23 Happenings to Get into the Holiday Spirit (Because We Could All Use Some Extra Cheer)
The holiday season means traditions old and new, and San Francisco’s got no shortage of awesome things to do to get you into the holiday spirit, from classic ballets and family fun in the snow to Christmas-themed cocktails and wreath-making workshops with friends. We’ve rounded up 23 happenings you can’t miss this season. Trust us, they’re worth clearing your schedule for.
1. Take a break from holiday shopping and take a spin around Union Square’s ice rink, which has primo views of the big Christmas tree and Macy’s beautifully wreathed windows.
2. Haven’t started shopping yet? No problem. Check everyone off your list at this year’s SFMade Holiday Fair on December 15, where you’ll find locally made gifts—including jewelry, gourmet goodies and toys for kids—from more than 60 vendors.
3. Bake up your aunt’s famous snickerdoodles and join The Civic Kitchen’s cookie swap on December 15. Taste cookies, get baking tips and sip warm apple cider while you listen in on the live recording of a cooking podcast hosted by Salt + Spine.
4. Make room for SoMa StrEat Food Park’s seventh annual all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast this Sunday (December 15), where you’ll gorge on crab legs, garlic noodles and more.
5. Slough off any holiday stress with a facial or massage at Casa Madrona’s tranquil spa and leave feeling Zen. Take advantage of the “Holiday Happy Hour” (Monday to Friday, 3 to 6 p.m.) through the end of December, when you get to pick two 30-minute mini treatments, like a frosted birch back massage, and a glass of bubbly for $190.
6. Get in the spirit with a wreath-making class at Workshop SF (December 13, 15, 17 and 18) and take home your very own DIY wreath to decorate your door.
7. Take your holiday sweets to the next level this year and build your own mid-century modern gingerbread house at one of Prairie’s festive workshops (through December 21). House-made eggnog and gingerbread cake will help fuel your creativity.
8. Bring the whole family to Civic Center’s Winter Park and skate against the stunning backdrop of City Hall or try your hand at curling during weekly Sunday lessons.
9. Toast the holidays with one (or two, or three) of Top of the Mark’s 12 Cocktails of Christmas. Each drink is a creative spin on the classic song—from Eight Maids A-Milking (spiced rum, gingerbread syrup, hazelnut liqueur and eggnog) to Four Calling Birds (vodka, coffee liqueur, peppermint cordial, peppermint sugar and cream) to A Partridge in a Pear Tree (vodka, pear purée, lemon and Champagne).
10. Stroll down Thompson Avenue (aka Christmas Tree Lane) in Alameda to see all the houses decked out in holiday displays, ranging from lights timed to classic Christmas songs to homemade wooden cutouts of characters like the Grinch.
11. For a twist on Christmas lights, get tickets to Night Bloom, an epic light display illuminating the Conservatory of Flowers this season. Top off the night with a tumbler of whiskey at the inflatable dome called Bloom Lounge.
12. Make a trip to Tahoe this season for good old-fashioned family fun. The Resort at Squaw Creek offers holiday crafting, broomball in the ice rink, snow fort building and sled races. You can’t help but get into the spirit.
13. Nothing says “treat yourself” like a flight of caviar with blini and bubbly at Sausalito’s Bump Bar. Reserve your spot now…before everyone else does.
14. No need to hop on a plane for this traditional European-style market. Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar is right here at home, promising Christmas trees, light displays, unique gifts, mulled wine and food trucks.
15. Miracle’s Christmas-themed pop-up bar, promising over-the-top holiday decor and a snow machine, is back at Pacific Cocktail Haven through January 4. Sneak out of work early (the bar usually fills up by 3:30 p.m.) and indulge in a Chrismapolitan or Jingle Bowl with friends.
16. Here’s a fun way to give back this season: Bring an unwrapped gift to 25 Lusk’s immersive holiday experience Naughty or Nice. Lounge with Rudolph on the rooftop’s chimney scene while you sip a Sleigh Ride cocktail and nosh on popovers with maple and chestnut butter. Gifts and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Toys for Tots.
18. Searching for the perfect gift for the sweets-obsessed person in your life? Pick up Salt & Straw’s holiday pint pack with its five seasonal flavors (including peppermint cocoa and gingerbread cookie dough), plus a signed copy of Tyler Malek’s cookbook, and you’ll be the holiday MVP.
19. 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 are offering free admission on December 25.
20. Go big and give yourself the royal treatment this New Year’s with Kimpton Sir Francis Drake’s “Live Like a Queen” package, where you’ll be pampered like your favorite characters from The Crown. Then party like nobility at Queen Lizzie’s New Year’s Eve Ball, where you’ll indulge in caviar, lobster fritters and gold-leaf cheesecake.
21. Need something fun to do on New Year’s Day? Get your cuteness fix at Macy’s holiday windows (through January 1), where you can watch the most adorable puppies and kitties from the SF SPCA…and maybe even take one home with you.
22. ’Tis the season for science at Cal Academy’s winter wonderland (through January 5), where you can learn about the plants and animals of the Arctic and Antarctic in a hands-on polar-themed exhibit, meet two antlered reindeer and experience indoor “snow flurries.”
23. Brunch is always better with bubbly, which is exactly why The Riddler is now serving midday Belgian waffles and yogurt parfaits alongside flutes of sparkling wine.