November in the San Francisco Bay Area is an enchanting mix of late fall cheer and early holiday anticipation. Now’s the time to enjoy delicious fall coffee drinks, ice skating, get a head start on your holiday gift shopping, and find opening dates for the best winter light displays. Read on for our best tips to spend a memorable November 2023 in SF.
1. Magical classical concerts by candlelight
The extremely popular concert series known simply as Candlelight is turning heads right now in San Francisco! You’ll enjoy works from Beethoven, Vivaldi and more played by a talented string quartet in an intimate environment surrounded by hundreds of luminous candles.
- Nov. 3 – Candlelight: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
- Nov. 16 – Candlelight: The Best of the Beatles
- Nov. 17 – Candlelight: The Best of Joe Hisaishi
- Nov. 30 – Candlelight: Featuring Vivalid’s Four Seasons and More
2. These are the coolest SF museum exhibitions to see this November
Many of SF’s temporary museum exhibitions are refreshed and replaced every single month. We’re keeping tabs on the best new temporary exhibitions from SFMOMA to the Asian Art Museum, so you’ll never miss an amazing new display. Here’s what we have our eye on for November in San Francisco.
- Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love at SFMOMA
- Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego at the Asian Art Museum
- Boticelli Drawings at the Legion of Honor (opening Nov. 19)
- de Young Open 2023 at the de Young Museum
- And more
3. Free concerts at Golden Gate Park Bandshell
Through Nov. 12, 2023
The Lift Every Voice series is bringing dozens of free concerts to Golden Gate Park. 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. This may be your last chance to enjoy the free concerts for a long while, because the Bandshell will close on November 15 for structural renovations with a re-opening date TBD in 2024.
4. Día de los Muertos events in SF
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday celebrated widely both within Mexico and in other countries by people with Mexican heritage. At the beginning of November, San Francisco will celebrate with multiple events, processions, and activities to honor this special holiday.
- Nov. 1 – Día de los Muertos with Sunset Mercantile
- Nov. 2 – Festival of Altars in Potrero del Sol Park
- Nov. 2 – 42nd annual Day of the Dead ritual procession
- And more
5. Make memories at a local ice skating rink
Festive Bay Area ice skating rinks can be found in all nine local counties from San Francisco to Sonoma. We found a mix of seasonal and permanent rinks that offer the chance to strap on a pair of skates and hit the ice.
- Opening Nov. 1 – Union Square Ice Rink in San Francisco
- Opening Nov. 10 – Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink in San Ramon
- Opening Nov. 17 – Downtown Ice in San Jose
- And more
Nov. 4, 11
Oscar Wilde could resist “everything except temptation,” and Dining in the Dark in San Francisco invites you to fight the temptation to eat your food with your eyes and instead tempt your taste buds and other senses to enjoy an elevated meal. The entire evening will be shrouded in mystery down to the very last flavorful bite and difficult to identify texture.
7. Embark on the most unique picnic experience in the Mission and Haight-Ashbury
AmazingCo plans the most unique picnics where you’ll solve clues, pick up artisanal treats, discover hidden neighborhood gems along the way, and finally make it to your destination for a dreamy picnic experience. Whether you’re with a group of friends, your family, or a significant other, it’s definitely not your ordinary picnic.
Through Nov. 19, 2023
SF Open Studios gives the public a rare opportunity to visit over 400 local artists in their personal studios. The annual event started in 1975 as a way for local artists to increase the accessibility of their work by collectively opening their studios to the public. The schedule is as follows:
- Weekend 1, Oct. 28 & 29: West Mission
- Weekend 2, Nov. 4 & 5: Westside
- Weekend 3, Nov. 11 & 12: North
- Weekend 4, Nov. 18 & 19: East/Mission
9. Get started on gift shopping at these Bay Area holiday markets
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. 4-5 – Renegade Craft
- Nov. 4-5 – Alameda Holiday Boutique
- Nov. 11-12 – EMERGE Craft Fair
- Nov. 18-19 – West Coast Craft
- And more
10. Free admission days around SF
We love San Francisco for its vibrant culture, history, and resources, but just about anyone in SF could benefit from finding new free things to do. Whether you’re a college student on a budget, or a bargain hunter wanting to see the sights, this list of free museum days in San Francisco will certainly help you get started.
