It’s as easy to fill 49 hours with holiday cheer in San Francisco as it is for Santa to stuff a stocking.

Visitors have a city full of options: Live performances by the San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Symphony and the cast of Beach Blanket Babylon. Going to the theater for The Velveteen Rabbit, A Christmas Carol and The Lion King. And taking part in The Dance-Along Nutcracker® or a holiday sing-a-long at Grace Cathedral. There are tree lightings galore, ice skating rinks, gingerbread houses and reportedly, the world's largest sugar castle. Breakfasts with Santa, Kwanzaa celebrations and a reindeer romp at the San Francisco Zoo are also popular. Holiday-themed culinary events, fancy teas and Dungeness crab season – which runs from early November to New Year's Day 2013 – will satisfy anyone with a curious, holiday-oriented appetite.

San Francisco Travel offers visitors opportunities to make their holidays in the City by the Bay an unforgettable experience. For holiday itinerary ideas and special hotel packages, consult San Francisco Travel’s special website, www.49HoursofSF.com.

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PERFORMANCES
LIGHTINGS
ICE SKATING
EVENTS & ACTIVITIES
DISPLAYS & EXHIBITS
SPORTING EVENTS
HOLIDAY CULINARY EVENTS

PERFORMANCES

Illuminique under the Dome and the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Snowflakes
Westfield’s iconic dome will come to life each night starting Nov. 15, 2012 with Illuminique Under the Dome, a one-of-a-kind animated 3D show that promises to capture the imagination of young and old. Open to the public and free of charge, the Nov. 15 event will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Level 4 with a demonstration of dance steps for children ages eight and under by San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Snowflakes. The first 100 children in attendance will receive commemorative tutus. At 5 p.m., the Ballet will unveil the Illuminique Under the Dome light spectacular. Illuminique Under the Dome shows will run nightly Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, every half hour, from 5 p.m. until 30 minutes prior to the Centre’s closing. In addition, the San Francisco Ballet will make two additional guest appearances for holiday shoppers on Saturday, Nov.17 and Dec. 5, from 5 – 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/sanfrancisco

A Season with the San Francisco Symphony
From Nov. 17 to Dec. 31, 2012, Davies Symphony Hall practically overflows with the diverse sounds of the season. Programs include:

  • Wilson Phillips: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. 
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Saturday, Nov.24 at 8 p.m. 
  • Pink Martini with the San Francisco Symphony: Wednesday, Nov.28 and Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Chris Botti with the San Francisco Symphony: Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec.1 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Deck the Hall Children's Holiday Concert and Party: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Peter and the Wolf with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 1 and 4 p.m. 
  • Colors of Christmas with Peabo Bryson, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., James Ingram, Stephanie Mills and the San Francisco Symphony: Monday, Dec. 10, Tuesday, Dec.11, and Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. 
  • Handel's Messiah with the San Francisco Symphony and the SF Symphony Chorus: Thursday, Dec. 13, Friday, Dec. 14, and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
  • The Count Basie Orchestra: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Judy Collins with the San Francisco Symphony: Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Natalie Cole with the San Francisco Symphony: Thursday, December 20 at 7:30 p.m. 
  • Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernandez: Friday, December 21 at 7:30 p.m. 
  • "The Snowman" animated film and sing-along with the San Francisco Symphony: Saturday, Dec. 22 at 11 a.m.
  • 'Twas the Night carols and sing-alongs with the SF Symphony Chorus and Orchestra: Saturday, Dec.22 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. and Monday, Dec.24 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.sfsymphony.org, 415-864-6000, or the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Ave. and Franklin St. in San Francisco.

Beach Blanket Babylon’s seasonal extravaganza
Wednesday, Nov. 14 to Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 at Club Fugazi
Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest running musical revue, welcomes this holiday season with special performances featuring a chorus line of tap dancing Christmas trees, special parodies of traditional Christmas carols and a gigantic Yuletide hat. Tickets run $25 to $130. For more information, visit www.beachblanketbabylon.com.

ODC/Dance presents The Velveteen Rabbit
Friday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 at Lam Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Featuring ODC/Dance's energetic and imaginative dancing, recorded narration by legendary actor Geoff Hoyle, costumes and sets by world-renowned children's illustrator Brian Wildsmith and musical score by composer Benjamin Britten. The Velveteen Rabbit, expertly choreographed and directed by KT Nelson, is suitable for ages three and up. Performance run time is approximately 90 minutes with an intermission. Tickets run $12 to $47. For more information, visit www.odcdance.org.

SFO presents You are Hear!
Through Dec. 23, 2012
The popular live music series at San Francisco International Airport, You Are Hear! will feature live music for the holidays at several locations around the airport. The series, which runs from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through December 23rd, will feature artists including Carolyna Picknick, Meklit Hadero, and the Gini Wilson Trio. For more information on featured artists, locations and schedule, visit www.flysfo.com.

Smuin Ballet’s Holiday Program
Friday,Nov. 23 to Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
The Smuin Ballet kicks off the holidays with its 2012 edition of The Christmas Ballet. The two distinct acts, Classical Christmas and Cool Christmas, are filled to the brim with an eye-catching array of ballet, tap and jazz, celebrating every imaginable holiday flavor from serene and spiritual, hilarious and hopeful, to downright ready to party. This year, the show will have new choreography from choreographer-in-residence Amy Seiwert, Smuin dancer Jane Rehm and former Smuin dancer Darren Anderson, and more. An ever-changing carousel of mischief and elegance, The Christmas Ballet is a perfect gift for audiences of all ages. For more information, visit www.smuinballet.org.

A Christmas Carol with the American Conservatory Theater
Friday, Nov. 30 to Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 at the American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St.
Featuring a lively cast of dozens, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, the Bay Area's favorite holiday tradition returns with a sparkling, music-infused production of A Christmas Carol by the American Conservatory Theater. Bring your family, bring your friends and check your "humbugs" at the door! Tickets range from $20-$95. For information, visit www.act-sf.org or call (415) 749-2250.

Old Friends' Holiday Concert
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at 4 p.m. on Union Square
Visitors are invited to enjoy holiday music at Union Square by the Deutscher Musikverein, a collection of amateur and professional musicians who perform traditional German marches, polkas, European folk and concert pieces in addition to favorites of jazz, pop, and Broadway. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.sfgermanband.org.

Santa Concert with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 at 8 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall, and Monday, Dec. 24, 2012; at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Castro Theatre
Where else but San Francisco can you enjoy watching more than 250 gay men in red suits celebrating the quintessential icon of the season, Santa Claus. This season, the historic San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will hold two concerts, one at Davies Symphony Hall and one at the iconic Castro Theatre, which will include favorite seasonal carols, boisterous sing-alongs, hilarious comic routines and heart-warming family moments. Note: celebrity guests often appear. Tickets run $15-$75. For more information, visit www.sfgmc.org.

