Rejoice! The holiday season has arrived in the Bay Area. To celebrate the giving (and eating) season, the region is filled with fairs, festivals, races, wonderlands, light displays and craft events. On second thought, that doesn’t sound so different from the rest of the year in the Bay Area, but during these winter months there are definitely a few more Santas running around. In fact, there are five Santa-themed races on our list!
Check out the ways you can celebrate the season below and let us know in the comments which you’re looking forward to this year!
In 2017, San Francisco’s Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party is celebrating its 35th season! This annual tradition includes dancing, boisterous pub shows, tearooms, shopping, authentic food and drink from Charles Dickens’ Victorian London, literary and historical characters, children’s activities, shows and much more. In short, there’s something for the whole family! Get all the details and buy your tickets here.
This fun run and walk in the park includes a 5-mile run, a 3-mile walk and a kids’ 100-meter Gobbler Chase. Join the fun bright and early on Thanksgiving morning, don a festive costume and head to the park! But first, register here.
The annual Marin Turkey Trot includes the Chick-fil-A Youth 1 Mile, the Pilgrim 10k and the classic Turkey Trot 5k. With registration, participants get to take home a t-shirt, a Whole Foods goodie bag and a commemorative mug on Thanksgiving morning! Benefitting SF-Marin Food Bank and School Fuel, it’s a great way to wake up and run before the feast. Register online here.
Illuminate SF is a year-round celebration of the city’s thriving artists, installations and light art. During the winter months, they host the Illuminate SF Festival of Light which features special events, tours, studio visits and artist talks you don’t get during the fall, summer and spring. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, you can join in the winter festivities and participate in several free nighttime light art walking tours! Check the website for updates on 2017’s festival.
Every year, directly across from San Francisco’s Union Square Macy’s the towering, reusable tree is decorated with more than 33,000 twinkling energy-efficient LED lights and 1,100 shining ornaments. Around 6:40 p.m., to close the lighting ceremony, the tree will be lit for the season and illuminate the square all season long. Then, stop by Macy’s Santaland November 24 through December 24 to meet St. Nick himself!
There aren’t a lot of places around San Francisco for snow sledding, but you can find it at the San Rafael Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland! Attractions this year include snow activities for the kids, a marketplace for holiday shopping and an evening parade. Now in its 38th year, this Downtown San Rafael event is a great way for the whole family to ring in the holiday season! Check out the event page to find out when you can see the tree lighting and meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus!
The San Jose Harvest Festival has a full weekend of main stage entertainment and strolling entertainers like Big Mama Sue & Fast Eddie and WC Willy Stilt Cowboy. Don’t miss holiday characters like Eddie the Elf and Mama Claus who can pass on your Christmas wishes to Santa himself! Tickets range in price from $4 to $9 but children 12 and under are admitted for free so bring the whole family down to the Convention Center. You can buy tickets in advance here.
San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel has been entertaining holiday visitors for over a century with attractions and decorations like their famous two-story, life-sized Gingerbread House! To take your visit up a notch, reserve a couple spots for a Gingerbread Holiday Tea available daily between November 24 and January 1, 2018. During Christmas week, weekday prices increase but the festive experience and gourmet grub is worth it! Get all the details and book your spot here.
The 555 California Street Tree Lighting Celebration is an annual event featuring exclusive musical performances, a tree lighting countdown and other beloved festivities. This year, they’re teaming up with Culinary Kickoff to add a gourmet twist with foods and wines from the region’s best chefs and vintners. And the team recently announced that all proceeds from 2017’s event will be donated to victims of the California wildfires through Ronnie Lott’s All Stars Helping Kids! You can get more information and buy your tickets on the website.
The Oakland Zoo will be flooded with new lights and festive fun for the 2017 holiday season. From 5:30 – 9 p.m. each night, you can soar over the Oakland hills in our festively-lit gondolas and gaze in awe at cool new laser light shows. Make it a night to remember with the whole family and warm up with hot cocoa and homemade s’mores!
Since 1984, SWEA has been hosting their annual Christmas Fair to bring a little flavor of Sweden to San Francisco. For just $2 – $8 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., fill stockings with traditional crafts, imported gifts and delicacies from Scandinavia. Bring your kids to dance along to Swedish folk music, learn all about traditional costumes and meet Santa while adults sip traditional Glögg — AKA mulled wine!
