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Holiday Events and Activities in San Francisco

Things to Do from Thanksgiving to the New Year


During the winter holidays, San Francisco and the Bay Area are bursting with events, performances and programs for all ages-–including Christmas tree lighting celebrations, Hanukkah ceremonies, several versions of Nutcracker, ice skating and New Year’s Eve parties. Find seasonal festivities and activities in this guide, including ways to celebrate for free and to volunteer for non profit groups and good causes in the San Francisco area.

1. New Year's Eve 2013

Fireworks by Bay Bridge, San Francisco, CA
Robert Houser/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Whatever your mood or style, you'll find events to mark the changing of the years, including DJ mega-parties, live music of all sorts, comedy, cruises, shows suitable for both children and adults, and of course the city's free midnight fireworks show.

2. Free Holiday Events & Activities In & Around San Francisco

Boats ready to parade. Photo by Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District.

Concerts, parades, arts-and-crafts workshops and holiday-themed flash mob events mean that you can get into the spirit of the season without spending a cent.

3. Dazzling Christmas Trees & Holiday Decor

The Tom & Jerry Christmas tableau in San Francisco's Noe Valley. Photo B. Koh.

It's OK to have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, or no tree at all. Instead of fretting over your decorating, go delight in the trees and other sparkly seasonal scenes set up at hotels, landmarks and neighborhoods, thanks to the Martha Stewarts in town. (And that'll give you time to volunteer, ice skate or do some other holiday fun.)

4. Nutcracker, Christmas Carol, Messiah & Other Holiday Shows

San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker. Photo ©Erik Tomasson.

Ballets, concerts, plays and other shows in San Francisco and the Bay Area bring inspiration, sparkle and fun to the holidays. Take in traditional and off-beat renditions of the Nutcracker, concerts of carols, Messiah and other music, uplifting and zany theater, comedy, cabaret acts and more. There truly is something for everyone.

5. Holiday Lighting Ceremonies - Christmas, Hanukkah & Winter Lights

Holidays light displays begin to shine as early as before Thanksgiving. You can catch the exact moment they are switched on--or at least admire them before they're turned off in January 2013.

6. Shopping - Give Uniquely San Francisco Gifts

Gifts that help local artists and producers, demonstrate the best of San Francisco and show special, individualized touches--and enable you to skip the malls!

7. Volunteer During the Holidays - And All Year Round

'Tis the season of charity and volunteering, when many of us think about donating to nonprofit groups or helping serve meals at San Francisco soup kitchens or shelters. Find out where and how you can help--as well as volunteer to do myriad things throughout the year.

8. Ice Skating in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Embarcadero's holiday ice rink. Photo by Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

Though we don't get snow during the winter in San Francisco, we do get ice--well, ice rinks. Spin, glide and twirl at a rink right in town.

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