Happy December, San Francisco! This month brings us countless holiday light displays and seasonal activities to close out the year. End 2021 on a high note with ice skating, hot chocolate, and holiday music performances. Scroll through to get inspired for December, and check back as we add more!
1. The world’s most popular display of LEGO® art is making its SF premiere
The Art of the Brick opens on Saturday, December 4 in San Francisco! See over 70 mind-blowing sculptures by artist Nathan Sawaya in magnificent Pantheon-inspired building at 1 Grant Ave. Find out why CNN ranked this show as one of the world’s “Must-See exhibitions!” Be sure to get tickets now and enjoy this amazing show for the holidays.
2. Enjoy classical music by candlelight at this magical concert series
The extremely popular concert series known simply as Candlelight is turning heads right now in San Francisco! Here countless works played by a talented string quartet, in an intimate environment surrounded by hundreds of luminous candles. The Bay Area’s top musicians perform classical music in lovely settings including St. Ignatius Church and the InterContinental hotel’s covered rooftop. Upcoming series include magical movie soundtracks, a holiday special, a Queen tribute, a Coldplay tribute, and a Taylor Swift tribute. Get tickets now!
3. Take a tubular trip through the 80s with this musical movie mash-up
The Brat Pack, an 80s musical movie mash-up, is set to fill San Francisco with nostalgia. Combining a selection of the most influential teen films of the 1980s and their hit soundtrack into a synth-pop journey, the musical experience takes you through the tumultuous world of high school. Put on your beloved spandex, muscle tees and leg warmers, and get ready for an event straight out of the 80s! Make sure to grab tickets now.
4. This gorgeous animal lantern festival is back at the Oakland Zoo
The Bay Area is going all out on holiday light displays this year, and this animal-themed lantern festival at Oakland Zoo is seriously blowing us away! Glowfari is an immersive light experience of epic proportions, and kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring the massive glowing displays. Check it out now through the end of January 2022.
5. See the nation’s largest holiday projection mapping display December 3-12
Downtown SF is pulling out all the stops with Let’s Glow SF, their 2021 holiday light display that uses projection mapping on four buildings around the Financial District. The displays will be up from December 3-12 and are easily viewed via a self-guided walking tour.
See holiday-themed stories played out in stunning detail, transforming the buildings into dynamic canvases that seem to defy the laws of physics. Each show tells a unique holiday-themed story and will cycle through every 5 minutes, so you can walk through the displays and catch each one in their entirety. Effects include galloping ice horses, soaring snowy owls, arctic scenery, polar bears, ice castles, and more.
6. The luxurious children’s Teddy Bear Tea is back at the Ritz-Carlton
Each year, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco puts on an adorable and, of course, ritzy Teddy Bear Tea, where children can sip on hot chocolate and enjoy a lively holiday show. Partial proceeds go to benefit the Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation.
7. Here’s the December lineup of free performances at the Bandshell
The San Francisco live music scene is truly back in business! All performances are free and family-friendly, with the impressive Golden Gate Bandshell as the backdrop. The Bandshell, which is 120 years old, added new lighting, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a new stage during the pandemic.
8. Find the perfect gift at these fun holiday markets and craft fairs
The crafters of San Francisco are working at full throttle to sell their wares! Think seasonal markets with homemade pastries, decorations, and innovative products. Or craft fairs with all the handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and art you could wish for.
9. The enchanting Entwined light display is back in Golden Gate Park
From December 2 until February 1, we will once again enjoy a massive immersive meadow, this time with even more interactive elements. The whimsical installation transforms Peacock Meadow into an otherworldly ecosystem of glowing trees, bushes, and other natural elements created from colorful pixel-like LED lights. The trees ranch from 8-20 feet tall, accompanied by dozens of glowing flower clusters and bushes to create a beautiful meadow landscape.
10. Check out Winter Lights displays all around Golden Gate Park
Nearly a mile of car-free JFK Drive will be decked out in glittering lights, and an awesome lineup of special events will happen throughout the month. On December 1, make sure to visit the National AIDS Memorial Grove and The Alterverse at the Music Concourse for special programming. You can also enjoy ongoing exhibitions throughout the month.