The Golden Girls: “The Christmas Episodes 2012” annual all-drag X-mas Exdrag-a-ganza
Thursday, Dec. 6 to Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre. Tickets are $30. Truly an “Only in San Francisco” event, Heklina and three other world-class drag queens perform two episodes from “The Golden Girls” TV show live on stage. For more information, visit www.trannyshack.com

The Nutcracker presented by the San Francisco Ballet
Friday, Dec. 7 to Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House
The first ballet company to bring The Nutcracker tradition to America, San Francisco Ballet's awe-inspiring production is like no other. Set in San Francisco during the 1915 World's Fair, Clara's dreamlike journey is an ode to the city's historical grandeur - all amidst colorful, larger than life scenery, more than 200 dazzling costumed characters and Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. For full details, visit www.sfballet.org.

Salvation Army Celebrity Bell Ringing
Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Union Square
Union Square will rock with festive sounds of the season from some of the city's favorite performers: the Eyewitness Blues Band, Bud E. Luv, Pure Ecstasy, Billy Philadelphia with the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School and Stuart Hall High School Choirs, guest choirs from the San Francisco Unified School District, Noah Griffin and friends, George Spencer and friends, Haunted By Heroes, Mission Valley Chorus, Shane Turner and the Salvation Army Band. Visitors can also watch media celebrities and special guests ring the bell for the Salvation Army to spread cheer and encourage the holiday spirit of giving.

Help is on the Way for the Holidays
On Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, a non-profit Arts/AIDS organization dedicated to raising funds for AIDS service organizations in the Bay Area, will hold a special holiday benefit concert at Marine's Memorial Club. The event will feature the touring casts of both "The Book of Mormon" and "The Lion King." Tickets start at $40. For more information, visit marinesmemorialtheatre.com.

A Chanticleer Christmas
Monday, Dec. 10 to Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012
This much beloved Bay Area tradition brings the power and mystery, warmth and intimacy of the season to capacity audiences in beautifully decorated churches, cathedrals and missions. Various locations. For more information, visit www.chanticleer.org or call 415-392-4400.

American Bach Soloists perform Handel’s Messiah
Dec. 20, 21 and 22, 7:30 p.m. at Grace Cathedral,1100 California St.
Always a sell-out, American Bach Soloists’ performances of Handel's enduring masterwork are celebrated as one of Northern California's most treasured holiday traditions. A superb quartet of vocal soloists and the American Bach Choir, which "sets the standard in choral singing" (San Francisco Classical Voice) will join the period instrument specialists of American Bach Soloists under the masterful direction of Jeffrey Thomas in the breathtaking setting of Grace Cathedral.
For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/seasons/12-13/Messiah.htm

The 20th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
Saturday, Dec 22 to Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 at the New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave.
Jewish comedy on Christmas at a Chinese restaurant? What started out as a joke by local standup comic, Lisa Geduldig, has become an institution in San Francisco, giving more than 2,000 comedy aficionados and those escaping “Christmas-mania” an annual reprieve from I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. This year’s headliner is Judy Gold (The View, Comedy Central, Emmy Award-winning actress and writer). Also appearing will be Adrianne Tolsch (Florida condo circuit maven), Mike Capozzola (San Francisco comic and cartoonist) and host Lisa Geduldig. Tickets run $44 to $64. For more information, visit www.koshercomedy.com or call 415-522-3737.

Alcove Theater in Union Square launches holiday-themed magic, comedy shows
Fridays and Saturdays, from Nov. 23 to Dec. 22, and then a between-the-holidays run daily at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31 at the Alcove Theater, 414 Mason St.
In conjunction with Comedy on the Square, the new Alcove Theater, located one block from Union Square, is launching a fun holiday evening featuring two dynamic entertainers in back-to-back one-man shows. At 7 p.m., "Frisco Fred’s Holiday Magic and More" delivers mad-cap, free form, clean comedy combined with highly skilled magic and impossible stunts; tickets for this show are $30 general admission or $50 premium seating, and include free concessions, gift bag, wine, Tcho chocolate and professional quality juggling balls. At 9 p.m., Kurt Weitzmann's "Hysterical, Historical San Francisco" does the impossible: he proves that San Francisco is funnier than it already is. Tickets for this show are $25 general admission or $40 premium seating, and include free concessions, gift bag, wine, Tcho chocolate, Kurt’s comedy album, and hand-printed holiday cards signed by the artist. A two-show combination package runs $44 general admission or $72 premium seating. For more information, visit www.notquiteopera.org.

Outside San Francisco

Marin Ballet’s 50th anniversary, celebration of The Nutcracker
For two nights only -- Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 to 9, 2012 -- the Marin Ballet, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, will stage a holiday performance of "Nutcracker," a work choreographed by Julia Adam with more than 200 Marin Ballet dancers, ages eight to18 years old. Performances will be at the Marin Veterans' Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael. Tickets are available at tickets.marincenter.org and 415-499-6800.

Dream Circle Holiday Concert at the Bay Area Discovery Museum
On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito will host a family-friendly seasonal celebration featuring songs for a wide range of winter holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Chinese New Year.
Shows will be at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and tickets will be $16 for the general public. For more information, visit www.baykidsmuseum.org/holidays.

LIGHTINGS

26th Annual Embarcadero Lighting Ceremony and Carnival
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 at Justin Herman Plaza; carnival will run 4 to 6 p.m.; lighting ceremony at 6 p.m.
Kicking off the holiday season, Justin Herman Plaza will be the site of this year's Winter Carnival, a family-friendly event at the Embarcadero Center where kids can meet Santa and participate in cookie decorating, interactive arts and crafts booths, balloon twisters, caricature artists, and musical performances. The Embarcadero’s building lighting ceremony will begin at 6.p.m. and there will be a special pre-show performance from Disney On Ice. The event concludes with a spectacular pyrotechnic finale. Receive four hours of free parking if you obtain the parking sticker from any of the information booths starting at 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.embarcaderocenter.com/ec/attractions/index.html.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco's "Home for the Holidays"
Friday, Nov. 16 to Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Hyatt Regency San Francisco
Although it never snows in San Francisco, this year the Hyatt Regency San Francisco is predicting snowfall throughout the holiday season in its dramatic, Guinness Book of World Records’ Largest Atrium Lobby in the world. Complementing thousands of cascading lights and a dramatic 45-foot tree, snow will fall three times a day in the hotel's lobby, from Nov. 16 through Dec. 31, 2012. Free. For reservations and information, visit www.sanfranciscohyattregency.com or call 415-788-1234, ext. 4241.

PIER 39 tree Lighting Celebration
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 at 6 p.m., PIER 39
Welcome the holiday season with a day of holly-jolly magic and merriment at PIER 39. Engage in fun for the whole family with interactive exhibits, special meet-and-greets, and live holiday music sing-alongs. Events begin at 6 p.m. as PIER 39's majestic 60-feet tree adorned with glistening ornaments, bows and twinkling lights is illuminated against a stunning backdrop of the San Francisco city skyline. For more information, visit www.pier39.com.

