Things to Do and Holiday Events to See this Christmas in San Francisco 2023
Christmas in San Francisco is a magical experience!
The city’s beautiful weather, rich history, stunning architecture and waterfront views, vibrant nightlife scene, and diverse culture make it a perfect destination for anyone looking to enjoy the holidays.
If you want a little extra holiday spirit, there are plenty of Christmas-y things to do in San Francisco, too! Catch the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House. Check out the San Francisco Symphony’s shows at the Davies Symphony Hall. Or meander through the Christmas light displays at Union Square. Whether you’re looking for an exciting adventure or if you’re looking for a nice, relaxing time, you’ll find it in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker
How to get here – 5-6 minutes from the Golden Gate Hotel
Superb dancing, stunning choreography, gorgeous sets, and Tchaikovsky’s classic scores performed by the Grammy-winning San Francisco Orchestra, don’t miss San Francisco Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker this 2023. One of the most anticipated Christmas events in San Francisco, the San Francisco Ballet was the first to perform The Nutcracker in the US in 1944. This Christmas tradition continues today. The San Francisco Ballet is the oldest ballet company in the United States, and a classic performance like this, made extra by Helgi Tomasson’s choreography and production, is a must-see when spending the holidays in San Francisco.
See it at the War Memorial Opera House in the Civic Center District from December 13 to 30, with a special show on Christmas Eve. You can get your tickets here.
The San Francisco Symphony
How to get here – 5-6 minutes from the Golden Gate Hotel
You haven’t truly experienced San Francisco until you’ve seen a performance by the San Francisco Symphony. It’s one of the oldest orchestras in America, founded in 1886 by German immigrant Otto G. Klemperer.
Each year, the Symphony puts on an amazing series of shows for the holidays, and it’s an excellent way for locals and visitors alike to celebrate Christmas in San Francisco. Their holiday shows provide a mix of classical music and holiday favorites, and the vibe is always festive and fun. Catch the following performances by San Francisco Symphony at the Davies Symphony Hall:
- The Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert – December 1 | Sarah Hicks conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, with the score performed live as the film is projected.
- Music For Families – December 2 | Details not provided.
- 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.
- Chamber Music At Davies Symphony Hall – December 17 | Details not provided.
- Holiday Brass – December 20 | A mix of classical and popular holiday favorites performed by the Symphony’s brass, percussion, and timpani sections.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live! – December 20–23 | Features Vince Guaraldi’s score, an animated backdrop, and live actors and dancers.
- Home Alone in Concert – December 22 & 23 | Features John Williams’ iconic score performed live as the film is projected.
Christmas Tree and Holiday Light Displays
How to get here – 4-minute walk from the Golden Gate Hotel
There are plenty of things to do thai Christmas in San Francisco, but a stroll along Union Square while marveling at the Christmas tree light display with over 33,000 twinkling lights and 1,100 ornaments shining brightly is a must. The area also features an ice skating rink and Christmas decorations in store windows, making it a vibrant spot for holiday shopping. Eating is also one of the best things to do in San Francisco, and these 10 amazing restaurants near Union Square are a must-try for your gastronomic adventure.
Of the many holiday events in San Francisco this season, you can always count on the Christmas trees and holiday displays to light you up. Here’s a list of everything to see:
- Pier 39 Christmas Tree: A magnificent 60-foot-tall Christmas tree at Pier 39, lit every night with a light show every half hour between 5 pm and 10 pm.
- Fisherman’s Wharf Sign: The iconic sign, decked out in festive lights, offering a perfect holiday photo backdrop.
- Let’s Glow SF 2023: A new event featuring holiday projections at various downtown locations including Ferry Building, Hobart Building, and Salesforce Tower from December 1 – 10.
- Sugar Castle at the Westin St. Francis: An elaborate sugar castle display with an augmented reality experience, on view from November 22 through January 2, 2024.
- Macy’s Holiday Windows: Elaborate window displays at Macy’s in Union Square, running through the end of the year.
- Market Street Lights: Illuminations along Market Street, starting in mid-November.
- Gingerbread House at the Fairmont: An edible two-story gingerbread house at the Fairmont in Nob Hill, on display from Thanksgiving Weekend until the first of the year.
- Lighted Boat Parade: A parade of boats with holiday decorations along the SF waterfront on December 16.
- Parol Lantern Festival and Parade: A Filipino-American holiday tradition on December 10, featuring colorful, star-shaped lanterns.
- Outside Lights at City Hall: SF City Hall adorned in red and green lights throughout December, plus a Winter Wonderland with outdoor ice skating and a skating track.
- World Tree of Hope at Grace Cathedral: The largest origami-decorated Christmas tree in the world, on display from December 4 through early January 2024.
How to get here – 5 minutes walk from the Golden Gate Hotel
“A Christmas Carol,” an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel, returns to captivate audiences at the American Conservatory Theater. This heartwarming tale follows the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, who, after being visited by three spirits, changes his ways and embraces the spirit of giving. The production, known for its lively cast, delightful music, and gorgeous costumes, is a holiday tradition in the Bay Area.
Adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff, the show runs from December 6th through December 24th at The Toni Rembe Theater. This rendition of “A Christmas Carol” has stayed true to the heart of Dickens’s timeless story for the past 2 decades, but the production is changing next year. So, catch this version and check out the new one next year!
How to get here – 15 minutes from the Golden Gate Hotel
Take a trip back to Victorian London at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair. This holiday season, the Cow Palace Exhibition Hall will transform into an incredible reenactment of the bygone era. Every inch of 140,000 square feet hall will be decked out in Victorian style with thousands of decorations and lights. Over 800 people will be in full costume as Dickens characters, so there will be plenty of opportunities to take photos with your favorite character! Stroll through the Christmas shops, skate through the ice rink, grab a beer at the pub, listen to music, and dance on the dance floor. One of the best things to do in San Francisco this holiday season, the Great Dickens Faire has been a Bay Area tradition since 1970, and it’s guaranteed to be like no other Christmas fair you’ve seen before.
The fair will run for 5 Weekends from November 18th to December 17th from 10am to 6pm. The general admission ticket for adults is $45. You can also get season tickets and other special ticket pricings. Visit their website for more information about the tickets and admission.
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ Holiday Spectacular
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is a hallmark of the Christmas season in San Francisco, and their annual Holiday Spectacular is a cherished tradition in the Bay Area. It’s a night of singing and dancing in a joyous Christmas spirit!
Watch the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ performances at the following dates and venues this 2023:
- San Francisco’s Sydney Goldstein Theater on Friday, December 2 at 2pm and Saturday, December 3 at 3:30pm and 8pm
- Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on Sunday, December 11 at 7pm
- Rohnert Park’s Green Music Center on Saturday, December 17 at 5pm
- Castro Theatre on Saturday, December 24 at 5pm, 7pm, and 9pm
For tickets and other information about this Christmas event in San Francisco, visit their website.
You won’t run out of amazing things to do this Christmas in San Francisco. Whether you’re looking for a Christmas event to lift your holiday spirit or to tick off your San Francisco Bucket List, you’re guaranteed a grand time!
Stay at the Golden Gate Hotel and be in the heart of the city! You’ll be a few minutes walk to Union Station and all of San Francisco’s best attractions. Sink into a large cozy bed and rest your achy bones after another day of fun. With a complimentary breakfast and pet-friendly policies, the hotel offers all the amenities you need to enjoy your trip for the holidays in San Francisco. Click here to book your room or call (415) 392-3702.