Nov. 11-12, 2023
Heads up, coffee lovers! The San Francisco Coffee Festival is coming up this November and tickets are now on sale. This exciting festival will feature great food, fun local products, a latte art competition, live music, learning sessions, and of course endless high-quality coffee.
12. GLOW: Discover the Art of Light begins at the Exploratorium
Opening Nov. 16, 2023
The Exploratorium’s visitor-favorite GLOW: Discover the Art of Light has announced its 2023-2024 return. GLOW is a luminous expansion of the Exploratorium’s typical exhibits featuring light art by seven innovative artists. This year’s new artworks allow visitors to compose music with light, play experimental LED dungeon crawlers, discover hidden crystals, and much more.
13. See a local performance of Cinderella Enchanted, The Lion King, or Guys and Dolls
The Bay Area theater calendar is always stacked with exciting performances in San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, and more. We’ve taken a look ahead at the best plays, musicals, and performances coming up in and around SF through the end of 2023.
- Through Nov. 4 – Nollywood Dreams at San Francisco Playhouse
- Through Nov. 5 – Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
- Nov. 3-Dec. 22 – Cinderella Enchanted at Berkeley Playhouse
- Nov. 22-Dec. 30 – The Lion King at the Orpheum Theatre
- Nov. 24-Jan. 14 – Guys and Dolls at San Francisco Playhouse
- And more
Opens Nov. 18, 2023
Holidays at Filoli is one of the Bay Area’s most beautiful and lesser-known light displays, taking place at Filoli Estate & Gardens in Woodside. Thousands of glittering lights will adorn the garden’s trees, plants, and hedges for a must-see experience.
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. This annual event started in the 1970s and celebrates the world of writer Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and other literary classics.
16. Watch the Leonid Meteor Shower
Astronomy fans around the world will soon be treated to a glittering spectacle in the form of the Leonid Meteor Shower. Meteors will rain down through from Nov. 3 through Dec. 2, 2023, with peak activity coming in the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 18. This is a good year to see it because the first quarter moon falls on Nov. 20 and the skies will be nice and dark.
17. Make the most of your Thanksgiving weekend
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 Nov. 23-26, 2023. Scroll through for some essential events and activities to kick off the 2023 holiday season.
18. Garden of D’Lights at Ruth Bancroft Garden
Opening Nov. 24, 2023
The Ruth Bancroft Garden is bringing back 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.
NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences is one of our favorite ongoing events, and we’re thrilled to see more of these awesome themed soirees on the calendar. The popular Thursday night festivities feature live DJs, outdoor bars, ambience lighting, and more alongside the Academy’s nearly 40,000 animal residents.
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 in San Francisco is an exciting place for discovery any time of the day, but these 18+ After Dark events are a must for some epic kid-free fun at their exhibits. After Dark happens each Thursday from 6-10pm with a different theme every week, featuring guest speakers, films, great music, and more.
21. November events at Fort Mason Center
When’s the last time you paid a visit to San Francisco’s amazing Fort Mason Center? The popular art center hosts numerous exhibitions and events throughout the year, and there are some special ones coming up.
Make sure to visit the Guardsmen Holiday Tree Lot starting Nov. 24 and check its event calendar for the crab feed and holiday party. Secret SF readers can get 10% off tickets at checkout with code SECRETSF-23.
22. November events at the Ferry Building
San Francisco’s Ferry Building is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, serving as a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s a center for events, pop-ups, a farmers’ market, and countless excellent merchants who sell their wares daily in the building’s many stalls.
