I have written about Paris for the holidays an place I’d love to be this holiday season, but what about my own backyard? San Francisco for the holidays is a wonderful time to visit. And despite the fact that I won’t be here this Christmas, I have had lovely times here in the past.
Given that I work in the city, I thought I might share some of the things you can do in San Francisco for Christmas, just in case you are coming to visit. These are some of the things that I enjoy or know to be a great way to see the city during this particular time of year.
What to see and do
Since they light the tree in Union Square right after Thanksgiving, it is not likely you will catch that, but you should not miss a night-time visit to this part of the city. Every year Macy’s donates a massive tree as a gift to San Francisco which nearly takes over the square, it is beautifully decorated with lights and ornaments, truly gorgeous! In addition there is an outdoor skating rink right next to the tree – great for watching or participating.
Union Square is not the only part of the city lit up for the season. Many historical landmarks and tourist spots such as Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf also have trees, as well as many hotels and shopping centers. You can trace the city itself when they start outlining the major skyscrapers downtown – I personally love seeing that as I drive into the city in the morning and leaving the city at night during this time of year (got to
love hate daylight savings time…).
San Francisco has a Christmas parade every year that actually happens on the water at Fisherman’s Wharf. This year it is December 16th. If you miss it you can still enjoy fleet at night which is lit each evening.
A tradition for many is the annual performance of the Nutcracker at the San Francisco Ballet. But for a bit more non-traditional fun there is the The Golden Girls Gone Drag (For Christmas) that takes place every year at the historic Victoria Theater, the oldest operating theater in the city. Or you can see the Christmas version of the infamous San Francisco classic Beach Blanket Babylon.
There are plenty of things open on Christmas Day and you can do things such as:
- Visit Pier 39
- Visit Alcatraz (yes, on Christmas Day!)
- See a show. There are many, many shows that are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
- See the animals at the San Francisco Zoo unwrap their presents!
- Go to the movies, something I always love to do!
Now for my favorite part..food!
Dungeness crab season is usually in full swing in December and it is my favorite food to eat this time of year! You could buy it at Fisherman’s Wharf, but you might pay a little “tourist tax,” the best places to buy it are Chinatown and Clement Street (between 4th and 10th). If you don’t want to deal with the mess, many restaurants serve during the season.
One of my favorite ways to eat the crab is in the San Francisco classic, cioppino. Cioppino is a fish stew with a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. And there is no place better to eat it than the oldest restaurant in the city, Tadich Grill.
Now my favorite thing to eat on Christmas Day (and New Year’s Day too!) is dim sum. And my preferred dim sum spot, Yank Sing, does an amazing Christmas Day dim sum feast (tip: they are open one hour earlier – at 9AM on holidays). Other places to eat include dozens of restaurants in Chinatown; Fisherman’s Wharf , as well as another local favorite, pho at Turtle Tower.
You’ve got food. You’ve got shopping. And you have plenty of things to do. All things to make a holiday spent in San Francisco a wonderful experience!
How about you? Have a San Francisco holiday tip?