25 Festive Holiday Events in the Bay Area

|November 16, 2017

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!

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair | Daly City  

November 18 – December 17 at the Cow Palace


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.

San Francisco Turkey Trot | San Francisco

November 23 at Polo Field, Golden Gate Park  

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.

Marin Turkey Trot | Novato

November 23 at 1800 Ignacio Blvd.

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.

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot | San Jose

November 23 in Downtown San Jose

Silicon Valley’s Turkey Trot has donated $6.9 million in the past! Register today whether you’re looking for a brisk 5K walk/run, a longer 10K or a fun-filled kids’ run. In addition to the traditional events, this huge celebration features a 10K wheelchair race, a Quickest Cop/Fastest Firefighter Competition and an entire morning of festival fun! Check out all the day’s events and register online here.

Illuminate SF Festival of Light | San Francisco

November 23 – January 1 around San Francisco

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.

Macy’s 28th Annual Great Tree Lighting Ceremony | San Francisco

November 24 in Union Square

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!

San Rafael Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland | San Rafael

November 24 in Downtown San Rafael  

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!

Harvest Festival | San Jose

November 24 – 26 at San Jose McEnery Convention Center

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.

Gingerbread Holiday Tea at The Fairmont | San Francisco

November 24 – January 1 at The Fairmont San Francisco

The Fairmont Hotel Holiday Events Brunch San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco

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

555 California Street All Star Holiday Culinary Kickoff | San Francisco

November 29 at 555 California St.

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

ZooLights | Oakland

December 1-23, 26-31 + January 1 at Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo Lights San Francisco Bay Area holiday events christmas 2017

Photo courtesy of Oakland Zoo

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!

Swedish Christmas Fair | San Francisco

December 2 at 1111 Gough St. 

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!

Union Street Fantasy of Lights | San Francisco

December 2 on Union Street in Cow Hollow

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!

The Elf Party | San Francisco

December 2 at Broadway Studios

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!

Muir Beach Holiday Arts Fair | Muir Beach

December 2 + 3 at Muir Beach Community Center

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!

Run Wild San(ta) Francisco 5K | San Francisco

December 3 at East Beach, Crissy Field

Run Wild San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Run Wild San Francisco and Foggy Bay Photos

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!

The RWF World Tree of Hope Celebration | San Francisco

December 4 at San Francisco City Hall

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!

Run & Ride Race + WinterFest | Santa Clara

December 9 at California’s Great America

What to do in San Francisco during winter

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 | San Francisco

December 9 in Union Square

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!

Santa Skivvies Run | San Francisco

December 10 in Santa’s Village at The Lookout

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.

Holiday Mercantile | San Francisco

December 10 at San Francisco County Fair Building

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.

The Great Santa Run 5K | San Francisco

December 10 at Crissy Field

San Francisco Great Santa Run 5K Race Holiday Events

Photo courtesy of Cris Gebhardt Photography

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.

Lighted Boat Parade | San Francisco

December 15 on San Francisco Bay  

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.

ZooLights | San Francisco

December 15-17, 19-23 + 26-31 at San Francisco Zoo

The 100-acre San Francisco Zoo goes festive for the holiday season with Santa Claus, reindeer, music, thousands of lights and seasonal delights. Don’t miss it!

Craneway Crafts Fair | Richmond

December 16 + 17 at Craneway Pavilion

Craneway Arts Fair San Francisco Bay Area Holiday Events

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. 

Happy holidays!

Share your favorite Bay Area holiday events and attractions in the comments below!

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McGuire Real Estate

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