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

Make it a holiday season to remember with the best Christmas events and holiday things to do in San Francisco this year

By Shoshi Parks |
Christmas tree at giant gingerbread house at Fairmont Hotel
Photograph: Flickr/dmac55 Christmas tree at giant gingerbread house at Fairmont Hotel

The most joyful time of the year is back! Set up that Christmas tree, admire some Christmas lights and get in the holiday spirit with the best Christmas events and holiday things to do in San Francisco this year. From ice skating with drag queens and a live-action "Charlie Brown Christmas" to a life-size gingerbread house and pop-up holiday bars, these memory-making delights are sure to brighten up your December. And don't forget to chow down on some delicious bites and sip festive tipples along the way! Happy holidays! 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in San Francisco

Best Christmas events in San Francisco

Golden Girls Christmas Show
Photograph: Courtesy the Victoria Theater

The Golden Girls Live! The Christmas Episodes

This year, trade the traditional holiday shows for a classic Christmas parody full of joy, love and all the holiday feels. Join the "Golden Girls"—drag queens Heklina, Mathew Martin, D'Arcy Drollinger and Holotta Tymes—for a hilarious live take on two Christmas episodes from days gone by. It's raucous fun and a San Francisco-must.

Dates: Nov 29–Dec 22

The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy SF Ballet
Things to do

The Nutcracker

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.

Dates: Dec 11–29

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

Winter Park at Civic Center

The Civic Center's Winter Park is back for its second season. Modeled after the Wiener Eistraum in Vienna Austria, a 6,000-square-foot rink and 400-square-foot track woven among the plaza’s trees are at the center of this winter wonderland. Special events like Drag Queens on Ice and Sunday morning curling lessons ($20) are planned throughout the month. General admission for a 75-min skating session is $13–$18 and includes skate rental.

Dates: Nov 22–Jan 5

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Photograph: Flickr/--Mark--
Things to do

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Step back in time at this holiday adventure set in Victorian London which features quaint shops, costumed performers, and the aroma of roasted chestnuts. A Bay Area tradition since 1970, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair takes over the Cow Palace for several weekends every holiday season. Guests can peruse corset stalls, engage in mead-chugging competitions and maybe even spot Scrooge himself.

Dates: Weekends through Dec 22

The sign for the Guardsmen lot with trees in front
Photograph: Flickr/Thomas Hawk/CC
Attractions, Farms

Decemberfest: Craft Beer Night at The Guardsmen

Fort Mason

The third 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, will benefit at-risk youth in the Bay Area. Go ahead, wield your Christmas tree for good this year.

Dates: Dec 6, 5:30–8:30pm

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

Gingerbread House at the Fairmont

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 6,000 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 ($89–$129), dinner or special occasion.

Dates: Through Jan 1

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

Holigays are Here!

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,” with special guests Velocity Handbell Ensemble. On Christmas Eve, the final concert of the night is slightly bawdier than the first two family friendly performances.

Dates: Dec 6, 7, 24  

A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE
Photograph: Courtesy New York Pops

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Civic Center

Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the whole Peanuts gang invade Davies Symphony Hall this Christmas with a live-action take on the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. The players and the musicians of the SF Symphony will bring this family favorite to life in front of an animated backdrop. Come early for a holiday-themed reception which will include activities and festive Peanuts decor.

Dates: Dec 21–23

Photograph: Flickr/Todd Lappin

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy

Abstaining from this year’s Christmas celebrations? Grab a seat at 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 and vegetarian dim sum.

Dates: Dec 24–26 

A holiday mug with liquid inside
Photograph: Pixabay/CC

Deck The Halls & Dreidel Bar Pop-Up

This holiday pop-up bar is full of holiday spirit(s). Beginning November 22, toast to the holidays in Deck the Halls' winter wonderland. During Hannukah, the Dreidel Bar will also be open for business. A dollar from each order will be donated to Toys for Tots. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate for a free side of tater tots.

Dates: Nov 22–Dec 25 

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

Tree of Hope Lighting

Nob Hill

Join emcee Honey Mahogany, drag queen extraordinaire Juanita More!, 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.

Dates: Dec 10, 6:30–8:30pm

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

Drag Queens on Ice

Rain or shine, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will take to the ice for a holiday skating party full of glitz and glamor. Watch from the sidelines or lace up a pair of skates and join San Francisco’s fiercest drag queens as they lip synch their way through this outrageous, hilarious and heartwarming evening in Union Square.

Dates: Dec 5, 8–10pm 

The Santa Skivvies Run
Photograph: Georg Lester, Courtesy Santa Skivvies Run
Sports and fitness

The Santa Skivvies Run

Grab your sexiest Santa garb and head to the Castro for a fun-filled afternoon (and messy night). The Santa Skivvies Run is the perfect way to show off your ability to avoid carbs during advent while raising money for a worthy cause. You don’t need to strip down to be a part of the parade; amazing costumes abound at this race, some smaller than others.

Dates: Dec 8 at 9:30am

Sweater-Con Pub Crawl
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/loknessmobster
Nightlife, Nightlife

Sweater-Con Holiday Pub Crawl

Whether you’re the ugly sweater type or a reveler whose holiday costume preferences run a little more risque, you are welcome at the annual Sweater-Con Holiday Pub Crawl. Get festive and make some holiday friends at participating Polk Street bars including McTeagues, Lush Lounge, El Lopo, Vertigo and Playland.  

Dates: Dec 14, 4–10pm

1015 Folsom
Photograph: Flickr/pilar woodman

Latke Ball 2019

Give Hannukah a little much needed attention this December at the Latke Ball at 1015 Folsom. Dance the night away on three floors to the stylings of DJ ICEMAN in celebration of the Bay Area’s Jewish community. Dress snazzy for a night of fun and a latke buffet with all the fixings.

Dates: Dec 24, 9pm-2am

Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Symphony, a Halloween Event in San Francisco
Photograph: Lynn Friedman/Flickr

Merry-Achi Christmas

Civic Center

Jose Hernandez and his incomparable Mariachi Sol de Mexico take over Davies Symphony Hall on December 8 for a unique, musical holiday tribute. This multi-cultural celebration features holiday favorites from both sides of the border in a bright, bold concert the whole family will love.

December 8 at 8pm, $35-160

Photograph: Garrett Gooch, Courtesy Oasis

Alaska: A Very Lilith Fair Christmas


Drag queen Alaska, international siren of stage and screen, will join forces with her sidekick Handsome Jeremy for an annual holiday romp. These year, cheer on the intrepid pair as they navigate unshaven body hair and heartfelt folk rock at a Christmas show full of Lilith Fair-worthy feminine energy.

Dates: Dec 6 & 7 at 7pm

A Christmas Carol at ACT
Photograph: Kevin Berne
Theater, Drama

A Christmas Carol

For almost half a century, the American Conservatory Theater has delighted audiences of all ages with the Dicken’s classic, A Christmas Carol. Join Ebenezer Scrooge on his journey through time in Victorian England and rediscover the true meaning of the holiday season.

Dates: Nov 29–Dec 24 

Dolores Park
Photograph: David Sawyer

Unsilent Night

This unique SF tradition takes caroling to the next level in a mobile sound sculpture parading through town. The magic starts when revelers, who have download select holiday music tracks in advance, all hit play on their devices simultaneously to create an ethereal, electronic soundscape designed by artist Phil Kline. Join in the parade or watch and listen from Dolores Park where the music starts at 7:30pm.

Dates: Dec 14 at 7:30pm

More festive things to do in SF