Snowflakes on Market Lighting Ceremony
Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 at 6:30 p.m., Market Street, San Francisco
More than 140 five-foot-wide energy-saving LED illuminated snowflakes will decorate Market Street's signature "Path of Gold" light poles this winter from Second to Sixth streets. San Francisco icon, Val Diamond, will emcee this year's event. Live holiday music will be featured, along with students from the San Francisco Ballet dressed as winter snowflakes. City officials will make brief remarks before the official countdown to light unique holiday snowflakes. The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit www.marketstreetassociation.org.

48th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Ghirardelli Square
Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. at Ghirardelli Square
Visitors can enjoy free, live entertainment throughout the day culminating with the lighting of the Ghirardelli Square tree at 5:30 p.m. This year's schedule includes:

  • 2 p.m., performance by Contra Costa Chorale
  • 3:15 p.m., performance by City Opera SF
  • 4:30 p.m., performance by Kevin Toqe
  • 5:30 p.m., tree lighting hosted by Christina Loren of NBC Bay Area
  • 6 p.m., performance by Yuletide Carolers

In addition, Lola Toy Stop will be offering a small gift for each child ages nine-years old and under who visit the toy stop from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ghirardelli Chocolate will also be passing out Peppermint Bark Squares after the ceremony. For more information, visit www.ghirardellisq.com/events/tree-lighting-ceremony/schedule/tree-lighting-ceremony.

Macy’s Great Tree Lighting
Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 at 6 p.m. at Union Square
The 23rd annual illumination of Macy’s Great Tree includes more than 1,500 ornaments adorning the tree. This year, there will be a special performance by Chris Mann as well as a visit from Santa. Visitors can enjoy live music, dance performances, and a visit to the SFSPCA's holiday windows, featuring lovable animals up for adoption. Also this year, the department store encourages visitors to drop by the Aflac tent, at which you can purchase the new Macy’s Aflac duck (Note: 100 percent of net proceeds will benefit local children’s hospitals.).The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit www.macys.com.

Castro Holiday Tree
Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, Castro neighborhood
On Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at 6 p.m., join the Castro neighborhood as they light their holiday tree in the middle of this historic district accompanied by music from the Lesbian and Gay Chorus, the Gay/Lesbian Freedom Band and assorted elected officials and celebrity guests. The crowd grows every year for this seasonal event. Afterwards, begin your holiday shopping at one of the variety of nearby shops, offering classic gifts and unique selections. For additional information, visit www.castromerchants.com.

Holiday Tree Lighting at 555 California
Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. at 555 California in the Financial District
Visitors are invited to join San Francisco 49er Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Dwight Clark and recording artist Robin Thicke at the annual holiday tree at 555 California St. Nov. 27. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Current player and All-Pro Joe Staley will also join the dignitaries on stage. The event will feature musical performances from award winning recording star Robin Thicke. The ceremony also includes family holiday entertainment from the Dick Bright Orchestra. In honor of the fifth annual lighting, and the 30th anniversary of the 49ers’ legendary "The Catch," Montana and Clark will light the tree and toss autographed footballs into the holiday crowd. This year’s tree, from Mt. Shasta, will be one of the tallest decorated trees in the region at more than 80-feet tall. For more information, visit www.555treelighting.com.

The Ritz-Carlton Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.
The holiday season begins at twilight, when the hotel’s 40-foot holiday tree is illuminated by Santa Claus and his little helper from The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation as part of The Ritz-Carlton Community Footprints program. The nonprofit organization has been granting the wishes of children with life threatening medical conditions for over 27 years. This special evening in the porte cochere includes Dickens-era costumed carolers, hot apple cider, holiday confections and visits with Santa in The Terrace Courtyard Tent after the ceremony. This event is complimentary and open to the public. For more information, visit www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/SanFrancisco/Default.htm.

Concert and lighting at Fisherman’s Wharf Historic Lagoon
Saturday, Dec.1, 2012, at 5:30 p.m. at Jefferson Street between Taylor Street and Jones Street
Sip on hot cocoa, compliments of Ghirardelli, and enjoy the sounds of the San Francisco City Chorus as they perform holiday songs in the lagoon at Fisherman’s Wharf on Saturday, Dec. 1. A new addition to this year's festivities will include a countdown and lighting for the first time of the Fisherman's and Seaman's Memorial Chapel, located in the heart of the lagoon, as well as a special appearance by old St. Nick. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.visitfishermanswharf.com.

San Francisco International Airport Lighting Celebration
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 at San Francisco International Airport
Holiday travelers, take note: A beautifully-decorated holiday tree will be lighted at San Francisco International Airport on Dec. 4. The tree is on the bridge between International Parking Garages A and G. For more information, visit www.flysfo.com/web/page/parking/options/daily/index.html.

Golden Gate Park Tree Lighting at McLaren Lodge
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, at 5 p.m. McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park, 501 Stanyan St.
A San Francisco tradition, this will be the 83rd annual Holiday tree lighting of the venerable Monterey cypress tree at McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park. The event will also feature small rides for children, live entertainment, a cookie factory, arts and crafts and a visit from Santa. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.sfrecpark.org.

Holiday tree-lighting Ceremony and Forest Walk at the Presidio
Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Funston Avenue on the Presidio's Main Post
Visitors are invited to join the Presidio community for its traditional tree-lighting ceremony. Entertainment will be provided by the Golden Gate Carolers and light refreshments will follow in the Presidio YMCA gymnasium. After the tree lighting, visitors can join the lantern-lit evening forest walk, which will start at 6:15 pm. Bring a flashlight and experience the park in the dark on this 20-minute stroll. Walkers should meet at the Presidio YMCA gymnasium. For more information, visit www.presidio.gov/Calendar/Pages/holiday-lights.aspx.

Bill Graham Menorah Lighting
Saturday, Dec. 8 to 15, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at Union Square
Thirty-eight years ago the Menorah was lit in Union Square for the first time in any outside, public area celebrated outside of Israel. This year the tradition continues in Union Square where a candle will be lit each day for eight days starting Dec. 8. Snacks and warm drinks will be provided to guests for each lighting ceremony with activities for children. The time of the ceremony varies on each night. Please check the schedule listed for each day. For more information, visit www.chabadsf.org.

Outside San Francisco

Annual Holiday Tree-Lighting Ceremony at Jack London Square, Oakland
Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 5 to 7 p.m.
A stunning 57-foot-tall fir tree will be the evening’s main attraction as visitors delight in the live musical performances by Radio Disney stars Amber Lily, Emme, and Jeremy Thurber, plus a performance by the Jamaica Youth Heights Marching Band. Tree-lighting ceremony highlights will also include an introduction of Miss California 2012 and a dance number by the popular world-traveled tap-dancing Christmas trees. Holiday revelers will have the chance to pet and feed two live reindeer and pose for photos with costumed characters around the Square. Additionally, visitors can preview a parade float for the 13th annual America’s Children’s Holiday Parade. As part of the event, Jack London Square is hosting a canned food drive for the Alameda County Community Food Bank and a toy drive for the city of Oakland to support families in need. For more information, visit www.jacklondonsquare.com.

Festival of Lights at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 through Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012
Located approximately 125 miles north of San Francisco, this beautiful 47-acre seaside garden takes on a nighttime personality during the Festival of Lights. Tens of thousands of twinkling lights transform Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens into a blossoming winter wonderland to create a magical mood for the holidays. Majestic tall trees are dressed in tiny, colorful lights while the beds beneath bloom with “flowers of lights.” Children of all ages can stroll along the garden pathways and be dazzled by the floral light displays. Visitors can sample holiday sweets, warm drinks and enjoy a community coming together in the spirit of holiday and fun. Tickets are $15; kids under 15-years old are free. For more information, visit www.gardenbythesea.org.

ICE SKATING

Safeway Holiday Ice Rink
Nov. 7, 2012 through Jan. 16, 2013; 10 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. daily in Union Square
The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square presented by Alaska Airlines will kick off the holiday ice skating season with a special opening ceremony featuring Disney’s The Lion King. Grab your scarf and mittens and make your way down to the ice rink to view a local professional ice skating group performing to Disney’s The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” sung by Buyi Zama, who portrays “Rafiki.” New this year, the seasonal ice rink will host “Icebreaker: San Francisco Single’s Night” on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 at 8 to 9:30 p.m.; “Drag Queens on Ice: Bigger! Better! Bawdier!” on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; “Polar Bear Skate” Tuesday, Jan.1, 2013 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. (read: ice skaters are encouraged to come in their favorite bathing suit and beach blanket apparel). For more information, visit www.unionsquareicerink.com or call 415-781-2688.

Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, Presented by Hawaiian Airlines
Nov. 7, 2012 through Jan. 6, 2012
The Holiday Ice Rink, located at the back door to the iconic Hyatt Regency San Francisco, is steps from the Ferry Building and the California Street cable car line. The ring of the bells, the scent of the Bay and the lights of the Embarcadero make skating at the Embarcadero Center an “Only in San Francisco” experience. For more information, visit www.embarcaderocenter.com/ec/attractions.

Yerba Buena Ice Skating
Ongoing at Yerba Buena Gardens
Located in an urban rooftop garden at Yerba Buena Garden, 750 Folsom St., the view of the city from the rink’s wall of windows can only be described as dazzling. Open for public skating daily and skating lessons as well as private events and parties. For information, visit www.skatebowl.com.

EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

New Pop-Up Holiday Shop at the Westfield San Francisco Centre
Through Sunday, Jan. 16, 2013 at the Westfield San Francisco Centre
New this year, Westfield San Francisco Centre has launched a pop-up holiday shop, Christmas Treasures, located on Level 4 near the historic Dome. Shoppers will discover a festive selection of holiday decorations, gift ideas and holiday memories with a photo with Santa. Also new this year, the holiday shop will offer Santa Paws Pet Photos; canines are invited to have their photo snapped with Santa on Nov. 29, Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/sanfrancisco.

Reindeer Romp at the San Francisco Zoo
Saturday, Nov. 17. 2012 to Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the San Francisco Zoo
Santa’s reindeer, Belle, Holly, Peppermint and Velvet, have just flown in to the San Francisco Zoo. Visitors are reminded to put on your favorite scarf, pick up a hot cocoa at the Lemur Café and head over to the Lion Fountain area to see and learn about these beautiful animals. The event is free to zoo members, or complimentary with regular zoo admission for nonmembers. For more information, visit www.sfzoo.org.

Holiday Sugar Castle at Westin St. Francis
Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 at 9 a.m. at Union Square
The Westin St. Francis executive pastry chef Jean-François Houdré will unveil his signature 12-foot rotating holiday sugar castle in the Main Lobby of The Westin St. Francis. The event, free and open to the public, will include complimentary hot chocolate and cookies. Originally created in 2005, this magnificent Sugar Castle continually grows larger each year. Resembling a French Chateau, the castle weighs more than 1,200 pounds and features 20 grand circular towers, 30 rooms, glowing windows and a running train. New this year is the addition of the top 2012 “newsmakers” on display throughout the castle. Spectators will enjoy locating and identifying these life-like elf replicas of politicians, celebrities, athletes and well known personalities. The Sugar Castle will be on display through Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013.
For more information, visit www.westinstfrancis.com.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Friday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012; weekends only – but including Friday after Thanksgiving -- 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave.
The world renowned Great Dickens Christmas Fair is the only event of its kind -- anywhere. The winding lanes of Victorian London come to life at the Cow Palace in 120,000-plus square feet of theatrically lit music halls, pubs, dance parties and charming shops overflowing with handmade holiday treasures. It's a lamp lit city brimming with lively and colorful characters from the pages of history and the imagination of Charles Dickens, Jules Verne and Lewis Carroll. New entertainment this year includes Richardson's Empire of Wonders, a Victorian sideshow filled with whimsical wonders and curious conundrums; a sprightly production of the perennial favorite Pinocchio; and a new “Christmas Carol” environmental theater. For information, visit www.dickensfair.com.

2nd Annual Treasure Island Flea Holiday Weekend Shopping Event & Toy Drive
Nov. 24 & 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the Great Lawn at Treasure Island
Enjoy spectacular views of the city and find one-of-a kind gifts that will truly not be found anywhere else at Treasure Island Flea. While you're there, support the San Francisco's Fire Fighter's Toy Program for local Bay Area children in need. The November weekend show is your best opportunity to get something that is handmade, unique and local for your loved ones. Come kick-off the holiday shopping season by finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list, while enjoying a day on a peaceful island it the bay. Free parking and dog friendly. For more information, visit http://www.treasureislandflea.com.

San Francisco Celebration of Craftswomen
Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 24 to 25, and Dec. 1 to 2, 2012, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason Center.
Now in its 34th year, the Celebration of Craftswomen, the only exclusively-female show in the U.S., is the jewel of San Francisco’s alternative holiday shopping season. Featuring more than 300 artists, this community-driven celebration offers the latest trends in handcrafts as well as the classics. Visitors can peruse and purchase a vast array of clothing, furniture and accessories, jewelry, bags and purses, bath and beauty items, housewares, ceramics and pottery, paper goods, glass, and art, all under one roof and all made in the U.S. This year's celebration will include the launch of a new series, "Celebration of Women and Film," featuring two programs. Lunafest, a series of nine short films from women around the world , will be screened on Dec. 1 at noon and 2:15 p.m. "Wonder Women! The Untold Story of Superheroines," a new documentary by acclaimed documentary by Bay Area filmmaker Kristy Guevara-Flannagan,will also be screened on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, students and disabled, and free for children 12 years-old and under; a two-day pass good on any of the four days is $12. for more information, visit www.celebrationofcraftswomen.org or call (650) 615-6838.

Gingerbread House Holiday Open House on Nob Hill
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fairmont San Francisco
The Fairmont San Francisco will turn moments into cherished memories with this year's dazzling holiday display, featuring its world-famous giant Gingerbread House. Enjoy the unveiling of the hotel's incredible edible abode during a Gingerbread Open House Saturday, Nov. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. while taking pleasure in holiday refreshments and heart-warming music. Santa will be on hand for photos, and children can write letters to him in the lobby's "North Pole Nook." Dog-lovers can also delight in a special appearance by Gentleman Norman, author of "How to Be a Man," and a long-time Fairmont San Francisco VIP (Very Important Pomeranian). For more information, visit www.fairmont.com/san-francisco/promotions/holidays-at-the-fairmont-san-francisco.

24 Holidays on 24th Street
Saturday Dec. 1-24, 2012 throughout Noe Valley
Cookie-decorating parties, carolers, cable-car rides, visits from Santa, and a menorah lighting are just a few of the many events being staged for the upcoming holiday season in Noe Valley. “24 HoliDays on 24th Street,” sponsored by the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, will run Dec. 1 to 24, and will combine holiday events hosted by the merchants in past years, such as the Noel Stroll, with a new lineup of festivities. For a complete schedule, visit www.noevalleymerchants.com.

Christopher Radko Ornament Signing Event at Bloomingdale’s San Francisco
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Bloomingdale's San Francisco
The public is invited to the concourse level of Bloomingdale’s to meet Christopher Radko and artist Mario Taré who will be available to sign Radko’s handcrafted ornaments and tabletop décor, including Worth the Wait, a piece created exclusively for stores holding signing events in 2012. For more information, visit www.eventbrite.com/event/4699591605.

Union Street Festival of Lights
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Union Street in the Cow Hallow neighborhood
Union Street kicks off its annual Fantasy of Lights holiday celebration where thousands of holiday lights set off the Victorian buildings, transforming Union Street into a magical backdrop for Santa and a team of elves to celebrate along with jugglers, live ponies dressed as reindeer, face painters, balloon artists, costumed characters, singers and live entertainment. New this year will be a Union Street Holiday Hayride. Visitors are also invited to Cudworth Mansion at 2040 Union St., to decorate a cupcake from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Santa will arrive in front of the Cudworth Mansion at 5:30 p.m. where he will sit available for pictures until 7 p.m. Throughout the month, Union Street will offer visitors validated parking, store open houses, evening shopping, and holiday lights; merchants will stay open until 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit www.sresproductions.com.

Exploratorium plans holiday events, final farewell before Embarcadero move
The Exploratorium, which has had its home at the Palace of Fine Arts for the past 43 years, is ending its long run at the current location with a variety of holiday programming, including a free day on its last day on Jan. 2, 2013 (Note: On April 17, 2013, the Exploratorium will re-open at its new home on Pier 15 on San Francisco’s historic Embarcadero). All events are included in the price of admission . Holiday highlights this year include:

  • Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.at McBean Theater: A screening of "Farewell to the Palace," a collection of short films shot in and around the Palace of Fine Arts, including footage taken at the 1906 Pan Pacific Exhibition
  • Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012; 2 p.m. at McBean Theater: A screening of two cinematic classics told through the eyes of childhood. "The Sweater," by Sheldon Cohen, recalls a boy's passion for hockey and the perils of wearing the wrong sweater. Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales," is narrated by Thomas and offers an intimate glimpse of another era in this rarely screened 16mm print.
  • Monday, Dec. 24, 2012: the Exploratorium will be open on Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26 to Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at McBean Theater: The annual Holiday Animation Festival, a variety of short, engaging, and playful animated films.

Sing You a Merry Christmas at Grace Cathedral
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 11 a.m. and Saturday, Dec.15 at 11 a.m.
Designed especially for children and families, visitors are encouraged to sing along to favorite Christmas carols with a cast of colorful characters. Tickets are $5 to $25. For more information, visit www.gracecathedral.org.

Christmas At Sea on Hyde Street Pier
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012; 3 p.m. aboard Balclutha.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park presents “Christmas At Sea!” This special holiday celebration features live music, refreshments, ornament-making, and a special visit from Santa Claus. All activities are held aboard the historic sailing ship Balclutha, berthed at Hyde Street Pier. The Dogwatch Nautical Band starts the festivities at 3 p.m., performing traditional sea chanteys with a holiday twist. Kids of all ages will enjoy the popular ornament-making activities and refreshments from 3- 4:45 p.m. As the band concludes its performance, a park ranger will read a popular holiday story. Another highlight of the celebration is the arrival Santa at 4:20 p.m., who will listen to children’s wishes until the program ends at 4:45 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, and children under 15 are free. For more information
visit http://www.nps.gov.safr/.

Santa Trains and Sing Alongs with Napa Valley Wine Train
Mondays through Thursdays, Dec 3-20; from 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
The Santa Express Train is a magical experience for the young and the young at heart. Ride the express train with special guest, Ole' Saint Nick. The Wine Train's Santa Trains have been a local's secret for years. Relax with a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary while your children finally get to meet Santa and all of his favorite friends. These special trains have been designed with the kiddos in mind and only last for an hour and a half. Tickets range from $20-$25 per person. Visit http://winetrain.com/holiday/santa-trains for a schedule and more information. Reserve space by calling 800.427.4124.

2012 Dance-Along Nutcracker® Goes Hollywood!
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. (adults-only gala) and Dec. 9, 2012 at 1 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St. This year, William “Billy” Sauerland, a professional countertenor, Chanticleer veteran and artistic director of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, will star as Fritz at the 2012 Dance-Along Nutcracker® Goes Hollywood! Performed by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the wackiest Nutcracker on earth kicks up its heels Saturday, Dec. 8 (2:30 and 7 p.m. gala); and Sunday, Dec. 9 (1 p.m.) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street. “Grownups Only” gala with feature a groovy DJ party and holiday reception; tickets are $50. Afternoon shows tickets are $26 for general admission, and $16 children and seniors. For more information, visit www.DanceAlongNutcracker.org or call (415) 978-ARTS.

The Science of (Holiday) Light: A seasonal stroll for inquisitive souls
Dec. 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, and 30; 6:30–8 p.m.; Tour begins in Dolores Park
Join this festive trek and gain a new appreciation for the city's most spectacular light displays. Stroll along San Francisco stairways, side streets, and scenic vistas, admiring the local holiday handiwork while doing experiments with color mixing and animation, and talking about light. Learn about the history of holiday lights, enjoy some seasonal treats, and bask in the glow that lights the winter's night. The tour is 2 miles and includes hills and staircases. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children under 18. For private tours, contact Robin Marks at robin@discoverystreettours.com. For tickets and more information visit http://www.discoverystreettours.com.

