Celebrating the holidays in the San Francisco Bay Area can be done on the cheap, and even for free. Concerts, festivals, a Santa-themed pub crawl and arts-and-crafts-making sessions are among the fun and free offerings; all you have to do is show up. You can also freely tour the many spectacular trees, buildings and boats that are lit up around town; just follow our guide to San Francisco's best holiday light displays.
Besides live music, each weekend features a different activity, such as making glass ornaments, singing carols and taking pictures with Santa. Fourth Street between Hearst and Virginia is a hub of gourmet food, cosmetics, jewelry, apparel, chocolate, kitchenware, interior decor, gardening and stationery shops.
Activities happen across from Peet’s, 1776 Fourth St., Berkeley.
Dec. 7, at 3-7 pm
Ponies, a horse-drawn carriage and costumed characters cruise the main drag of Cow Hollow, whose Victorians are decked in lights. For kids, there are balloon toys, cupcake decorating and photos with Santa,
On Union Street between Van Ness and Steiner, San Francisco.
Formerly called "Bazaar Bizarre," this show has more than 200 indie artists, designers and craftspeople offering their ceramics, bags, bath products, toys, clothing, hats, gourmet sweets and other wares. Plus DIY demos and workshops on screen-printing, animation and ornaments, DJ music and a photo booth.
At Concourse Exhibition Center, East Hall, 620 Seventh St., San Francisco 94103.
Play in the snow and meet the Snow Queen. Arts & crafts making activities, pony rides, holiday vendors and refreshments.
At 1673 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley 94709.
Make holiday cards for everyone on your list.
At Park Branch Library, 1833 Page St., San Francisco.
A pillar of peace, love, and humanity, the tree has thousands of origami paper cranes bearing wishes from around the world, from the likes of President Obama and Courtney Cox to anonymous schoolkids. If you fold 1,000 cranes, Japanese legend says, you're granted a wish. The tree-lighting celebration features emcee Donna Sachet, Mayor Ed Lee, the Consul General of Japan, author Anne Lamott, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and music by the San Francisco Boys Chorus, Veronica Klaus and Josh Klipp .
At the Rotunda, San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.
Dec. 11, at 6-8:30 pm
Music by the Bernal Jazz Quartet, holiday craft-making and a cookie contest (with judges) and recipe swap.
At Bernal Heights Branch Library, 500 Cortland Ave., San Francisco.
Dec. 13, at 5:30 pm
More than 60 boats decked out with lights and holiday decorations parade along the waterfront.
Boats start off of Pier 39, go west past Fisherman's Wharf and Fort Mason, turn around at Crissy Field and head back, San Francisco.
Dress up as Santa (or as a creative interpretation of him or as one of his sidekicks, such as an elf or reindeer) to join this mass pub-crawl through the city. Be prepared to sing warped versions of Christmas carols, drink and act responsibly and civilly and belt out “Ho, ho, ho!” .
Starting location and route details are to be posted Dec. 11 on the SantaCon site; in San Francisco.
Dec. 14, at 2-4 pm
Mexico celebrates the Virgin, its most important cultural icon, in early December every year. Here, the Danza Azteca Teokalli performs, and San Francisco poet laureate Alejandro Murgía tells the story of the Virgin, reads poetry and signs his latest book.
At the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco.