San Francisco Celebrates the Holidays Like No Other City
Oct. 14, 2011 - San Francisco is a unique city every day of the year but during the holiday season – November to January – the City by the Bay really stands out.
The San Francisco Travel Association’s new website, www.49HoursofSF.com, provides recommended holiday event and shopping itineraries in and around San Francisco’s 49 square miles during this festive time. The new site will be available beginning Nov. 1, 2011. Featuring off-the beaten path events and unique San Francisco retailers, the website offers visitors opportunities to make their holidays in the city extraordinary.
The website also offers holiday hotel packages at deeply reduced rates, including a Westfield San Francisco Centre VIP Passport to Savings. Visitors booking with an American Express ® card will also receive a $50 Westfield San Francisco Centre gift card. For additional holiday savings, regional residents who sign up for PIER 39’s “Locals Only” program will receive 50% off at participating PIER 39 merchants during the holiday season.
Amtrak is also putting a bow on the holidays with “Kids Ride FREE” on the San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor routes for up to two children under age 15 per adult through February 29, 2011. Tickets must be purchased by December 31, 2011. Terms and conditions apply, visit www.49HoursofSF.com for details.
Some of the signature events of San Francisco’s holiday season include:
Totem by Cirque du Soleil
Oct. 28 - Dec. 18, 2011 in the Grand Chapiteau at AT&T Park
Cirque du Soleil returns to the Bay Area with TOTEM, its latest big top production written and directed by Robert Lepage. TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations. Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/totem.
Beach Blanket Babylon’s Seasonal Extravaganza
Nov. 16 - Dec. 31, 2011 at Club FugaziSteve
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. Visit www.beachblanketbabylon.com for a complete performance schedule.
ODC/Dance presents the 25th Anniversary of The Velveteen Rabbit
Nov. 25 – Dec. 11, 2011 at Novellus Theatre 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 is suitable for ages 3 and up. For more information, visit www.odcdance.org.
PIER 39 Tree Lighting Celebration
Nov. 20, Noon – 6 p.m.
PIER 39 welcomes special pals direct from the Disneyland® Resort to kick off the holidays with warmth, merriment and lots of holiday spirit. Families and friends are invited to PIER 39's Tree Lighting Celebration to give hugs to some of their favorite Disney Pals and sing along with live holiday entertainment. Then witness the spectacular illumination of PIER 39's majestic 60-foot tree, adorned with hundreds of bows, ornaments and glistening lights at 5:30pm in PIER 39's Entrance Plaza. Visit www.pier39.com for more information.
The Golden Girls: “The Christmas Episodes” 6th Annual All Drag Xmas Exdrag-a-ganza
Dec. 1 - 23, 2011: Thurs., Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre.
Truly an “Only in San Francisco” event, now in its sixth year. 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.
A Christmas Carol with the American Conservatory Theater
Dec. 1–24, 2011 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 $15-$105. For information visit www.act-sf.org or call 415-749-2250.
A Season with the San Francisco Symphony
From Nov. 30 to Dec. 31, Davies Symphony Hall practically overflows with the diverse sounds of the season. Programs include:
- The Best Time of the Year: A Christmas Special
- The Snowman
- Deck the Hall
- Peter and the Wolf with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra
- Duke Ellington Orchestra
- Colors of Christmas
- Handel’s Messiah
- Mariachi Sol de México de Jose Hernandez
- T’was the Night
- New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball
Tickets are available at sfsymphony.org, 415-864-6000, or the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.
The Nutcracker presented by the San Francisco Ballet
Dec. 9 – 27, 2011 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.
A Chanticleer Christmas
Dec. 10 - 23, 2011
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 information, visit www.chanticleer.org or call 415-392-4400.
Dec. 13, 2011 – Jan. 1, 2012. Tues. – Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed, Sat and Sun. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 7 p.m. There is a special family matinee on Friday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Marines Memorial Theatre.