23. Free activities at Salesforce Park
San Francisco’s Salesforce Park is an amazing modern marvel in the Financial District. The verdant oasis rests 70 feet above the street atop the Salesforce Transit Center, and it’s completely free and open for the public to visit at any time.
It also hosts a collection of free events every week, including yoga classes, bootcamps, live music, bird walks, garden tours, drum circles, tours from SF City Guides, and much more.
Nov. 29-Dec. 1
Back by popular demand, Authentic Flamenco will be heating up San Francisco once again at the Taube Atrium Theatre. The show is only here for a limited time from Nov. 29th to Dec. 1st and tickets are up for grabs. Mesmerizing flamenco dancer Paula Rodriguez will be leading the shows. Rodriguez puts everything into her performance and her command of the stage is dynamic and powerful.
25. Major League sports games to catch this November
Bay Area sports fans are lucky to enjoy a year-round rotation of top-tier sporting events with 6 local major league teams in the realms of baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and soccer.
This November in San Francisco, Warriors basketball season has officially begun at Chase Center. Levi’s Stadium is hosting some thrilling 49ers games in Santa Clara and hockey season is in full swing for the Sharks in San Jose.
26. Grab tickets to November’s most highly-anticipated concerts in the Bay Area
We’re lucky to experience some spectacular Bay Area concerts this month. With a wealth of historic music venues in and around San Francisco you can count on creating some memories no matter who’s playing. Read on for a list of our favorite local venues for Bay Area concerts along with upcoming 2023 dates.
27. Visit SF’s enormous new rooftop restaurant high above Union Square
San Franciscans know that rooftop dining isn’t particularly common around these parts, so we’re fascinated to see the new rooftop restaurant coming to Union Square. Nikkei restaurant Chotto Matte has finally opened after much hype on top of the former Macy’s Men’s department store.
28. Scout some local fall foliage
Fall foliage is truly a sight to behold and you can still catch it this November in San Francisco. Familiar shades of green give way to red, orange, yellow, and brown during an incredible seasonal display. We might not have the vast color-changing forests that the East Coast loves to brag about, but here are a few excellent local spots to enjoy this seasonal show.
- SF Botanical Garden in San Francisco
- Tilden Regional Park Botanic Garden in Berkeley
- Rancho San Antonio County Park & Open Space Preserve in Cupertino
- And more
29. Sip on these fall-themed coffee drinks
Cafes and cocktail bars across SF are drawing inspiration from the season to craft some truly delicious drinks. These caffeinated creations are perfect for this season of cool weather and cozy vibes.
- Espresso Mule at The Coffee Movement
- Candied Yam Latte at Red Bay Coffee
- Black Cardamom Latte at Blue Bottle Coffee
- And more
30. A celebrity chef just opened this new restaurant with a 2-level garden patio
SF’s Marina District recently added a new restaurant to its long list of beloved establishments. Blue Whale is a stylish restaurant that recently opened, serving seasonal authentic Asian cuisine. The restaurant is led by celebrity Chef Ho Chee Boon, who is known for many international restaurants, including Empress in SF. Blue Whale is an exciting addition to Chef Boon’s resume, offering a more affordable and casual dining experience to San Franciscans who want to experience the famed chef’s food. The center of attention is the back patio, what the Blue Whale calls a garden oasis. The spacious patio features two levels, plenty of seating, and a variety of greenery.
31. Find the best gourmet 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 what’s sure to be a chilly November in San Francisco, it’s a great time to compile some spots to visit next time you’re craving this delicious drink.
32. Stock up at SF’s best 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. Read on for a running list of spots recommended by locals, in no particular order.
33. Go on a cozy fall date in the Bay Area
San Francisco is full of lovely romantic places to have a date, from fine dining to intimate outdoor adventures. Are you looking for cozy, fun date ideas in the Bay Area with a partner this fall?