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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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