Winter in and around San Francisco is a time for getting cozy and leaning into the holiday spirit. Here are some of our favorite cold-weather activities to enjoy during the winter season in the Bay Area, but be sure to see our 2022 holiday roundup for even more festive options around Christmas time. Stay warm and make the most of San Francisco all the way into February.
1-5. Warm up around these cozy fireplaces
A homey, roaring fire is a hot commodity during winter (and basically any other season) in SF’s characteristic foggy weather. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite fireplaces in San Francisco, ranging from outdoor patios to neighborhood bars to fine dining restaurants.
- 25 Lusk: Sip on a cocktail around suspended stainless steel fireplaces in 25 Lusk’s lounge area.
- Zeki’s Bar: A popular neighborhood spot with two brick fireplaces and nice craft beers on tap.
- SPARK Social SF: Get a group together and rent a big firepit complete with Adirondack chairs and a s’mores cart.
- Foreign Cinema: A romantic California-Mediterranean restaurant with indoor and outdoor fireplaces, heat lamps, and string lights.
- The Riptide: A popular bar in the Sunset with a small town lodge feel and an open brick fireplace.
6-10. Escape to a dazzling winter wonderland
If you’re looking for an even more immersive holiday experience in the bay, these winter wonderland escapes will make your heart grow three sizes (no roast beast required). Here we’ve rounded up everything from magical train journeys to SF pop-up holiday bars in the spirit of staycation.
- Merry Meritage: Napa’s Meritage Resort & Spa is outfitted with a stunning ice skating rink, plus private firepits and igloos available for rental.
- Garden of D’Lights: The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek is decked out with multicolored lights, lasers, and more, transforming the already spectacular 3.5 acre space into an otherworldly outdoor adventure.
- Après Village: This winter wonderland in Palo Alto is meant to simulate an alpine retreat with semi-private chalets and a holiday sweet shop.
- Holidays at Filoli: Arguably the most beautiful holiday light display in the Bay Area, Filoli Estate & Gardens in Woodside is adorned with thousands of glittering lights.
- Napa Valley Wine Train: The Napa Valley Wine Train is rolling out some spectacular holiday journey packages that will make your 2022 celebrations absolutely unforgettable.
11-15. Explore a breathtaking winter light display
Bay Area holiday light displays are on another level when it comes to their creativity, charm, and photo potential. You’d better start planning if you want to see them all before the season’s over!
- Entwined: Golden Gate Park’s popular enchanted LED garden will be on display from December 1 – March 12.
- Illuminate SF Festival of Light: The 10th annual Illuminate SF Festival of Light celebrates a total of 62 temporary and permanent glowing installations around SF, including a 5-night drone show in January.
- GLOW: Discover the Art of Light: The Exploratorium’s display of light art installations, including Jen Lewin’s The Last Ocean which was a favorite at Burning Man. On display now through January 29.
- Glowfari: Oakland Zoo’s hand-painted animal lantern festival is on display through January 29.
- Let’s Glow SF: The nation’s largest holiday projection mapping light display comes to Downtown SF from December 2-11.
16-20. Take a spin around a Bay Area ice skating rink
Is it really winter time without a day of ice skating at a charming local rink? See how much skill you’ve retained since last year by zooming (or hobbling) around one of the Bay Area’s most popular ice rinks.
- Union Square Ice Rink – SF’s most popular rink, with special events and themed nights all winter long. Open daily through January 16, 2023.
- Snoopy’s Home Ice – This Snoopy-themed ice rink in Santa Rosa was founded by Charles Schulz 50 years ago. Open year-round.
- Merry Meritage – Napa’s Meritage resort and spa has opened its annual winter village, complete with private igloos and fire pits around a totally photogenic ice rink. Open daily through January 8, 2023.
- San Mateo on Ice – At 11,000 square feet, this is the Bay Area’s largest outdoor ice rink. Open daily through January 8, 2023.
- The Great Dickens Christmas Fair – Explore an indoor ice rink in a Victorian park-like setting at this popular Christmas fair in Daly City. Open weekends through December 18.
21-24. Take an unforgettable trip to Lake Tahoe
Winter has arrived in Tahoe and the ski mountains are quickly reopening. Whether you’re visiting for a ski/snowboarding weekend, a quiet getaway in a cozy cabin, or just want to see a little snow, here are a few things to put on your list.
