Everything to Do in San Francisco This Winter (Including All the Holiday Cheer You Can Handle)

Winter is a magical time of year, whether there’s snow on the ground or not. From shopping for handcrafted gifts and having high tea at a fancy hotel to checking out a (non-holiday) light show and warming up by the fireplace at Acacia House, there’s a lot of holiday cheer to be had. That’s why we’ve rounded up all the things you’ll want to add to your end-of-year (and beginning-of-2018) bucket list.

RELATED: 6 Stylish New Hotels for All of Your Out-of-Town Guests (or a Luxe Staycation for You)

Mark Morris Dance Group/Facebook

1. Having your niece in town is the perfect excuse to attend the SF Ballet’s annual Nutcracker performance (through December 30). Or if you like your holiday traditions a bit edgier, get tickets to the Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut (December 15 to 24) instead.

2. Sneak out of work early today (December 14) to do some holiday shopping at the SF Etsy Artisan Pop-Up Market. Then head over to Arlequin Wine Merchant for a festive Champagne tasting. ’Tis the season for bubbly, right?

3. While most of the city’s gift fairs have already come and gone, the procrastinators among us will appreciate these last-minute shopping markets: the SFMade Holiday Gift Fair (December 17) with goods from more than 70 SF-based makers, plus wreaths from Urban Farmgirls, and Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair (December 16, 17, 23 and 24), featuring fine art and affordable gifts, plus free gift wrapping and shipping. 

Fairmont Hotel

4. What would the holidays be without high tea at a fancy hotel? Once again, the Fairmont is hosting its storied Gingerbread Tea (through January 1), where you can marvel at the two-story, life-size gingerbread house in the lobby while sipping a cup of Earl Grey (and maybe a mimosa). Your problem about what to do with Grandma? Solved.

5. Peep all of the puppies and kitties showing off their cuteness in Macy’s holiday windows through January 1. More than 8,500 cats and dogs have been adopted through this San Francisco SPCA program. Bring your sig-o for a big hint about what’s at the top of your Christmas list.

6. Take a break from holiday shopping to stuff your face with food from Off the Grid, which has returned to Winter Walk on Stockton Street just off Union Square through December 31.

SF Travel

7. Holiday lights may reign supreme this time of year, but there’s another light show in town that’s a cut above the rest. Illuminate SF’s fifth annual Festival of Light celebrates the city’s many light-art installations with a series of three specially guided tours (Thursday nights in December).

8. Reserve your seat for a meal to remember at Acacia House’s Feast of the Seven Cultures (December 18 to 24) at Las Alcobas Napa Valley. Chris Cosentino has lined up an all-star roster of guest chefs, who will each cook up a one-night-only tasting menu based on the country they represent.

9. Winter wouldn’t be complete without ice skating, even if SF is lacking in brisk, snowy weather. Lucky for you, there are three rinks to choose from: Embarcadero Center (through January 7); Cal Academy’s ice rink, which is part of its ’Tis the Season for Science festivities that include indoor snow flurries (both through January 7); and Union Square (through January 15).

The Snug

10. After a few spins around the rink, warm up with an old-fashioned at new Pac Heights bar The Snug.

11. For everyone out there who doesn’t celebrate Christmas (and anyone looking to escape their family for a few hours), the Contemporary Jewish Museum and SF Botanical Garden offer free admission on December 25.

12. Margaux, the brand known for its made-to-measure ballet flats, is popping up in San Francisco for the winter (at 2053 Fillmore St. through April) with four new styles.

Museum of Ice Cream / Facebook

13. The Museum of Ice Cream extended its SF run through February, but even that sold out in record time. If you’re not one of the lucky ones who snagged tickets and you’re willing to shell out beaucoup bucks, try this trick: Reserve a private tour. It comes out to about $200 per person, but you’ll have the whole place to yourselves.

14. Kick off the New Year by purchasing some artwork during San Francisco Art Week. Two contemporary art fairs (read: not boring) to check out: Untitled, San Francisco (January 12 to 14) at the Palace of Fine Arts, which has been transformed by local firm Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects, and the high-profile Fog Design+Art (January 11 to 14) at the Fort Mason Center.  

15. With nearly 200 works in total from the past three centuries, “Way Bay” (January 17 to May 6) at the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive will be one of the largest exhibitions on Bay Area art in decades. Artists include Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Richard Diebenkorn, Tauba Auerbach, Jim Goldberg and Cliff Hengst—plus work by many women and artists of color.

16. If you can’t get into Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina’s International Smoke restaurant (we heard it’s booked through February), check out new Spanish tapas spot Barvale instead. Pintxos, paella and sangria? Count us in.

17. Get your indie music fix at the annual Noise Pop Festival (February 19 to 25). This year’s lineup includes Built to Spill, Geographer and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

RELATED: 5 Bay Area Restaurants You Need to Revisit Right Now