11. Don’t miss these amazing Christmas events and more at Grace Cathedral
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. Check out these amazing special events coming up on the calendar, most of which are Christmas-themed! Here are a few that have especially caught our eye:
- World Tree of Hope origami tree
- A Cathedral Christmas choir performances
- Sing You a Merry Christmas choir performances
- Grace Light installation
- Candlelight Labyrinth Walk
12. Sip Pernod Ricard in a luxury rinkside igloo at this Napa Valley resort
The beautiful Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa is hosting an absolute spectacular winter village throughout the holiday season! Merry Meritage is a gorgeous sparkling winter escape in wine country, complete with an ice rink, fire pits and s’mores, VIP igloos, Christmas carol karaoke, an artisan holiday market, and much more.
13. Drive through a sparkling winter wonderland at San Jose’s Christmas in the Park
Christmas in the Park is back this year! San Jose is 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.
14. Celebrate Chanukah at these lovely lighting ceremonies for Union Square’s giant menorah
The Bill Graham Menorah Project has officially kicked off their 46th annual giant menorah lighting and display! A 25-foot menorah is up in Union Square from November 28 until December 6, with lighting ceremonies each afternoon accompanied by a gathering and music.
15. This Snoopy-themed ice rink in Santa Rosa was founded by Charles Schulz 50 years ago
There’s a legendary ice rink just north of San Francisco! Snoopy’s Home Ice is a must, whether you’re a kid looking to get their skate on or an adult wishing for some cartoony nostalgia. The Snoopy-themed ice rink was founded in 1969 by Charles Schulz, cartoonist and creator of the brilliant comic strip Peanuts, and you can’t miss his influence throughout the entire skating complex.
16. Take an epic journey through the redwoods on this 19th-century steam train
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. Be sure to see their holiday lights route.
17. Explore this immersive glowing alien forest that responds to touch, sound, and movement
Prepare to be transported to a mysterious alien planet called Nocturne X, complete with glowing plants, surreal landscapes, crystal caves, awesome music, and more! This unbelievable artistic experience promises a mystical art exhibition by day and a psychedelic dance floor by night.
18. The dazzling Garden of d’Lights has returned to Walnut Creek
The Ruth Bancroft Garden has rolled out its whimsical Garden of d’Lights holiday event! 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.
19. Travel back in time with these unique candlelight tours of Fort Point
Fort Point National Historic Site was instrumental in protecting California’s coast during the Civil War. The famous fort is now bringing back their famous candlelight tours, so members of the public can truly immerse themselves in this famous SF landmark! At 6:30pm on Saturday evenings, visitors can enjoy a 90-minute tour led by a park ranger, with all light provided by hand-held lanterns.
20. San Francisco’s magnificent upside-down holiday tree is back
The Bay Area has some iconic holiday traditions, but none so impressive as the mind-blowing 50-foot crystal tree that hangs upside-down inside Westfield SF Centre. Lucky for us, the tree is back for its 6th year and will be wowing visitors through San Francisco’s entire holiday season! There will be a glamorous tree lighting ceremony during the Modern Luxury Wine Country Awards on December 1 from 6-10pm, presented by the Westfield SF Centre and San Francisco Magazine.
21. The Exploratorium’s popular GLOW light art exhibition is back through the end of January
The Exploratorium has brought back GLOW: Discover the Art of Light in all its 2021 glory. See brand new and expanded installations, created by 8 local artists. These light art pieces will be up until January 30, 2022 at the Exploratorium at Pier 15.
22. Get your skate on at the Union Square ice rink
The beloved Union Square ice rink is open through January 17, 2022. Don’t miss fun events like Drag Queens on Ice, Flashback Fridays with 80s music, and the silent disco skate party.
23-32. 10 exceptional ramen spots recommended by San Franciscans, for San Franciscans
A steaming bowl of ramen is perhaps the most comforting and filling food we can think of! San Francisco, with its plethora of delicious and authentic Asian food, is one of the best places to enjoy this amazing dish. We decided to see where San Franciscans get their ramen fix, so we polled our Instagram followers for recommendations. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Marufuku Ramen
- Mensho Tokyo SF
- Ushi Taro Ramen
33. This plant store-turned-wine bar hosts live jazz nights each weekend
The return of live music has been breathing new life into San Francisco! Arcana, a lovely plant store and event space in the Mission, has been turning heads with its fun live jazz nights, electronic music, and more. Sip on an eclectic selection of wines from Arcana’s new wine bar while surrounded by a jungle of beautiful plants in this breezy, high-ceilinged event space. They’ll also be serving up plant-based bites all night long!
