Looking for some fun activities to do post-turkey? Thanksgiving weekend in San Francisco brings plenty of events, activities, and fun spots to hit up from November 23-26, 2023. Scroll through for some essential events and activities to kick off the 2023 holiday season.
1. Sign up for the Thanksgiving-day Turkey Trot
Need to get your blood pumping before eating your weight in stuffing? Consider registering for the San Francisco Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 2023. The 21st annual event has a 5-mile race, a 3-mile race, and a 100-meter kids’ race. Participants can run or walk through the course in Golden Gate Park and it’s not uncommon to arrive in costume.
2. Reserve a table at one of these SF restaurants for a decadent Thanksgiving dinner
Cooking a delicious Thanksgiving dinner is not for the faint of heart, but lucky for us, these San Francisco restaurants have got Thanksgiving dialed. We did a deep dive into the most popular SF restaurants open on Thanksgiving with dine-in, take-home, luxurious, and affordable options for this beloved holiday. Our list covers everything from traditional Turkey Day meals complete with a decadent roasted bird, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the works; as well as more creative takes if you want to try something new.
3. Get your skate on at these awesome ice rinks
It’s that time of year! Plenty of Bay Area ice rinks are open and already hosting fun events. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Union Square Ice Rink (San Francisco)
- Snoopy’s Home Ice (Santa Rosa)
- Meritage Resort Winter Village (Napa)
- And more
4. Make it your most memorable Friendsgiving yet
In recent years, Friendsgiving has become a popular trend among the younger generations, but hosting a dinner party isn’t always the easiest. Here are a few staff picks of ways to celebrate Friendsgiving in SF–minus all the post-dinner dishes.
5. Go for a brisk autumn walk around the city
Take this as your friendly reminder to get your steps in! San Francisco is full of endless places to explore, and in a city like this it’s essential to enjoy the little things. Here are a few of our favorite walking spots:
- Salesforce Park
- Lyon Street Steps, Pacific Heights
- Great Highway
- And more
6. Get lost in San Jose’s magical Christmas light maze
When it comes to holiday light displays in the Bay Area, it’s hard to beat this enormous Christmas maze and ice skating rink in San Jose. Enchant San Jose will take over PayPal Park starting Nov. 24, and it’s the place to be if you (like us) have caught an extreme case of holiday cheer.
7. Enjoy a breathtaking local hike
Perhaps you’re feeling a little more ambitious and looking for a killer hike with great views? You’ll love these incredible hikes for a chance to stretch your legs. Here are some of the best:
8. Honor the Indigenous Peoples of America at the sunrise gathering on Alcatraz
The Indians of All Tribes organization occupied Alcatraz Island from 1969-1971, citing a treaty by which the government promised the return of abandoned federal land to the tribes from whom it was originally taken. Although the movement failed, it is commemorated each year with a sunrise gathering on Thanksgiving Day.
9. Check out the Exploratorium’s GLOW light art exhibition
The Exploratorium’s visitor-favorite GLOW: Discover the Art of Light has announced its 2023-2024 return. See brand new and expanded installations created by seven artists from Nov. 16, 2023 through Jan. 28, 2024 at SF’s Exploratorium at Pier 15.
GLOW is a luminous expansion of the Exploratorium’s typical exhibits and a must during the holiday season in San Francisco. This year’s new artworks allow visitors to compose music with light, play experimental LED dungeon crawlers, discover hidden crystals, and much more.
10. Pick up a tree at the Guardsmen Christmas Tree Lot
The Guardsmen Christmas Tree Lot is about to open its doors at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. The lot will open at the Festival Pavilion from Nov. 25 – Dec. 16, 2023. You can stock up on holiday essentials including trees, garlands, wreaths, and ornaments.
But in addition to the tree lot itself, you don’t want to miss their lively family day, a crab and pasta dinner, and giant holiday party with live music. Read on for information about these special events whose proceeds go to benefit at-risk youth, and use code SECRETSF-23 for 10% off tickets!
11. Check out the Nob Hill Tree Lighting Ceremony and decorate the World Tree of Hope at Grace Cathedral
As if Grace Cathedral wasn’t iconic enough, they are pulling out all the stops for the holiday season! Here’s what’s happening there on Thanksgiving weekend:
- World Tree of Hope Installation (Nov. 24-26): Grace Cathedral is home to the largest origami Christmas tree in the world. They partner with Rainbow World Fund to decorate it with over 17,000 handmade origami cranes and stars, each of which is inscribed with wishes and hopes for the future. You can send your wish to be inscribed on a crane for free and added to the tree. They’re accepting volunteers to help trim the tree, and you can see the installation process throughout November. The tree will be lighted on Dec. 4, 2023 and stay there until Jan. 5, 2024.
- Yoga on the Labyrinth (Nov. 25): Hundreds of people flock to Yoga on the Labyrinth every week, creating an epic scene beneath Grace Cathedral’s dramatic vaulted ceilings.
- Nob Hill lighting ceremony (Nov. 27): The 51st 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.
