How to Celebrate Christmas in San Francisco

December 6, 2023

Christmas in San Francisco brings joy and magic around every corner of the city. From dazzling light shows illuminating historic landmarks, to musical performances filling the air throughout the streets, the city truly transforms into a winter wonderland. Visitors and locals alike can immerse themselves in the festive spirit all month long, taking in dazzling lights adorning City Hall one night, then sipping cocoa in Golden Gate Park before catching a lively Christmas concert down by the waterfront the next.

Every neighborhood hosts its own traditions and events. In North Beach, stroll through Christmas villages representing global cultures. Along Fisherman’s Wharf, giant trees shine brightly over the bay as carolers fill the air with song. Don’t miss the parade down Market Street or skating under the colored bulbs in Union Square. Wherever your journey leads this season, San Francisco promises holiday magic around every corner. Just be sure to look up—the decorations even extend high above the city streets!

Catch San Francisco Ballet’s The Nutcracker 2023

When: December 13–30, 2023 

Where: War Memorial Opera House

Experience the magic as the San Francisco Ballet performs beloved choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s production of The Nutcracker. Accompanied by the lively score of Tchaikovsky, over 150 dancers will delight audiences of all ages with sparkling sets and costumes. Guests can get swept up in the festive holiday spirit by witnessing Clara’s journey from the Christmas tree to the Land of Sweets. Be sure to book tickets soon for a chance to see this dazzling production come to life on stage.

See A Christmas Carol at the American Conservatory Theater

When: December 6–24, 2023
Where: Toni Rembe Theater

Featuring a lively cast, delightful music and gorgeous costumes, A.C.T.’s favorite holiday tradition returns to the stage. Adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff, this version stays true to Dickens’ heartwarming story of redemption. Audiences of all ages are sure to be enchanted by the ghosts and spooky adventures as Tiny Tim’s unforgettable message rings throughout the theater. This long-running production has become a cherished part of the season for many in the Bay Area. Be swept up in the festive spirit on your final chance to see this enchanting version before a new telling arrives next year. Book your tickets soon for an entertaining and uplifting evening you won’t want to miss.

Celebrate with The San Francisco Symphony

Discover the heart of San Francisco through the captivating performances of the Symphony. Established in 1886 by German immigrant Otto G. Klemperer, the San Francisco Symphony stands as one of America’s oldest orchestras.

Each holiday season, the Symphony hosts an array of spectacular shows, offering locals and visitors a delightful way to embrace Christmas in San Francisco. With a blend of classical melodies and beloved holiday tunes, the festive atmosphere is palpable and enjoyable. Don’t miss these upcoming performances at the renowned Davies Symphony Hall:

●  The Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert – December 1 | Conducted by Sarah Hicks, experience the San Francisco Symphony’s live musical interpretation of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, synchronized with a projected film screening.

●  Deck The Hall – December 3 | A family holiday tradition with two performances, featuring a range of musical acts, choirs, and a holiday singalong.

●  Cirque Nutcracker – December 5–6 | Troupe Vertigo joins the Symphony for a family-friendly performance with acrobats, jugglers, and aerialists.

●  Handel’s Messiah – December 8–9 | Conducted by Jonathan Cohen, this performance features the Symphony and Chorus in a meditation on Christ’s life.

●  SF Symphony Youth Orchestra: Peter And The Wolf – December 10 | Featuring Tom Kenny as narrator, the program includes selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

 A Merry-Achi Christmas – December 10 | Mariachi Sol de México® de José Hernández performs a festive musical tribute to Mexico’s Christmas traditions.

●  The Colors of Christmas – December 13–14 | Features vocalists Oleta Adams, Peabo Bryson, Jennifer Holliday, and Ruben Studdard with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

 Holiday Gaiety – December 15 | An adult-themed holiday variety show co-emceed by Edwin Outwater and Peaches Christ.

●  Love Actually in Concert – December 16 | A special 20th-anniversary presentation of Love Actually with music by Craig Armstrong.

 Holiday Brass – December 20 | A mix of classical and popular holiday favorites performed by the Symphony’s brass, percussion, and timpani sections.

