12 Must-Do San Francisco Holiday Events

Ok, guys, Thanksgiving is officially over, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop my holiday cheer. Finally, I can whistle Christmas carols without getting odd looks on the bus, and my pine-scented candle is burning brightly as I write this. Maybe it’s my snow-bound Minnesota roots, but I absolutely love the holidays and everything that they entail. After several years celebrating the holidays away from the Midwest, I’ve created my list of 12 days of San Francisco holiday events. Try one, or if you’re feeling extra jolly, try them all!

San Francisco holiday events, Bay Area holiday events, San Francisco Christmas events, Hyatt Regency Embarcardero

12. The Hyatt Regency Embarcadero Center boasts one of the most gorgeous light displays I’ve ever seen. Order up a spiked apple cider or hot toddy (half price during happy hour!) and check out the adorable holiday village in the center of the atrium.

11. To continue the hot holiday drink theme, Vesuvio in North Beach makes one of the most delicious hot toddys I’ve ever tried. I love to walk down Pacific Avenue in Jackson Square to see all the beautiful lights and then stop at Vesuvio before dinner in North Beach. Be careful with those toddys, though- they’re stronger than they taste!

Macy's Union Square holiday, Union Square Christmas tree, San Francisco holiday events, Bay Area holiday events, San Francisco Christmas events

10. Even if you couldn’t make the tree lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving, the giant tree in Union Square is definitely worth a trip. See it up close in the square, then push yourself to hike up to Top of the Mark for a warm drink. Depending on where you sit, you can see the lights down in the square from your perch up high!

9. To pick up a tree of your own, check out the Guardsmen Tree Lot in Fort Mason. Perched over the water, the giant tree lot smells like pure holiday happiness, and The Guardsmen donate proceeds to local organizations that benefit at-risk youth.

8. Even though giving back to the community is important all year round, the holidays are a perfect excuse to start a food drive with friends or your workplace. Check out SF Food Bank for more information on how to get started.

Embarcardero ice skating rink, San Francisco holiday events, Bay Area holiday events, San Francisco Christmas events

7. Even though they’re not exclusive to the holidays, the Bay Bridge lights are especially dazzling in the winter light. Go ice skating at the Embarcadero rink, then head towards the bay for a beautiful evening display.

6. Since before I was born, many Marina neighborhood boat-owners deck out their sails in splendid holiday lights. Start walking towards the bay from the Palace of Fine Arts, and head east along the water to enjoy the nautical holiday glory. Many residents along Marina Boulevard put up festive displays inside their windows as well, so you can enjoy a 360-degree holiday cheer experience.

Dickens Fair, Christmas Dickens Fair, San Francisco holiday events, Bay Area holiday events, San Francisco Christmas events

5. We all know how much I love A Christmas Carol, so naturally anything Dickens-themed will strike my fancy. Go to the Dickens Christmas Fair for costumes, period-themed food and beverages, and a generally jolly good time.

4. I’ve been waiting all my life for a good craft fair pun, and the folks who run the Bazaar Bizarre holiday fair (“Not your granny’s craft fair”) take the cake. The giant fair boasts goods from local designers and craftspeople, and it’s impossible to walk away empty-handed. The Chime necklace that I wear in many of my outfit posts came from last year’s fair- props again for a good find, husband! I usually do most of my holiday shopping here- woohoo local businesses!

3. If you’re going the store-bought route for holiday gifts, turn shopping into a fun day trip instead of a chore. The 10th Annual Fillmore Holiday Stroll in Pacific Heights turns shopping into happy hour, and proceeds from the event benefit Women’s Community Clinic. Post-Fillmore, walk a few bl0cks west to Divisadero and take the 24 bus south to 24th Street in Noe Valley. Slightly more low-key than the Fillmore scene, Noe Valley is chock-full of unique boutiques and foodie-friendly stores. If you have the energy, wait until dusk and walk up Castro Street to the top of the hill to see one of the most fantastically decorated houses in the city.

Fairmont San Francisco holiday, Fairmont San Francisco Christmas, San Francisco holiday events, Bay Area holiday events, San Francisco Christmas events

2. If you’re the type who likes the holidays served with a decent side dish of corniness, the Classic Cable Car Holiday Light Tour (50% off on LivingSocial) is not to be missed. Sure, it may be a bus dressed up to look like a cable car, and your husband may glare at you for a portion of the trip, but listening to carols while peeking at beautiful residential light displays is pretty fantastic. If you do the Union Square start location, the “cable car” stops at the Fairmont Hotel.