Decorated Boat Parade at Fisherman’s Wharf
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2012 at 6 p.m. at PIER39 to the St. Francis Yacht Club, viewable from the Aquatic Park and the end of PIER 39 Join the Fisherman's Wharf community and the St. Francis Yacht Club for the largest boat parade on San Francisco Bay. More than 60 boats festooned with lights and holiday decorations will parade along the waterfront starting at PIER 39 and traveling to Marina Green before returning to PIER 39. For more information, visit www.visitfishermanswharf.com/fishermans-wharf/holiday-lights-sights-at-the-wharf.

Holiday Lights-and-Chocolate Tours with Gourmet Walks in San Francisco
Fridays and Saturdays in December 2012; from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Join Gourmet Walks for a series of evening Chocolate Tours during the holiday season. They’ll view spectacular light displays from the Ferry Building to Union Square, while learning how to taste fine chocolate and warming up with drinking chocolate. Tours depart from Justin Herman Plaza. Tickets are $52; the tour includes seven stops and generous chocolate tastings. For more information, visit www.gourmetwalks.com/events-and-specials.

Red And White Fleet Introduces San Francisco’s Holiday Twilight Cruise
Thursday through Saturday in December 2012; departs at 5:30 p.m.
For those that want to celebrate the coming season with a festive, city lights-inspired bay tour, Red and White Fleet has packaged up San Francisco’s only “Holiday Twilight Cruise,” available through December 31, 2012, including the Christmas Eve/Christmas and New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day holidays. On this casual two-hour cruise, passengers will enjoy views of the city’s spectacular nightscape, live guitar entertainment, light appetizers from the buffet and a hot or cold beverage from the bar. Nestled into the warm and cozy atmosphere of Red and White Fleet’s historic ferry boats, the cruise will pass along the dramatically lit skyline of San Francisco with its modern skyscrapers and historic landmarks, pass the infamous island of Alcatraz and cruise under the impressive San Francisco Bay Bridge and the legendary Golden Gate Bridge. Tickets are $58 for adults (18+) and $40 for youth (ages 5-17). Children under five are free. For more information visit http://www.redandwhite.com/bay-cruises/california-twilight.asp

Victorian Home Walk Tour Yuletide Walking Tour in Pacific Heights
Meet daily at 11 a.m. in Union Square – at the corner of Powell a Post Streets, across from Saks Fifth Avenue, right next to the big red heart. Visitors can explore Pacific Heights's colorful Victorian row houses, many decked in Yuletide cheer, famous mansions and beautiful gardens. The walk is easy, the pace leisurely, and there are no hills to climb. The 2.5-hour tour includes bus transportation between Union Square and Pacific Heights. The fee is $25 per person (no credit cards). No reservations are required. For information, visit www.victorianhomewalk.com.

Extranomical Tours’ Holiday Shopping Tour & Wine Tasting Tours
What could be better than saving money on gifts at great prices for the special people in your life, and sipping wine in Napa Valley? Shop for about four hours and save up to 70% on store brands with a complimentary VIP Coupon Book at Premium Outlets. End the day with a relaxing wine tasting in Napa Valley as you enjoy the beauty of the California wine country. There’s also a photo stop available at the Golden Gate Bridge on the way back to San Francisco. For information, visit http://www.extranomical.com/tours/san-francisco/premium-outlet-shopping-tour-wine-tasting.htm

Outside San Francisco

Festive Fortnight Celebration in Mendocino County
Nov. 30 – Dec. 16, 2012
This Holiday Season in Mendocino County, CA, the Second Annual “Festive Fortnight” will showcase Twinkling Lights, Sparkling Events, Dazzling Deals, Glittering Galleries and Fabulous Food & Wine. Over four consecutive weekends beginning in November and running through mid-December, lodging properties, wineries, retail stores, restaurants, local attractions and more will offer incredible, holiday-themed deals and special incentives that will make Mendocino County the place to get in the spirit of the Holiday Season. These 14 days coincide with the extremely popular Candlelight Inn Tour, held along the North Mendocino Coast, and the Festival of Lights celebration at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Other events of note that happen every year during the first half of December include the Lighted Boat Parade on Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg, the Skunk Train’s Christmas Train and the Ukiah Holiday Trolley, to name a few.For more information about Mendocino County, please call 866-466-3636 or visit www.visitmendocino.com.

Santa’s Riverboat Arrival in Petaluma
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012 at the Petaluma River Turning Basin (Sonoma County)
Santa and Mrs. Claus give the holiday season a uniquely Petaluma kick-off on Saturday, Nov. 24 when their tugboat chugs into the Petaluma Turning Basin at noon. Starting at 11 a.m., performers will entertain the crowd at River Plaza awaiting Santa’s arrival. The cheery couple will be greeted by costumed dancers from the Petaluma School of Ballet’s “Nutcracker” and then stroll to 8 E. Washington St. for photos and Christmas wishes. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the rest of the day shopping in Petaluma's Historic Downtown or Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. For more information, visit www.visitpetaluma.com.

Holiday Celebration, Artisan Faire in the East Bay
Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkeley
The countdown to Christmas can officially begin at the Claremont, which kicks off the season with its complimentary, family-friendly holiday tradition for locals and visitors looking to spread Holiday cheer. The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa’s annual Village Lighting Ceremony will include wine tasting and seasonal cooking demonstrations, an artisan faire for holiday shopping, salsa and tango demonstrations, story time with Santa, holiday-themed movies playing throughout the day, a build-your-own gingerbread house, festive carolers, and complimentary hot apple cider and cocoa. For more information, visit www.claremont-hotel.com.

Gingerbread House Making Contest in Downtown Napa
Sunday, December 16, 12:30 t0 3:30 p.m. at the Westin Vernasa Napa in downtown Napa
This family-friendly, community holiday event is free and open to the public; visitors will be able to vote for their favorite showcased gingerbread house. All proceeds for the event will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Napa Valley. For more information, visit www.westinnapa.com/gingerbreadhousecontest.

Santa Arrives by ‘Water Sleigh’ at Tomales Bay
Sunday, Dec. 19, 2012 3 to 5 p.m. at Nick’s Cove in Marshall (Marin County)
Replete with treats and holiday wishes and arriving by way of his trusty “water sleigh” (i.e., boat), Santa will pull up to the dock at the famous Boat Shack at Nick’s Cove for his second annual visit to this local institution. Children and their families will have a chance to sit and chat with Santa in the Boat Shack, which will be decorated and lit for the holiday season, enjoying complimentary hot apple cider, hot chocolate and treats. A photographer will be on hand to take portraits with Santa. Guests who bring a donation of canned food for the Marin Food Bank will receive a 15 percent discount on any food or beverage purchase throughout the day. For more information, visit www.nickscove.com.

San Rafael Lighted Boat Parade in Marin County
Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in San Rafael
San Rafael unofficially kicks off the holiday season with its annual lighted boat parade in the San Rafael Canal; the procession of festively lighted and decorated boats runs along the canal between the San Rafael Yacht Club to Pickleweed Park. This year, the 101 Surf Sports shop, located on the canal 15 Third Street in San Rafael, will be hosting a free party and viewing area for this year's parade. For more information, visit www.101surfsports.com.