Celtic Yuletide – starring internationally renowned Irish tenor Michael Londra - features traditional, heartwarming Irish carols as well as Gaelic versions of Christmas songs everyone loves. More than a concert, the show also features some of the best Irish stepdancers in the world – including featured dancer Owen Barrington – as well as Sephira, the incredible duo from Ireland known for their beautiful voices as well as the mastery and excitement of their violins. For more information, visit marinesmemorialtheatre.com.
Smuin Ballet’s Holiday Program The Christmas Ballet
Dec. 14 – 25 2011 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Baby, it’s cold outside but it’ll sizzle around the Bay Area when Smuin Ballet kicks off the holidays with its 2011 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. For more information, visit smuinballet.org.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Dec. 21-31, 2011 at the Golden Gate Theatre
Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is "two sizes too small," decides to steal Christmas away from holiday loving Whos. Magnificent sets and costumes inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville, while the music and book of Mel Marvin and Timothy Mason breathe new life into this timeless story of the true meaning of Christmas. For more information, call 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com.
An Evening of Leonard Cohen with the Conspiracy of Beards
Dec. 22, 2011; 6-8 p.m. at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St.
Enjoy the beginning of the holidays with the Conspiracy of Beards, http://conspiracyofbeards.com, an all-male a capella choir that exclusively performs the songs of legendary poet, novelist and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. For this one special evening, the group adds Hanukkah songs to its repertoire. Free with Museum admission. For general information on the Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit www.thecjm.org or call 415-655-7800.
Home for the Holidays
Dec. 24, 2011; 5; 7; and 9 p.m. at the Castro Theatre
There is nothing like the historic San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at the iconic Castro Theatre on Christmas Eve and this will be the first under the baton of celebrated new Artistic Director Tim Seelig, leading favorite seasonal carols, boisterous sing-alongs, hilarious comic routines and heart-warming family moments. Celebrity guests often appear. For more information, visit www.sfgmc.org
The 19th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
Dec 23 and Dec 24, 2011: Dinner show at 6 p.m., Cocktail show at 9:30 p.m.Dec 25 (early bird): Dinner show at 5 p.m., Cocktail show at 8:30 p.m.New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave., San Francisco Jewish comedy on Christmas in 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 2000 comedy aficionados and those escaping “Christmas-mania” an annual reprieve from “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” This year’s headliner is Elayne Boosler (Politically Incorrect; Comic Relief). Also appearing: Avi Liberman (Comedy Central; E!); Jeff Applebaum (The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson); and hostess Lisa Geduldig. Buy on-line at www.koshercomedy.com or by phone at 925-275-9005.
Snowflakes on Market – Lighting Ceremony
Nov. 17, 2011 through mid-January 2012
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. A lighting ceremony, featuring dancers from the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, is scheduled for Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. near the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market streets. The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit www.marketstreetassociation.org.
24th Annual Embarcadero Center Building Lighting and Winter Carnival Hyatt Regency San Francisco's "Home for the Holidays"
Nov. 18, 2011 - Jan. 1, 2012
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 November 19 through December 31, 2011. Free. For reservations and information, visit www.SanFranciscoHyattRegency.com or call 415.788.1234 – extension 4241.
PIER 39 Tree Lighting Celebration
Nov. 20, Noon – 6 p.m.
PIER 39’s Tree Lighting Celebration, a holiday tradition, will feature entertainment performing seasonal favorites. Bring the whole family to sing, shop and swoon at the 60 foot tall tree. PIER 39’s majestic tree, adorned with glistening ornaments, bows and twinkling lights will be lit at 5:30 pm in the Entrance Plaza. Visit www.pier39.com for more information.
Macy’s Great Tree Lighting
Nov. 25, 2011 at 6 p.m. at Union Square The 22nd annual illumination of Macy’s Great Tree includes more than 1,500 ornaments adorning the tree. For information, visit www.macys.com/believe.
47th Annual Ghirardelli Square Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nov.25, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.
Enjoy free, live entertainment for the entire family throughout the day culminating with the lighting of the Ghirardelli Square tree at 5:30pm. For more information, visit www.ghirardellisq.com.
