5 Fun Holiday Things To Do In San Francisco

Museum Hack
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San Francisco may not offer traditional holiday weather, but this amazing city is bursting with holiday cheer. Here are five fun holiday things you can do to get your festive spirit on this year.

Dust Off Your Ice Skates

If you’re one of the many California transplants who grew up in those parts of the country that actually have winter, here’s your chance to show off some of those seasonal skills that the rest of us never gained.

Though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pack a snowball or build the perfect snowman on the streets of San Francisco anytime soon, ice skating rinks abound.

The Union Square ice skating rink is a San Francisco holiday staple.

The Union Square rink is one of our favorites, offering the chance to bask in the glow of green energy! The city’s official Christmas Tree towers above you, and was recently revamped to use a reusable tree and LED lights, allowing 10,000 more light bulbs at one-third the previous energy cost.

At the Embarcadero rink, you’ll have the chance to skate with progressive vigor, knowing that the plaza where the rink is located was recently renamed. The City Board of Directors unanimously voted to end the commemoration of Justin Herman, who was head of an urban development program in the 1970s that systemically decimated San Francisco’s African American population.

The newest addition to the SF ice skating family is a mini-rink in the east garden at the California Academy of Sciences. There, you can rest assured that your ticket price will go to support the 200+ scientists whose work is sustained by the Cal Academy. Skating for science! What could be better? I’ll tell you! Drag Queens on Ice. Once a year some of San Francisco’s finest, fiercest Queens get dolled up and skate out onto the ice at the Union Square rink to lip-synch to holiday tunes.

Gingerbread Wars

Each year, the pastry chefs at two famous hotels in San Francisco vie for the title of “Most Impressive Edible Edifice.”

This year, the Westin St. Francis has a rotating 12-ft “Enchanted Castle” complete with a working train and tiny details, like tiny gingerbread trees and miniature elves climbing up the exterior. Β 

The team at the Fairmont Hotel on Union Square built a mouthwatering mansion out of gingerbread that will put even your most ambitious tabletop version to shame. This year’s enormous Gingerbread House stands more than 25 feet high, is 35 feet wide and 10 features more than 10,250 homemade gingerbread bricks, 1,650 pounds of candy and 3,300 pounds of royal icing.

Beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving each year, you can pay homage to these engineering and culinary marvels by simply walking through the hotels’ front door.

There’s a Nutcracker For Everyone

San Francisco has a Nutcracker performance for every taste.

If the traditional Nutcracker is your favorite, San Francisco’s got you covered. | Photo via Thomas Hawk

Want to see the classic ballet, performed by world-class dancers? Check out the San Francisco Ballet‘s version. Prefer to stick to a musical rendition? The San Francisco Symphony usually has you covered. Do you prefer cute, tiny sugar plum fairies in training? Several of the local dance schools have more low-key performances. The SF Lesbian / Gay Freedom Band offers a special annual treat: their Dance-Along Nutcracker shows take this traditional story and set it in a new location each year. The last one we went to see was “The Nutcracker: Hawaiian Holiday.” Those pineapple hats and dancing flamingos may not have had as much poise as the professionals, but were entirely festive in their own, unique way.

Experience The Magic of Charles Dickens’ Christmas

Each year the Cow Palace in nearby Daly City is overtaken by an enormous Charles Dickens-inspired Victorian dreamscape. Meet over 750 characters from the world of Pip and Ebenezer Scrooge, from chimney sweeps to wealthy dandies. Visitors are encouraged to come in period garb well, as they wander throughout 120,000-sqft of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. And attendees really get into it! Don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a hearty British-accented “Good Day, Sir.”

(By the way, did you know Charles Dickens is the real Father Christmas?)

Take A Christmas Card Photo Shoot

San Francisco’s natural beauty will make your Christmas cards the envy of your neighborhood.

Sure, coastal California may not offer that classic winter wonderland backdrop for this year’s family Christmas card, but we do have some pretty spectacular scenery to choose from. There’s no need for a fancy camera or those advanced Photoshop skills when you’ve got so much real natural beauty to pose in front of. Besides, what would your friends and family at home love more than a little postal humblebrag about the shores you’ve washed up on?

BY: CASEY SELDEN, TOUR GUIDE AT MUSEUM HACKΒ 

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