San Francisco Holiday Nightlife
By: Kathleen Jay
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 holiday nightlife 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. There are tree lightings galore, ice skating rinks, gingerbread houses and reportedly, the world's largest sugar castle.
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.
EVENTS & ACTIVITIES
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
The San Francisco Travel Association is the official tourism marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, packages, activities and more, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel or call 415-391-2000. The Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market St. in Hallidie Plaza, lower level, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround.
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