Holiday in San Francisco Bay

Heading to the San Francisco Bay area this holiday season? You won’t have any trouble finding activities fit for the family in winter. Despite the California zip code, sweater weather is in full swing, the seasonal festivities are nearly endless and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

While the weather and attractions are ideal for winter-loving families and holiday lovers, it’s still technically the off season and you can expect fewer crowds, more affordable hotel rates and an easier time exploring the City by the Bay.

Stockton Street Winter Walk

Stroll through the pop-up holiday walk along the pedestrian mall of Stockton Street Winter Walk at Union Square. Open annually to showcase local shops, fare and seasonal fun, the holiday market is open through Dec. 31, perfect for families seeking live entertainment, street fare, shops and unlimited photo ops amid beautiful holiday lights.

Outdoor Ice Skating

What would a winter getaway with the family be without at least attempting to ice skate? Explore the city’s several outdoor skating rinks and pop-up holiday villages in Union Square, alongside the perfectly located Macy’s giant Christmas tree. Book tickets in advance, or just check out the rink anytime through Jan. 21, 2019. Schedule your visit in advance for a chance to see beloved events, including Drag Queens on Ice on Dec. 6, and the Polar Bear Skate, Jan.1, 2019.

Another pop-up rink, the Embarcadero Center boasts the largest rink in the city. Located along the waterfront, guests hit the ice through Jan. 6, or check out Golden Gate Park during “Tis the Season for Science” at the California Academy of Sciences.

Another option hosting a slew of events, Winter Park at Civic Center is new this year and offers fun dance parties, donation celebrations and its own family-friendly drag queen event. The park will be open Nov. 30–Jan. 6, 2019.

Mother and daughter skating on Union Square ice rink © Lembi Buchanan |

Mother and daughter skating on Union Square ice rink © Lembi Buchanan |

Holiday Light Tours

Holiday light tours may seem like a dime a dozen these days, but the Big Bus Light Tours through San Francisco offer the rare option for parents to sit back, relax and enjoy the lights with the kids. Hop on the 90-minute ride with Open Top Holiday Lights Bus Tours through the city, available each night, Dec. 8–Jan. 5, 2019. Enjoy sing-alongs, jingle bells, complimentary chocolate souvenirs and the bright lights of downtown.

Mix it up even more with a Classic Cable Car Ride through Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, North Beach, China Tour and the Financial District — to name a few. The 90-minute ride tours through some of the top spots in the city and includes incredible views, a Santa hat and fun for all ages, through Dec. 30.

For a  limited time, guests can experience San Francisco’s festive throwback fun during the “Summer of Love” holiday lights by San Francisco Love Tours. Enjoy the festive lights and sights of the Bay Area through Dec. 30, singing along to Christmas carols, onboard a 1960s-style VW Hippie bus. The two-hour ride comes with classic city sights, including the Macy’s Christmas Tree and the holiday lights of Fisherman’s Wharf. Experience the ride with a group of six or call ahead for a bigger party. 

Dance-Along Nutcracker

Dance along with the annual fun of the Nutcracker, Dec. 8 and 9, at the Yerba Buena Gardens Center for the Arts. Expect lights, music, fun and a melding of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world and the Nutcracker, as told by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.

Reindeer Romp

Just a bit outside of town, the kids will love the San Francisco Zoo for a lot of reasons, but even more during the Reindeer Romp, Jan. 1. San Francisco Zoo & Gardens annual reindeer exhibit offers guests a chance to see reindeer, including Rudolph and friends.