Watch San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Spectacular

Celebrate the holiday season in San Francisco with the iconic San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at their highly anticipated Holiday Spectacular. This annual event has become a beloved tradition in the Bay Area and promises a celebration of Christmas filled with song, dance, and boundless joy!

Catch the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ enchanting performances at various dates and venues throughout December:

● Sydney Goldstein Theater in San Francisco on Friday, December 2 at 2pm and Saturday, December 3 at 3:30pm and 8pm

● Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Sunday, December 11 at 7pm

● Green Music Center in Rohnert Park on Saturday, December 17 at 5pm

● Castro Theatre on Saturday, December 24 at 5pm, 7pm, and 9pm

Visit their official website to secure your tickets and learn more about these magical Christmas events in San Francisco. 

Go Ice Skating at Union Square

Head down to Union Square and check out the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink for some wintertime fun. Glide along the ice under sparkling lights as classic Christmas tunes play. The rink is open daily now through mid-January so you’ve got plenty of chances to practice your spins and jumps. General admission starts at just $15 for kids, so it’s easy to spend an afternoon taking laps. Be sure to check out their special Skate with Drag Queens event on December 7th too – it’s a lively show not to be missed as San Francisco’s best queens take to the ice in full costume. Whether you want to skate or just watch the entertainment, it’s a festive experience for all. The rink is also the perfect place to warm up with some hot cocoa afterwards. Head to Union Square soon and immerse yourself in the magic of the season.  


Where to see Christmas Lights in San Francisco

San Francisco is aglow with festive cheer this holiday season. As December unfolds, the city transforms into a dazzling winter wonderland, offering a plethora of enchanting experiences for both visitors and locals. Embrace the magic of the holidays by exploring the following Christmas tree lighting and holiday light displays across the city:

● Pier 39 Christmas Tree: Check out the nightly 60-foot Pier 39 Christmas Tree light show, happening from 5 pm to 10 pm.

● Fisherman’s Wharf Sign: Grab a holiday photo against the lit-up Fisherman’s Wharf sign.

● Let’s Glow SF 2023: Catch the holiday projections at downtown spots like the Ferry Building, Hobart Building, and Salesforce Tower from December 1 to 10.

● Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis: See the Westin St. Francis’ sugar castle and AR experience from November 22 to January 2, 2024.

● Macy’s Holiday Windows: Peek at Macy’s Union Square holiday window displays, running until the year’s end.

● Market Street Lights: Enjoy the holiday lights along Market Street, starting in mid-November.

● Gingerbread House at the Fairmont: Spot the Fairmont’s two-story Gingerbread House from Thanksgiving Weekend to the first of the year.

● Lighted Boat Parade: Catch the boat parade with holiday decorations along the SF waterfront on December 16.

● Parol Lantern Festival and Parade: Join the Filipino-American holiday tradition on December 10, featuring star-shaped lanterns.

● Outside Lights at City Hall: See SF City Hall lit in red and green lights all December, with outdoor ice skating in a Winter Wonderland.

● World Tree of Hope at Grace Cathedral: View the world’s largest origami-decorated Christmas tree at Grace Cathedral from December 4 to early January 2024, symbolizing hope and unity.


Looking for the perfect base to explore the magic of Christmas in San Francisco? Look no further than Cornell Hotel de France. Located in the prestigious Nob Hill neighborhood just steps from Union Square, this charming hotel blends vintage European style with modern comforts for the ultimate romantic getaway.

Guests will feel transported to Paris of the 1920s thanks to individually decorated rooms paying homage to famous French artists. Sip coffee each morning in the cozy lobby or relax after a day of sightseeing in the plush queen beds. Complimentary wifi and a delicious breakfast buffet fuel you to experience all the holiday festivities the city has to offer. Stroll through dazzling light displays downtown then return each evening for a peaceful rest in the belle époque surroundings.

Conveniently situated near public transit, you’ll have easy access to Christmas markets, live music performances and other seasonal events. The boutiques and restaurants of Nob Hill are also on your doorstep. Give that special someone an unforgettable holiday staying at this one-of-a-kind property rich with history and Old World charm. Book your stay at Cornell Hotel de France today for comfort and location this Christmas in San Francisco.