1. And speaking of the Fairmont, it’s hard to pick a winner for the most amazing holiday display, but this hotel is a top contender. With a 22-foot-high gingerbread house and thousands of twinkling lights, it’s always worth a stop.

Even though there are dozens more of fun holiday activities in the Bay Area, these twelve are my must-do every season. Did I miss any of your favorites? Will I see any of you guys at the places mentioned above? Let me know!

Images (top to bottom) : Judy Bayliff, California Beat, NBC Bay Area, Medieval Faires, Travel Zoo.

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Return to Wine Country

Napa Valley, Wine Country, Napa weekend, harvest in Napa, fall napa style

When I lived in the Midwest, October meant woodsmoke, riding boots, and busting out every layer of wool in your closet. In San Francisco, October is pretty much exactly like July (or January. Or April. Or December). But in Wine Country, October means harvest.

My friends Liz, Zack, and I made the mini-trek up to Napa recently, and the blazing sun was a welcome change from our fall fog and chill. The ever-fantastic Allyson showed us around her winery, letting us peek into the metal fermentation chambers and sample wines in the middle of their development. It still amazes me how far the two of us have come from drinking wine that came in jugs back in college (although to be fair, Allyson’s always had better taste).

And before you say it, no- we didn’t match our outfits intentionally. There was definitely a moment of laughter when I gathered everyone for a picture and realized that we were all dressed exclusively in shades of orange and black. Hey, if you can’t have fall colors around you, you might as well wear them.

Napa Valley, Wine Country, Napa weekend, harvest in Napa, fall napa style

Napa Valley, Wine Country, Napa weekend, harvest in Napa, fall napa style

Napa Valley, Wine Country, Napa weekend, harvest in Napa, fall napa style

Groth Winery, Groth Napa, Groth Oakville, Groth wines

  Napa Valley, Wine Country, wine grapes, Napa grape

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Wear/Where : Black Maxi Skirt & Stripes in Jack London Square

       Heinold's Oakland, Jack London Bar, Jack London Square bar, best bar in Jack London Square

Heinold's Oakland, Jack London Bar, Jack London Square bar, best bar in Jack London Square

I could go on (ok, I have gone on) for hours about all the different things I love about living in the Bay Area. From the mouthwatering vegetarian options to sweeping bridge views, it’s a pretty fantastic place to plant your feet. But what makes this area truly feel like home are the people within it.

When Jim and I moved here three years ago from Chicago, I had a few friends scattered across various bridges and one cousin who I hadn’t seen since I graduated high school. Since then, our network has blossomed and relationships have deepened with two aunts, a multitude of cousins, and one hell of a support network of friends. Jim’s cousin and his wife moved out here a few months ago, and seeing them every week reminds me of that rare breed of people who you love hanging out with who also happen to be related to you. It’s definitely not something to take for granted.

Jim and I grabbed these shots earlier this summer when exploring Jack London square with two of the aforementioned cousins. They’ve made Oakland their home, and even as newcomers they’ve been schooling us on all the amazing things to do in the east bay. We spend the day in Jack London Square, hitting up Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, where the bar is slanted and fake spiders drop from the ceiling (I know, but it was worth it). The beer was cold and local, the bartenders were hilarious, and after an hour it truly felt like the place where everyone knows your name.

Oh, and please tell me what you think about my new name for outfit/place posts! I like to write about what I wear and where I wear it to (wow, that was a lot of wear/wheres), hence the “Wear/Where” title. The description should make the posts easier to find if you’re looking for something in particular, so let me know what you think!

black maxi skirt, maxi skirt style, grey and black style, maxi skirt with sweater 

Heinold's Oakland, Jack London Bar, Jack London Square bar, best bar in Jack London Square

Heinold's Oakland, Jack London Bar, Jack London Square bar, best bar in Jack London Square

Heinold's Oakland, Jack London Bar, Jack London Square bar, best bar in Jack London Square

Jack London Square

Heinold's Oakland, Jack London Bar, Jack London Square bar, best bar in Jack London Square

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