San Francisco’s Union Square is ground zero for Christmas and holiday experiences in the city. They’ve officially rolled out their Winter Wander-Land which includes the 25-foot Bill Graham Menorah, the 83-foot Macy’s Tree, the popular Safeway Holiday Ice Rink, the Miracle at PCH pop-up bar, and the Winter Walk (back by popular demand!). If you’re planning a visit Downtown SF this year and don’t know where to start, read on for the ultimate guide to Union Square holiday events and attractions.
Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024
Who’s stoked to get back on the ice? Break out your favorite wintery garb, because the Union Square Ice Rink is in full swing for SF’s holiday season. There’s also a collection of special events on the calendar to take your skating experience up a notch:
- Dec. 7 – Drag Queens On Ice – The 13th annual Drag Queens on Ice will feature fabulous performances and lip syncs by Bay Area drag queens. Tickets are $30 per person to skate with the Queens during their warmup, but anyone can watch the show for free.
- Dec. 8, Jan. 12 – Flashback Fridays – The rink will blast awesome ’80s music for a nostalgic night of skating! Legwarmers and unitards are encouraged.
- Dec. 14 – Silent Skate Party – A silent disco provided by complimentary headphones will shake up your typical ice skating experience! Tickets are $30 per person.
- Jan. 1 – Polar Bear Skate – Ring in the New Year with this popular Canadian tradition, in which skaters don their favorite bathing suit or beach attire to “take the plunge” on the ice! Prizes will be given for best costumes. Tickets are $25 per person.
- Saturdays through Dec. 30 – Simba Saturdays presented by Disney’s The Lion King – Skate through a golden-lit ice rink while listening to your favorite songs from the Broadway show.
- Select Saturdays and Sundays – Learn to Skate – Skating lessons for beginners led by professional instructors. Free to those who sign up in advance.
2. Winter Walk
Dec. 15-24, 2023
Back by popular demand, this stretch of pedestrian-only blocks will feature an assortment of food trucks, bar gardens, and family holiday activities. Check out the Winter Walk on Stockton St. from Post to O’Farrell, from 12-7pm Monday-Wednesday and 10am-9pm Thursday-Sunday.
3. Macy’s Great Tree
Nov. 9, 2023 – Jan. 1, 2024
Of course, Union Square’s Macy’s Christmas tree is one of the most recognizable ones in the entire Bay Area. The red and gold decorations and glowing red star are iconic, and it’s impossible to miss at 83 feet tall.
The Macy’s Tree isn’t the only festive decor to look for at Union Square. This year the larger-than-life Ornament Trail will be back on Powell Street between Ellis and Geary. You’ll also want to take a peek down Maiden Lane for the glowing snowflake decorations.
Dec. 7-15, 2023
The Bill Graham Menorah Project is gearing up for its 48th annual giant menorah lighting and display. A 25-foot menorah will glow over Union Square every night of Hanukkah.
- Dec. 7 – 3:30pm gathering and live music; 5pm first lighting ceremony
- Dec. 8 – 2:30pm second lighting ceremony
- Dec. 9 – 8pm gathering and live music; 8:30pm third lighting ceremony
- Dec. 10 – Bill Graham Menorah Day
- 2-4:45pm: Dreidel House Kids Crafts
- 2pm: Children’s entertainment with Isaac Zones
- 3pm: SHAMATI with Greg Anton of Zero
- 4:45pm: Fourth lighting ceremony
- 6pm: End of event
- Dec. 11 – 4:30pm gathering and live music; 5pm fifth lighting ceremony
- Dec. 12 – 4:30pm gathering and live music; 5pm sixth lighting ceremony
- Dec. 13 – 4:30pm gathering and live music; 5pm seventh lighting ceremony
- Dec. 14 – 4pm gathering and live music; 5pm eighth lighting ceremony
Nov. 24 – Dec. 30, 2023
Miracle at Pacific Cocktail Haven is returning to SF for its 8th year. 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.
Nov. 17 – Dec. 31, 2023
See adorable puppies and kittens up for adoption in the windows at Macy’s Union Square. This beloved tradition dates back 37 years, helping to place animals in need into loving homes. You can even get some puppy snuggles in if you keep an eye out for SF SPCA’s animal assisted therapy ambassadors. See the SFSPCA window displays from noon to 5pm Thursday-Sunday. Note that Macy’s will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
While we’re on the topic of animals, keep an eye out for Hotel Nikko‘s Dog Walk from Dec. 8-15, where the hotel’s canine team will do the rounds at Union Square.
7. Westin St. Francis sugar castle
Nov. 22, 2023 – Jan. 2, 2024
The Westin St. Francis is known for its enormous sugar castle on display during the holidays, an extravagant sweet creation towering 12 feet above the lobby. Watch a miniature train circle the castle, which is surrounded by a giant pile of presents and glimmering holiday trees. This year the castle will feature an AR experience in which you can explore the enchanting “inside” of the sugar castle using your phone.
In addition to the sugar castle, guests can enjoy Breakfast with Santa, holiday teas, crafting activities, and the Pop! Lounge, which hosts a fancy pop-up champagne bar with rotating DJs.
8. Macy’s Santa
Nov. 24 – Dec. 24, 2023
Arrange an unforgettable visit with Santa for the children in your life at Macy’s. Santa Claus is a busy man this time of year, so visits are reservation-only. Find Santa on the 6th floor of Macy’s Union Square.
You can make a reservation 5 days in advance for a spot in line, but be prepared to wait between 30-90 minutes for your turn. Weekends tend to be the busiest so consider visiting on a weekday if possible. Note that Macy’s will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and Black Santa will be available for visits on Nov. 25 and Dec. 3, 9, and 17.
Dec. 9, 2023
Grab your red coat and reindeer because SantaCon 2023 will return to SF’s Union Square for its 28th year, starting at 12pm on Dec. 9. SantaCon is hosted in 70+ cities around the world, with the vast majority of them taking place around the US.
The goal of the event is to bring together fun-loving Santa enthusiasts and revelers for a holiday bar crawl across SF. SantaCon is free and open to all adults over 21 and is not a kid-friendly event.
Gump’s is a San Francisco retail legend that opened all the way back in 1861. The Gump’s holiday window display is a popular stop on any winter visit to Union Square, and even if you don’t buy anything it’s fun to take a lap through the mountains of holiday merchandise. Items include sparkling mouthblown glass ornaments, ornate jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts.
11. More nearby holiday attractions and activities
Union Square is well located to check out some neighboring holiday gems around Downtown SF. Here are a few more seasonal events and attractions to look for if you’re in the area:
- Fairmont Hotel’s 22-foot gingerbread house (usually opens Thanksgiving weekend)
- Grace Cathedral’s Christmas displays, concerts, and installations (World Tree of Hope installed Dec. 4-Jan. 5)
- Let’s Glow SF holiday light festival (Dec. 1-10)
- Halo Halo Holidays (Dec. 9)
- Winter Wonderland at The Vault Garden (Nov 24-Jan. 10)
- SF Ballet’s Nutcracker (Dec. 13-30)
- Palace Hotel Christmas tree (Nov. 27-Jan. 2)
- Civic Center Christmas tree (opening Dec. 6)
- Ritz Carlton Christmas tree (opens Nov. 30)
- 555 California Christmas tree (Nov. 25-Jan. 6, lighting ceremony Nov. 28)
Check out our Union Square Dining Guide for more inspiration.