be a part of this event, visit the website in advance, and get your holiday on!

December 16, 10am-2pm, free (with advance sign up)

Santa with pets, dog
Shopping, Shopping centers

Westfield Centre Holiday Moments!

icon-location-pin Yerba Buena

The Westfield mall loves four-legged friends so much, they’ve dedicated a whole day for you to take a photo with Santa and your pets. Afterwards, don't forget to check out the Finland Fair pop-up under the dome featuring the arts and products of Finland. 

Sweater Con
Henry Rieke


Although the title suggests that only ugly sweater wearers need attend this Christmas pub crawl, nothing says holiday spirit like an array of naughty elf costumes and all manner of St. Nick in his nickers. Bars include: Mayes, McTeague, Lush Lounge, Blur, Vertigo and Playland. 

December 16, 4–8pm, $7–$12, tickets will be available at the door

Charlie Brown Christmas
Music, Jazz

A Charlie Brown Christmas with Adam Shulman

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

Adam Shulman will be exercising the keys in the center's smaller performance space, entertaining the room with Vince Guaraldi's classic, festive score. 

December 17, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm, $35

Christmas lights in Union Square
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Shyam Subramanyan

Open Top Holiday Lights Night Tour!

This holiday season, be charioted around San Francisco by a double-decker bus to see the lights and sights. You might just find yourself singing with strangers as you are whisked from Fisherman’s Warf to Nob Hill, across the Bay Bridge and through the port of San Francisco.  

December 18, 6:30pm and 7pm

Courtney Act

Courtney Act: Lump of Coal

icon-location-pin SoMa

Let’s get real: In the lead up to family-friendly and often G-rated Christmas festivities, it can be good to laugh at the state of our adult lives. From RuPaul's Drag Race and Australian Idol, Courtney Act is a must-see at Oasis this December. 

December 19, 8pm, $25

The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy SF Ballet
Music, Music venues

The Nutcracker, San Francisco Ballet

icon-location-pin Civic Center

Since the 1944 American premiere of The Nutcracker, San Francisco audiences have embraced this 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 beautiful festivities to come.

December 13–30, various times$42–$275

A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE
Photograph: Courtesy New York Pops

A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live!

icon-location-pin Civic Center

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

December 21–24, 2pm and 7:30pm, $102+

Photograph: Garrett Gooch, Courtesy Oasis

Mother, Christmas Show

icon-location-pin SoMa

With the official Golden Girls after party included, Oasis is opening their doors, and their closets, in a way only drag mothers can do. Join Heklina, the co-founder of Trannyshack, as she rocks the evening, while you roll with the laughter.  

December 23, 10pm, $5

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus during Pride Month
Photograph: Courtesy SFGMC
Movie theaters, Independent

Home for the Holidays

icon-location-pin The Castro

Join the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus for a hilarious, sometimes irreverent, evening of music and laughter that is sure to inspire.  The final concert of the night is slightly bawdier than the first two, designed to keep parents of small children as happy as the childish adults.  

December 24, 5pm, 7pm, 9pm, $30–$40

Things to do in San Francisco this week