- Heavenly Mountain Resort: This renowned South Lake Tahoe resort offers incredible terrain variety, hidden glades, and 34 miles of skiable land that straddles the California-Nevada border.
- Palisades Tahoe: Palisades Tahoe is the largest skiing complex in Lake Tahoe and was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics. Visitors can enjoy 6,000 skiable acres across 8 peaks in one interconnected network.
- Fire Sign Cafe: Fire Sign Cafe has been a Tahoe breakfast favorite since it opened in 1978. It’s a popular spot with locals and tourists alike so expect to wait a bit on the weekends.
- South of North Brewing Company: This brewery and restaurant shares space and a courtyard with Basecamp Hotel. Expect live music, cozy fire pits to gather around, and optional beer flights for the beer connoisseurs out there.
25-28. Enjoy a delightful snow day
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.
- Pinecrest: Pinecrest Lake is a picturesque lake and town located in Stanislaus National Forest.
- Dodge Ridge: A family-owned ski resort in the Stanislaus National Forest, boasting 862 skiable acres and 1600 vertical feet.
- Arnold: Arnold is famous for housing the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Enjoy plenty of mountain sports or take a walk under the dazzling giant sequoias.
- Yosemite: The Valley Loop Trail and Yosemite Falls Trail are favorites during the winter season, as well as the park’s snow play areas and ice skating rink.
29-31. Go thrifting at a vintage shop
Vintage clothing is always in. Whether you’re trying to channel the bright ’80s vibe of Stranger Things, nail that ’60s Summer of Love look, or want to step into a hip speakeasy in your best ’20s flapper dress, San Francisco has a vintage clothing store for that.
- No Shop: A small but mighty shop with lots of great basics, denim, oversized jackets, and tons of plants that give it a cool loft apartment vibe.
- ReLove: A re-sale boutique with a motto of “more style, less waste”. They stand against the excess consumption of poorly made clothing, encouraging you to buy quality pieces that make you, and the environment, feel good.
- Held Over: Held Over sets itself apart with a strong focus on vintage European fashion, along with substantial American classic vintage offerings.
32-34. Sip your way through the best hot chocolate in the city
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!
- Dandelion Chocolate: A top-notch chocolatier with several locations in San Francisco where you can enjoy favorites like the Hojicha hot chocolate mix with green tea flavors or the Mission mix with a spicy blend of cinnamon and chile.
- Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop: When it comes to anything chocolate, you can’t get much better than SF’s own Ghirardelli! Popular flavors include a classic hot cocoa with whipped cream, a sea salt caramel hot cocoa for some extra depth, and a cup of decadent drinking chocolate for the richest flavors of them all.
- La Oaxaqueña: This beloved Mexican restaurant cranks out unbeatable tamales, tortas, pupusas, and more. But they also have an excellent Mexican hot chocolate selection! You can add guajillo chili powder and ginger to yours for an extra kick.
35-37. Enjoy some delicious seasonal goods from a local bakery
Who’s hungry? 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 and got some great ones.
- B. Patisserie: This iconic bakery’s formidable menu is in-tune with the seasons, so you’ll find many different flavors year-round in their croissants, bostock, coffeecake, and quiche.
- Arizmendi: Arizmendi is a worker-owned cooperative famous for its work with Cheeseboard pizza in Oakland. The menu varies each day and seasonally, meaning you’ll always find new flavor combos.
- Neighbor Bakehouse: Here’s a bright kitchen and cafe where you can see everything being made before your eyes. Pastries have unique flavors like pistachio blackberry, chocolate hazelnut, caramelized banana, guava and cream cheese, blueblerry sunflower, and more.
38-40. Warm up with a bowl of ramen
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.
- Marufuku: This legendary ramen spot is one of the most popular ramen restaurants in the city, and the sleek dining room makes it worth a dine-in experience.
- Mensho Tokyo SF: This massively successful ramen chain has popular storefronts all over the world and comes highly recommended by locals.
- Hinodeya: The origins of this ramen bar go all the way back to 1885, when it opened in front of Hasuda train station in Saitama, Japan. It opened in SF in 2016 and quickly rose to popularity.