After a day of ice skating, gift shopping at craft markets, and sipping hot chocolate, what should you do with all that leftover seasonal spirit? Not to worry, because San Francisco is the place to be for holiday-themed concerts, performances, and shows. Read on for our favorite performances coming up this winter, ranging from jaw-dropping orchestral numbers to kid-friendly daytime shows.
The popular classical concert series known as Candlelight showcases intimate performances by local musicians surrounded by hundreds of flickering candles. This year’s Candlelight Holiday Special featuring The Nutcracker and more will come to St. Ignatius Church on December 9th with selections from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Handel’s Messiah, classic Christmas carols, the traditional Hanukkah song “Ma’oz Tzur,” and of course the best of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.
If you can’t make it to the holiday special, discover more Candlelight concerts here.
2-12. SF Symphony performances
You can’t go wrong with a performance by SF Symphony, and their lineup for the holidays is unparalleled! Here are all the seasonal concerts on the calendar through December:
- Deck the Hall (Dec. 4) – A selection of holiday songs from around the world.
- The Colors of Christmas (Dec. 6-7) – All the Christmas carols you can think of, plus some wild cards.
- Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 9-10) – A riveting performance of Handel’s most famous work.
- Cool Yule Christmas (Dec. 13) – The jazziest of the Christmas carols with some old-school croonin’.
- Holiday Gaiety (Dec. 15) – A merry and gay variety show by SF’s best drag queens.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dec. 16-17) – SF Symphony performs the live soundtrack for this beloved holiday movie.
- Holiday Brass (Dec. 20) – SF Symphony’s brass section performs holiday classics.
- Elf (Dec. 21-22) – SF Symphony performs the live soundtrack for this beloved holiday movie.
- A Merry-Achi Christmas (Dec. 23) – Mariachi Sol de Mexico® performs a lively Christmas show.
- Harry Connick, Jr. and his band (Dec. 24) – Harry Connick, Jr. performs his take on Christmas classics.
- New Year’s Eve with Seth MacFarlane (Dec. 31) – Ring in the new year with Seth Macfarlane.
Experience Tchaikovsky’s breathtaking The Nutcracker, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson and performed by SF Ballet and SF Orchestra. The timeless show is a hallmark of the holiday season complete with whimsical numbers featuring dancing mice, sugarplum fairies, and fluttering snowflakes.
SF Ballet will perform The Nutcracker from December 8-27 with special pricing Dec. 8-9, 13-15, and 26-27. They’ve also added the first-ever Sensory Friendly Performance on December 21 with accommodations for neurodiverse audience members.
Grace Cathedral is one of the most iconic churches in San Francisco, famous for its gorgeous stained glass windows, mosaics, floor labyrinths, and overall French Gothic design. It’s a beautiful place to attend for any church service, but at Christmastime it is especially spectacular thanks to a great lineup of performances and concerts.
- Advent Procession (Dec. 4): The Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys will sing the Christmas story while the Cathedral is gradually illuminated with lamps and candles.
- A Cathedral Christmas (Dec. 10, 11, 17, 18, 23): The Choir of Men and Boys will perform classic Christmas carols accompanied by a full orchestra and organ.
- Lessons & Carols (Dec. 24): The Choir of Men and Boys will perform an Anglican tradition of readings, hymns, and anthems.
- Choral Eucharists (Dec 24-25)
More Christmas concerts, music, and shows
- Nob Hill lighting ceremony (Nov. 28): The 50th consecutive tree lighting ceremony will take place at Huntington Park outside of the cathedral. See the outside trees and gardens illuminated with thousands of beautiful lights, while enjoying music from the French American Jazz Quartet and food from local hotels.
- Sing you a Merry Christmas (Dec. 10, 17, 21, 22): A family sing-along event led by toys brought to life from St. Nicholas’s workshop!
- A Brass and Organ Christmas (Dec. 12): A holiday performance from the Bay’s best brass musicians and the cathedral’s 7,466-pipe organ.
- A Baroque Christmas (Dec. 14): American Bach Soloists will perform Part 1 (the Christmas portion) of Handel’s Messiah
- Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 15, 16): American Bach Soloists will perform Handel’s complete Messiah for the 23rd year.
- Soulful Joy (Dec. 19): A new, lively holiday jazz performance by Destiny Muhammad.
- Bishop’s Christmas Pageant (Dec. 24): The Christmas story told by the Right Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California, accompanied by children portraying magi, angels, and shepherds.
The Lift Every Voice series at Golden Gate Park’s Bandshell is coming to the end of its 2022 season. After delivering endless free family concerts, they’re going out with a bang in December before they start back up in February 2023. Here are some holiday concerts coming up, but see the full lineup for more.
- Dec. 1 (5:30-7:30pm) – RPD Tree Lighting with Holiday music from the Washington High School Choir
- Dec. 10 (12-4pm) – Holiday Hootenanny – 10 Singer/Songwriters perform 3 holiday songs each
The 13th annual Drag Queens on Ice returns to Union Square Ice Rink from 7-9:30pm on December 1st. It’s free to watch, but you can also book a spot ahead of time for a chance to skate and mingle with the Queens as they warm up. Watch the Queens give their all at one of the most unique and lively holiday performances in San Francisco.
Disney’s hit Broadway musical Frozen has arrived at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre now through December 30th. Frozen features all the songs that you know and love from the original film with a dozen new numbers from the film’s songwriters, Oscar winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez and EGOT winner Robert Lopez. The musical has won 16 Tony Awards to date, presenting Anna and Elsa’s story with riveting theatricality and magnificent set designs.
The Bill Graham Menorah Project displays a 25-foot menorah at Union Square on every night of Hanukkah (Dec. 18-25), which is a sight to behold during the lighting ceremonies. On the first night (Dec. 18), you can enjoy fun activities, food, music and more for “Bill Graham Menorah Day” from 2-6pm to accompany the lighting ceremony at 5pm. This includes a variety of kids’ crafts and shows, plus musical performances from Jerry’s Kosher Deli, Saul Kaye, and Ari Lesser. The subsequent lighting ceremonies (Dec. 19-25) are preceded by smaller gatherings and musical performances.
30. Let’s Glow SF
Downtown SF is once again pulling out all the stops with Let’s Glow SF from December 2-11. The popular holiday light display that transforms four buildings around the Financial District with dynamic light shows set to music. With fifteen 30,000-lumen projectors and two 50,000-lumen laser projectors, this is the largest holiday projection mapping event in the United States. Learn more about light displays in the Bay Area here.