From 3 – 7 p.m. on December 2, Union Street will be filled with holiday cheer between Van Ness and Steiner! To kick off the season, the neighborhood’s historic Victorian homes and businesses will turn on their lights transforming Union Street into a magical backdrop for Santa and his team of elves, jugglers, live ponies dressed as reindeer, face painters, balloon artists, costumed characters, singers and live entertainment!
For the past 15 years, The Elf Party has been one of the most exciting 21+ holiday parties in San Francisco. In recent years, the event has benefitted local charities like BayKids, My Two Front Teeth, Family Giving Tree, Women’s Community Clinic, SF Education Fund, San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center and The Princess Project. Costumes are required and will be the best way to commemorate the evening during your photos with Santa, your trips to the cash bar and your wild dances on the dance floor. Get your $30 – $40 tickets online ASAP!
This holiday-themed arts fair has been a Muir Beach tradition for over 40 years. With around 40 artists creating handmade, original fine arts, crafts and edible treats, it’s a great place to find gifts and stocking stuffers. Visit the Artist Gallery to preview what you can purchase and get ready for shopping with a beach view!
This kids run and 5K event comes complete with a Santa Hat and a Run Wild t-shirt. The flat, fast loop around Crissy Field reaches out to San Francisco’s historic Fort Point and offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the San Francisco Skyline and the San Francisco Bay. Register here and don’t forget to pick up your packets Saturday, December 2nd from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at A Runner’s Mind in San Francisco!
Completely free, this Rainbow World Fund party features a performance by the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Boys Chorus, a presentation by Mayor Ed Lee and the Consul General of Japan Jun Yamada, and a lighting ceremony of the RWF World Tree of Hope by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. As a symbol of global unity, the tree features wishes from school children, SF locals, world leaders and so many more people across the globe. RSVP to the event on Facebook and send your own wish to the tree here!
The Run & Ride Race is part of California’s Great America WinterFest! Race participants choose between a 10K, 5K and/or 1-mile fun run around the park before the gates open to the public. Then, you all get entrance to WinterFest, a one-of-a-kind race shirt and a collectible finisher medal! Register for the event here. And even if you don’t want to race, we recommend checking out WinterFest, available November 24 – December 30.
SantaCon is a simple gathering of hundreds of people dressed as Santa. That’s it, really. A celebration of costumes and fun, the event is coming to streets of SF on December 9. So get your best Santa costume ready and check the website for updates on additional events and specials!
This fun run is taking to the streets of The Castro on December 10 at 11 a.m. to benefit San Francisco AIDS Foundation. (Almost) anything goes so you can come in you red skivvies, your Santa-themed speedos or a festive costume! The Santa’s Village Block Party follows the race so register here then stick around on race day for music, fun and, of course, the beloved Santa’s Walk-Off where you get to strut your stuff in competition with your fellow Santa Skivviers.
This festive pop-up market features makers, artists, crafters, food artisans, small businesses, local merchants and causes alongside entertainment, children’s activities, shopping and delicious food. From 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on December 10, stop by for the largest market yet! Admission is free and you get access to over 75 vendors, food trucks, beer and wine tastings and children’s activities.
This family-friendly holiday tradition includes a 1-mile fun run and a 5K and all race participants get to take home a Santa suit and finisher medal! Additionally, everyone gets the SF views we’ve become obsessed with — the Bridge and the Bay just to name two. Register online here.
The oldest and largest lighted holiday boat parade on San Francisco Bay returns to the waterfront on December 15. Join The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District and the St. Francis Yacht Club as dozens of boats illuminate the Bay to celebrate the holidays.
Artist Justine Tot Tatarsky, photo by Donn De Angelo
Celebrating its 47th year in 2017, the Craneway Crafts Fair is an annual holiday benefit for KPFA Radio and a great place to get some last-minute shopping done. From 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on December 16 and 17, you can peruse the handmade work of 180 juried artisans alongside 20 fair traders and nonprofits. With a festive food court and live show included, feel free to bring the whole family along — unless, of course, you’re buying presents for them! Adult tickets are $12 with discounted prices for seniors and disabled guests, and youth are admitted for free; you can buy all your tickets at the door.
Share your favorite Bay Area holiday events and attractions in the comments below!