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The Best events in San Francisco To Celebrate The Holidays

While 2020 brought the city to a housing crisis and record-breaking shutdowns, the town is back again on its Christmas game. As union square lights up the Christmas tree and ice skating rink, many of the most famous holiday attractions in the city are bigger and better than ever. San Francisco's Christmas and holiday festivities are easily comparable to New York's, being very similar in its concentration of diverse cultures and similar grid-like metropolitan architecture. And, as we all know, Christmas in New York is spectacular. San Francisco, however, has its unique way of making the festivities memorable. From its ballet spectacles at the opera to life-size gingerbread houses and Dickens-inspired markets, find the perfect event for everybody in the family with the list of the best activities in the city for the holidays. 

  1. The Union Square Christmas tree, Ice Skating Rink, and Chanukah Lighting Ceremony


Union Square is the go-to destination for Christmas festivities and the quintessential holiday spirit. The grand Christmas tree plays the centerpiece in the open-air festival Union square becomes during the holidays. In its footsteps, the ice skating rink brings families from all over the city together to celebrate. At every corner of Union Square are department stores like Macy's, where one can view the beautiful window displays and get to gifting. From the 18th until the 25th of December, another wonderful holiday tradition takes place in the square, where hundreds gather to celebrate Chanukah with the lighting of the 25-foot Bill Graham Memoriam mahogany. The celebration begins at 4:45 pm, and the schedule can be found here. 

2. The Fairmont Hotel Gingerbread house and High tea    



The Fairmont hotel, located in the prestigious Nob Hill on 950 Mason street, hosts one of the most essential high teas in the city. High tea is an English tradition where Afternoon tea is served in high chairs, accompanied by a hot meal comprising meat, fish, vegetables, and different pastry choices. This high tea at the Fairmont is unique as it is hosted in a real-life gingerbread house during December festivities. The home features hundreds of pounds of gingerbread cookies, around 1,000 pounds of icing, and more than a thousand pieces of candy. An utterly edible entrance to the tea room. Inside the actual house are two tables, so make sure you book ahead. If not, there is plenty of seating in the large tea room behind it, decorated with an abundance of elegant Christmas decorations. 

3. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House

This is one of the most attended Holiday events in the city. The War Memorial Opera, located in front of city hall, hosts the Nutcracker by the San Francisco Ballet. A mesmerizing interpretation of Tchaikovsky's tale, where the Christmas sentiment is authentically displayed through the dazzling costumes, magnificent scenography, and world-famous music. It accompanies the ballets that will bring you back to your childlike innocence and warm your heart. The tickets can be purchased here and range from 30 to 600 dollars. The Opera House is decorated from top to bottom with mistletoe and holly, big red bows, and a Christmas tree in the middle of the grand hall. The Nutcracker gift shop sells beautifully crafted nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies that can be hung on the tree as Christmas decorations and displayed in your home's footsteps. 


4. The Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis

Another excellent Holiday staple takes over SF's historic luxury hotel Westin St. Francis, in Union Square. The grand hotel hosts some of the most striking Christmas decorations and its well-known Sugar Castle. The Sugar Castle is a creation by the hotel's executive pastry chef Jean François Houdrè that has been inspired to create this cake by the castles in France his kids loved to see during their many travels to Europe. Since 2005, he has made a Sugar Castle for every Christmas at the Westin. The sugar castle is a 12-foot, rotating French Chateau cake with over 20 staggering towers, illuminated windows, and thirty different rooms. With over 1,300 pounds of confectionery, it is a must-see for anyone on the SF Holiday pilgrimage.

5. Lights tour by cable car

A classic San Francisco cable car decorated with Christmas decorations and lights will take you around the city to see the most famous landmarks covered in sparkle and glow. Cable cars in San Francisco are one of the key founders of the city's transportation system, dating back to the early 1800s. With only three remaining cable lines out of the original 23, the cable car lays historical significance and has become part of the National Landmarks. Needless it is to say that when in San Francisco, a ride on a cable car is a tourist staple. So why not enjoy the tour of San Francisco from one of the most ancient forms of transportation in this city? The nostalgic ride-along will show you around most of San Francisco's public displays of Holiday thrills, and tickets can be purchased here. 


6. The Great Dickens fair

This Christmas market is hosted in the Cow Palace halls in south San Francisco, filled with pubs, artisan stands, and live events. It has been part of the SF Holiday traditions since the 1970s and is still a favorite. Its setting is 1800's Charles Dickens London, and that love for literacy and artistry is sensed throughout the fair. There are also many re-interpretations and re-enactments of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, as well as other plays from great English literature. So enjoy festive treats and nights of dancing. The fair is open until the 18th of December. 

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Tags: San Francisco Christmas Christmas lights Great Dickens Fair Westin St. Francis The Nutcracker Gingerbread House Union Square Fairmont


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