34-43. 10 awesome cocktail bars that San Franciscans swear by
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! Here are some of the best ones:
- The Interval
- Bourbon & Branch
- Trick Dog
44. ‘Tis the season for special holiday journeys on the Napa Valley Wine Train
‘Tis the season! The Napa Valley Wine Train is rolling out some spectacular holiday journey packages that will make your 2021 celebrations absolutely unforgettable. Think Thanksgiving feasts, private holiday parties, an epic New Year’s Eve celebration, and more!
45. This SF coffee shop pours colorful lattes that are almost too beautiful to drink
Perfect latte art takes some serious skill and a steady hand, something that HOME Coffee Roasters knows all about! If you’re looking to take your foodie Instagram content up a notch, look no further – these gorgeous lattes are absolutely blowing our minds.
46-55. 10 essential places to enjoy decadent hot chocolate in San Francisco
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 December, 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! Some of our favorites:
- Dandelion Chocolate
- Craftsman and Wolves
- La Oaxaqueña
- Tosca Cafe
- Recchiuti Confections
56. This immersive glowing meadow in Paso Robles is totally worth the trip
A magical otherworldly escape is wowing crowds just a couple hours down the coast, and it’s certainly worth the trip! Sensorio is now hosting Field of Light by Bruce Munro, a captivating light art installation that recalls some of California’s iconic superblooms. It’s created from an expansive glowing carpet of nearly 60,000 solar-powered light-up spheres, whose colors change and shimmer to a custom musical score.
57-66. 10 superb bakeries recommended by San Franciscans
We wanted to get to the bottom of where San Franciscans get their baked goods, so we posted an Instagram poll asking for recommendations. We had over 100 responses and counting, our best turnout yet! In the end, here are the highest-recommended bakeries in the city. These are some of our favorites:
- B. Patisserie
- Arsicault Bakery
- Le Marais Bakery
- Thorough Bread and Pastry
67. This SF couple plants native wildflowers in neglected city spaces… and so can you!
San Francisco is iconic for its outdoor areas and green spaces, but even the most vibrant of cities can feel a bit neglected when it comes to forgotten sidewalks and empty lots. Shalaco and Phoenix of SFinBloom have decided to take things into their own hands by scattering California native wildflower seeds wherever they go!
The process is simple: Fill a parmesan cheese shaker with native seeds, and sprinkle to your heart’s content. After planting seeds all over town, there’s nothing better than seeing a thriving indigenous garden in a previously sparse corner of the city.
68-87. 20 weird and wonderful museums to explore in San Francisco
How well do you know San Francisco’s museum scene? Of course any visitor to the city will hit up amazing spots like SFMOMA, the de Young Museum, or the Academy of Sciences. But there is an entire network of lesser-known museums and collections specializing in everything from LSD blotter art to model boats! Here are a few of our favorites:
- Gregangelo Museum
- Antique Vibrator Museum
- Beat Museum
- Museum of the Eye
88-99. 12 places to enjoy a brisk walk in San Francisco
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. Whether you need a new dog walking route or just need to clear your head, these places around the city will get the job done. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Bernal Heights
- Salesforce Park
- Lover’s Lane, Presidio
- Lyon Street Steps, Pacific Heights
100. This wooden roller coaster in Santa Cruz is nearly 100 years old
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been entertaining generations of Californians for decades since it was founded in 1907. Easily its most famous ride is the Giant Dipper, a legendary wooden roller coaster with amazing views of the beach and a fascinating history!
101-110. 10 dazzling places to have a snow day near the Bay Area
San Francisco is a magical, beautiful, exciting place, with one caveat – there’s never any snow. Lucky for us, California is home to dozens of different climates and it’s not so difficult to pack up the car for a drive out to the snowy mountains in the distance. Check the conditions before you head out, because not all of these spots are seeing snow quite yet.
- Dodge Ridge
- Bear Valley