“Illuminique Under the Dome” Holiday 3D Light Spectacular at Westfield San Francisco Centre
Nov. 25 – Dec. 31, 2011. Every half hour from 6 – 8:30 p.m., except for Sundays, when the Centre closes at 8 p.m.
Westfield’s iconic dome will come to life every half hour each night with a one-of-a-kind animated 3D light spectacular. Illuminique Under the Dome is a magical, animated story set in a 19th Century toymaker’s workshop. Old meets new, as the Centre’s elegant 1908 glass dome is transformed into a state-of-the-art surround theater exhibiting the latest in projection mapping technology. A lively cast of holiday characters including sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, and gingerbread men are brought to life under the dome. They twirl, drum, and dance in unison creating festive melodies that contribute to a dynamic mechanical orchestra. The 4-minute show crescendos as more toys join the brigade and the entirety of the 102-foot dome becomes one gigantic holiday music machine. For more information, call 415.512.6776 or visit www.westfield.com/sanfrancisco.
Castro Holiday Tree
Nov. 28, 2011 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/Gay Chorus, the Gay/Lesbian Freedom Band and assorted special celebrity guests. The crowd grows every year for this seasonal event. Immediately afterwards, start holiday shopping in the great variety of shops nearby, offering classic gifts and unique selections. For more information, visit www.castromerchants.com.
The Ritz-Carlton Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nov. 29, 2011; 5:30 to 7:30 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. This special evening in the porte cochere includes Dickens-era costumed carolers, hot apple cider, hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, holiday confections and visits with Santa after the ceremony. Complimentary and open to the community. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Bill Graham Menorah Lighting in Union Square
Dec. 20-28, 2011
A tradition that dates back many decades, the giant menorah in Union Square will be lit each evening as part of Hannukkah festivities. For information, visit www.chabadsf.org.
Safeway Holiday Ice Rink
Nov. 9, 2011 - Jan. 16, 2012; 10 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. daily in Union Square
A destination for San Franciscans and visitors alike, Union Square is one of the most treasured locales in the country, making it the premier location for outdoor holiday ice skating. Celebrate the season under sparkling lights and among the bustle of holiday shoppers. More information is available at www.unionsquareicerink.com and 415-781-2688.
Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, presented by Hawaiian Airlines
Nov. 9, 2011 through Jan. 8, 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 St. 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
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Nov. 25 - Dec. 18, 2011 weekends only including Friday after Thanksgiving, 11 a.m. - 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. For information, visit www.dickensfair.com.
Gingerbread House Holiday Open-House
Nov. 26, 2011; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fairmont San Francisco
Fairmont’s majestic, life-sized gingerbread house is a must-see holiday event. Lovingly built with 7,500 home-baked gingerbread bricks and 1,200 pounds of royal icing, the two-story sweet dream house will be adorned with 650 pounds of colorful candies and 12 gallons of chocolate and feature a special room where children may write a letter to Santa. Also enjoy an enchanting 23-foot Christmas tree tickling the ceiling of the main lobby along with holiday refreshments and carolers from local schools.
Dance-Along Nutcracker®: Clara’s Magical Mystery Tour
Dec. 10, 2011 at 7 p.m. - Adults Only Gala featuring 60s DJ disco party, cocktails and holiday reception; Dec. 11 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m - Family shows at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St.
Sugar Plum wannabes, step on up. Everyone’s a star at the Dance-Along Nutcracker®. Here you dance to your own choreography, as the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band performs favorites from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. This year, Clara and her Nutcracker take a trip through a psychedelic groovy Peter Maxx world punctuated by music from the 60s, and the Rat King is the Leader of the Pack. For information visit www.dancealongnutcracker.org or call 415-255-1355.
Holiday Lights & Sights Boat Parade
Dec. 16, 2011 at 6 p.m.
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, call 415-673-3530 or visit http://www.visitfishermanswharf.com/events/calendar.aspx.
Victorian Home Walk Tour presents A Very "Victorian" Christmas
Dec. 1 - 31, 2011
For the entire month of December the walking tour will go through the yuletide-decked Queen Anne Hotel, brimming with holly, Christmas cheer and holiday decorations befitting a king or queen. For information, visit www.victorianhomewalk.com or call 415-710-9336.