12. Escape to Victorian-era London at this magical local Christmas fair
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party will soon return to Daly City’s Cow Palace. This beloved annual event drops you into Victorian London, brought to life by hundreds of costumed players and a plethora of shops, stages, pubs, parties, and memorable performances. You can now buy tickets for the fair happening every weekend between Nov. 18-Dec. 17, 2023.
13. Visit the Fairmont’s famous 2-story gingerbread house display
Every year, the Fairmont creates a real, massive gingerbread display. The 22-foot-tall structure has two levels and is totally decked out for the holiday season, covered in a rainbow of candy, including classic gumdrops, strands of Nerds Rope, and many more. The gingerbread takes the classic tradition and elevates it to new heights— and yes, the walls are actually gingerbread glued together with icing. See the famous Fairmont Gingerbread House from Nov. 25, 2023 through Jan. 1, 2024.
14. Take an unforgettable day trip around NorCal
We love San Francisco for its countless activities to enjoy everywhere you go. But anytime there’s a long weekend or a free day, we’re quite well-located to check out some neighboring California gems. Be sure to put these day trips on your to-do list for the next time you want to get out of the City and into nature.
15. Visit a craft fair, festival, or holiday market
Holiday spirit is already in the air and the crafters of San Francisco are working at full throttle to sell their wares! We’ve gone ahead and rounded up some of the best holiday markets, craft fairs, and more in the San Francisco Bay Area for November and December 2023. Think Bay Area Christmas markets with homemade pastries, decorations, and innovative products. Or holiday craft fairs with all the handmade jewelry, pottery, and art you could wish for.
- Nov. 24-25 – SJMADE Holiday Fair in San Jose
- Nov. 25 – Creativity Explored at the Ferry Building
- Nov. 25-26 – Craneway Craft Fair in Richmond
- Nov. 26 – Dear Handmade Life in Redwood City
- Nov. 26 – Hella Plants Market in Berkeley
16. Sip on festive cocktails at Miracle at PCH
Miracle at Pacific Cocktail Haven is returning to SF for its 8th year on from Nov. 24 through Dec. 30, 2023. This sparkling holiday pop-up bar is a San Francisco favorite this time of year, as it offers up the best in seasonal cocktails, festive photo ops, and holiday cheer.
Be transported to an over-the-top Christmas explosion outfitted with thousands of colorful lights, wrapping paper decorations, garlands, ornaments, bows, frills, glowing trees, Santa hats, and a huge stack of presents. Festive attire is absolutely non-negotiable here, so make sure you dress to impress.
17. Take an epic journey on a vintage train
Escape to another era on these gorgeous vintage locomotives, many of which are decked out for the holidays.
- Napa Valley Wine Train: Take a trip through rolling vineyards in wine country while enjoying gourmet food and the best wines in California, all on a gorgeous vintage train with plush chairs, brass accents, glass etchings and lux tableware.
- Roaring Camp Steam Trains: Want to enjoy California’s beautiful redwood forests, without having to don hiking boots? This steam train from Roaring Camp is an absolute must! Hop on this authentic train from 1890 for an open-air trip through the redwoods! Roaring Camp also offers a train route to Santa Cruz, where you’ll ride alongside the shore for some beautiful ocean views.
18. Drive through this sparkling winter wonderland in San Jose
Christmas in the Park is back this year. Starting November 26, San Jose will be decked out in tens of thousands of sparkling lights. Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday is their beloved drive-thru experience, where guests can take a trip through a magical glowing winter wonderland. There will also be a tree lighting and other events at Cesar Chavez Plaza.
19. Explore the dazzling Garden of D’Lights in Walnut Creek
The Ruth Bancroft Garden rolls out its whimsical Garden of d’Lights holiday event from Nov. 24 through Jan. 6. Each year, they deck out the plants with multicolored lights, lasers, and more, transforming the already spectacular 3.5 acre space into an otherworldly outdoor adventure. Guests can stroll through the beautiful glowing gardens for 1-1.5 hours to discover countless photo ops and exciting displays.
20. Satisfy your sweet tooth at these superb bakeries
San Franciscans with a sweet tooth have it easy in this glorious city, because SF bakeries absolutely do not mess around. We wanted to get to the bottom of where San Franciscans get their baked goods, so we posted an Instagram poll asking for recommendations. In the end, here are some of the highest-recommended bakeries in the city.
21. Sip your way through these 10 awesome cocktail bars
It’s never a bad time to discover an amazing new bar in the city, whether it has excellent craft cocktails, a unique ambience, stellar service, or an awesome view. We wanted to discover the best cocktail bars in San Francisco, so we posted a poll on our Instagram asking for suggestions! Our followers never disappoint, and here are some of the best ones.
22. 10 essential places to enjoy decadent hot chocolate in SF
You don’t have to be a kid to know that hot chocolate is one of the most underrated drinks on any cafe’s menu. As we head into the fall and winter seasons, it’s a great time to compile some spots to visit next time you’re craving this delicious drink! Discover everything from indulgent dark chocolate drinks, to spiked adult beverages, to your classic on-the-go treat. Stay warm and enjoy!