Kwanzaa Celebration in Sausalito
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito (Marin County)
The Bay Area Discovery Museum invites visitors to its joyous African-American celebration of family and community. Experience the rich traditions of Kwanzaa, featuring a celebration of African-American culture through hands-on art activities, and performances. There will be a traditional Kwanzaa altar on display in the Museum¹s Entry Pavilion. Two free performances by the African Roots of Jazz will be presented in the Discovery Theater at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Renowned jazz drummer E. W. Wainwright and his ensemble take us on a musical journey that traces African-American musical forms, such as jazz, gospel, and spirituals, from their earliest beginnings in African cultures to today. The program features instrumental music, songs, theater, and audience participation. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.baykidsmuseum.org/holidays.

DISPLAYS & EXHIBITS

Macy’s Holiday Windows Featuring San Francisco SPCA Adoptable Animals
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 to Jan. 1, 2013 at Macy’s on Union Square
Kicking off its 26th year, Macy’s on Union Square holiday windows on Stockton and O’Farrell streets will feature adoptable animals from the San Francisco SPCA and an adoption outpost in the store. These famous windows were voted “Ten Best Places to Press Your Nose” and are a beloved tradition in San Francisco. In 2011, volunteers helped 320 animals find new homes and raised more than $75,000 for life-saving SF SPCA programming. For more information, visit www.sfspca.org/support/volunteer/volunteer-macys-holiday-windows.

Holiday Artisan Fair at the de Young Museum
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm.
The de Young Museum Store presents its most exciting event of the season, the sixth annual Holiday Artisan Fair. Featuring the best Bay Area artisans showcasing their exceptional wares, this two-day artisan craft fair welcomes 17 participants with an expanded selection of jewelry, textiles, home accessories, books, stationery, and children’s items featured in the Museum Store. Meet the artisans and shop a Museum Store-curated selection of unique holiday gifts. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.famsf.org/store.

’Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences
Nov. 16, 2012 to Jan. 6, 2013; Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. California Academy of Science, Golden Gate Park
The California Academy of Science is getting a winter makeover for the holidays. The popular ’Tis the Season for Science exhibit returns for a third year, bringing with it the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Experience indoor snow flurries, get up close and personal with live reindeer at the East Garden, and immerse yourself in a snow-themed mini-dome show. For 2012-2013 season, the Academy has also added three new programs suitable for all ages: "Reindeer Rendezvous" daily at noon; "Holiday Migration Quest" of gray whales and monarch butterflies daily at 1:30 p.m.; and "Specimen Spotlight: Migrating Monarchs" on Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. For more information, contact 415-379-8000, info@calacademy.org; or visit www.calacademy.org.

Legion of Honor kicks off holidays with exhibit paying homage to treasures of the French monarchy
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 to Sunday, March 17, 2013 at the Legion of Honor
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will kick off the holiday season with an exhibit of the unparalleled collection of decorative arts from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, including some of the most exquisite treasures of the French monarchy from the time of Louis XIV until the Revolution of 1789. Highlights of "Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette" include: the Gobelins manufactory’s masterwork mosaic tabletop of semiprecious stones; the gemmes de la couronne, precious hardstone vases collected by Louis XIV; the présents du Roi, including diamond-and-gem snuffboxes made for the royal family to present as gifts; personal items made for Louis XV’s private use or for use by his mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, including exquisite Sèvres porcelain and silver; and Marie-Antoinette’s personal collection of precious vases made of agate and other hardstones. For more information, http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/legion/exhibitions/royal-treasures-louvre-louis-xiv-marie-antoinette.

Conservatory of Flowers celebrates "Boomtown: Barbary Coast"
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 to April 14, 2013 in Golden Gate Park
San Francisco’s rowdy past comes to life this holiday season at the Conservatory of Flowers’ newest garden railway exhibition, "Boomtown: Barbary Coast." In a display landscaped with hundreds of dwarf plants and several water features, model trains wind their way along miniature docks crowded with replicas of the clipper ships that brought fortune seekers to California. Trains will then zip past whimsical recreations of the city’s most important landmarks such as Portsmouth Square, Chinatown’s Waverly Place and Maiden Lane. Visitors can also view a life-sized schooner at the entrance to the gallery, interpretive signs, memorabilia and interactive activities to aid in understanding the colorful history of the City after the 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. The Conservatory is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Tickets run $1.50 to $7. For more information, visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org or call (415) 831-2090.

Frosting the Conservatory of Flowers
Dec. 15, 2012 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
What began as an awareness and fundraiser for the Conservatory’s whitewashing needs (“frosting,” in the greenhouse industry) has now become a not-to-be-missed tradition for all ages. Participants will receive delectable building supplies like Graham Cracker foundation, tasty icing and edible candy décor to construct the greenhouse of their dreams. Take it home for the holiday table, or eat it on the spot. Proceeds benefit the Conservatory of Flowers Maintenance Fund. Materials fee is $10. For more information, visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org.

Holiday Lights at the San Francisco Zoo
Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights; 4 to 8 p.m. starting mid-December at the San Francisco Zoo
Enjoy the San Francisco Zoo at night under magical holiday lights. Visitors are invited to take a festive evening walk at the Zoo, to see the reindeer romp, enjoy hot apple cider and cocoa, party with the penguins, and sing along to special seasonal entertainment. For more information, visit www.sfzoo.org.

SPORTING EVENTS

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Secures Saturday, New Year’s Eve Game Date for 2012
Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at 1 p.m. at San Francisco’s AT&T Park
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has landed a prime Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29, 2012 for its 11th annual bowl game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Kickoff for the nationally-televised ESPN contest is 1 p.m. (PST). The game will feature a PAC-12 team vs. Navy. Tickets are currently on sale. For information, visit www.kraftbowl.org.

Pre-season college basketball
The month of December has several Bay Area colleges and universities competing in pre-season games.

  • For the University of California, Berkeley, visit www.calbears.com
  • For Stanford University, visit www.gostanford.com
  • For the University of San Francisco’s men’s schedule, visit www.usfdons.com
  • For St. Mary’s College in Moraga, visit www.smcgaels.com
  • For Santa Clara University, visit www.santaclarabroncos.com/sports/w-baskbl/2011-12/schedule
  • For San Francisco State University, visit www.sfstategators.com
  • For San Jose State University, visit www.sjsuspartans.com


HOLIDAY CULINARY EVENTS

Nutcracker Holiday Tea Menu at the Fairmont San Francisco
Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 24 to Dec. 16, 2012, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The Nutcracker Tea will also be served everyday during winter school break from Dec. 17 - 30, 2012.
A San Francisco tradition, the popular "Fairmont Nutcracker Tea" offers traditional tea sandwiches, scones as well as assorted teas, hot apple cider and hot chocolate. Reservations are a must. The cost is $69 per person, or $34.50 for children under five years old. During the tea, all children will receive a nutcracker trinket and a gingerbread cookie to decorate with the help of the Nutcracker Soldier. A strolling magician will entertain each table with some holiday magic. For more information, visit www.fairmont.com/san-francisco/dining/afternoon-tea-at-the-fairmont.

Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco will host its popular Teddy Bear Tea from Friday, Nov. 30 to Monday, Dec. 24, 2012; two daily seatings at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; the cost is $85 per guest, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Children and their favorite stuffed animals are invited to gather in the Terrace Courtyard Tent for this popular tradition featuring Santa’s Elves and the giant Ritz-Carlton Teddy Bear. A special tea experience of hot chocolate, holiday confections and assorted sandwiches will be served while the kids enjoy holiday entertainment. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation. In addition, the hotel also hosts a grown-up holiday tea from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31 from 3 to 4 p.m. ($65 per person). For more information, visit www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/SanFrancisco.

Fisherman’s Wharf Crab Fest
Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 noon to 3 p.m. the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, 145 Jefferson St.
Fisherman's Wharf will be celebrating crab season by bringing together chefs from top local restaurants to share their favorite crab recipes, complimented by local, sustainable wine. Tickets are $25 per person. All proceeds will go to the San Francisco Fire Department toy program and the San Francisco Police Department youth fishing program. Participating restaurants include Alioto's, Bistro Boudin, Blue Mermaid, Cafe Pescatore, Capurro's, Fog Harbor Fish House, The Franciscan, McCormick & Kuleto's and Scoma's. For more information, visit www.visitfishermanswharf.com.

Sourdough Holiday Gifts at Boudin Bakery
Boudin, the creator of San Francisco’s original sourdough French bread, has designed special gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas that can be shipped fresh anywhere in the country or purchased from its San Francisco bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf. Popular holiday gifts include sculpted breads individually in the shapes of a Christmas tree, stocking, and snowman. Gifts start at $26.95. For more information, visit www.boudinbakery.com.

Holiday Gift Boxes from La Cocina 
La Cocina is a non-profit incubator kitchen in San Francisco's Mission District dedicated to promoting the success of women entrepreneurs. This season, La Cocina is offering stellar, specially curated holiday gift boxes that include an assortment of locally made treats from La Cocina’s talented entrepreneurs. Each box includes a sampling of the best packaged products from La Cocina's incubator kitchen and can include personalized greetings. Place Gift Box orders online at www.lacocinasf.org/lacocinastore. For customized corporate or bulk orders, contact Angela McKee: (415)729-4565, angela@lacocinasf.org.

Outside San Francisco

The Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite National Park
Celebrating its 86th season, The Bracebridge Dinner transforms The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park into a 17th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth, transporting guests to Old England, where more than 60 costumed, professional singers and performers enact a lively holiday banquet with Lord Merrick of Bracebridge and his entertaining household. During each Bracebridge performance, up to 300 guests enjoy a lavish, seven-course feast by The Ahwahnee’s executive chef Percy Whatley, with service choreographed as part of the pageantry. The Ahwahnee Dining Room, with its 50-foot ceiling topped by massive log beams, serves as the Great Hall at Squire Bracebridge’s manor. The entire room is a stage, crowned by an elaborate Squire’s table and decked with holiday decorations, many of which are restored originals from the first productions in the late 1920s. For the 2012 holidays, the event will be held: Dec. 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25 at 6 p.m. Overnight packages start at $996 at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and include two tickets to the dinner; Dinner-only tickets are available starting at $299 (adults) and $230 (children 12 and under), including gratuity and exclusive of tax. For more information, visit www.yosemitepark.com/bracebridge.

Dungeness Crab season in Marshall (Marin County)
Sunday, November 11, beginning at 10 a.m. at Nick's Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Cottages
In honor of the long-awaited arrival of recreational Dungeness crab season in Northern California, crab enthusiasts and their families are invited to partake in the inaugural Crab Catch at Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Cottages on Sunday, Nov. 11, beginning at 10 a.m. Throughout the day various crab-centric activities will be available for crustacean-lovers of all ages including a Tomales Bay crab-catching competition and award ceremony hosted by Liam Mayclem of KCBS’ FoodieChap and CBS 5’s Eye on the Bay; a cooking demo with Executive Chef Austin Perkins; a crab-infused cocktail “Crabby Hour;” and a three-course Dungeness crab tasting menu, with a portion of the day’s proceeds benefiting the Petaluma Educational Foundation. Tickets are $40, children 12-years old and under are free, For more information, visit crabcatch.eventbrite.com or www.nickscove.com.

Outside San Francisco

Holiday Tea Service throughout the Bay Area

In Napa, the Silverado Resort and Spa will host three unique holiday tea events this season: Holiday High Tea; Sunday, Dec. 1 and 9, 2012; 1:30 to 3 p.m.; during this event, Oxbow Market’s David Campbell takes guests on an entertaining holiday tea tour of Asia through Tillerman Tea Company ($40 per person); a Teddy Bear Tea; Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012; 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.; children ages three-to-nine years old may join their parents for a Teddy Bear Tea, held in Silverado’s Royal Oak, with traditional treats such as tea sandwiches, scones, and petits fours ($40); and a Father and Child Tee; Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012; 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.; for $20 per twosome, parents and children (ages six-to-15 years old with their own golf clubs) are invited to play up to 18 holes on Silverado’s two championship golf courses. Advanced reservations are required. For more information, visit www.silveradoresort.com.

Hotel Healdsburg (Sonoma County) will host Holiday Afternoon Tea Service on Saturdays from Nov. 24 to Dec. 22 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., $28 tea service and food; $37 tea service, food and Holiday wine selections; $14 (children) food and choice of tea, cider or hot chocolate; for more information, visit www.hotelhealdsburg.com.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Meadowood Napa Valley
Dec. 7 – 22, 2012 at Meadowood Napa Valley resort in St. Helena, Calif.
There are few culinary events as decadent as Meadowood’s Twelve Days of Christmas. Each night, between Dec. 7 to-22, 2012, one of 12 influential chefs will cook in collaboration with Michelin three-star chef Christopher Kostow in The Restaurant at Meadowood. Twelve legendary Napa Valley vintners will team up with a cooking team each night. Pricing begins at $1240 for weekday events and $1315 for weekend events; price is per couple per night and includes lodging at Meadowood and dinner seating for two.

McEvoy Ranch to hosts holiday open house
Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Petaluma
McEvoy Ranch -- a leading U.S. producer of certified organic extra virgin olive oil -- welcomes the public to its private 550-acre ranch in Petaluma on Dec. 9 for its annual holiday open house. Guests attending the open house will enjoy live music and light refreshments, including McEvoy Ranch’s just-bottled 2012 Olio Nuovo and other estate-produced specialty foods. In addition, attendees will have the chance to do some holiday shopping in McEvoy’s charming retail room, an ideal place to pick up the perfect gift for the culinary fan on any shopping list. Note: the event is free, but pre-registration is required at www.McEvoyRanch.com.

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