Holiday Lights and Chocolate Tours with Gourmet Walks
Fridays and Saturdays in December 2011 4:30 - 7:30 pm
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. It's the perfect holiday celebration, especially for visiting friends and family. Tours depart from Justin Herman Plaza. More information is available at www.gourmetwalks.com and 415-312-1119.
Annual Kwanza Celebration
Dec. 26, 2011; 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
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 Museum’s 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. Free museum admission, activities and performances. For more information, visit www.BayKidsMuseum.org/holidays.
DISPLAYS & EXHIBITS
Macy’s Holiday Windows Featuring San Francisco SPCA Adoptable Animals
Oct. 2011 – Jan. 2012
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. More information is available at www.macys.com/events or www.sfspca.org.
Playland at the Conservatory: A Garden Railway Celebrating San Francisco¹s West End
Nov. 18, 2011 – April 15, 2012. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays – Sundays at the Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park.
Step right up for a ride back in time as the Conservatory of Flowers presents an all new garden railway display celebrating the legendary Playland at the Beach and a bygone era of seaside amusement that was located on San Francisco’s West End. In a dazzling display landscaped with hundreds of dwarf plants, model trains and trolleys wend their way past the famed Sutro Baths, zip around a replica of the Victorian-era Cliff House and whiz through a fantastic mini version of San Francisco’s beloved Playland at the Beach. Young and old alike will marvel at the sight of its most famous attractions including the Big Dipper, Diving Bell, Fun House, Airplane Ride and more all creatively crafted from recycled and repurposed materials while the sounds of the arcade and even Laffing Sal’s boisterous voice transport visitors right back to the midway. Closed Mondays and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. For more information visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org or call 415-831-2090.
’Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences
Nov. 23, 2011 – Jan. 16, 2012; Mon. – Sat. 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The California Academy of Science is getting a winter makeover for the holidays. The popular ’Tis the Season for Science exhibit returns for a second year, bringing with it the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Experience indoor snow flurries, get up close and personal with live reindeer, and immerse yourself in a snow-themed mini-dome show. In addition, daily programs and real scientific specimens will reveal how some of our most beloved holiday symbols and traditions are connected to the natural world. The science behind the food, plants and animals we associate with the holidays may just surprise you. For more information, contact 415-379-8000, email@example.com; or visit www.calacademy.org.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Secures Saturday, New Year’s Eve Game Date for 2011
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has landed a prime Saturday afternoon, New Year’s Eve date for its 10th annual bowl game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Kickoff for the nationally-televised ESPN contest is 12:30 p.m. (PST) on Dec. 31, 2011. The game will feature a PAC-12 team vs. Army. “We’re thrilled that our 2011 game will be held on a Saturday, the traditional day for college football, and on New Year’s Eve, when interest in bowl season is peaking,” noted Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Executive Director Gary Cavalli. With Kraft Foods, the world’s second largest food company, coming on board as title sponsor in April 2010, the game is the lone contest in the 35-game bowl lineup to directly associate itself with a social cause – eradicating hunger in the U.S. The game has sold out four times in the last five years. For information visit www.kraftbowl.org.
For general information on hotel packages and reservations; events; activities and transportation in San Francisco, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel. For lodging reservations, call 800-637-5196 within North America or 415-391-2000 or 415-392-0328 (TTY/TTD) elsewhere.
The San Francisco Visitors Planning Guide is available at the Visitor Information Center, 900 Market St., at the corner of Powell and Market streets, lower level, Hallidie Plaza. A virtual edition of the guide is also available online: http://guides.weaver-group.com/sf/ovg/2011. A visitor's kit may also be ordered online at www.sanfrancisco.travel, by phone at 415-391-2000 or 415-392-0328 (TTY/TTD), by written request to the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, 900 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94102, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Domestic and international shipping charges apply.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop links with more than 31 international points on 29 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with more than 70 cities in the U.S. on 16 domestic airlines. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit www.flysfo.com. SFO was voted “North America’s Best Airport” by passengers for its outstanding customer service and amenities.
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